Archive for the ‘JP YEAR OF PRODUCTION 2010’ Category

FLOWER AND SNAKE 3 [HANA TO HEBI 3 | 花と蛇 3]

2011/02/03

https://www.dmm.co.jp/hanatohebi3

JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Yusuke Narita  Written by: Masayoshi Azuma  Novel by: Oniroku Dan  Cast: Minako Komukai, Shohei Hino, Mari Komatsuzaki, Kotono, Shunsaku Kudo, Kei Mizutani, Yasukaze Motomiya, Ayumu Saito

You should think that the Pinku Eiga is coming of age by now. FLOWER & SNAKE 3 leaves it kind of open however if it has, or hasn’t. It may simply be a matter of definition though, or maybe a matter if time.

FLOWER & SNAKE 3 has little in common with the likes of ANGEL GUTS or other Nikkatsu productions of the late 70’s or 80’s. Transgressions that once defined the genre – or creativity, as you may prefer to call it and were once a hallmark of the Japanese pink film – have made room for convention. Disregard the question if we have to attribute that creativity to censorship or not it must be noted that the Japanese pink film has always been more inventive than its western counterparts.

To be precise, the key difference is that the pinku eiga is imaginative while the western sex film is mostly solely descriptive. Like, say, the difference between Internet Explorer and Safari. This stronghold is genuinely made in Nippon, and few filmmakers outside the country have come close to the specific vision of pinku eiga directors or their literary sources.

Now how about the coming of age of the pink film? FLOWER & SNAKE 3 has come of age in the sense that it has evolved far away from the origins of the genre and represents a glossy interpretation of European soft core, a fantasy that could have come from the ever-playful mind of Tinto Brass, a film that turns transgression into fashion, lauding S&M as the new standard of the mainstream. Indeed, many ideas have moved from the periphery of society into its center, however, that doesn’t mean that the auteur has to follow that example and start depicting what is instead of what could or will be.

Losing that specific edge means losing a good part of the pinku eiga identity: there are more similarities than differences to western productions, even though FLOWER & SNAKE 3 still seems more story-driven and tries to define pleasure and pain as an expression, or result, of the relationships between the characters. But it’s a far cry from what made the pinku eiga a genuine category and that is also why I cannot think of many reasons why you need watch it.

J.

 

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CONFESSIONS [KOKUHAKU | 告白]

2011/01/31

http://kokuhaku-shimasu.jp/

JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Tetsuya Nakashima Written by: Tetsuya Nakashima  Novel by: Kanae Minato  Produced by: Yuji Ishida, Genki Kawamura, Yoshihiro Kubota, Yutaka Suzuki  Cinematography by: Masakazu Ato, Atsushi Ozawa  Editing by: Yoshiyuki Koike  Music by: Toyohiko Kanahashi  Cast: Takako Matsu, Masaki Okada, Yoshino Kimura, Mana Ashida, Kaoru Fujiwara, Kai Inowaki, Sora Iwata, Daichi Iwata, Daichi Izumi, Karin Kato, Takuya Kusakawa, Ayaka Miyoshi, Hiroki Nakajima, Yukito Nishii, Hotaru Nomoto, Rena Nonen, Naoya Shimizu, Tsutomu Takahashi, Makiya Yamaguchi, Kasumi Yamaya, Ayuri Yoshinaga

Life’s not always butterflies and rainbows. Sometimes it’s so-so, then you die. When a teacher’s daughter drowns in the pool of a school it is ruled as an accident. But at the end of the term, and at the end of her engagement at that school, Yuko Moriguchi, the teacher (played by Takako Matsu) reveals to her class that it wasn’t an accident, but cold-blooded murder indeed, committed by underage students who are in the room now. Without naming the culprits she meticulously goes into every detail of the bloody deed and her findings, knowing that the murderers cannot be punished as they are protected by the very law that should actually put them behind bars. Finally, at the end of her revelations, it turns out that she has decided to take the law into her own hands and avenge her daughter’s death in an unorthodox, yet very efficient way. But what’s a shock for the culprits as much as for the classmates is just the beginning of a vicious game with unpredictable outcome.

Yuko Moriguchi’s confession (in one of the most memorable openings of any movie I believe) is just the first of many to follow. KOKUHAKU is structured episodically with each confession concentrating on one of the main characters. The movie finishes on a high, with a climatic ending that will definitely blow you away. KOKUHAKU is an enormously satisfying and intense viewing experience, from the first frame until the credits start rolling, not least thanks to the very sophisticated script (based on the equally sophisticated novel by Kanae Minato), a superior plot engine as well as meticulous direction, cinematography and editing.

Despite many trademark features of revenge flicks or Japanese end-of-the-world movies KOKUHAKU is more of a theological discussion on the values in life, and the worth of life itself. It also debates the state of the nation and the future of Japanese society, which could as well be a universal discourse applicable to any other place out there. Choosing the form of a psychological drama KOKUHAKU is also, or first and foremost, a nail-biting thriller, even if most of it is dialogue, not action.

The dark and sinister world of KOKUHAKU is the perfect place for broken characters and leaves little room for normality as we know (knew) it. It is not easy to identify with any of the figures, mostly we tend to agree with what Yuko is doing, but the way the script portrays the villainous characters is rich, brilliant, borderline genius. The fascination even for the most despicable person is one of the outstanding achievements of KOKUHAKU, and the way the film finds a lyrical tonality to describe evil reminds of Bret Easton Ellis. You can feel the presence of the literary source throughout.

Good and bad seem like twins in KOKUHAKU, but eventually you will realize that they actually don’t exist. The longer you search for the thin red line that divides the two, the more the movie points towards a possible conclusion, the more you come to understand that good and bad are concepts based on human belief, and they exist only as far as society replicates these values through its members day in, day out. But what happens in KOKUHAKU is that there is no one left to believe in anything, and society evaporates right in front of our eyes, because good and bad are all the same to all of them and so they cease to exist.

The same happens to the concept of revenge: it requires a specific angle to work, and that angle is very hard to find in a world without values, norms or any form of social fabric, a world, where suicide is a commodity, if not a blessing, for many. Eventually, Yuko gets her revenge, makes the murderers’ existence take a turn for the vaguely complicated and brings them down to their knees, almost – or really – lose their minds. Or so it seems. “I’m just messing with you”, those are the last words she says to one of them, and they are also the last words of the movie that’s been messing with us all along, but not without a point.

KOKUHAKU does not promote eye-for-an-eye mentality, and neither does it leave judgment to the lord or into whose jurisdiction this responsibility falls in your case. It’s essentially humanism against nihilism, with humanism winning at the end against this overwhelming urge to succumb to the same sick logic that teenager tries to seed.

Does all that change the world we live in? I am not certain. Does it make us understand why and how society can fall apart? Yes. Does it make sure that we won’t let some deranged adolescents piss all over us? Absolutely. KOKUHAKU is a battle cry: it’s the last line of defense against ignorance, stupidity and people or attitudes that are just totally fubar. I hope I did not forget to mention that KOKUHAKU is also a truly exceptional movie, in every aspect. I’m not messing with you.

J.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO [UCHU SENKAN YAMATO | SPACE BATTLESHIP ヤマト]

2011/01/19

http://yamato-movie.net/en/

http://yamato-movie.net/index.html

JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Takashi Miyazaki  Written by: Shimako Sato  Story by: Yoshinobu Nishizaki  Manga by: Leiji Matsumoto  Produced by: Toshiaki Nakazawa  Cinematography by: Kozo Shibazaki  Music by: Naoki Sato, Hiroshi Miyagawa  Cast: Takuya Kimura, Hiroyuki Ikeguchi, Aya Ueto, Meisa Kuroki, Toshihiro Yashiba, Naoto Ogata, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Reiko Takashima, Isao Hashizume, Toshiyuki Nishida, Maiko, Toshiro Yanagiba, Kazuki Namioka, Takumi Saito, Takahiro Miura, Tsumoto Yamazaki, Naoto Takenaka

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, was a planet on the verge of collapse: the earthlings are about to be wiped off the face of mother earth by alien invaders called Gamilas. Space Battleship Yamato is leaving for a last mission to retrieve a device from outer space that can save the earth and reverse its process of decay. What the crew doesn’t realize: no one knows if the device really exists, or if the Yamato can indeed reach the remote planet where it’s supposed to be located. But earth’s rulers and Yamato’s crew has no choice as resistance against the alien brood is futile and without the device the human race will die a horrible death for certain.

SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO has been enormously successful in Japan since its beginning in 1974, while in the West STAR WARS, STAR TREK and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA have left little room for another SciFi soap opera of epic proportions. Consequently, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is like a parallel science fiction universe from Japan, with many details reminiscent of the Western counterparts. Wether or not Susumo Kodai is a Han Solo copy, or wether or not that red device was inspired by R2D2 I do not recall, what I can say is that SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO makes quite creative use of its assets as well as it shows a genuine quirkiness that only the Japanese can get away with. I don’t think any SciFi flick from the US could literally turn a WWII battleship into a larger-than-life USS Enterprise.

SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO makes up for some of its shortcomings that range from hectic storytelling, lack of depth of character development to sketchy direction and some superficial acting with charm and tongue-in-cheek attitude, as well as with likable characters. The fact that large parts of the mission remind of Noah’s ark and its undertaking will probably not escape most viewer’s attention, but luckily the film is rather interested in the modernization of the classic TV series than preaching, although it cannot be denied that its subject – at least and / or coincidentally – makes for very environmentally conscious entertainment (if there was something like “certified organic filmmaking” SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO was surely qualified to receive the honors).

But SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO isn’t really serious: it’s a SciFi saga with a pedal-to-the-metal attitude from beginning to end, and the makers also throw in some nice set pieces for good measure. The film is very commercial, yes, it’s trying to please a younger audience, yes, Mr. Yamazaki is still an untalented (but successful) director, yes, but SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is also good fun.

Love it or hate it, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO is a decent adaptation of the series and a decent SciFi flick in its own right. Then again, maybe that’s not too difficult after AVATAR.

J.