a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for April 2012

Salvage Mice / サルバージ マイス

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Director Ryuta Tasaki, who’s made a career of directing Power Rangers and Komen Rider films strikes out with his new chopsocky, Salvage Mice. The story is standard fare. Mai (Mitsuki Tanimura) in her disguise as Salvage Mice is in the business of stealing art treasures and returning them to their rightful owners. After a big museum heist, she’s betrayed by her old companion, Mariku (Tomohito Sato), who’s thrown in his lot with the baddies. Along the way she teams up with hot butt-kicking high schooler, Mio (Julia Nagano) and ultimately, gives Mariku and his gang their comeuppance. As this genre demands, critique lies less in story line and more in action sequences. The fight choreography of Fuyuhiko Nishi (High Kick Girl) is below grade B. I applaud non-CGI action work, but he could learn from watching Tsuyoshi Kaseda’s (Lone Wolf and Cub). work from 20 years ago. Tanimura is all pose and little skill, whereas Sato’s got the chops – she’s a karate pro – and could go a long way working with better material.

Originally published in EL Magazine, April 2012.

Monsters Club / モンスターズクラブ

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After Toshiaki Toyoda’s abysmal stoner slog of a couple of years ago, The Blood of Rebirth, expectations were low for Monsters Club, but what return to form it turned out to be. Starring big-eared heartthrob Eita, as a Ted Kaczynski-like hermit, living in a snowy Hallmark beautiful woods, sending letter bombs to the rich and powerful, Monsters Club is a striking parable fit for the complexities and anxieties of the 21st century. The anarco-primitivist screeds of Kaczynski pepper the opening soundtrack of the film. Knee-jerk critics have suggested that Toyoda supports these ideas, but as the film progresses, the madness behind them is literalized in the dead coming back to life to torment Eita and his ever tenuous handle on sanity. By the denouement, with Eita coming to Tokyo burdened with explosives, Monsters Club unleashes an ever-building emotional wallop. It’s a film that’s not perfect, but walks the high wire, bringing a mix of elements – the poetry of Kenji Miyazawa, performance artist Pyuupiru and a whole lot more – pulling it off terrifying and beautiful brilliance.

Originally published in EL Magazine, April 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

April 3, 2012 at 11:17 am

Donzumari benki / どんずまり便器

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Director Haruhi Oguri has been making a small splash in the indie film world with strikingly odd post-feminist shorts, turning expectations and stereotypes on their heads with a stunning visual storytelling style. Her debut feature, Donzumari Benki treads similar ground with decidedly mixed results. Its major challenge is fore fronting a character full of trauma, but with few redeeming qualities. Beguiling actress Nahana (Heaven’s Story) plays Narumi, a teenager whose psychosexual oddities and impulsively violent behavior sends her to prison. Released, she returns to the old neighborhood as a nihilistic, bullying and opportunistic 20 something. Moving into the family house with her brother and his fiancée, her life unravels. And she isn’t satisfied until she brings every one down with her. It all comes to head with the drama her quasi-incestuous relationship with her younger brother Kei (Kuniaki Kamamura). As a study of pathology, Oguri reaches deep into the well, bringing up powerful images and situations that seer the imagination. It’s not a perfect film but Oguri shows that she’s a director to keep on one’s radar.

Originally published in EL Magazine, April 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

April 2, 2012 at 11:14 am

KOTOKO

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KOTOKO, the new film by Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo), is a harrowing journey through a woman’s mind, tortured by paranoid delusions and mollified by self-mutilation – cutting, specifically. In Tsukamoto’s trademark low-budget style, he makes the very most of intense and loud sound design, brilliant editing and tension (and release) created through shaky hand-held camerawork. The main character, Kotoko, is played by Okinawan pop singer, Coco, who in real life is an anorexic cutter. The frisson of her playing what she essential is in reality on screen makes KOTOKO all the more an excruciating experience. One’s never sure if the onscreen cutting scenes are real. Tsukamoto, presents the whole thing as a relentless and continuing horror story with such a subjective eye as to cause a bit of madness in the viewer. There is a section of very dark humor, where Tsukamoto plays a mild mannered suitor who hopes to “cure” Kotoko by becoming her human punching bag – which mucks it up even more, considering Tsukamoto in real life is enamored of Coco.

Originally published in EL Magazine, April 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

April 1, 2012 at 11:09 am