a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for February 2012

The Woodsman and the Rain / キツツキと雨

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Koji Yakusho phones in another performance in Shuichi Okita’s ill-conceived The Woodsman and the Rain. Hinting at some larger themes of father/son relationships, the film ultimately delivers little but half-baked clichés. The story, such as it is, involves Katsu (Koji Yakusho) a taciturn woodsman who becomes father figure, guide and muse to film director Koichi (Shun Oguri), who’s shooting a zombie movie in Katsu’s backwoods village. As Koichi goes through a crisis of confidence (who wouldn’t being stuck in the filmic trope of making a zombie movie?), Katsu takes the reins, gathering a group of stereotypical and energetic villagers to finish the film within the film. Unresolved bits between Katsu and his real son (Kengo Kora) add to the ruse that there may be something of some substance being explored in the film.  By the end there’s a bittersweet resolution that feels completely unearned. Between screenwriter Fumiyo Moriya’s (Underwater Love – ‘nuff said!) unfocused ideas and Okita’s imitation of film directing, The Woodsman and the Rain is a particularly wooden and waterlogged motion picture.

Originally published in EL Magazine, February, 2011.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

February 2, 2012 at 5:22 am

Ikiteru mono wa inai no ka / 生きてるものはいないのか

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Adapting Shiro Maeda’s absurdist play No One Alive Here?, Gakuryu Ishii (formerly Sogo Ishii of The Crazy Family fame) manages to fill the screen with vaguely directed, poorly shot set pieces that try to add up to some sort of end times vision. It’s a far cry from the like of Von Trier’s Melancholia or Soderbergh’s Contagion. In Iketeru mono wa inai no ka a mysterious illness suddenly grabs all the cast except one, quickly dispatching them with overacted death throes. As the film progresses, corridors and sidewalks, parks and restaurants become littered with dead bodies that the last survivor (Shota Sometani) navigates to a finale of apocalyptic visions (birds and planes falling from the sky) – and that’s it.  Not even quite a whimper. Neither realistic nor cogently theatrically stylized, Iketeru mono wa inai no ka plods along leaving the viewer with hopes that director Ishii will kill off each character quickly (at nearly 2 hours long, he doesn’t) and the damn thing will be over. Ishii’s inauspicious return makes me long for the old Sogo.

Originally published in EL Magazine, February, 2011.