Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bakumatsu taiyô-den (dir. Yûzô Kawashima, 1957)

A Sun-Tribe Myth from the Bakumatsu Era

1862, the concluding years of the Edo Period. A famed brothel in Shinagawa. A sought-after courtesan handing out a multitude of marriage promises with nary a concern about the consequences. Her smitten clients. A daughter at risk of being sold off by her father. A frustrated servant trying to extract payment from a supposed big-spender. A group of samurai insurgents planning an explosive attack on the neighbouring 'foreigners' district'. A prostitute entering into a farcical suicide pact with a desperate book-seller. The brothel owners and their extravagant, playboy son. If this all sounds like the stuff of highest melodrama, luckily it's almost entirely played for laughs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rent-a-Cat (Rentaneko, dir. Naoko Ogigami, 2012)

Feline funny

If there was a dedicated award for achievements in quirk, hedging bets on Rent-a-Cat would surely be a safe wager. The very core is drenched in wackiness, and it permeates every frame. Mikako Ichikawa plays Sayoko, a thirty-something year-old who has earned a reputation as being a bit of a crazy cat lady. And seemingly with good cause - she's lives alone with dozens of the things, and spends her days walking the banks of the local river yelling "RENNNNNT A.... NEKO. NEKO NEKO!" She rents her cats to those in need, albeit only those who pass her personal inspection - those she deems sufficiently lonely and living in a feline friendly environment. Oh, and she also moonlights as a fortune teller. Or is that a stock broker?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wolf Children (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki, Mamoru Hosoda, 2012)

What Hosoda Did Next

It is the rare director indeed that illustrates their mastery right out of the gate, as for most greatness is earned. This is very much the rule in Japan, where even the likes of Mizoguchi, Kurosawa and Ozu had a long career of semi-successful studio films behind them before they produced their masterworks. Mamoru Hosoda, too, had a less than audacious start, making his filmic debut directing two long-since forgotten theatrical entries in the Digimon series. After a One Piece film, Hosoda's breakthrough film (and to all extents and purposes his 'true' debut, stylistically speaking) came in the form of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - a well-regarded film, although in this writer's opinion, merely a solidly decent one. Then came Summer Wars, and Hosoda's career went electric. I've composed my thoughts on that glorious feature before, and it has become one of my most rewatched films in recent times as a result of its radiant sense of joy and adventure. Mamoru 'The Next Big Thing' Hosoda had arrived.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)

Transcendence through Debauchery

It's rare that films of extreme excess can draw justifiable comparisons to Terence Malick, but that's the unusual situation we find ourselves in when encountering the fascinating Spring Breakers. With its screeching Skrillex soundtrack, lack of clothing and borderline radioactive cinematography, this may seem like a strange comparison. But Korine's film conjures up a hypnotic mood that I would most compare to the cinematic streams of consciousness Malick offers - indeed, Spring Breakers may be an altogether more mesmeric achievement than Malick's disappointingly frigid To The Wonder.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ordet (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1955)

This article is part of a year-long feature - watching and blogging about twenty acclaimed, cult, challenging and rare films over the course of 2013. The full list of films can be found here. Six: Carl Theodor Dreyer meditates on issues of faith in Ordet.

One of the core reasons for this series of posts was to motivate myself to seek out the films of directors I hadn't gotten around or whose output I had only dabbled in. Most urgently among the auteurs I wanted to discover more about was Carl Theodor Dreyer. It's safe to say my viewing of The Passion of Joan of Arc late last year was one of those rare treats where you discover a truly beautiful, timeless film. With its provocative content and intense, close-up dominated aesthetic, it still feels vital and fresh on its eighty-fifth birthday.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Ace Attorney (Gyakuten Saiban, Takashi Miike, 2012)


I have previously composed my thoughts on the continued failures of video game adaptations, but in essence the thesis boils down to two core points. The first is that they have been manhandled by incompetent creatives and studios - unfortunately few auteurs have yet braved the world of gaming adaptations. But more damningly is their farcical lack of allegiance to the source material. Adaptations of games, with a handful of exceptions, often bear little to no resemblance to the thing that they're adapting - perhaps a token character name here or there, but in many cases existing in entirely different genres. Those who aren't intimately familiar with gaming as a medium may scoff - and often do - at the idea, but game worlds, characters and stories can be rich, diverse and iconic. Film rarely, if ever, reflects that.