The Passenger is an absorbing film. Billed as a thriller and neo-noir, it has some of the genre hallmarks but doesn’t feel related to classics like Out of the Past andKiss Me Deadly for the longest time. Until it does. And then it moves through the motions but to its own rhythm before transforming into a potent existential horror movie that leaves one breathless with fear.
The plot revolves around a British-born American journalist named David Locke (Jack Nicholson). His work has taken him to Chad where the government is locked in a war with rebels. His work isn’t going so well. Lost in a desert. Unable to get to any truth. Stranded at a hotel where his only fellow guest is a shady British businessman who he shares whisky with. The two muse about how to be genuine with others, how to be authentic, and starting life over.
“Wouldn’t it be better if we could just forget old places. Forget everything that happens. Just throw it all away, day by day.”
Locke gets his chance to start over when said businessman dies in his room and Locke steals his passport and identity. In doing this, he leaves behind an unfaithful wife, an unfulfilling career, and an unsatisfying life.
“A prophet is rarely welcome in their homeland” is a line from the Bible that can be applied here as a lonely cowherd predicts an apocalypse for his hometown.
Werner Herzog’s period drama Heart of Glass was one of two films he made that called back into the rich realm of German history (the other being The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser in 1974) at a time when he was busy making documentaries.
Set in the 18th Century, it tells the story of a town nestled somewhere in the rocky escarpments of Bavaria. The town, though rural, has a glassblowing factory and that provides income because this is a time when wealthy families across Europe collected the most lavishly decorated ceramics and glassware available, be it the high-quality but expensive pieces from China and Japan or the many factories in Europe that sprang up to imitate superior Asian works.
The unique selling point of this particular glassworks is its ruby red pieces that shine with a rich colour that mesmerises all who behold it. However, when we enter the town, it is at a time of crisis as the master glassblower has died and taken the secret of making ruby glass with him to his grave. The glasswork’s owner, an aristocrat named Huttenbesitzer (Stefan Guttler), a predatory fop who looks like he could hang out with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire (1994), becomes obsessed with finding the formula and his obsession turns into madness that infects other townspeople.
Enter our prophet, Hias, a cowherd who inhabits the forested hills with his cows.
Hias (Josef Bierbichler) is an observer, a loner. He is a man of nature and is first seen staring into the distant landscape as he offers ominous pronouncements of the future dressed in poetic language. The despair he rakes up is something which seems to have driven him to isolation. The aristocrat asks him for help finding the secret of the ruby glass but all Hias predicts is that the glass factory will be destroyed in a fire. Despite this danger of destruction, Hias descends from the mountains to the town and is on the ground as madness sweeps over the citizens and they descend into abasement and violence as they seek the secret of how to make ruby glass to save their town.
“I think that’s what I like about Japan, it gives you a second chance.”
Japan is a country that attracts a lot of a certain type of person. People unhappy with their lot in life or looking for adventure. Sensitive, misguided, naïve, whatever you want to call them, they are people looking to immerse themselves in something different and possibly change their reality. This is what I found to be most interesting in Earthquake Bird, the Netflix adaptation of Susanna Jones’ same-named novel.
The need to become someone else is definitely the case with Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander), a translator living in Tokyo circa 1989. When we first meet her, she is working on a Japanese translation of the dialogue of the Michael Douglas film Black Rain (1989). She’s soon arrested by police investigating the disappearance of an American nurse named Lily Bridges (Riley Keough). When body parts wash up in Tokyo Bay and Lucy confesses to having killed the woman, it seems like an open and shut case. Except it isn’t.
Jimami is the Okinawan dialect word for peanut and jimami tofu is a simple but much-loved speciality of the islands. This is one of the ingredients that Singaporean directors Jason Chan and Christian Lee use to cook up a tale of history, lost love, and fusion cooking with varying results.
“Birdshot” is the sophomore film from writer/director Mikhail Red, winner of the best new director award at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival for his debut feature, “Rekorder,” an urban crime tale in the same vein as “Blow-Up” (1966) and “Blow Out” (1981) in which a cameraman who haunts night-time cinema screenings in tech-obsessed Manila accidentally records a murder and finds himself hunted. “Birdshot” is a similar tale of people being hunted but it is set in the sunny low-tech open spaces of the Philippine countryside.
This week I did a post for every day – part experiment with the “copy post feature” and part desire to showcase trailers. Thursday and Friday felt like “deja preview” and that was not much fun. I’m slacking off by not posting reviews and I apologise (let us pretend you care). Anyway the most interesting posts were Sadako, Fuse and Guskou Budori.
Detective Conan: The Mystery of the Eleventh Striker
Kamen Rider X Super Sentai Super Hero Taisen
We Were Here: Part 2
Chronicle of my Mother
All of the films released last week have entered the top ten with the amusing looking comedy Thermae Romae taking the top spot while the family drama Chronicle of my Mother entered at 5 and Home entered at number 10. There are only two American films in the top ten but they are falling out fast. What’s released today?
Based on an award-winning manga by Chūya Koyama,Space Brothers (Uchū Kyōdai) has been adapted into a rather good anime that is currently airing in Japan right now (and was rumoured to be getting 51 episodes).Thanks to the nature of modern multi-media franchises the manga, and anime have created a buzz for the movie so it will be interesting to see if this movie lives up to the previous adaptations. It stars Shun Oguri (Ghost Train), Masaki Okada (Villain), and Kumiko Aso (Pulse). The film has some scenes that were shot at the Kennedy Space Centre and the theme song is “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay.
Two brothers, the eldest named Mutta (Oguri) and the youngest named Hibito (Okada), once saw what they thought was a UFO flying to the moon and make a pact that they will become astronauts and fly into space together. The years elapse and soon it is 2025. Hibito is an astronaut and it is only a matter of time until he heads into space. Mutta? He has failed the childhood pact and lives a traditional life working for a car company until he gets fired and then finds it hard to get another job. Fortunately Hibito is soon on the phone and Mutta’s dreams of going into space are soon reignited.
Japanese: Kantori Garu
ReleaseDate:05th May 2012 (Japan)
RunningTime: 70 mins.
Starring: Satoshi Hattori, Shoko Fujimura, Yuta Kuba, Go Takamine,
Tatsuo Kobayashi makes his directorial debut with a script written by Aya Watanabe (A Gentle Breeze in the Village) in which a bunch of pickpockets take advantage of tourists visiting Kyoto to see maiko and geisha. This is an indie film so there’s no trailer or posters easily available to gaijin like me.
Four high school kids are surrounded by so much history but are bored of it. When a café owner (Takamine) decides to build a modern “artists’ village” the boys are intrigued and decide to create their own music club. To do this they need money and so they target foreigners who have come to admire geisha. Things don’t quite go according to plan when one of the gang, Hayashi (Hattori), falls in love with a maiko (Fujimura) who can see through the scam.
The British Film Institute (BFI) is holding a special showcase for recent anime (including the chance to rediscover Akira) from the 8th to the 10th of June. The line-up is excellent and contains some of the best theatrical titles to come out of Japan with titles from Studio Ghibli, Production I.G., and Madhouse. Of all the titles on display none intrigue me as much as A Letter to Momo which got a theatrical release in Japan last week and has had excellent reviews. Here’s the line-up:
This is a stone-cold classic. Like Ridley Scott’s movies Alien and Blade Runner it’s aesthetics have influenced the look of a lot of animation and film. I have seen it on multiple occasions and I highly recommend it.
The year is 2019 and thirty-one years have passed since World War III. Neo-Tokyo is wracked with riots and clashes between the authorities and extreme political opponents. A child from a top secret government project interested in psychic powers is spirited away by one of these political extremists but gets caught up in a clash between young delinquent motorcycle gangs. This gang finds itself suddenly catching the interest of the authorities when one of the gang-members, Tetsuo, exhibits psychic powers. He is taken by the army to be experimented on but his mind might be more powerful than anybody could have guessed.
Makoto Shinkai’s films are stunning to watch and feature such beautiful and melancholy stories full of more humanism than most Hollywood output. As the numerous OS wallpapers on my computer attest I am a fan (he answered two questions I put to him in a recent interview!). This is his latest film which looks stunning.
Asuna is a girl who spends her days listening to mysterious music coming from the crystal radio, a memento she received from her father. She embarks on a journey in the underground realm of Agartha which some believe has the properties of bringing people back from the dead. With a brave young man named Shun, Asuna will see the cruelty and beauty of the world as she evades dangerous beasts and a ruthless group of soldiers from her world.
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.
Fumiya (Jo Odagiri) is broke and lazy. He has been a university student for 8 years and owes money to loan sharks and one day a man named Fukuhara comes to collect. Unfortunately Fumiya cannot pay so Fukuhara makes a proposition: He will cancel the debt as long as Fumiya agrees to walk with him across Tokyo to the police station of Kasumigaseki, where he intends to turn himself in for a crime he deeply regrets. Fumiya accepts the deal which is the start of a journey which will lead them to various unusual encounters, most of all with themselves.
It is Christmas Eve, I have done no wrapping and I’m putting the finishing touches to this blog post. Priorities, right… I’ll start wrapping presents while listening to some J-Rock after finishing this post!
Twitch broke news about Third Window Films ending the year with yet another awesome acqusittion announcement (I do like alliterations!) in the form of Kotoko from legendary J-horror director Shinya Tsukamoto (you should know him from the Tetsuofilms and Nightmare Detective). Reading the synopsis this sounds more in the line of his dark dramas like Vital.
A single mother begins to see doubles and becomes paranoid which makes taking care of her baby a nightmare. Her only relief from the double vision is singing and cutting herself but she soon suffers a nervous breakdown and her baby is taken away. One day, while riding a bus, she sings to herself and this catches the attention of a man who falls in love with her. The man is a novelist and he begins stalking her until they engage in a volatile relationship which seems to ease her visions and paranoia. Then her baby returns and her condition worsens.
Anyway these are the last films to be released in Japan for 2011 and a trailer for Rurouni Kenshin which will hit next year and looks particularly awesome.
The live-action adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s chanbara manga Rurouni Kenshin wasrecently released. The film’s titular character is played by Takeru Sato who has appeared in the live-action adaptation of BECK and Emi Takei, star of Takashi Miike’s forthcoming Ai to Makoto adaptation, takes the lead female role of Kaoru Kamiya. The film is being directed by Keishi Ōtomo who directed a popular NHK historical television series named Ryomaden which featured Sato.
The story takes place in the early Meiji period, a time of transition for Japan where industrialisation allowed Japan modernise itself and consign samurai to the history books as they are replaced by guns and are banned from wearing swords in public. One such samurai is Himura Kenshin who was once an elite assassin during the final years of the Edo period he now finds himself as a wandering samurai offering aid to those in need as atonement for his past actions. During his travels he meets Kaoru Kamiya, an instructor at her father’s Kendo school. She offers Kenshin a place to stay at her dojo and their relationship begins to blossom but Kenshin’s past will soon catch up with him.