a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for March 2013

The Millennial Rapture / Sennen no yuraku / 千年の愉楽

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t02200309_0228032012109419464Koji Wakamatsu was on a late career roll when it came to an abrupt end last October in a fatal car accident. He had just has festival premiere his final film, The Millennial Rapture. It’s flawed with some spectacularly bad scene chewing – by Sousuke Takaoka in particular – and somewhat facile and sexist notions about sexuality – perhaps from the source material itself, a 1982 book by Kenji Nakagami, or Wakamatsu own legacy of 1960s pinku films. However, there’s enough interesting stuff – great sound design, nutty period anachronisms, shots from Ozu’s workbook (from Wakamatsu, no less!) and a delicate and nuanced performance by Wakamatsu stalwart, Shinobu Terajima. She plays Oryu, midwife in a small seaside village. Without children of her own, she becomes mother figure to a couple of the Nakamura boys – lothario, Hanzo (Kengo Kora) and junkie/thief Miyoshi (Takaoka) – a Zola-esqe cursed brood. They both come to bad ends. In the final act Tatsuo (Sometani Shota), Miyoshi’s cousin appears for a purging romp in the hay with Oryu. And of course, she dies.

Originally published in EL Magazine, March 2013.

Correction: In a previous version of this article, the actor Sousuke Takaoka was misidentified as Tanroh Ishida. Apologies for the mistake.

Since Then / あれから

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161440_1The disaster of 3.11 not only destroyed much of northeastern Japan, but threw the nation into days and weeks of fear, uncertainty and introspection. Working with students at the Film School of Tokyo, Makoto Shinozaki has crafted a gentle and touching film of one woman’s struggle with coming to terms with the tragedy in days immediately after it. Shoko (Aya Takekou) works in an orthopedic shoe store somewhere in Tokyo. After the earthquake, she attempts to get back into normalcy. But things have changed, particularly the fact that her estranged boyfriend has disappeared somewhere in Tohoku. Her mixed feelings and anxious stasis make up the subtle tension that holds the delicate movie together. When the payoffs come they’re simple and profound. Makoto and crew found the right mix of chemistry, leitmotifs and magical moments that take an otherwise simple sketch and turn it into not just a character study, but a document of a time and an exploration into what possibilities may lay ahead for those who may make only the simplest of steps forward.

Originally published in EL Magazine, March 2013.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

March 1, 2013 at 12:57 am

Bozo / ぼっちゃん

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161038_1Inspired by the 2008 Akihabara massacre, where a mentally unstable individual knifed some random pedestrians, killing 4 and injuring 8, Tatsushi Omori’s Bozo attempts a bit of absurdist theatre of cruelty to ostensibly ferret out the psychology of and reasons why someone who would be driven to do such a thing. Too bad Omori doesn’t have the craft, talent or the where-with-all to tackle it. The story focuses on the grotesquely socially inept Kagi (Shingo Mizusawa), the bozo of the film. Getting a job in the sticks, he suffers humiliation at the hands of serial rapist/killer/co-worker Okada (Yasushi Fuchikami). Befriended by fellow outsider and narcoleptic queer, Tanaka (the usually reliable Shohei Uno), they get involved in further humiliations and adventures, which end up inexplicably with Kagi and Okada parked on the street in Akihabara – Kagi screaming his rage at the world. The screenplay and the direction are horrific. Even the internal logic of Omori’s absurd world fails. At least Omori couches his usual misogyny in the hands of a rapist, for what it’s worth.

Originally published in EL Magazine, March 2013.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

March 1, 2013 at 12:53 am