Posts Tagged ‘Renji Ishibashi’

OUTRAGE [AUTOREIJI | アウトレイジ]

2011/01/09

http://office-kitano.co.jp/outrage/main.html

JAPAN 2010  Directed by: Takeshi Kitano Written by: Takeshi Kitano  Produced by: Masayuki Mori, Takio Yoshida  Cinematography by: Katsumi Yanagijima  Editing by: Takeshi Kitano  Music by: Keiichi Suzuki  Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomoko Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yuka Itaya, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Soichiro Kitamura

An “entertaining” movie he wanted to make, Takashi Kitano said about OUTRAGE. A movie with no other ambition than that, a movie not even marking a return to the Yakuza genre. Something quite different from the preceding films.

In many ways OUTRAGE quite well corresponds to Mr. Kitano’s intentions. It was Mr. Kitano himself who delivered the swan song of the Yakuza movie two decades ago – interpreting OUTRAGE as a movie depicting a changing world where the old code of honor is worth nothing would mean to ignore the oeuvre of Mr. Kitano (as well as that of many other directors). Hailing OUTRAGE as a milestone of the genre, or as an epic story about the system individuals operate within, as well as the rules they abide by, would be nothing but evidence of ignorance.

Watching OUTRAGE is a bit of a time machine experience: we are revisiting places, characters and motifs of Mr. Kitano’s milestones, all amid a permanent conflict of signals the film sends. Is that shirt or that suit actually from the 80’s? But then why is that car from the 2000’s? There are obsolete characters in a modern world, and then there are contemporary characters in an obsolete world. It’s a constant struggle, also for the writer-director Takeshi Kitano. It seems like the cast from VIOLENT COP was beamed into modern-day Japan.

But what exactly is the difference between now and then? What has changed? Not much, I have to say. People kill for money, or for revenge, or for power. At some point Mr. Kitano rephrases the motif for violence as being “career”: a term that fits to times like these, where people spend 80% of their time on playing politics in corporations, positioning themselves and lying their asses off, while only spending 5% of their time actually working (the other 15% are spent on facebook @work). Nevertheless, climbing up the social ladder is what it’s always been about, and the way to get there doesn’t differ much from how it happened in Mr. Kitano’s earlier films. The permanent betrayal is nothing but an amplification of what we have seen before, and it much more has become a means of dramaturgy that drives the film forward than it being the actual subject of the movie. Betrayal doesn’t indicated loss of values in the Yakuza universe anymore, it merely indicates plot points.

For Otomo (or whatever he was called before) things don’t change however, and he doesn’t participate in change. Change is for the others. Betrayal comes as a surprise. He is a guy who cuts his finger off first and only later finds out that he did it for someone who deceived him. And he hasn’t realized yet that cutting off fingers just doesn’t cut it anymore anno 2010 in the first place. What makes him an anachronism also makes him the biggest threat to the “career Yakuza”: he doesn’t live for tomorrow, he lives for the past. The good old days are preserved within the Otomo character as he acts by their rules and their ethics and applies that school of thought to a world that has evolved.

Otomo doesn’t oppose progress (he doesn’t care enough about it), but he is the force that prevents it from happening (even though the world moves on without him finally). What Mr. Kitano doesn’t make clear is if OUTRAGE now is a statement for or against progress, or if it just laments that the world changes indeed with or without us, or if it’s an advice to adapt or if it’s about the survival of the fittest, whatever that means at a specific point in time.

Maybe OUTRAGE is a melancholic statement that there’s nothing left worth fighting for, or it’s the same statement made before, that idealists are a dying breed. But most probably it’s none of the above, but instead what Mr. Kitano set out to do in the first place: rock-solid entertainment that plays with genre conventions rather than making any statement or providing any new insights at all. OUTRAGE, maybe for the first time, is really a genre movie, not the genre-bending Kitano movie we all know.

J.


 

 

 

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THE FALLEN ANGEL [NINGEN SHIKKAKU | 人間失格]

2010/07/01

http://ns-movie.jp/

JAPAN 2010  Directed & Produced by: Genjiro Arato Written by: Osamu Dazai (novel) Cast: Toma Ikuta, Yusuke Iseya, Satomi Ishihara, Eiko Koike, Maki Sakai, Shinobu Terajima, Shigeru Muroi, Renji Ishibashi, Go Morita, Michiyo ookusu, Yoshiko Mita

Yozo Oba, born into a very wealthy family in Tsugaru, never really seems to fit in since his childhood. For many years he plays by the rules however, keeping up the façade of someone who fulfills the expectations of his family, friends and society. Once grown up however Yozo’s behavior gets more and more eccentric, fuelled by the early predictions of his classmate Dakeichi who tells him that he will be very popular with women and become a painter.

Once Yozo has moved to Tokyo to attend high school things get worse as he finds Tokyo being a place of slovenly life, drowning him in endless nights of alcohol and affairs, also thanks to a strange new friend, Horiki, who is six years older than him and lives life in the fast lane. Yozo’s own life is spinning out of control as the more he gets sick of himself the more he indulges in self-destructive behavior. The bars of Tokyo become his new home, women with no name his company and his art his only true love, which remains unfulfilled however as he never gets the recognition that he thinks he deserves.

Osamu Dazai’s quasi-autobiographical novel is heavily influenced by the depression of the (pre-)WWII era, even though in the beginning it primarily tells us about Yozo’s alienation as a child and his inability to socialize ever since. With him moving to Tokyo the environment changes fundamentally and that’s also when the world war has an increasing influence on the mood and tone of THE FALLEN ANGEL.

It is that Yozo’s own state of mind reflects the state of the nation, its ambitions as well as its failure and desperation. This connection between Yozo and everyone else – a surreal connection between someone entirely disconnected from the world and society –is the movie’s often overlooked true strength. Yozo and all of Japan are like mirrors, equal in terms of hopelessness and isolation, finding their reality on the brink of collapse, just for different reasons. Yozo as well as Japan have robbed themselves of a future and now indulge in their own downfall.

Whatever leads to this point however is less accomplished than the second half or last third of the movie. Yozo, played by popular Japanese idol Toma Ikuta, mostly doesn’t seem to be more than a pathetic poster boy, a superficial mannequin without depth, dwelling on platitudes most of the time. We never really feel him being a talented artist, or a real lady-killer for that matter. Toma Ikuta is quite believable as the misfit (some say he is actually miscast), but in view of lack of personality it never seems plausible why the ladies would fall for him or why anyone should care about his weepy torment.

Dazai’s novel was considered to be impossible to film, but Arato most certainly has taken a good look at DEATH IN VENICE and figured if this brilliant and at least equally complex and hard to film novel can be successfully adapted then NINGEN SHIKKAKU can be done as well. He has however not taken some key points into consideration.

First of all, that he is not the new Luchino Visconti. Nobody is. No one ever will be. Secondly, that the tragic hero is not the pretty boy, but the old writer played by Dirk Bogarde whose character is much more mature and hence his actions are so much more tragic and believable. Yozo however never gets past the pretty-face-stage, and it is amazing how much he reminds us of Tadzio in DEATH IN VENICE when instead he should be reminding us of the Bogarde character.

It is really hard not to compare THE FALLEN ANGEL with Visconti’s film as almost everything looks like a carbon copy of DEATH IN VENICE. The pace, the mood, the sound, the scenes by the water, the subtext of homosexuality. By comparison DEATH IN VENICE plays in an entirely different league, and that undoubtedly leaves THE FALLEN ANGEL with a me-too stigma.

THE FALLEN ANGEL, while featuring some solid moments, never really sheds light on the human condition, but is stuck with the condition of its protagonist that is of very little value for the rest of us. The only real effect THE FALLEN ANGEL has on the audience is that it, consequently, leaves us with a feeling of emptiness once the lights in the theatre are switched on.

J.


20th CENTURY BOYS 3 – REDEMPTION a.k.a. 20th CENTURY BOYS 3 – THE LAST CHAPTER: OUR FLAG [20-seiki Shônen: Saishushô – Bokura no Hata | 20世紀少年 最終章/ぼくらの旗]

2010/02/18

http://www.20thboys.com/index.html

Japan 2009  Directed by: Yukihiko Tsutsumi  Manga: Naoki Urasawa  Script: Yasushi Fukuda, Takashi Nagasaki, Yusuke Watanabe  Production: Morio Amagi, Ryuuji Ichiyama, Nobuyuki Iinuma, Futoshi Ohira, Seiji Okuda  Cinematography: Satoru Karasawa  Editing: Noboyuki Ito  Music: Ryomei Shirai  Cast: Toshiaki Karasawa, Takako Tokiwa, Etsushi Toyokawa, Airi Taira, Teruyuki Kagawa, Hitomi Kuroki, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Renji Ishibashi, Naoto Takenaka, Nana Katase, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Fumiyo Kohinata

The third and last chapter of the 20TH CENTURY BOYS saga is kind of one big showdown. Everything will be resolved: Friend’s identity, his reasons and the question, what exactly his relationship with Kenji and his friends is. At the peak of Friend’s reign doomsday is near and his opponents are willing to do everything in order to stop him. Kanna and la résistance are ready to take on Friend face to face – but can they prevent the worst? Can anyone get to Friend or stop his master plan on time?

20TH CENTURY BOYS – REDEMPTION begins with a short summary of the previous episodes, but that will not be enough to understand what has happened so far. If you haven’t seen part 1 & 2 or read the manga you shouldn’t bother watching REDEMPTION. For fans however CHAPTER 3 is the worthy conclusion of an outstanding film trilogy that dares all and wins all. This time the tension reaches new heights and various new twists are pushing the story to the limit until the end – and end that consists of various endings.

While some of it may be predictable the grand finale is a neat web of deception that’s simply fun to watch. The “first“ ending is intentionally disappointing, whereas the second ending is by far more satisfying. It is interesting to see how the who-dunnit plot more and more turns into a why-dunnit plot. This is a strength and a weakness at the same time: 20TH CENTURY BOYS has spent a substantial amount of its running time to make us believe the who-dunnit question is the key we’re looking for. But those who are particularly interested in Friend’s identity must be warned – REDEMPTION does not offer a really satisfying answer.

Instead the “why” is now our main concern, which is fine with me but it also disappoints expectations. Overall the why is far more interesting though: the psyche of the deviant dictator has always been the central motif of the manga and even if REDEMPTION and its predecessors do not tell us anything really new here they raise our awareness for past regimes and future dictatorships just as effectively as any other film dealing with similar topics.

Instead of painting the world in black and white REDEMPTION blurs the line between good and evil: perhaps it’s not exactly true that societies per se get the government they deserve, but each and every one of us is responsible for what constitutes society at the end of the day. Friend’s “career” clearly reminds us of certain historical figures and raises the question whether and how such a friend can be prevented. In addition the attack of the Ōmu Shinrikyō („Aum“) sect and their attack of the Tokyo Metro is clearly alive in the memories of the Japanese – 20TH CENTURY BOYS can’t hide its local origins.

REDEMPTION, garnished with a touch of BATTLE ROYALE II, is fast, furious, complex and amusing. Who’s paying attention may have learned a lesson or two about ourselves and about the fact that actions must always uphold ethical and moral standards since we cannot rely on getting a second chance.

20TH CENTURY BOYS – REDEMPTION is serious entertainment, but most of all it’s a categorical imperative in celluloid.

J.