Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

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Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby wpqx » Sat Aug 27, 2005 11:38 am

I have Izo and Audition too, and will be watching them in the near future, but the rest of his filmography is all yours.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby A » Sat Aug 27, 2005 11:51 am

I`m interested on your views on Izo. This may sure be one of the love it or hate it candidates. I thought it a mess, and couldn`t make too much sense of it, though I liked certain aspects.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Mon Aug 29, 2005 3:51 pm

Still to come


Kids Return

Hopefully somebody else can cover Sonatine, Violent Cop, Boiling Point etc.


Bullet Ballet
A Snake of June


Dead or Alive
City of Lost Souls
Visitor Q

And more.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby wpqx » Tue Aug 30, 2005 3:30 pm

Audition (1999) - Takashi Miike

Well another Miike for me. This is, along with Ichi the Killer his most notorious film. Audition holds the special place of being the first Miike film I had heard of, and that goes for many people. Told of the films disturbing imagery, creepy moments, and confusing structure, one can easily get expectations high. Perhaps this film would be better to go into blind, but well some films aren't possible to do that.

The problem with the film is the pacing. Although 115 minutes, it takes about 80 before anything unusual happens. This can force most people to lose interest by the time. I'll admit I was bored out of my mind as the "plot" was unravelling. We meet our lovable loser and watch as he "auditions" a potential wife. In the process we watch him bumbling about, criticize the plot he's after, although it certainly sounds like a US reality show. Then we see him being boring on a date, and being boring while thinking about his ideal woman.

Perhaps it was the intention to make us bored. Isolate us from what's happening and give us a degree of sympathy for our main character, because his life is so boring. Either way it makes the majority of the film seem like a waste of time, or at least wasted on me. Things thankfully do start to change after a night in a hotel room, and well like most viewers it's hard not to scratch your head wondering what the hell is happening.

The story bounces around from dream to reality to back again so often that we begin to question everything that's going on. This I know was intentional. We're confused to the point, were we might even wonder if the entire thing (audition tapes included) wasn't part of some fantasy. Things get rolling and for us, it's all in good fun. I found myself sitting up in my seat towards the conclusion admiring the strange twists and turns, and only half heartedly trying to decipher what was real.

I got thrown one too many curves, and just said to hell with it, and tried to enjoy the ride. That's the best advice I could give someone about this film. If looking for a horror film you will be disappointed. If you're looking for something strange and unique, you'll be bored for a while. If you just plow into the film without a care in your head, then you may just enjoy this film. It does get good, but in my case it seemed too little too late. Miike despite his mass cult appeal doesn't seem to me to be a very great filmmaker. Or perhaps somewhere amidst all those pictures he's made is a gem, or maybe considering his age, his best is yet to come. For my money though, that best film wouldn't be Audition, a film too muddled and messed up to be truly great.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby A » Tue Aug 30, 2005 4:09 pm

It was also my first Miike, and my initial reaction was very similar to yours. Only that I (maybe) tried harder to make sense of it, and (after consutling some reviews, essays, etc.) it did! Well, I don`t remember it properly, as it has been some time (years?) ago, but let me assure you there is a point to it, and not just on the social commentary-side. My Next film was Graveyrd of Honor (one of my favorite films), and things went easier. Before watching the next one (Ichi) I gathered some informations, and it helped tremendeously appreciating the film.
But the last Miike film I saw, "Izo" left me wondering again...

Maybe I should recommend you watch Blues Harp, or Dead or Alive 2, if you want something "easier" more conventional, but imo still pretty good.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:30 pm

There's one thing you have to remember about Miike as opposed to Kitano, Tsukamoto and many other directors. Miike is just that a director, he's never written or worked on anything that has originated from his own mind, sure he puts his stamp on a film but only as a director.

As an example, this is a quote from an interview, " I make the movie which is offered to me, with somebody else's money," this is why out of these three directors, I always refer to Miike as a jobbing director knocking them out as quickly and cheaply as possible.

The source novel for Audition was written by Ryu Murakami perhaps better known to "A" as the writer and director of Tokyo Decadence. Ryu was apparently so pleased with the film adaptation of Audition that he wanted Miike to direct Coin Locker Babies but by the look of it, he won't get the chance to do it.

For a little more insight on Miike here's a link to an interview with him Miike interview with midnighteye.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Tue Sep 06, 2005 9:18 pm

Kikujir no natsu (1999) Kikujiro

Directed by Takeshi Kitano

Starring Takeshi Kitano, Yusuke Sekiguchi

A real oddball and playful buddy/road movie, Masao lives with his grandmother in Tokyo but desperately wants to see his mother who lives in another town. Kikujir is a cynical old yakuza (gang) member who through his wifes persuasion accompanies Masao on his journey.

The first thing Kikujiro does is to drag Masao to a bicycle racing track where he manages to lose almost all their money gambling, thus their adventure truly begins as they have to hitch their way to their destination. Along the way they meet a series of characters including Jugglers, a writer and two inept Hells Angels, Fatso and Baldy (as named by Kikujir) all of who help to amuse Masao and keep the story rolling along.

Among the delights are the Hells Angels made up as various sea creatures and melon bashing (a Japanese beach custom) with a difference. Kitanos signatures are present as usual, seashores, angels, physical and musical rhythm and his artwork. Each chapter has an introductory screen almost like a scrapbook giving a little preview of whats to come and the whole thing plays out almost like a Japanese Wizard of Oz but without any sentimentality or any form of redemption. Kikujiro starts the film as a cynical old fart and ends it exactly the same.

Vivid, colourful and energetic, this is a great movie and a fine introduction especially for youngsters to Japanese cinema, highly recommended.

Cheers Trev

BBFC rated 12

No R2 Pal DVD available, R1 & R3 ntsc available from several suppliers.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Mon Sep 12, 2005 1:02 pm

Yokai Hanta - Hiruko (1990) Hiruko the Goblin

Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto

Starring Kenji Sawada, Masaki Kudou

This belongs with the likes of Evil Dead or Peter Jacksons early efforts, very low budget, some pretty bad acting and some good but some awful special effects.

The basic plot (once again adapted from a manga) involves the accidental freeing of an ancient demon from a large mound built specifically to contain it; of course theyve since built houses and a school on the mound! The demon/goblin takes the head of its first victim, (a schoolgirl of course) grows spiders legs then sneaks up on its other victims, entrances them by singing a slow repetitive song then makes them decapitate themselves.

The only way to stop it and its brethren from coming up from the pits of Hell and causing worldwide chaos is to trap it again within the mound. A young boy, a nutty archaeologist plus the school caretaker are the only ones capable of saving the world from Hiruko and the hosts of Hell.

At best this is daft, absurdly funny in parts and utterly disposable, the plot is very straightforward but the way its edited with jump cuts every few minutes or even seconds look very amateurish.

From what I can find out, Tsukamoto made this film to help fund his own endeavours and it certainly doesnt belong with the rest of his canon. Dont go out of your way to see this but if youre looking for something light, silly and fairly entertaining this may just fit the bill.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated 15

Available on DVD from Artsmagic.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby wpqx » Sun Sep 18, 2005 3:35 pm

Izo (2004) - Takashi Miike

Well the question one may ask is can senseless violence alone be the basis of a movie? Izo proves that it can't. For a long two hours we see the title character, a barbarian/demon get transported to various times and places always screaming and always killing. It gets boring extremely quickly. We notice the change in times, and wonder what the point of it is. Believing this is a seriously dense and complex film, we soon discover however that it isn't. The film is simply a parade of violence in different settings.

Miike tries his best to keep the action somewhat interesting, and any possible way somebody can be killed with a sword occurs here. There are a few quiet passages, various musical interludes, and even a few silent film like passages. This isn't a senseless parade of violence like say an American movie with a thinly disguised plot might be. Instead this is senseless violence masked as an art film.

I don't think that the man playing Izo was a particularly good choice. He neither seemed menacing, barbaric, or charismatic enough to pull this off. He irritated me, and I was eagerly awaiting somebody to finally send his body to hell, and wound up continually disappointed.

The point of this film may be that violence is senseless, so what better way to show that then fill a film completely with random killings that have nothing to do with anything. I honestly don't think anyone cares what the point is. The film could have done a lot more with his character, and I still have no idea exactly why he just wanders around killing people, perhaps a backstory a little history could have helped. If it sounds like I'm bashing the film, it's because I am, this film is utterly pointless, and even the most passionate samurai fan will get bored out of his mind.

Re: Japanese Journals - The Modern Cult Directors.

Postby trevor826 » Mon Oct 17, 2005 8:16 pm

Vital (2004)

Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto

Starring Tadanobu Asano, Nami Tsukamoto, Kazuyoshi Kushida

Film No4 in Tartan's Asia extreme tour 2005.

Hiroshi Takagi (Tadanobu Asano) wakes up in hospital after a car crash, his memory is gone but his parents take him home and hope for the best. Finding his old medical books he decides to enrol as a medical student, (his father is a doctor). During the training he has to do dissect a corpse, a young woman and suddenly memories come flooding back to him, but are they just memories?

As the dissection takes place Hiroshi starts behaving more and more strangely driving most of the other students away apart from a girl who obviously has a soft spot for him, she follows him around and literally throws herself at him but he's too self absorbed to take any notice. The flashbacks and visions get stronger and become more real to him than reality, meanwhile the dissection continues as every part of the body is cut away and examined for study purposes (the visual and aural effects for this procedure were outstanding).

Sounds macabre, depressing or gross but provided you can let yourself flow with it, its quite beautiful. Hiroshi slips from the present to the past and often into a higher plane of consciousness!

Tadanobu breezes through his role keeping his acting minimal but interesting, Kazuyoshi Kushida excels as the father of Hiroshis ex girlfriend. The directing and editing are superb (as Id expect) and Nami Tsukamoto (any relation?) is beautiful and I assume from her performance, a trained dancer.

The film asks many questions such as: How do we define love? What is waiting for us when we die? What is reality? And as one of the doctors asks, Where is the soul?

Provided you can just absorb it, you will find plenty to appreciate in this strangely poetic and fate driven love story from Tsukamoto. I know I've previously mentioned a similarity between the work of Tsukamoto and Cronenberg, one line in this film feels like a definite reference to Cronenberg's Crash!

I loved it but have no doubt that it will not appeal to a great many people which is a shame.

BBFC rated 15.

Cheers Trev.


DVD update.

R2 Pal dvd available from Tartan Video.

Picture quality - very good
Sound options and quality - good range with very good DTS track

DVD extras include -

Decent enough though fairly short making of.

An interesting interview with Tsukamoto going into the inspiration and his preparation for the film.

Good detailed info on the construction of the cadavers for the film, gruesome but very interesting.

Music promo.

A good hour + worth of extras as well as a commentary from Tom Mes from Midnight Eye.


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