a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for May 2013

Taidachi no shimauta / 旅立ちの島唄 十五の春

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250px-Tabidachi_no_Shima_Uta-p1Taidachi no shimauta reaches an apotheosis of sentimentality, though not in an entirely undeserved way, following the coming of age of 15 year-old Yuna (Ayaka Miyoshi). Set on the Okinawan island of Minamidaito, a place that can’t support a high school, the film follows a year in Yuna’s life before she must leave to attend high school on a different island. Director Yasuhiro Yoshida’s not much of film stylist, nor that great a screenwriter, but overcomes these deficiencies with compassion for his characters – carefully choosing types and faces – and with his feeling for rituals of island life, from the mundane to the celebratory. There’s no high drama in Taidachi no shimauta. But there’s an inevitability that Yoshida acknowledges and lauds. And then there’s the music that young Yuna performs, binding her to community and family, split by logistics, but still maintaining. Yoshida’s cultural window on a small and insignificant community provides a deeper and more touching portrait of how people continue to survive and thrive in these times than most similarly themed stories.

Originally published in EL Magazine, May 2013


Written by Nicholas Vroman

May 2, 2013 at 2:22 am

The War and a Woman / Senso to Hitori no Onna / 戦争と一人の女

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250px-The_War_and_a_Woman-p1Koji Wakamatsu acolytes, Junichi Inoue and Haruhiko Arai, respectively director and screenwriter of Senso to Hitori no Onna, show how far the apples have fallen from the tree of the pinku political pioneer. Set at the end of World War II, the film follows two stories, one of world-weary lovers – dissipated writer Nomura (Masatoshi Nagase) and bartender/prostitute (Noriko Eguchi)  – who shack up together and decide to fuck until the war ends and another of a shell-shocked war veteran, Ohira (Jun Murakami), who becomes a serial rapist. The twin stories, ripped from the headlines, ultimately intersect in an unholy and clichéd union. Not a moment of screen time is wasted in portraying tired stereotypes and situations, ultimately telegraphing the fateful meeting of Noriko and Ohiru (note: she likes her sex rough and thus gets off on being raped). Worse, she comes to an emotional catharsis in a fit of vomiting. The casual sexism that pervades much of contemporary Japanese filmmaking gets fully exercised in this execrable piece of crap masquerading as edgy cinema.

Originally published in EL Magazine, May 2013