a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for October 2014

Harmonics Minyoung / Minyon Baion no Hosoku / ミンヨン 倍音の法則

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Harmonics_Minyoung-p1Director Shoichiro Sasaki has had a long career working for NHK doing radio plays, dramas, docs and more poetic meditations on a raft of themes. Harmonics Minyoung is ostensibly about a young Korean woman coming to terms with something having to do with her family and her own history. The direction and writing are so muddled that the film amazes in its almost primitivist ineptitude. And this is from a veteran of Japan’s audio-visual industry! Min Young plays the eponymous title character, a Mozart otaku who manages to break into song after song after song, either singing along with Amadeus, butchering old American gospel and folk songs or the Korean anthem, Arirang. She grins her way annoyingly through any and all dramatic situation in low angle socialist realist close-ups. She befriends a homeless young bootblack (huh?) on the contemporary streets of Shibuya. About halfway through this epic-length slog, all the characters fall into a pre-war family drama that supposedly explains whatever unexplained issue that haunts our ever-positive heroine. By the end, who cares?

Originally published in EL Magazine, October 2014.

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 2, 2014 at 4:51 am

Mother / マザー

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Mother_(Japanese_Movie)-p1At the ripe young age of 77, horror manga auteur Kazuo Umezu, finally makes his directorial debut with Mother, a vaguely autobiographical jaunt into low-budget psych-horror, leavened with a healthy dose of surrealism. The film’s all about mommy issues. One’s not sure whether Umezu’s doing a final lifelong purge of all his Freudian bugaboos or doing a grand send up of all the hoary conventions of a genre best described as psychological farce. No matter, the mom that keeps haunting Umezu’s stand in, kabuki actor Ainosuke Kataoka, is a beautiful ghoul who keeps leading him into a series of clichéd horror movie situations. The talented Kataoka, clad in Umezu’s signature red and white-striped T, lends a sort of downbeat comic timing to the whole affair that keeps Umezu’s wandering directorial hand a bit in place. Give props to Umezu for trying. He’s been a major force in defining the look and direction of manga since he hit the scene in the 60s. He’s relatively new to filmmaking, so give him a little time to develop.

Originally published in EL Magazine, October 2014.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 2, 2014 at 4:47 am