a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for June 2012

Kono sora no hana / コの空の花

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Director Nobuhiko Ohbayashi came to the attention of much of the world with the revival of his 1973 opus, House. A combination of camp genre stereotypes and full on eye candy, House remains an enchanting period piece. Kono sora no hana works similar tropes. Ohbayashi has a stunning gift for vibrant visual compositions and with a primitivist approach to CGI, makes the already tired filmmakers’ crutch interesting. However, the seriousness of the endeavor falls under the burden of cliché, failing even in the so-bad-it’s-good arena. The ostensible message of the film is an antiwar screed. Working a series of traditionally avant-garde conventions the town of Nagaoka is chronicled via a mess of historical, fictional and genuinely nutty set pieces. Like a travelogue of recent history, Kono sora no hana is chock full of obscure info, myriad plot threads and unconsidered ideas about the Japanese “character”. Over its two and half hours plus there’s plenty to ruminate on, little worth digesting. However, the very talented unicyclists that provide a major plot thread make for some amusement.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2012

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 3, 2012 at 11:59 pm

My House

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My House opens on the homeless Suzumoto (singer/songwriter Takao Ito) hauling his overfilled cart to a little used park. His mentally impaired partner, Sumi (Eri Ishida) follows on her mamachari. They proceed to erect their blue-tarped shelter from prefabbed pieces and plastic cartons. The black and white cinematography and the emphasis on process are reminiscent of New Wave stylings and perfectly fitted to portraying a life of dull daily routine, gathering cans for a meager living. Countering this life is the daily routine of well-off Shouta’s (Sada Murata), his mother constantly masked and obsessively cleaning, his father a distant and stern salaryman. Of course their worlds will clash, to bad ends. Director Yukihiko Tsutsumi, better known for his 20th Century Boys franchise has crafted a thoughtful and heartfelt paean to Nagoya, his hometown. He posits a perverse romanticism of a self sufficient homeless world against a sterile “normal” life, but makes a convincing case with his even handed direction and mostly, a brilliantly sketched cast of characters who bring an emotional heft to the drama that unfolds.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2012

Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 2, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Mada, Ningen / まだ、人間

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Junpei Matsumoto ’s debut feature displays what’s worst in contemporary Japanese filmmaking. Stylishly shot, in an 80s sort of way, Mada, Ningen crosses the line with its overblown displays of unearned emotionality, its petty understanding of relationships and worst of all, its view of homosexuality as a pathology. The pretentious and endlessly plot-twisty story examines a relationship between a pretty boy salaryman who’s been doin’ some underhanded deals, a young queer Christian student and as an afterthought, a woman with a dead man in her past. Between untold emotional outbursts, masturbation, blowjobs and a stabbing or two, no trope or cliché of the triangle drama is left unused, though only as Pavlovian markers – not with any thought. Ultimately Mada, Ningen, though posing as an open and honest look at a love triangle that has a queer element to it, brings the same old same old to issues that have been resolved by most of us decades ago. Though having a sympathetic homo character, the director exposes his own retrograde attitudes in every frame.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2012

Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 1, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Let’s Make the Teacher have a Miscarriage Club / 先生を流産させる会

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One must admit, Let’s Make the Teacher have a Miscarriage Club is a great title. Director Eisuke Naito should have put a little more thought into the rest of film. Discounting the low budget production values, that for this kind of film is a mark of cred, the film doesn’t even come close to transcending its clichés and comes off incredibly lame in the transgressiveness department.Ostensibly based on real events, the story follows a group of high school bad girls and their ringleader, Mizuki (Kaori Kobayashi). Mizuki’s all Children of the Corn-like scary with some kind of issues with her absent mother. The other girls fall easily under her spell. Target of their ever so slightly escalating sociopathy is their very nice and pregnant teacher, Sawako-san (Aki Mayata). As it all comes down, the saintly Sawako-san does miscarry and then goes a step beyond belief in doing the do for Mizuki’s redemption. Scares are few, clichés are numerous and emotional and/or intellectual connections are absent in this paint-by-number sub-high school schlock fest.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2012