March Round Up and The Love Leading to Tomorrow Trailer

What a week. What a month. I did not go to a cinema at all until the last week of the month. This lack of interest is rare but the releases did not appeal to me. I fell back on my DVD collection and I had a blast reviewing the South Korean The Quiet Family for the Korean Blogathon, and I reviewed so many interesting Japanese films like Starfish Hotel, Goth: Love of Death and the films for Sion Sono Season including Cold Fish and Love Exposure. Sion Sono Season draws to a close tomorrow with a review for a film which is probably one of the best that I have seen this year not least due to the Cold Fish Shamamotofact it appeals to the existentialist in me! – To be born is to suffer. To wander without direction is the path of life. – I had to travel all the way to London to get at it but I was so moved by it… Anyway Japanese classes are on Easter break so I went to the university library and got out two Kurosawa films – Drunken Angel and One Wonderful Sunday.  たのしい エスター!

The Japanese box-office charts have an interesting mix of films. Two of last week’s releases have entered the charts with Take the ‘A’ Train entering at number 10 and Ultraman Saga entering at 4. Classic robot cat character Doraemon maintains his dominance at number one with over $3 million in box office returns.

Only one Japanese film released this week and it does not look all that interesting to me. It stars Ren Osugi which reminds me that his performance in Exte was brilliantly funny so I’ll watch that again.

 

The Love Leading to Tomorrow

Release Date: 31st March 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 105 mins.

Director: Hideyuki Katsuki

Writer: Hideyuki Katsuki

Starring: Sayaka Ichii, Alex Ru, Ayane Omori, Roi Hayashi, Su Ma, Mirai Yamamoto, Ren Osugi, Kotaro Takada

A movie made to celebrate forty years of diplomatic ties between China and Japan.

 

The action takes place in Tokyo. Aomori, and Beijing, and follows Yuko, a fashion designer and single mother whose grandmother was an orphan in China. Yuko meets and falls in love Koyuan Wan (Alex Ru) and finds her life takes an interesting turn.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong Part 4

This section of The Lies of Locke Lamora was intense. I read most of it in two sittings and was totally floored by what took place. In other Locke Lamora news I got my hands on a copy of Red Seas Under Red Skies. Check out the other conversations taking place.

1.      In the chapter “A Curious Tale for Countess Amberglass” we
learn of the tradition of the night tea in Camorr. I found that not so
much fantastical as realistic – how about you?

It was interesting to read about the whole tradition of night tea and it seemed believable. Real life aristocracy have indulged in all sorts of crazy fashions so the effort made to bring together a night tea complete with overly stylised cakes is not so far fetched. The difference between reality and this book is the fact that this particular tea party takes place at the top of a high tower. The length of the journey up the tower just reinforces the power of the person you are going to meet.

Continue reading “The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong Part 4”

Love Exposure 愛のむきだし (2009)

Love Exposure

Sion Sono’s Love Exposure is a tale of lust, obsession and religious ferour which has a four hour running time but breezes by quite happily.

Yu (Nishijima) lives the life of a devout Christian. After his mother dies his father Tetsu (Watabe) becomes a priest but is soon seduced by an emotionally volatile woman named Kaori (Watanabe) who then proceeds to leave him. A heart-broken Tetsu begins to torment the spiritually and morally innocent Yu by forcing him to confess sins on a daily basis.  To appease his father Yu begins to sin on a daily basis and on the advice of delinquent friends he trains to become an expert in upskirt photography and becomes a master at getting panty shots. One day, while dressed as a girl, he witnesses a beautiful man-hating girl named Yoko (Mitsushima) get into a street brawl. He instantly falls in love with her and decides to intervene. Little does he know that a cult leader in the Zero Church named Aya (Ando) is manipulating them for her own purposes.

Aya Koike (Ando) and Her Gang in Love Exposure

Sion Sono has directed and written a story which is bursting with ideas and good humour. It is delivered in a non-linear manner from multiple viewpoints. Unlike Cold Fish there is no grit here and instead what we get is a bright and goofy story that satirises cults, high school romance, martial arts and ‘tosatsu’ – the art of taking pictures of girl’s underwear.

Continue reading “Love Exposure 愛のむきだし (2009)”

Exte: Hair Extensions エクステ (2007)

Exte Extensions Banner Header

With the opening line “My nose hair is out of control” you just know that this is aiming for comedy and it succeeds thanks to a crazy performance from Ren Osugi.

When a shipping container full of human hair is opened a young woman’s body is discovered. Police are baffled by the case creepy but hair fetishist Gunji Yamazaki (Ren Osugi) sees it as a golden opportunity to steal the corpse and harvest hair. When examining the corpse he is delighted to discover that the hair grows in endless amounts and decides to use it to create hair extensions to sell to salons. Bad news emerges when he discovers that the hair is exacting the dead girl’s vengeance on anyone who comes into contact with it. Meanwhile apprentice hair-dresser Yuko Mizushima (Chiaki Kuriyama) is trying to earn a promotion at her salon but her personal life intrudes when her niece Mami (Miku Sato) is dumped on her doorstep by her abusive mother. Little does Yuko realise that Mami will be the least of her problems because Gunji will visit her salon with demon hair.

I’m tempted to call this post-modern horror comedy. Although Sion Sono plays the horror straight there is a feeling of knowingness to the proceedings which highlights the artificiality and lets you know that the writer and director are playing with the genre. It is in the way characters use over-explicit and descriptive dialogue to introduce characters and say that they are doing so out loud, the way the (awful) music and (clichéd) sound effects are inspired by other films like One Missed Call, the way that the bad characters are melodramatically bad and the way that characters are so superficial and can smile after a hilarious climax which should see them hate hair. The salon workers even work in a place bearing the name Gilles de Rais, Jean of Arc’s compatriot and the notorious child killer. All of this is amusing and it is anchored by three strong performances.

Continue reading “Exte: Hair Extensions エクステ (2007)”

Cold Fish 冷たい熱帯魚 (2011)

Cold Fish Murata Welcomes You

Cold Fish is Sion Sono’s award winning film loosely based on the real-life exploits of serial killer couple Gen Sekine and his ex-wife Hiroko Kazama who perpetrated Tokyo’s notorious 1993 “Saitama serial murders of dog lovers”. It received its premiere at the 2010 Venice Film Festival and is a genuinely brilliant film.

Shamoto (Fukikoshi) runs a small tropical fish shop with his second wife Taeko (Kagurazaka) and rebellious daughter Mitsuko (Kajiwara). One day Mitsuko is caught shoplifting but an intervention by a friendly man named Murata (Denden) prevents the store manager from pressing charges. As it turns out Murata also runs a tropical fish store with his wife Aiko (Kurosawa). Won over by Murata’s charm Shamoto and his unhappy family form a bond of friendship with him and Mitsuko even goes to work for him. What Shamoto does not realise is that Murata is not as friendly as he seems to be and soon finds there are many dark and twisted secrets behind the smile and he is powerless to resist.

Murata (Denden) Bullies Shamamoto (Fukikoshi) in Cold Fish

Cold Fish like many of Sion Sono’s films flits between horror, satire, thriller, and comedy. It is heavy on gore and black humour with writing and acting that perverts believable drama into a crazy, enjoyable, and moving ride.

The story can happen anywhere people exist. Shamoto’s family are believably unhappy, with each individual wrapped up in their own lives with Taeko sour from a life she feels is wasted, Shamoto unable to express his true feelings and Mitsuko contemptuous of her parents.

Shamoto is one part hapless and mostly meek. He is a simple man unable to deal with adversity and the absurdity of life. His inability to deal with life sees him retreat into his dreams just to escape conflicts that might be solved if he was more proactive and was able to communicate his real feelings to his family.

Fukikoshi develops sympathy by capturing the good-natured but timid nature of Shamoto who wants to avoid the ugly reality of life. Despite his best intentions he cannot overcome his meekness. As the film progresses he goes from looking affable but ineffective to genuinely horrified, squeezing himself into corners out of sight of the horror. Through Murata’s insistent bullying Shamoto reveals his pent up anger and when he snaps the rage is recognisable.

Equally recognisable is the bitterness and resentment that Taeko feels. It is portrayed by Kagurazaka in the curl of distaste her mouth takes when her husband speaks or the poisonous looks she shoots Mitsuko. At one point her relationship with Shamoto had romance and they understood one another as individuals and shared dreams.

Shamoto (Fukikoshi) and Taeko (Kagurazaka) in the Planetarium in Cold Fish Continue reading “Cold Fish 冷たい熱帯魚 (2011)”

Sion Sono Season

Sion Sono Season Banner

It’s a short season and it features a silly banner but I don’t care. This is a quick biography of Sion Sono and I hope to review some of his works in the coming week. I want to write about a number of directors and since this is Sion Sono Season he goes first.

Sion Sono has had a varied career starting as an avant-garde poet before ditching a course at Hosei University for a career in underground filmmaking although he never turns his back on poetry which will recur in his early films. In 1987 he won the Grand Prize at the PIA Film Festival (PFF) for his film A Man’s Hanamichi. The PFF is designed to discover and support new filmmakers and following his win he received a fellowship with PIA and wrote, directed and starred in numerous films which contained underachievers, serial killers and other outsiders. These films regularly toured the international festival circuit and helped establish his name.

It wasn’t until the 2001 film Suicide Circle when he truly became a well-known cult director. Suicide Circle (which has special effects by Tokyo Gore Police director Yoshihiro Nishimura) is a satirical film dealing with pop culture, mass suicides, and a bewildered middle aged police detective played by Ryo Ishibashi (Audition) trying to understand it all while being assailed by deviants and horrific sights that challenge his perceptions. Following this success he expanded on the film’s world by taking it into different mediums such as novels and manga and a belated sequel named Noriko’s Dinner Table which was made in 2006.

Noriko's Dinner Table

Suicide Circle was a massive success and has set the tone for the rest of his films. Despite trying a gangster film (Hazard – 2005) and comedy-drama (Into a Dream – 2005), both starring Joe Odagiri (Adrift in Tokyo, Bright Future), he has continued to explore the darker side of modern Japan with a series of extreme titles including the ero-guro film Strange Circus (2005) which features sexual and mental abuse and incest, the aforementioned Noriko’s Dinner Table which deals with alienation and suicide, Exte: Hair Extensions (2007) which stars Chiaki Kuriyama (Battle Royale, Shikoku, Kill Bill) and is a far more mainstream J-horror title and then Love Exposure (2008) which stars Hikari Mitsushima (Sawako Decides) and can only be described as a religio-psycho-sexual mindmelt.

Love Exposure's Interesting Ride

Continue reading “Sion Sono Season”

Newly released in Japan: Ultraman Saga, Take the ‘A’ Train, Salvage Mice Trailers

Sion Sono, the director of Himizu, Love Exposure and Cold FishNo Akira Kurosawa films tonight. Instead I’m kicking off a mini-season devoted to the Japanese auteur Sion Sono where I review some of his works that I have on DVD. There’s a reason I’m starting this season now but I’m going to keep it under my hat. Let me just say that I am very excited about an event taking place next week.

In any next week will feature nothing but film reviews which comes as a relief because this week was a bit light on them despite getting off to a strong start with Starfish Hotel. Enough retrospective chit-chat, what’s happening in Japan this week?

The Japanese box-office charts for this week feature a mix of anime movies like Precure All Stars and Strike Witches at numbers 3 and 11 respectively while the live-action adaptations of the manga We Were Here and Ouran entered at 2 and 12.

Today sees an interesting variety of films released including Salvage Mice which looks like heaps of fun. It is produced by the Director of High Kick Girl and has a similar feel.

 

Salvage Mice

Release Date: 24th March 2012 (Japan)

Running Time: 81 mins.

Director: Ryuta Tasaki

Writer: Kei Taguchi

Starring: Mitsuki Tanimura, Tomohito Sato, Julia Nagano, Seiya Osada

 

Mai (Tanimura) is part of a team of robbers named the Salvage Mice. They are nice robbers since they steal lost treasure and return it to its rightful owner. All of this changes when she is betrayed by her partner Mariku (Sato) and she is placed on a wanted list. Mai decides to take revenge and with tough brawler Mio (Nagano) she is about to bring a world of hurt to Mariku.

 

Take the ‘A’ Train

Release Date: 24th March 2012

Running Time: N/A

Director: Yoshimitsu Morita

Writer: Yoshimitsu Morita

Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Eita, Shihori Kanjiya, Pierre Taki

Yoshimitsu Morita who directed ‘Crying Out Love in the Centre of the World’ helms this film which stars Kenichi Matsuyama. Tragically he died last December which makes this his last film.

Kei Komachi (Matsuyama) is an office worker who loves trains. One day he meets a fellow  railroad otaku named Kenta Kotama (Eita) who works at his family’s iron foundry. The two enjoy their lives as train-spotters and come to appreciate each other.

  Continue reading “Newly released in Japan: Ultraman Saga, Take the ‘A’ Train, Salvage Mice Trailers”

The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong Part Three

The third week of the Lies of Locke Lamora readalong is upon us and I’m ahead of the game for once. I was tempted to read ahead but decided to rein it in and watch some movies because I’m behind on my viewing… Anyway check out Little Red Reviewer, the lynch mob leader, for more information and opinions.

1. This section is where we finally get to sneak a peek at the magic in The Gentleman Bastards books. From what we read, what are your initial impressions of the magic Lynch is using? Is there any way that Locke and Company would be able to get around the Bondsmage’s powers?

I found the introduction of magic very intriguing. The Bondsmagi are NOT glass cannons. They seem over-powerful and I love the way that they have seemingly created a monopoly over magic. They even manipulate the genetics of creatures which means they breed interesting beasts. I want to find out how they do these things! Overall to get around the Bondsmage they’ll need one of their own.

Continue reading “The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong Part Three”

Jormungand: The One Spring Anime I Will Watch

A week after I complained about this forthcoming season’s over-indulgence in moe/ecchi/school stories and lament the lack of variety I finally find one I like the look of: the anime adaptation of Takahashi Keitarou’s seinen action-adventure manga series, Jormungand, is less than a month away and it looks like the one Spring anime I’ll watch this season!

Synopsis

Koko Hekmatyar is an unofficial arms dealer for HCLI, a weapons manufacturer. As an unofficial seller she must avoid the authorities of different countries because her work is illegal under international law. To protect her she has a team of bodyguards who are mostly ex-military. The latest recruit is Jonah, a seemingly emotionless and highly skilled child soldier who hates weapons dealers. As he follows Koko and her bodyguards he is searching for the weapons dealer responsible for the death of his family in order to exact revenge.

I reported on this for Anime UK News last December and I was hyped for two reasons:

  • The animation studio producing the show is White Fox who should be familiar to anime fans from their work on the TV anime Steins;Gate.
  • It looks sooooo much like Black Lagoon and I love that show!

JormungandThe synopsis and the trailer promise us an international cast in a variety of beautiful and exotic locations. The talent involved is impressive. Shuizuka Itou (Nadia in El Cazador de la Bruja)is voicing the arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar while Mutsumi Tamura (Sonya in Kill me Baby) is voicing Jonah.

Directing the series is Motonaga Keitarou (Get Backers, Magic Knight Rayearth and Assistant Director on classic anime movie Patlabor), Yosuke Kuroda (Trigun, Excel Saga, Gungrave, Hellsing Ultimate) is handling the scripts and series composition while Mami Kawada (Hayate no Gotoku!) and Nagi Yanagi (Bakemonogatari) are handling the opening and ending theme songs respectively.

A second series of Jormungand is already confirmed.

Staff: Motonaga Keitarou (Director), Yousuke Kuroda (Script, Series Composition), Mami Kawada (Opening Theme Song), Nagi Yanagi (End Theme Song)

Voice Actors: Shizuko Itou (Koko), Mutsumi Tamura (Jonah), Unsho Ishizuka (Lehm), Sayaka Ohara (Sofia)

Studio: White Fox

Check out a fuller list of forthcoming Anime I compiled.

Another Episodes 9 – 11

As a J-horror fan I’ve watched more than my fair share of indifferent titles that are little more than by-the-numbers Ringu/Ju-on cash-ins. They either suffer stories which lack originality and discipline and have cardboard characters or the visuals have a bland made-for-TV air about them. The horror anime Another has impressed me so much that I have to rank it as one of my favourite recent horror titles regardless of medium.

Another Class Trip

Please watch the anime before reading. Spoilers ahead.

Continue reading “Another Episodes 9 – 11”