a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for October 2012

The End of Puberty / Koi ni Itaru Yamai

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Shoko Kimura’s Koi ni Itaru Yamai begins well enough with beyond precocious high schooler Tsubara (Miwako Wagatsuma) seducing her nerdy teacher Madoka (Youichiro Saitou). Through their impetuous coupling on a pile of exam papers, somehow their sex organs get transposed. It’s at this very moment where the film not only begins to fall apart, but where director Kimura begins to show her retrograde attitudes and views about male/female sexuality and roles. The confused couple goes to a cabin retreat to figure out things. Tsubara’s goofy-fascinated by her new rod, while Madoka retches every time the idea of fucking comes up. Somewhere along the line, justified by some idea of counterpoint, another young high school couple En (Aimi Satsukawa) and Maru (Shouta Sometani) join up to cavort and work out their own issues of sexuality. Most noticeably absent from the meandering speaking that poses as dialogue is the issue of a teacher and teenage student getting it on. Zero. Despite a good initial inspiration, Kimura remains pretty fucked up on issues regarding sex and gender.

Originally published in EL Magazine, October, 2012.

Here’s a song oddly inspired by the movie.

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 2, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Engeki 1/Engeki 2 / 演劇1/演劇2

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Kazuhiro Soda’s third and fourth opus of his Observational Film Series, Engeki 1 and Engeki 2 takes on the world of theatre – specifically the theatre of Oriza Hirata. Hirata and his Seinendan theatre has been making waves internationally with his anti-Stanislavski acting approach and his discrete naturalism, even with projects flirting with the absurd. Clocking in at nearly 6 hours, the two films take on a monumental intimacy, portraying Hirata and company through rehearsals, performances, the day-to-day routines of running a company and Hirata’s teaching and lecturing gigs. Soda’s clear eye (he’s his own cameraman) follows the largely unrevealing Hirata through countless rehearsals where every moment is exactly timed and actors are completely controlled. Hirata’s almost mechanical relentlessness as he crafts his art and laughs off the impending bankruptcy of his endeavors may reveal more about the man than an outpouring of emotions or revelations from his life. The long sequences of how this man makes art are totally engrossing. Soda has perfected a documentary style that looks at surfaces revealing the depths behind them.

Originally published in EL Magazine, October 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 2, 2012 at 9:14 am

Outrage Beyond / Autoreiji Biyondo / アウトレイジ ビヨンド

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Kitano Takeshi’s ostensible sequel to last year’s Outrage is a slightly better, equally gratuitous variation on power struggles between yakuza clans. Even down to its moodily lit cinematography, it looks like Takeshi’s trying to make his own Japanese Godfather. He misses any sort of cogent sense of tragedy, though, with his increasingly baroque concentration on the minutiae of violence. It’s a bit of the same old story. A gang war erupts from small incidents until it explodes. The one fun variation in this one is the slimy cop, Detective Kataoka (a perfectly cast Fumiyo Kohinata) manipulates the whole situation. Takeshi, as director, coolly keeps the violence at bay for the first half hour, building tension as the long exposition sets up the story. By the time he lets loose with the violence, there’s some well-earned catharsis. But then he keeps on going… and going. The only real payoff is in the sequel-signifying end, where Takeshi gets his short swift revenge on Kataoka and in one single final image shows he’s as iconic as Clint Eastwood.

Originally published in EL Magazine, October 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Land of Hope / Kibou no Kuni / 希望の国

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After floundering recently with nihilistic, audience-abusing films, Land of Hope shows Shion Sono turning his back on his predictable brand of loaded cynicism. Land of Hope begs the question of his sincerity, but giving Sono the benefit of the doubt, it looks like 3.11 may have made a new man of him. The film centers on an elderly couple, Yasuhiko (Isao Natsuyagi) and Cheiko (Naoko Otani), holding out in the no-man’s zone near Fukushima. The son, Yoichi (Jun Murikami) working through longstanding issues with his parents takes his wife Izumi (Megumi Kagurazaka) to the city where her fear of radiation drives her mad. Meanwhile Yasuhiko tries to keep his daily routines as Cheiko shows more and more signs of senility. Sono takes a family drama, instigated by the disaster, sets it against surreal backdrop that now exists in Fukushima and lets it rip with searing images and great performances. The film is a little over-the-top with its nods to Tarkovsky and sometimes overblown sentimentality. Still Sono shows he can make something unexpected and now, heartfelt.

Originally published in EL Magazine, October 2012.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 1, 2012 at 9:06 am