a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Tokyo Filmex 2007 – boxoffice.com blog #7

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Thursday came around this week and Thanksgiving was held quietly at home with a nice little nabe (a quick stew cooked in a specially made ceramic pot) and dispatched with a nod and a toast. They don’t do Thanksgiving in Japan. Well at least I thought they didn’t.

Friday’s a national holiday and I’m planning to go the tori-no-ichi festival in Shinjuku, a wonderful matsuri where one buys ceremonial rakes for good luck and for rakin’ in the good fortune that will come during the coming year. But the national holiday is actually not about the traditional good luck festival, its called Labor Thanksgiving Day, which is all about commemorating labor and production and giving one another thanks. No turkey, just the thanks. And in the good tradition of laborers around the world given a day off, why not go to the movies?

The afternoon screening of the new Hong Kong actioner, Eye in the Sky, is packed. The directorial debut of Johnny To screenwriter, Yau Nai-hoi, it’s a loud pounding dud of a film. Even with the saving graces of favorite character actors, like Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka-fai (the other Tony Leung), it’s an endlessly sentimental chase movie, that most gallingly, celebrates the constant surveillance of contemporary life. In Yau’s world, it’s all OK, as long as you get the bad guy.

However, the day is redeemed by Hana Makhmalbaf’s Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame. Her feature debut is uneven, but loaded with powerful ideas and searing images. The plotline is simple, a picaresque journey of a six-year old Afghani girl deciding that she has to go to school, so she can learn to read. Ah, but it’s not all that simple. First she has to sell the eggs to buy the notebook. Then she has to find the girls’ school because she can’t go to the boys’ school. And then there’s the group of older boys playing Taliban, who capture her, threaten to stone her, and generally act like monstrous bullies. Her film is at times a bit overwrought, and some of the situations are a bit unbelievable, but she brings a very human, eye to what’s happening in contemporary Afghanistan.

Good movies, bad movies, no matter. What better way to celebrate Labor Thanksgiving Day than in a dark theater, It’s a holiday tradition.

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

November 24, 2007 at 3:00 am

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