Archive for the ‘TITLE F’ 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.

 

THE 4 MOVIE a.k.a. 4 PSYCHO [LUD 4 LUD a.k.a. LUD SEE LUD | หลุดสี่หลุด a.k.a. หลุด 4 หลุด]

2011/01/24

http://the4movie.com/

http://www.sahamongkolfilm.com/th/filmdetail.php?id=423

THAILAND 2010  Directed by: Ekkasith Thairatana, Chukiat Sakveerakul, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Phawit Panangkasiri Written by: Ekkasit Thairatana Produced by: Prachya Pinkaew Cast: Akarin Akaranitimetharat,  Alexander Rendel,  Chanon Rikulsurakann, Thanapon Arrunneth, Patrapisit Sappasawattichod, Alice Toy, ArttanunPiyaserth, Sirikarin Ployong, Janjira Chumneansiri, Ananda Everingham,  Peerapol Sehnakol, Thitti Vejchaboon, Pakorn Chatborirak,  Thema Kanchanapairin

If certain producers go on like this we will have more omnibus horror movies coming out of Thailand soon than feature films. Here we go again: LUD 4 LUD a.k.a. THE 4 MOVIE is one of the last productions to be finished end of last year and has just hit Thai cinemas in January.

The four segments are directed by writer and first-time director Ekkasith Thairatana, Chukiat Sakveerakul, Kongkiat Khomsiri and Phawit Panangkasiri. Mr. Thairatana’s segment is called CLEAN UP DAY (GRIAN LAANG LOK | เกรียน ล้าง โลก) and is merely an appetizer. The story revolves around a group of guys debating global warming and its causes, leading to the core of the story that identifies humans as the root of all evil and reveals a plot to kill all humans through a lethal virus.

The second film is the sarcastic THE GIFT SHOP FOR THE ONES YOU HATE (RAN KONG KWAN PEUA KON TEE KUN GLIAT | ร้าน ของขวัญ เพื่อ คน ที่ คุณ เกลียด) directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri (SLICE). A white-collar office worker is promoted to be the new manager of his department, but not everyone seems to be delighted. Soon he receives questionable gifts, all obviously sourced from a mysterious shop around the corner of his office called The Gift Shop For The Ones You Hate. Nomen nest omen.

The third entry is directed by Phawit Panangkasiri and called EERIE NIGHTS (KEUN JIT LUT | คืน จิต หลุด): a group of criminals is on the run and hides from the police in an abandoned hospital. There, things get quickly out of hand (literally) with the criminals beginning to fight and a ghost starting to haunt them.

The final episode then is a ghost comedy called HOO AA GONG (ฮู อา กง), telling the story about a Thai-Chinese family that has to watch over the body of the deceased grandfather. The family members feel awkward about the task, and so does the spirit of the grandfather who prefers to be rather active than lying dead in his bed.

Different from other horror anthologies in recent years LUD 4 LUD is mostly straight forward with only a little hint of Buddhist subtexts (as in EERIE NIGHTS) or references to the widespread belief in ghosts a.k.a. spirits. LUD 4 LUD isn’t really much of a horror movie, but mostly plays with our expectations towards the genre while in fact mostly not dealing with any supernatural ingredients at all: only the 4th segment is about real ghosts, while the segments 1-3 are trying to trick the protagonists as well as the audience into believing that something otherworldly is going on, which however is not. Since the last installment is a comedy I am not sure if I shall call THE 4 MOVIE a horror anthology at all.

Out of all entries THE GIFT SHOP FOR THE ONES YOU HATE is clearly the most original, creative and entertaining movie of the pack, leaving the others trailing behind. The first film starts interesting but turns out a lame duck, unsuccessfully trying to blend into the oh-so fashionable environmental debate, while formally kind of copying James Wan’s camera-moves-up-and-down-and-in-and-out-of-a-parking-lot set piece from DEATH SENTENCE. The conclusion then is totally random and renders the rest of the film meaningless.

Mr. Khomsiri’s movie stands out through its inventive idea, good script and proper execution, making it feel like a short feature film rather than a long short and delivering proper dramaturgy and character / story development while finding the right balance between paranoia film and horror-thriller, while embedding his scenario into a context that is very familiar to all of us. It could all happen to you, and that’s why this segment is the most terrifying after all.

The third segment feels too much like an adaptation of NAK PROK (THE SHADOW OF THE NAGA) and disappoints through predictable twists. However, it also features a great Ananda Everingham who looks like he just left the set of RED EAGLE (INSEE DAENG) and some uncomfortable gore (the only real on-screen violence of the quartet that has contributed to the film’s 18+ rating). EERIE NIGHTS is a one-man-show without ghosts, but has a touch of karmic lecture that makes it probably the most meaningful story here.

Lastly, LUD 4 LUD’s only real ghost story makes for a really funny finale, albeit for a stupid-funny one. Don’t expect anything remotely intelligent, HOO AA GONG is just for laughs and as tasteless as it gets, throwing in a big bouquet of masturbation scenes, gay jokes and corpse slapstick. Most of the humor works quite well however, and the ending is the most satisfying one of all films.

LUD 4 LUD is pure entertainment, free of the complexity or intellectual qualities of some of the other omnibus or contemporary horror films from Thailand. If your only concern is having a good time, then there is nothing to worry about.

J.


 

 

LIAR GAME: THE FINAL STAGE [RAIA GEMU: ZA FAINARU SUTEJI | ライアーゲーム ザ・ファイナルステージ]

2010/10/14

http://liargame.jp/

JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Hiroaki Matsuyama Written by: Tsumoto Kuroiwa, Michinao Okada, Toshio Yoshitaka  Manga by: Kaitani Shinobu  Produced by: Shinya Koto, Tomoyuki Miyagawa, Hiroyuki Seta, Ko Wada Music by: Yasutaka Nakata  Cast: Erika Toda, Shota Matsuda, Seiichi Tanabe, Kosuke Suzuki, Yosi Arakawa, Mari Hamada, Toshihiro Wada, Yuki Akimoto, Kento Nagayama, Kazuma Suzuki, Megumi Seki, Michiko Kichise, Ikkei Watanabe

A movie like LIAR GAME: THE FINAL STAGE, just like the TV series or the manga it is based on, you can only understand if you understand the Japanese affection for (or addiction to) gambling in all its possible forms (and forget about the laws, please) as well as the country’s zero-to-hero mentality. Likewise, you can explain the existence of the LIAR GAME franchise only with the above-mentioned circumstances: they are, no doubt about that, the primary reasons for the ongoing LIAR GAME popularity and success.

Those familiar with the manga or TV series will either adore it (the majority) or wonder how you can make it into more than a short story or a very, very short film (the minority). Never mind, the Japanese audience doesn’t, so shouldn’t we. Instead we shall have a look at the latest incarnation of the LIAR GAME, namely its FINAL STAGE (for now) and see if it works on the big screen. As I never belonged to those who thought it works on TV in the first place my answer is no: saying LIAR GAME is cinematic material would an incredible overstatement. Here’s why.

LIAR GAME: THE FINAL STAGE is as low-budget as it gets, shot entirely in 1 ½ rooms, a church-like setting representing the Garden Of Eden stage of the liar game (named after, well, the “Garden of Eden” where Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were banished from paradise. Meaning, if you can resist the temptation, you will win the game). Everything feels like a TV studio, you can almost sense the crew hiding behind the walls. The video-look is accompanied by befitting visual effects: it is safe to say that the biggest effort obviously went into the title song (a really fine tune) that was marketed in Japan to great success. Bottom line is that LIAR GAME: THE FINAL STAGE is not exactly cinematic, but lives off the dramatization of the game (and the previous TV series of course), purely driven by the moves, tactics and betrayals of the players.

The overly long movie quickly reveals a series of issues, quite like the TV seasons before (and I am not talking about the host’s name, Kelbim, probably the most ridiculous name in movie history, or the fact that he is a copy of SAW’s Jigsaw Killer). For one, I do not see what qualifies Erika Toda’s character as a leader in THE FINAL STAGE. Erika Toda’s own appeal is pretty much all there is: so far her character was the hero of the show mostly because of her naivety = honesty, because she was the only good person upholding morality and caring about the social fabric. Likewise THE FINAL STAGE tries to position itself as a tale of morality, a discourse on trust and values, with the anonymous enemy standing for a corrupt world that is about to bring down humanity.

LIAR GAME, if we take it for what it claims to be, scores fair as a story about greed, corruption of morals and consumerism, as an anti-capitalist statement that comes at the right time in view of the global climate and local situation in Japan. However, LIAR GAME is only scratching the surface of what it wants the world to be like, while spending most of its time on the game and the fascination for gambling and winning against all odds. LIAR GAME and its FINAL STAGE do not have the depth to give us any advice on how to live our lives.

The final round of lies and backstabbing shortly recaps what happened before, and then jumps right into a story that is very constructed (I am avoiding the term “complex” here as that would connote superior logic that it doesn’t have). THE FINAL STAGE is hard to follow at times, going back and forth and round and round, with everyone cheating everyone else, with surprise moves based on nothing, and possibilities emerging out of nowhere like the white rabbit pulled out of a hat. In fact, LIAR GAME: THE FINAL STAGE is so made up that the players spend most of the time not playing, but explaining WTF just happened, and how, and why, in a concerted effort to post-rationalize the actions. Otherwise, THE FINAL STAGE would have lost us five minutes into the film.

If at least the characters were in any way real, but unfortunately THE FINAL STAGE features roles that have little potential for identification, offering no insights into their personality (the best I can say is that seeing the TV series first is almost a prerequisite for getting them to know a little). Without exception they are all one-dimensional decals, and the acting follows suit. And it is difficult to like the overacting: the manga is clearly more subtle, making the film feature the more “manga-like” characters for no reason. Also, most of the “shocking” surprises and true lies I never really found worth mentioning – it’s a game based on deception, so who cares who casts what vote and why.

With the film being incapable to make us feel emotionally attached to any of the players THE FINAL STAGE gets more laughable the more it tries to stress the significance of the player’s moves, strategies and intentions. In the end, the biggest loser is the movie, followed by an audience that was led to believe that this never-ending round of Tic Tac Toe could at least be some sort of KAIJI on a shoestring budget.

Unfortunately that ain’t so: LIAR GAME: THE FINAL STAGE is a tedious conclusion of an equally lengthy TV series, and is as entertaining as sitting in front of a Pachinko machine all night long (I know, you have to be Japanese to appreciate that).

J.