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Getting Any? みんな~やってるか! (1995) Dir: Takeshi Kitano

Getting Any?   Getting Any Film Poster

みんな~やってるか!Minna~ Yatteru ka

Running Time: 108 mins.

Release Date: February 11th, 1995

Director:  Takeshi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano (Screenplay),

Starring: Dankan, Moeko Ezawa, Takeshi Kitano, Susumu Terajima, Kanji Tsuda, Yurei Yanagi, Ren Osugi, Taka Guadalcanal, Hakuryu, Yojin Hino, Yoneko Matsukane,

IMDB Website

Takeshi Kitano the director and Beat Takeshi the performer meet together in a manic film about a young man’s increasingly desperate attempt to get laid which becomes a series of prurient slapstick sketches that push the boundaries of good taste.

Getting Any Film Image

The story follows middle-aged layabout Asao (Dankan). His one and only goal in life is to have sex. To do this, he embarks upon a series of misadventures ranging from buying a car to impress a woman enough for car sex to becoming an actor to get a seat in first class on a jet because, in his narrow-minded world, he thinks sex is one of the services on offer from air-hostesses. His antics get bigger and bolder and wackier the more desperate he becomes. Pretty soon they involve armed robbery, becoming the next Zatoichi in a movie production, a yakuza hitman, and an invisible man and worse because of crazy scientific experiments.

Getting Any? uses an episodic structure to launch a scattershot satire of Japanese society and popular culture through the lens of Kitano’s unique sense of humour which he takes to extremes in terms of the inanity and stupidity. Every situation start off at some reasonable level of idiocy initiated by Asao before becoming a series of bizarre, over the top and absurd slapstick gags at the expense of the central character and a cast ranging from serious actors to Kitano’s army of fans, his Gundan who appear in many of his films and TV shows, all of whom throw themselves into the skits with gusto. Even Kitano shows up to take part.

Kitano finds comedy in every situation thanks to Asao being of a character with a one-track mind with a brain straight out of dullstown. This leads to tremendous sight gags especially in the first part of the film. In order to get money Asao figures he needs to rob a bank. So he needs a gun. Who has guns? Cops. Asao imagines stealing a gun and getting blown away. When he acquires a gun, one of his targets is a bank run by cops.

As the film ticks along, his imagination gets only slightly bigger but his luck get much better. Seeing Asao graduate from being a bit-part player stuck full of arrows in a samurai movie to playing Zatoichi by way of accidentally getting the original actor to almost drown is hilarious and then taken to the next level as the central fool plays the blind swordsman by closing his eyes and engaging in physical slapstick such as dousing people with manure and much more dangerous liquids while in the presence of a naked flame.

Kitano managed to work in references to and mock films as diverse as Ghostbusters, Branded to Kill, Ultraman, Mothra, Zatoichi, Michael Jackson’s song Beat It and Akira Kurosawa as Asao travels across Tokyo and gets into misadventures. Having a knowledge of Japanese pop-culture adds a lot of depth to the gags and makes them funnier, the laughs last longer, but towards the end of the film, many of them have a habit of going on way too long (especially the tokusatsu stuff), past the point where the joke is funny. This was deliberate on Kitano’s part since he made the n’est plus ultra of bad jokes to scandalise the Japanese entertainment industry and also to destroy his own career.

This a film with which some Japanese fans of Kitano feel he tried committing suicide as public figure since he went to such great lengths to be absurd audiences wondered if he had lost the plot. It was filmed at a time when he was at the height of his fame and fortune in Japan as Beat Takeshi, the comedian, radio star, writer and so forth but not taken seriously as Takeshi Kitano, the film director and serious actor. With so many TV shows, books, and other projects he was working on and an eventful private life to say the least, he was finding it difficult to manage the stress of fame and public interest as well as his excessive work and partying. This was compounded by the box-office failure of the 1993 gangster film Sonatine, which he personally saw as his first major artistic achievement as a director. With fame and pressure mounting, he let the comedian, Beat Takeshi tear up the screen with this film and the results are scandalous. Further adding to the dramatic context of the film, Kitano finished production on it before the motor-scooter accident which left the right side of his face paralysed. No wonder some interpret Getting Any​? as something he made unconsciously to help him deal with his career frustrations and anxiety over his fame as well as being a rebel yell against an industry not taking him seriously. 

Getting Any? may have been made out of frustration but there is enough comedy and shock value and bizarre prurient humour here to justify viewing it. It is easy to imagine fans at the time being scandalised by some of the scenes packed full of nudity and violence but also there’s a sense of dangerousness and liberation in seeing people gleefully engaging in the anarchy on screen. Kitano is pushing back against good taste and does so effectively.

Getting Any Film Image 2

Kitano leads actors and his Gundan who he worked with in previous films astray as everyone throws themselves into this nonsense. It is fun seeing the likes of Yurei Yanagi, Susumu Terajima, and Ren Osugi from Boiling Point and Sonatine reprise roles as gangsters and weirdos who only show up to get bumped off or take part in sight gags based on societal quirks and erotic games that will lead to audience-members doing spit takes. Leading the cast is Dankan who plays Asao with a vacant gaze perfect for a man so shallow he is unable to see where his disastrous schemes go wrong and why women don’t like him. He would come off as a sexual predator of the worst kind if he wasn’t so inept at everything he put his hand to and Kitano didn’t keep slapping him in stupid situations that break off his ardour or totally subvert it.

Getting Any? is a solid comedy and interesting to engaging with when you consider this as Kitano’s mid-career crisis film. We should be glad he survived it and his accident because he went on to make even more films and gain a serious following in Japan as an auteur and we are now able to watch his films get re-released in wonderful 4K and enjoy his idiosyncratic sense of humour and direction. Even if it doesn’t always work, most of it is amusing to watch and a great time-capsule of pop-culture hits from the 80s and 90s.

Third Window Films continue to release the newly restored films of Takeshi Kitano on sparkly blu-ray in the UK with Getting Any?. Prior to this release, it was only available in the UK via Second Sight Films and their Kitano box-set. The Third Window Films release is a massive improvement in terms of visuals and sound and the subtitles have been given a unique UK spin with money translated from yen to pounds and there’s an interesting interview with Kitano.

Getting Any? みんな~やってるか! (1995) Dir: Takeshi Kitano is erotic nonsense of the highest order and presented perfectly here so if you have to get any version, then this is the one.

This review was originally written for VCinema.

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Sweetest Truth スイーテスト・トゥルース (2016) Dir: Evdoxia Kyropoulou Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue

Sweetest Truth 

スイーテスト・トゥルース   Sui-tesuto Turu-su   

Running Time: 58 mins.

Director: Evdoxia Kyropoulou

Writer: N/A

Starring: Emiko Nakai, Efstathia Tsapareli, Ryo Tsujikura, Giota Festa,

Sweetest Truth is writer/director Evdoxia Kyropoulou’s graduation work for the Kyoto University of Art and Design graduate school’s master’s course. She has written and directed short films and documentaries in Japan, the UK and Greece on young women coping with modern, urban reality and Sweetest Truth is her most ambitious film yet since it takes place in two countries.

There are two characters at the centre of the film. The first is Sissi Nakamura (Emiko Nakai), a young model living and working in Kyoto. She tries to balance a career entering overdrive and a relationship with her difficult boyfriend, Hideo (Ryo Tsujikura), who is also a model. He has a cold attitude to her and he has financial problems but she persists in loving him.

Meanwhile, in Athens, we see Katerina (Efstathia Tsapareli), a middle-aged woman who works as a cleaner. She is drifting far away from her youthful ambitions. She lives a suffocating existence with her selfish and overbearing mother Athanasia (Giota Festa) in a small apartment. The internet is her only escape and it is how she briefly makes contact with Sissi.

Sweetest Truth Film Image 2

Kyropoulou’s script effectively balances two narratives in distinctly different locations with characters who go on similar journeys.

Continue reading “Sweetest Truth スイーテスト・トゥルース (2016) Dir: Evdoxia Kyropoulou Osaka Asian Film Festival Housen Catalogue”

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Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Programme Housen Film Round-Up

I’m writing this the night before I age another year… Back, way back, way way back in the past, when 2014 was about to turn into 2015, I made many New Year’s resolutions. I actually hit every one of my resolutions. Except one:

  • I will investigate the Japanese indie film scene much more,

I didn’t do much in terms of indie films. In fact, reviews of films in general have been dropping to all-time lows. This year, I was gifted the chance to get involved in the Japanese indie film scene when I was at the Osaka Asian Film Festival and had access to a whole bunch of indie titles and filmmakers. However, when it came time to network, I didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm and just stood in the background with a bemused expression because I was deep in thought (strange for a shallow person like me). I did make a couple of connections after film screenings and one has turned out to be a film-friend of sorts. The really indie stuff, as in the kids still in university or freshly graduated, the people who have ascended from the foothills to the slopes as they scale the mountain of a movie-making career, well, I briefly talked to a few but mostly just watched the films and sat in on a couple of Q&As. This happened at National Museum of Art in a really cool area of the city which I enjoyed walking through every day.

National Museum of Art, Osaka

The venue was pretty cool, the relaxed atmosphere of a small lecture hall in the quiet museum being conducive to thinking about a film without distraction. A decent-sized screen was enough to convey the cinematic visions of a bunch of talented creatives to a dedicated audience who seemed very interested in what they had watched (that was the impression I got from the Q&As where people asked probing questions). As was the case for every film at the festival, every screening had subtitles and the ones I saw were perfect. For my part, I sat back and wrote, laughed, and was entertained and informed by new stories of life in Japan and visions of communities and individuals that were unique. I even asked a question at a Q&A. Also, all of the screenings were totally free. Free films. I mean, what a deal!

I’ve got notes on each film and will be publishing reviews for them individually. This post is a bit like a statement of intent and a contents page. The Osaka Asian Film Festival sort of revitalised me as a film-blogger at a time when I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing except having fun. I have a direction to go in now. I’ve also rediscovered anime with Mind Game, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl, and A Silent Voice and with the new Kino no Tabi series out it’s time to get hype!

So what were the indie films I saw? They were part of the Housen strand.

Hosen Cultural Foundation: Support for film study and production

What is Housen? Based in Osaka, the Housen Cultural Foundation supports film study and production in graduate schools across Japan with the aim of preserving and helping grow film culture in Japan. This year’s crop of directors came from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Kyoto University and each shot a film that was technically great or near enough. Every film screening with the exception of Icarus and the Son was a world premiere and one of the Housen-backed films – Breathless Lovers – was selected for a screening in the Indie Forum section. Two of the films later made it to festivals like Nippon Connection and Japan Cuts.

Everybody watches a film differently due to their mindset and emotional baggage and I found I got wildly different responses from other people who saw the same thing. Since I’m usually the odd man out, whatever.

Insecurities out of the way, here are a few brief thoughts before I post reviews over the next week.

bright-night-film-image

Continue reading “Osaka Asian Film Festival 2017 Programme Housen Film Round-Up”

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The Night is Short, Walk on Girl 夜は短し歩けよ乙女 2017 Director: Masaaki Yuasa

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl

夜は短し歩けよ乙女 「Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome

Release date: April 07th, 2017    The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Film Poster

Running Time: 93 mins.

Director: Masaaki Yuasa

Writer: Masaaki Yuasa, Reiko Yoshida (Screenplay) Tomihiko Morimi (Original Novel),

Animation Production: Science SARU

Starring: Kana Hanazawa (Kurokami no Otome), Gen Hoshino (Senpai), Kazuya Nakai (Seitarou Higuchi), Yuuko Kaida (Ryouko Hanuki), Nobuyuki Hiyama (Johnny), Aoi Yuuki (Princess Daruma), Junichi Suwabe (Nise Jougasaki),

MAL     IMDB    Website

The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is the latest film from anime auteur Masaaki Yuasa and his studio Science Saru. One of two award-winning movies he has released in 2017 (the other being Lu Over the Wall which took top prize at Annecy), this film is the very definition of the word exuberant in terms of story and style and should cement Yuasa as one of the best anime directors around.

Continue reading “The Night is Short, Walk on Girl 夜は短し歩けよ乙女 2017 Director: Masaaki Yuasa”

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Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2017

The 2017 edition of the London East Asia Film Festival takes place from October 19th to the 29th. This is the second year of the festival and it features a great selection of films from Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. The Japanese selection features some films fresh from Cannes, Camera Japan, Kotatsu, and other festivals and there are two new titles for me to write about, one live-action film and one anime.

London East Asia Film Festival 2017 Poster

Continue reading “Japanese Films at the London East Asian Film Festival 2017”

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Double Life  「二重生活」 Dir:  Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016

Double Life   Double Life Film Poster

二重生活 「Niju seikatsu

Running Time: 83 mins

Director:  Yoshiyuki Kishi

Writer: Yoshiyuki Kishi (Screenplay), Mariko Koike (Original Novel)

Starring: Mugi Kadowaki, Hiroki Hasegawa, Masaki Suda, Lily Franky, Setsuko Karasuma, Naomi Nishida, Yukiko Shinohara, Shohei Uno,

Website IMDB

Double Life is the debut feature-film from Yoshiyuki Kishi but it is done with such control you would have no idea. It is based on a novel by Mariko Koike and features a strong cast that bring audiences an interesting drama of a student who becomes obsessed with her neighbour ‘s life.

The student at the centre of the story is Tama (Mugi Kadowaki in her first lead role). She is a philosophy student who lives with her video game designer boyfriend Takuya (a low-key Masaki Suda) in a comfortable apartment.

A Double Life Film Image

When we first see her, she’s slogging through her masters thesis and even questioning the meaning of her own life when her inspirational professor, Shinohara (Lily Franky playing his role in a physically and emotionally constricted manner), gives her some guidance by telling her to follow in the footsteps of the French writer Sophie Calle and follow, in turn, in the footsteps of some random stranger on the street to discover their life.

Continue reading “Double Life  「二重生活」 Dir:  Yoshiyuki Kishi 2016”

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Zigeunerweisen ツィゴイネルワイゼン (1980) Director: Seijun Suzuki

Zigeunerweisen

ツィゴイネルワイゼン 「Tsuigoineruwaizen」   Zigeunerweisen Film Poster 2

Running Time: 145 mins

Director:  Seijun Suzuki

Writer: Yozo Tanaka (Screenplay), Hyakken Uchida (Original Novel)

Starring: Yoshio Harada, Naoko Otani, Toshiya Fujita, Kisako Makishi, Akaji Maro, Kirin Kiki, Yuki Kimura, Nagamasa Tamaki, Sumie Sasaki,

Website IMDB

This is an unruly and long review for a great film! You have been warned.

Seijun SuzukiSeijun Suzuki’s (1923 – 2017) career as a director is split into two parts – as one of Nikkatsu studio’s stable of salaried directors, he was tasked with making rather generic low-budget yakuza films but Suzuki’s output was different because he had a keen sense of style and humour that subverted the genre products he was hired to write and direct. Brave use of dissonance in terms of arty visuals, sounds and music, and penning irreverent stories with outrageous twists made his films more memorable for audiences but less palatable for the guys running Nikkatsu who were not so enamoured with creating art and more interested in making a quick buck. This period came to an end with Branded to Kill which proved to be a critical and commercial flop and so the head honchos at Nikkatsu fired him for making, and I quote Suzuki-kantoku himself, “movies that make no sense and no money.” Suzuki successfully sued them for wrongful dismissal but successfully challenging industry figures tends to get a person blacklisted (just ask Kiyoshi Kurosawa after his run-in with Juzo Itami) and so he spent ten years in the movie making wilderness formulating ideas with other creatives. Continue reading “Zigeunerweisen ツィゴイネルワイゼン (1980) Director: Seijun Suzuki”

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Japanese Girls Never Die  「アズミ・ハルコは行方不」Dir: Daigo Matsui 2016

Japanese Girls Never Die  

japanese-girls-never-die-film-poster
japanese-girls-never-die-film-poster

アズミ・ハルコは行方不  Azumi Haruko wa yukue fumei

Running Time: 100 mins.

Director: Daigo Matsui

Writer: Mariko Yamauchi (Original Novel), Misaki Setoyama (Screenplay)

Starring: Yu Aoi, Mitsuki Takahata, Maho Yamada, Shono Hayama, Taiga, Kanon Hanakage, Ryo Kase, Motoki Ochiai, Tomiyuki Kunihiro, Akiko Kikuchi,

IMDB Website

In this film, Japanese girls are mad. Justifiably so if you look at reality. Despite Japan being a country on the bleeding edge of culture and cool, the way women are treated leaves a lot to be desired. Shinzo Abe, the current Prime Minister of Japan (I’m dating this review with a reference to him), has pledged to make Japan’s economy boom again and one of his methods is to get more women into the workplace and not just in menial positions but in leadership roles – womenomics. Rather contradictorily, he wants this whilst also trying to persuade women to boost the birthrate of a country with workplace environments that often penalise people for taking time off to look after family matters. Unfortunately, his grand plans have faltered and women still find themselves trapped in lowly positions never mind other issues such as stalkers and whatnot. Japanese Girls Never Die, based on the novel Haruko Azumi Is Missing by Misaki Setoyama, manages to tackle many issues of that women face in a bright neon blaze of righteous anger and anime-inspired visuals that will drive home the injustices that women endure.

Continue reading “Japanese Girls Never Die  「アズミ・ハルコは行方不」Dir: Daigo Matsui 2016”

Third Window Films Release Shinya Tsukamoto’s “Fires on the Plain 野火” (2014) on September 11th

Third Window Films will add Shinya Tsukamoto’s last film, Fires on the Plain to their catalogue of titles further making their releases the definitive editions! Fires on the Plain is an astonishing war film because of its relentlessly dwells on death and destruction and shows the pointlessness of war and the way it dehumanises people through a series of gruelling actions (gory battle scenes, murder, suicide, and worse) broken up by suspenseful periods of non-action in the beautiful jungle environs of the Philippines.

Nobi Fires on the Plain Film Image 4

The film is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Shohei Ooka and Kon Ichikawa’s seminal 1959 war film and for director Shinya Tsukamoto it was a passion project he spent ten years bringing to life. It may be a war film but it fits in perfectly with his oeuvre since he has made films full of body-horror and he loves to explore the psychologically twisted aspects of human nature. Just watch his hyper-violent horror films like Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and dark dramas like Vital (2003) and A Snake of June (2003) and lets not forget Ichi the Killer and Nightmare Detective. Despite the fearsome reputation of the films… well…

I met Shinya Tsukamoto before this movie was screened and he was remarkably laid back. I didn’t get the chance to interview him but I did get my picture taken with him and an autograph which lies safely in a DVD case… I have reviewed a lot of his films and you can see which ones be looking at my profile of the director. I pulled this information from my review of the film and information from Third Window Films. I hope this helps!

Fires on the Plain        

Fires on the Plain Film Poster
Fires on the Plain Film Poster

野火   Nobi

Duration: 87 mins.

Release Date: July 25th 2015 Seen at Raindance

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Writer: Shinya Tsukamoto (Screenplay), Shohei Ooka (Original Novel)

Cast: Shinya Tsukamoto, Lily Franky, Tatsuya Nakamura, Yuko Nakamura, Dean Newcombe, Yusaku Mori,

Website   IMDB

The film Fires on the Plain takes place during the closing stages of the war. The Americans are invading Leyte Island in the Philippines and are hot on the heels of demoralised soldiers of the Japanese army, all of whom are looking to evacuate from the island. We see their increasingly desperate struggle from the perspective of an army conscript named Tamura (Shinya Tsukamoto) who is sick with tuberculosis.

He is forced into the field with a grenade by a commander who cannot waste resources on keeping a dying man alive and suggests Tamura blows himself up. Tamura doesn’t want to give up so easily and clings to life. He wanders around the jungle and bounces between broken platoons and brutal battles as everybody heads to the port at Palompon to be evacuated to Cebu but it is a journey that will lead him down a dark path where he will have to hold on to his humanity as he encounters betrayal, extreme violence, and worse…

Japan / 2015 / 87 Mins / In Japanese with English subtitles / HD / Colour

Out as a  DUAL FORMAT DVD & BLURAY 
September 11th, 2017
Special Features:
Dual format DVD & BLURAY
1 hour extensive making of
Audio commentary by Tom Mes, author of “Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto”
First 1000 copies come with LIMITED EDITION slipcase illustrated by Mathieu Bablet

Tak Sakaguchi’s “Re:Born” to get its UK premiere at The Fighting Spirit Festival, September 16th

Eureka recently announced their slate of newest acquisitions and it included two Japanese fims – Tag (2015), Sion Sono’s carnival of chaos as Japanese schoolgirls take part in epic death-games, and Re:Born (2017), the recent return of action-man Tak Sakaguchi (Versus, Deadball) where he plays an ex-special-forces soldier fighting for his loved ones. Re:Born will have its UK premiere on September 16th as the main film of The Fighting Spirit Festival which takes place at the Boleyn Theatre in London.

The Fighting Spirits Festival is a relatively new event which is in its second year of operation. It celebrates and promotes Martial Arts Culture and those who have made martial arts as a careerthrough films and demonstrations. The films screened range from feature-length titles to shorts, classics like Shaw Brothers titles like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978) to more modern takes such as Herman Yau’s 2013 movie Ip Man. It has support from the Chinese Visual Festival, East Winds Film Festival, Arrow Video and Eureka so it’s guaranteed a lot of great films. Show some love for East Asian movies and take a look at the festival.

It’s pretty exciting to see a Japanese martial arts movie take the top spot, especially with Tak Sakaguchi in the lead role which is what drew my attention to it. Here are more details:

Re: Born   Re Born Film Poster

RE:BORN リボーン 「RE:BORN Ribo-n

Running Time: 115 mins.

Director:  Yuji Shimomura

Writer: Benio Saeki (Screenplay),

Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Yura Kondo, Issei Ishida, Mariko Shinoda, Takumi Saito, Hitomi Hasebe, Masaya Kato, Akio Otsuka, Makoto Sakaguchi, Kenta, Rina Takeda,

IMDB Website

RE:BORN stars Tak Sakaguchi. Even if the films he is in are gore-fests where the main highlight are the special-effects and humour, he tends to make an impact because he can act and he has the charisma and martial arts skills to make a good action hero. He has been making horror and action movies for a while as an action director (he worked on High & Low: The Red Rain (2016) and Sion Sono’s movies Tag and Love Exposure, Himizu) and an actor (Osaka Snake Road: Snake of Violence, Tokyo Gore Police, Alive, Shinobi: Heart Under Blade and Meatball Machine: Kodoku). He was fantastic in Sion Sono’s (yes, him again,) Why Don’t You Play in Hell? which, if you had to watch one performance, is the one I’d recommend.

He is working with another prolific action director named Yuji Shinomura (Library Wars, Strayers Chronicle, I Am a Hero) and the fight choreographer Yoshitaka Inagawa, a former close combat instructor for U.S. Special Forces and other international commando units. The film showcases Inugawa’s Zero Range Combat System – a technique focused around extremely quick and efficient movements at close range.

The action in the trailer looks breathtaking and Tak Sakaguchi looks focused and cool in the lead role. Hardcore action films like this seem to be in short-supply from Japan and so it’s great seeing this on the big screen in the UK!!!

Synopsis: Toshiro (Tak Sakaguchi) is a seemingly normal guy who runs a convenience store in a small town. He lives a quiet life with his young niece Sachi but in the past, Toshiro was known as “Ghost” and was a lethal member for a special covert forces unit. He thought he had left that life behind but when his ex-comrades kidnap Sachi, he has to be reborn as a beast to get her back!