a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for June 2013

Flower of Shanidar / Shanidaru no Hana / シャニダールの花

leave a comment »

imagesGakuryu Ishii’s new low budget fantasy, Flower of Shanidar, certainly makes a giant leap from his previous outing, Ikiterumono wa inai no ka, but still well misses the (high) marks set from his 35-year career. In Flower of Shanidar, Ishii takes potentially clever idea – a future where parasitic flowers are grown and harvested on young women for making medicine (with deadly results) – and manages to wring it through some touching scenes, some first-class bad acting (from the leads, Gou Ayano and Haru Kuroki) and a long denouement that manages to suck out anything worthwhile in an avalanche of overwrought sentimentality and new-agey vapidity. On the plus side, the trio of willing guinea pigs, Yurie (Ayumi Ito), Miku (Rio Yamashita) and Haruka (Yuiko Kariya), though bordering on cliché, are well-developed. As Yoshizaki, head scientist with a bit of conscience, Kanji Furitachi’s talents are sorely underused. The film can’t figure out if it’s a parable of corporate malfeasance, an exploration of moral choices, a love story or a new age paean. It fails on all accounts.

Originally published in EL Magazine, July 2013.

Advertisements

Figyua na Anata / フィギュアなあなた

leave a comment »

m-36913_figure-poster64_largeDirector Takashi Ishii’s always had a misanthropic streak, but in Figyua na anata, he lets it fly with his critique of otaku (let’s just say Japanese male) culture. In this tale, freshly fired Kentaro (Tasuku Emoto) drunkenly disses a bull dyke and her girlfriend. In his escape he stumbles upon a pair of cocaine-dealing thugs and their necromantic boss – plus a pile of mannequins that include a somewhat alive one (Kokone Sasaki) resembling a “sexy” otaku figurine. She saves him from a grisly fate. The first half rolls out with low-budget grindhouse urgency going through tons of blood, sex, rape and other unpleasantries. It’s engaging, if disquieting. Ishii is a solid filmmaker with a baroque flair. But when Kentaro bring his mannequin prize home, the Figyua na anata takes on different twist. He obsesses on her vagina. He rapes her. He goes through a series of otaku fantasies. What’s real? What’s not? Ishii keeps the viewer on tenterhooks until his last cynical image and the song Love Me Tender ends the adventure.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2013

Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 4, 2013 at 12:34 am

A Pale Woman / Sohakusha A Pale Woman / 蒼白者 A Pale Woman

leave a comment »

390978_464536493626387_535093250_nWhen Shu (Shugo Oshinari), the sensitive pianist was introduced as the old love interest of our heroine, Kim (Kim Kkobbi), I though that A Pale Woman would begin to drift off somewhere into the territory of Shoot the Piano Player or maybe Le Samourai. No such luck. The film drifted off somewhere… and kept drifting and drifting. Ill conceived, poorly shot, and generally mismanaged on all fronts, director Takuaki Tsunemoto’s attempt at contemporary noir pretty much fails on all levels. The byzantine plot revolves around Kim, a 20-something woman, who returns to Japan after years living in Korea to reunite with old love, Shu. Since she’s been gone there’s been a lot of unsavory things been going on in the dark underbelly of Osaka that all comes spewing up upon her return. Between the almost southern gothic family relationships, criminal goings-on, bad acting, an insane plot that twists and turns for no apparent reason, and other indescribable acts, Tsunemoto’s vision flounders in a churning mess of a movie. Should of stayed in Korea, Kim.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2013.

Senkyo 2 / 選挙2

leave a comment »

T0017548pKazuhiro Soda hit the documentary scene strong in 2007 with Campaign, a film that followed unwitting and inexperienced political candidate, Kazuhiko “Yama-san” Yamauchi, on the campaign trail in Kawasaki. Soda’s observational fly-on-the-wall style allowed everybody involved to lay bare the hypocrisy and banality of Japanese politics. Yamuchi went on the campaign trail again and Soda was ready to catch it on video again. Since his first outing with Yamauchi, Soda’s become his buddy – and a bit of a partner in crime. Not much new ground is tread in Campaign 2, though there are several deliciously funny scenes with Yamuchi going on his rounds and of his many competitors standing outside of stations, mouthing platitudes on their bullhorns. What is different is Soda, still behind the camera, becomes more of an active participant and catalyst in several scenes. But it’s Yamauchi’s pint-sized son who steals the show. With his antics and childish desires he makes the ultimate comment on the silliness of the campaign season, largely by ignoring it. I’m looking forward to Yamauchi’s next run.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2013.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

June 2, 2013 at 8:26 am

Hajimari no Michi / Kinoshita Keisuke Story / はじまりのみち

leave a comment »

ORG_20130322000101In the centennial of his birth, director Keisuke Kinoshita’s legacy is being promoted and marketed without much thought to how his films have aged (not all that well). Kinoshita was a solid hack in his heyday (late 40s – 60s), producing quality product that now serve more as cultural windows rather than great films. Even his “masterpiece,” The Ballad of Naramaya is much better in Imamura’s 1983 remake – though credit must be given to Kinuyo Tanaka’s amazing performance in the original.  Hajimari no michi follows a crisis point in Kinoshita’s life, when returning from the war, he questioned whether he should continue as a film director. True or not, it makes for an interesting premise. The fiction pulls images and situations liberally from Kinoshita’s films as Kinoshita (Ryo Kase) treks across the Japanese landscape carrying his ill mother (Yuko Tanaka). Director Keiichi Hara plays up the sentimentality and the facile and triumphant heroism of the tale, not at all unlike Kinoshita’s own movies. Hara’s made a fitting homage – a little dull and sentimental with quality production values.

Originally published in EL Magazine, June 2013.