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There may be no other American director who is as influenced by Asian cinema as Quentin Tarantino. His films are heavily influenced by revenge tales and cinematic traditions of Wuxia. He is responsible for bringing over numerous films from the East and is quite outspoken on which films he thinks are the best of the best. We decided it would be fun to countdown the films he has had a hand in promoting in the West. Let’s start with the number 10 flick:
Quentin Tarantino re-released The Mighty Peking Man in North America through his Rolling Thunder Pictures distribution company. Which actually gave this jaw-dropper a theatrical release in 1999. In the 1970s, Shaw Brothers Studios was the greatest producer of classic martial arts films, but during that time they also dipped into other genres like sci-fi, horror, comedy and dramas. Mighty Peking Man was the Shaws’ cover version of King Kong and the Japanese Toho/Toei Monster movies with a dash of Tarzan done in their own incredibly entertaining way.
Only director Joon-ho Bong could make a monster movie so creepy and lovable as “The Host.” Tarantino says it is one of his top films of the past 20 years. As of March 2009, this is the highest grossing film to date in South Korea, selling a total of 13,019,740 tickets. This means that over 20% of the South Korean population watched the movie.
The Weinstein Company released Tom-Yum-Goong in North America in a heavily-edited version entitled The Protector, which was the third release by their Dragon Dynasty label. It was also given the “Quentin Tarantino Presents” brand, which had proven lucrative. If you see that, you know it has his stamp of approval and it introduced many westerners to the power of Tony Jaa.
Although in North America Sonatine was released in theaters in April 1998 and, another Kinji Fukasaku enthusiast, Quentin Tarantino, released a subtitled video edition in 2000 as part of his “Rolling Thunder Pictures” collection. The same year, Kitano was convinced by his producer to go in the United States where he filmed his first (and last) movie outside Japan. Brother was shot in Los Angeles with an American crew and local actors including Omar Epps. In an interview, Kitano self-admitted he was not fully satisfied with the final result of Brother and that he regretted his “Hollywood” adventure which was supposed to bring him a broader audience with a higher exposure. Kitano confessed he had no intention of shooting outside Japan anymore.
The film has a cult following in the U.S., and was referenced in Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill, which sampled the theme from the television series Ironside played during several of its fight scenes. When asked in 2002 by Sight & Sound Magazine to name his twelve favourite movies of all time, Tarantino placed “Five Fingers of Death” at number 11. The widescreen DVD (which surpasses all previous VHS and DVD versions of the film) includes an interesting commentary track by Quentin Tarantino (who aided Dragon Dynasty in assembling its Shaw Brothers library) and critics Elvis Mitchell and David Chute, who discuss King Boxer’s appeal and thematic similarities to Hollywood product.
In recent years, Tarantino has used his Hollywood power to give smaller and foreign films more attention than they might have received otherwise. These films are usually labeled “Presented by Quentin Tarantino” or “Quentin Tarantino Presents”. The first of these productions was in 2001 with the Hong Kong martial arts film Iron Monkey which made over $14 million in the United States, seven times its budget. It received good reviews in America, and became the 11th highest-grossing foreign language film in the US.
Kinji Fukasaku’s action film follows a brutal instructor that trains teenagers to use weapons so they can fight to the death on a remote island. In 2009, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino praised Battle Royale as the best film he had seen in the past two decades, stating that, “If there’s any movie that’s been made since I’ve been making movies that I wish I had made, it’s that one.”
Hero was first released in China on October 24, 2002. At that time, it was the most expensive project and the highest-grossing motion picture in Chinese film history. Miramax Films owned the American market distribution rights, but delayed the release of the film for nearly two years. The movie was finally released in American theaters on August 27, 2004 after intervention by Disney executives and Quentin Tarantino, who helped secure an uncut English-subtitled release. He also offered to lend his name to promotional material for the film in order to attract box office attention to it; his name was attached to the credits as “Quentin Tarantino Presents”.
Quentin Tarantino lists his 20 favorite movies released in 1992 (the year he made his first film). Among the picks were two films from Korean director Bong Joon-Ho: the serial killer drama Memories of Murder and monster movie we listed earlier in this countdown, The Host. Tarantino did not elaborate on why he is so enthusiastic about Bong, but one can hypothesize. Like Tarantino, Bong is interested in working in very mainstream genres and then offering a fresh spin on these typical stories.
The film was a major influence on Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. After seeing Chungking Express, Tarantino said, “I just started crying. I’m just so happy to love a movie this much.” The film was shot in only 23 days. The film was shown at the New York Film Festival in September 1994. The first film distributed in the United States by Quentin Tarantino’s company, Rolling Thunder. Tarantino is an admirer of Wong Kar-wai, and the DVD features lengthy bookended remarks by him.