a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for December 2009

Wakaranai / Where Are You? / ワカラナイ

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With Wakaranai, Director Kobayashi Masahiro, mines similar territory as his brilliant 2005 breakout film, Bashing. Like the Dardennes, Kobayashi relentlessly explores the tragedies of the marginalized. Wakaranai revels in the boring streets, the cramped and rundown apartments and konbinis that make up much of the contemporary Japanese landscape. The young hero, played with animal intensity by Kobayashi Yuto – the director’s own son – loses his convenience store job and soon after, his mother. Left on his own, he dreams of escaping in a abandoned boat. Escape, though, is the rough streets of Tokyo in search of his lost father – remarried with a new family of his own. The father and son reunion (the director plays the father) falls a little flat in an otherwise relentless and touching journey from absolute misery to a flickering of hope. But the journey itself, beautifully and brutally realized with an anxious hand-held camera and the completely convincing performance of Kobayashi Yuto that adds to Kobayashi Masahiro’s growing canon of great films.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2009

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 1, 2009 at 4:12 am

Gin-iro no ame / 銀色の雨

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Despite the trio of acting talents, Kento Kaku, Aki Maeda and Shido Nakamura, who give off several sparks to Gin-iro no ame, the film flounders in its own clichés. Gin-iro no ame is the kind of film that probably read great on paper, but on screen when the final plot twist is revealed, the incredulous viewer can only gawk and chuckle – even though it’s an Oedipal tragedy that binds the leading men irrevocably. The story involves an unlikely trio of misfits, a young man (Kento Kaku) trying to escape his home town, a kawaii, yet worldly young woman (Aki Maeda) seemingly stuck working in a sunaku, and a weary boxer (Shido Nakamura) returning to deal with some unresolved issues. Nakamura shines, despite the ham-handed script. With his drop-dead good looks a firm grounding in kabuki theatre and some recent high profile film roles, he adds a convincing complexity to role of Shoji, the pugilist. Director Takayuki Suzui’s feel for bringing out the best his actors, though, are ultimately waterlogged by hoary plot devices and clichéd set pieces.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2009

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 1, 2009 at 3:34 am

Yomigaeri no chi / Blood of Rebirth / 蘇りの血

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 1, 2009 at 3:28 am

Snow Prince / スノープリンス

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Lifting The Dog of Flanders and placing it in a Showa Japan, director Matsuoka Joji, takes the well-tread tale of that mixes class, sentimentality, tragedy and a big dog, applies the worst of Spielberg-style manipulation to create a thoroughly maudlin big screen holiday epic that falls short on several levels. Even with a raft of some of Japan’s best talents – screenwriter Kayama Kundo (Okuribito), actors Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer), Teriyuki Kagawa (Tokyo Sonata), a host of industry stalwarts and appealing new young talent in star Morimoto Shintaro and supporting player Kuwajima Marino – Matsuoka weighs down the proceedings with such a heavy hand attempting to squeeze out every last tear, that the film comes becomes laughable. Though the film looks good in that sort of quality picture way, Matsuoka’s sense of visual logic are at best suspect and mostly mired in cliché. Part of that cliché is the dog, Chibi, a handsome white Hokkaido inu that shows up in nearly every shot – but mainly as decoration. He should have been the real star of the film.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2009

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 1, 2009 at 3:26 am