a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for February 2013

Love Bombs / さまよう獣 / Samayou Kemono

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samayou500Nobutera Uchida’s on a roll. Merely a couple months after his Tokyo Filmex debut of his moving post-Fukushima disaster drama, Odayaka, he’s released Love Bombs, an altogether different sort of beast. Love Bombs opens on a young woman, Kiyomi (Mami Yamasaki), on a bus. She’s escaping. From what/whom is not explained. She arrives at a small town and insinuates herself into the home of a dotty, but salt-of-the-earth elderly woman, Kinu (Koko Mori). A young man, Masaru (Kazuki Namioka), hangs around helping her. Thrown into the mix are a couple of other single guys, one with a small cattle farm, Shinji (Mondo Yamagishi) and a tomato grower, Tatsuya (Kiyohiko Shibukawa). A gentle comedy develops as the three vie for her attention and affection. The pace and details unfold with loving care. Then the love bomb drops when Kinu’s bad big city boyfriend (Kanji Tsuda) arrives. It’s here where Love Bombs begins to fall apart. A silly chase through farmlands ends up in a night of overwrought reckoning that nearly throws away an otherwise good film.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

February 3, 2013 at 12:48 am

Sora wo Hiraku / 空を拓く

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SoraWoHikuThe life and accomplishments of architect Kaku Morin are given the surface treatment in Mistuko Sakai’s barely functional hagiography of this major player in post-war Japan, Sora wo Hiraku. Morin’s the man responsible for the first skyscraper built in Tokyo, the Kasumigaseki Building. He’s also had his hand in many other forgettable monuments to bland modernism (including Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City). Sakai gives the briefest of outlines, feting these rather monstrous structures, but gives most of the screen time to Morin. He appears to be an affable old codger as he spends his twilight years being a guest of honor at architectural events and symposia. Rather than probe into him and his legacy – his bad influence on how Tokyo developed is worthy of a strong screed – Sakai settles for platitudes and non-statements by Morin. There are more than enough sequences of old colleagues eating Chinese food and getting drunk. Sakai’s documentary is as dull as Morin’s buildings. Sora wo Hiraku is fine example of access wasted and in its tepid way a backhanded tribute to Morin.

Originally published in EL Magazine, February 2013.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

February 2, 2013 at 12:44 am

Night People / ナイトピープル

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NightPeopleDirector Hajime Kadoi turned some heads a few years ago with his second feature, Vacation, a hard drama about a condemned man and his guard/keeper. His follow-up, Night People shows him lost in the face of making a genre entertainment. Night People is ostensibly a crime thriller, though there’s not very much very thrilling about it. The rather convoluted plot involves some stolen loot that everybody and their brother wants to get their hands on. There’s a gang, a hard-boiled cop, a beautiful femme-kinda-fatale, a male not-so-heavy. They all get involved in your basic cat shoot mouse game of betrayals, confusion, ineptly shot chase scenes and generally bad filmmaking. Particularly irksome is the use of genre tropes and images that act merely as signifiers of crime-iness, but fall flat with any emotional or narrative heft. A final shootout in the snow harks back to Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, but is so ineptly put together it stands neither as a tribute nor much of a clever nod to the kind of filmmaker Kadoi aspires to be.

Originally published in EL Magazine, February 2013.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

February 1, 2013 at 12:39 am