a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for April 2013

Cold Bloom / Sakura Namiki no Mankai no Shita / 桜並木の満開の下に

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Cold_Bloom-p2There’s a certain point in Atsushi Funahashi’s ridiculously scripted drama of working class lives, Cold Bloom, where the viewer’s suspension of disbelief finally collapses and it all crashes. It could be with the initial plot driver. Kenji (Takahashi Yo), husband of and co-worker with Shiori (Usuda Asami) comes to his demise on the factory floor, crushed by mis-stacked oil drums. With her happy life in tatters, Shiori now has to deal with fellow worker. Mori (Miura Takahiro), whose negligence caused the accident, never misses an opportunity to apologize. It could be with the mounting economic demise of the factory, colored with some vague notions of the effects of 3.11. Or it could be with the bigoted bully, Shigeru (Miura Riki), whose violent antics in any real-world situation would land him in jail – but somehow he keeps his job. But not only is the plot full of holes, so is Funihashi’s cheesy direction. He never misses an opportunity for the ensemble to pose meaningfully or for an actor to chew a scene until it’s mush.

Originally published in EL Magazine, April 2013

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The Great Passage / Fune wo amu / 舟を編む

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Fune_wo_Amu-p1When it comes to movies about the heroics of editing dictionaries, Howard Hawks’ brilliant 1941 comedy, Ball of Fire, is the ur-text. Any other attempt to mine the same subject matter must be measured against it – and will most likely fail. Maybe that’s why no one has attempted over the last 70 years. That is until now. Yuya Ishii, who has made some creditable (and some execrable) films in his short career, manages to pump out a long (2 hours plus) slog of a pedestrian epic with Fune wo amu. Ishii gives pretty-faced, but talentless, non-actor Ryuhei Matsuda a bit of something to dig into in the role of nerd-savant-becomes-hero, Majime. Matsuda ain’t no Gary Cooper. In the Barbara Stanwyck role is Kaguya Hayashi as love interest Kaguya. Lest you’re led to believe this is a comedy, it ain’t. Fune wo amu trods through the worst of Japanese cine-dramatic tropes – mendacious heroism, ganbaremasu-ism (for lack of a better term) and unrepentant schmaltz (which takes up a good portion of the last hour of the film).

Originally published in EL Magazine, April 2012

Written by Nicholas Vroman

April 9, 2013 at 11:26 am