a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for June 2009

Mental / 精神

leave a comment »

Kazuhiro Soda is making his own case as the Frederick Wiseman of Japan. As the American auteur made a career inventing the rules of cinema verite and exposing the workings of U.S. institutions, Soda is, as he says it, “pulling back the curtain” on the monoliths of Japan. Last year’s Campaign was a surprisingly refreshing and engaging look at the LDP. Mental sees him delving into the world of mental health. He follows a handful of patients at the Chorale Okayama clinic. Unlike Wiseman, Soda lets his subjects talk directly to the camera. And talk they do. He gives plenty of time for them to speak about their problems, tell the stories of their lives and give human voices and faces to issues that are usually ignored or hidden from public view. All the stories are compelling. Some are devastating. But ultimately the viewer is left with a small window of understanding and identification with these brave individuals who could very well be friends or family going through similar struggles with mental health

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2009

Advertisements

Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 1, 2009 at 12:21 am

Dear Doctor / ディア・ドクター

leave a comment »

Director Miwa Nishikawa hit the ground running with her wicked 2003 debut, Wild Berries (Hebi Ichigo). Small, tightly wound tales dealing with duplicity, plot twisting revelations and keen eye for life’s absurdities put her in a similar league as Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel (La Cienega). Dear Doctor is a bit more feel-good than her previous oeuvre, yet it fits in well with her ideas and obsessions and moves her observations outside the realm of family politics into the theater of community. Rakugo stalwart, Tsurube Shofukutei, stars, doing a wonderful character turn as the well-loved doctor at a small country town community clinic. The ball is set in motion for the uncovering of his well-kept secret when a young intern (Eita) shows up on his doorstep. Veteran character actress, Kaora Yachigusa, plays the widow Kazuko, who adds to the revelations with a touchingly heartfelt portrayal of an aging obasan. Tokyo Sonata’s leads, Teruyuki Kagawa and Haruka Igawa, show up, along with Kimiko Yo (Departures) to fill out a wonderful ensemble cast.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2009

Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 1, 2009 at 12:20 am

Gama no Abura / ガマの油 / Toad’s Oil

leave a comment »

Koji Yakusho (star of Shall We Dance and Babel) makes his directoral debut with Gama no Abura. It’s a smart debut effort, carefully walking the line between lightness and the heaviness that’s at its heart. Yakusho, himself plays the lead role of an eccentric, manic day trader, whose son (played by teen heartthrob, Eita) gets hit by a car, goes into a coma and then proceeds to die about a third of the way into the film. The film then jumps into a gently absurd and genuinely touching tale of how he, the mother, the girlfriend and best male friend deal with the sad loss. Yakusho’s comedic touch takes details of a dark subject and shines a fresh light on them. His inability to tell the young girlfriend of his son’s death, a wild slapstick sequence fighting off a wild bear, the loving look he gives to the character’s coping mechanisms are among the many sweet set pieces that show a heartfelt and honest appreciation of life – and how we all deal with loss.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2009

Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 1, 2009 at 12:17 am