Japanese Journals - General

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Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Sep 01, 2005 8:17 pm

For me, Vibrator exemplifies what cinema should be: Free and innovative, along with having the capability to transcend any tradition. It's one of the best Japanese films I've seen this decade. Looking forward to your thoughts.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby trevor826 » Sat Sep 03, 2005 7:30 am

Distance (2001)

Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

Starring Tadanobu Asano, Kenichi Endo, Arata

A drama set three years after a fictional cult group contaminated Tokyo's water supply, this film like Eureka is about the pain, guilt and incomprehension following traumatic loss and/or bereavement.

Four relatives of the cult members meet up at the lake where their ashes were spread following their suicide. While at the lake their car is stolen, they eventually decide after meeting one of the surviving cult members, to spend the night in the cult's old headquarters.

As they finally relax, their thoughts turn to those they lost, flashbacks show important moments when who knows? If they had handled things in a different way, maybe they would have turned out differently. We also see further flashbacks of the police interviews with the surviving member and with the relatives where for some of them, even further disturbing information is revealed.

The film makes great use of handheld cameras and natural lighting, all of which help to make you feel as though you are part of or eavesdropping on the group. There are no long deep conversations; instead they are natural and stilted, each person trying in their own way to comprehend the reasoning behind the actions of the past. These people are only together because each has lost someone close to them, otherwise they are almost strangers.

There is a little mystery, one of the relatives isnt who he says he is and unless I missed it, there is no real understanding of where he fits in although he definitely had some sort of association with at least one of the cult members.

The acting is spot on, and although it didnt grab my attention in the same way that Eureka did, it is well paced and constructed with an ending open to interpretation.

Recommended viewing and one that I think, like After life and Maborosi, will impress me even more on future screenings.

Cheers Trev.

No BBFC rating but probably 15.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby A » Sat Sep 03, 2005 4:17 pm

Thanks Trev.
This is hard to get here in Germany (for a Koreeda film that is), but hopefully I`ll see it someday.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby trevor826 » Sat Sep 03, 2005 11:54 pm

Vibrator (2003)

Directed by Ryuichi Hiroki

Starring Shinobu Terajima, Nao Omori

arsaib4 - For me, Vibrator exemplifies what cinema should be: Free and innovative, along with having the capability to transcend any tradition. It's one of the best Japanese films I've seen this decade. Looking forward to your thoughts.

Well how do you follow a comment like that? This is one of the films that show why Japan still leads the field as far as Asian cinema (if not World cinema) is concerned, even more surprising considering the director is better known for making pink films. I was so impressed I spent days going round the book shops until I managed to buy the original novel.

On its simplest level the film is a road trip with two characters who while completely different share a common wariness towards others. They manage to transcend their differences even if only for a few days and finish where they started, slightly changed for the better.

The whole narrative is given from the perspective of the female character Rei, a journalist. And what a narrative, she is neurotic, has eating disorders and appears to be schizophrenic, continuously hearing voices and sometimes unwarily telling them to shut up. The only way shes found to get rid of these voices is alcohol, which is a staple part of her diet, the film opens with Rei in a shopping mart very late at night where she is looking for some wine. We hear her thoughts although its never clear when they are her own or the voices in her mind.

Her thoughts and shopping are held in check though when she espies a stranger dressed in overalls and yellow gum boots, she assumes he's a fisherman and a secondary set of thoughts appear, this time written. These are more direct, such as Hes tasty, I want to eat him. There is no doubting these are her thoughts and for someone who normally finds it hard to cope with everyday living this is a giant leap.

The attraction is mutual and the slightest physical contact is enough to make Rei decide to take a risk. To her and the man's (Takatoshi) surprise they spend a night of passion in his lorry cab, (he's a haulage driver) then embark on a journey that although a normal part of his routine will allow both to lower their barriers, communicate and share rare precious moments in an otherwise uncaring world.

Thats the basic plot but it cannot relay the depth of the experience or put across Reis problems. The filming is done with DV, which is perfect for the enclosed space of the lorry cab, and the soundtrack is terrific.

The actors are superb, I know I often say the actors were ideal etc but in this case they are perfect. Shinobu Terajima, a stage actress plays Rei and is totally believable as this complex and emotionally fragile creature. Nao Omori, probably best known for playing the title character in "Ichi the Killer" is Takatoshi, wary of opening up but sensitive and caring towards Rei.

Apart from the two people on a road trip scenario, if you look deeper, this could be taken as a view of Japan or even the modern civilized materialistic world as a whole. Japan is a nation that has been in a state of flux since the end of World War II, a people searching for an identity and for values. The neurosis is a symptom of modern society where old values mean little and the new values such as consumerism mean even less.

Highly recommended, different, poignant and deep.

Cheers Trev

No BBFC rating but no lower than 15.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Sep 05, 2005 2:44 am

Thanks for your comments and the review of this magnificent film. I knew I had seen Nao Omori somewhere.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Sep 05, 2005 2:47 am


Along with Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Shinji Aoyama was also once considered a "Junkyard Dog." And while he was never as "dirty" as his friend and mentor, he did wallow in pseudo-horror and detective stories early on in his career with films like Helpless (1996), An Obsession (1997) and Shady Grove (1999) -- all worthy due to Aoyamas exquisite camerawork and his penchant for searching metaphorical expositions. (Aoyama, 41, is about 10 years younger than Kurosawa and along with studying with him under Shigehiko Hasumi, he also worked as his assistant during the mid-90s.)

And then came Eureka (2000), Aoyamas meditative 4-hr masterpiece which shook Cannes (where the film played in-competition) to its core, and made him a much sought after commodity. He returned to the festival in 2001 with another angst-ridden film called Desert Moon (Olaf Mller rightfully called it "a post-Fassbinder melodrama") but it inherited the sort of unceremonious dismissal that returning filmmakers usually receive if their new film isnt as good as the previous one. Perhaps that was something which sent Aoyama back to his roots in the following few years and hes only now made a partial comeback with his latest, Eli, Eli, lema Sebachtani? (2005), starring Tadanobu Asano.

Mike Yokohama: A Forest with No Name (Shiritsu Tantei Hama Maiku: Namae No Nai Mori) was one of the films that Aoyama made during those years. Originally conceived as an episode of a Japanese TV series based on Kaizo Hayashi's detective films, it somehow found its way to a slot at the Berlin Film Festival in 2002. The film stars a perfectly cast Masatoshi Nagase (the Elvis-lover from Jim Jarmuschs Mystery Train [1989]) as the titular character, a bumbling detective usually seen donning Studio 54-ish attire. Hes got huge debt problems so he takes on a job offered by an industrialist who only considers himself "plain-old-rich" instead of a "bourgeoisie." The job involves bringing back the mans daughter who, according to the father, has joined some sort of a cult in order to find her true self. What Mike finds, at least at the outset, is a rather peaceful compound, albeit one headed by a rather mysterious woman referred to as "the Doctor." As he tries to become part of the group in order to get close to his target, he also gets drawn to an enigmatic young woman, not to mention a mystical tree (echoes of Kurosawas Charisma [1999]) which hes told bears his resemblance.

This is decidedly a minor, even insignificant piece of work -- but, as always, Aoyamas visual compositions are interesting to say the least. The film also boasts much wry and sardonic humor in expense of these "inner-piece" searchers (one of the graduates of the center ends up being a serial-killer) along with the ubiquitous B-grade detective films, but Aoyama isnt able to develop much consistency with any theme or idea in the short running time (71 minutes!). Only the detectives conflicting individuality carries through the film (he hates it when anyone calls him anything else other than "Mike"). It does show, however, that the filmmaker had a lot of fun with the material and there are probably running gags with the TV-series that most arent able to comprehend. Heres hoping that -- much like the films protagonist -- Aoyama will also be able to find his true calling, ideally sooner than later.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Sep 23, 2005 6:02 am

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Doppelgnger.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby trevor826 » Fri Sep 23, 2005 11:19 am

I can only hope that Tartan decide to release Doppelganger in the UK as well, otherwise I'll have to follow the usual route of importing.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Sep 23, 2005 9:20 pm

I'd import a lot more if the darn $ wasn't so weak against the GBP and the Euro. :(

Re: Japanese Journals - General

Postby trevor826 » Fri Sep 23, 2005 10:48 pm

That's bad news for you but it's great for me.......

Cheers Trev.


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