I viewed three foreign films in 1997 that changed my life’s interests for a time. Surprisingly, they are not pornographic films, or Weatherwoman.
I became obsessed with all things Asian because of them. Feudal Japan, manga, stunt films, Andy Lau and oriental girls became my flavour. All three films were released during my penultimate year of junior school, a time when VHS recording of free-to-air had just become a big deal for myself. My collection would amass to approximately one hundred films on thirty cassettes within a couple of years as super crap definition Long-Play allowed me to collect up to three films per tape.
Eighteen Springs is a Chinese romance and tells the tragic story of two lovers who can never be together. Due to obligations and circumstance, they are cursed to live their lives on separate paths.
No. 3 is a Korean gangster film that tells the story of a young man trying to work his way up in his crime filled career. There is much quirkiness and a character that is better suited to a Death Note flick.
Tale of a Scarface is a Japanese gangster film. It tells the story of an older man who, fresh out of prison, wants a way out of his crime filled life. He says goodbye to his wife and her new family, gets stabbed, falls in love with the nurse. In a nutshell.
The themes of the three films shaped me as a young adult. Aspiration and melancholy. Lust and lethargy. Betrayal and redemption. The films are extremely difficult to watch today, however I can never forget their influence.
Eighteen Springs is likely the most common of the three films as it stars the late Anita Mui. You can simply pick it up at your local Asian video store, just as I did.
No. 3 is somewhat rare, I have seen it on eBay a couple of times. The most difficult part about finding this film relates to its annoying/curious naming of the title.
Tale of a Scarface however was my Holy Grail of films for about five to ten years. The Japanese website cdjapan has the title listed, availability: out of print. Googling the title brings up much Al Pacino and Brian De Palma. The only supplier of this film that I know of has recorded his copy from free-to-air. Full circle – I taped movies, my supplier still tapes movies. He has done away with the commercials and kept it preserved since it aired. If you want Tale of a Scarface from him, he makes you a copy of his copy – with no proper packaging and no proper disc art. In this digital age of obtaining at the click of a button, there are not many films that you cannot get a hold of.
Tale of a Scarface is one of them.
It is not the definitive Asian film to watch today though, as that would be Seven Samurai. Or Infernal Affairs. Or Battle Royale.