Maybe not horror, but there’s plenty of killing. Never heard of this until it showed up on Criterion – the only feature by a famous New York photographer and starring Carol Kane as an office worker who goes over the edge among layoffs and cutbacks, sleazy coworkers and computerization. Sending all employees to work from home with new apple laptops, this horror is familiar to me. Everything is cool here, from the opening titles (projected onto stairways and such) to the toy piano music (by John Lurie’s brother Evan). Widely disrespected movie – at least it played Locarno in competition with The Mirror and Winter Sleepers.
The office is a magazine publisher, run by large-haired asthmatic Barbara “Hannah Arendt” Sukowa, who will be killed when Kane loads a butane cartridge into her inhaler. Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn and Jeanne’s bf Michael Imperioli are the bitchy in-crowd, mocking the homebody Kane, whose editing work is grudgingly respected. First killing is the accidental electrocution of computer guy David Thornton (of High Art, another magazine-office movie the following year), then Kane brings his body home to liven up the basement a little, and decides he needs companions. Soon she’s proceeded from righteous vendettas to random murders – an office boy gets a food processor blade to the neck, a couple of girl scouts unwisely accept an invitation into the house. Imperioli is the would-be hero who discovers Kane’s madness, but he gets slashed, and she burns the place down and escapes, on to the next office – perhaps yours.
“Destruction is all I need.” Tetsuo II was the right movie to watch after Videodrome, another analog video fetish film where flesh becomes guns.
Thugs keep tormenting a family, stealing their young son. They shoot the dad in the chest with some gadget while kidnapping the kid in a record store, then later, dad’s arm turns into a weapon and he blows the kid to bits.
The kidnappers return to a subterranean fight club factory of machinery-weightlifting space monkeys, where Goth Lord Shinya considers the transmogrifying gadget a success and orders everyone to be injected, to build an army. But the dad wasn’t transmogrified, it turns out he ironmanned himself out of pure rage, and he has a history of doing this. Same cast as the previous two movies, and practically a remake… it gets too plotty (Goth Shinya is IronDad’s brother), but if the alarming monochrome cyberpunk vision of part one isn’t fresh in your mind, it’ll do.
The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy / The Great Analog World (1987)
A half-feature made between Phantom of Regular Size and the first Tetsuo. Sure it’s yet another human-machine-merge movie (and watched the same week as Videodrome and Titane, wow) but this adds new twists to the Early Tsukamoto playbook: a vampire gang having covered the skies with a nuclear cloud so they can roam outside without fear of sunlight.
Boy with an electricity pole growing out of his back seems to be a gag, so he’ll conk his tormentors when he bows apologetically. The movie opens with silent-film silliness, and contains some extreme stop-motion, both in creeping metal cables winding over people and in the hoverboards the vamps ride down the city streets. Our guy travels into the future, meets Woman In Glasses (I’ve now seen Nobu Kanaoka’s complete filmed works) and an older electricity-pole guy who claims only they can save the world. Indeed, the Rod Boy apologizes so hard after his professor friend is killed, he takes out the robot vampire powering the global destruction machine.
This is still the movie I remember from 20-some years ago (filmmaker J-P Leaud is remaking Les Vampires, Maggie Cheung is adrift between crew members, they both get too into their own madness), but I remember it being really excellent, and as the years go by, you forget the specific characteristics that made it so excellent, so it’s nice to rewatch and re-experience that. Every scene is good, but I took no notes, got no screenshots, so let’s watch it again sometime. Fun that Leaud cast Cheung based on Heroic Trio, which they watch together on DVD, and I just watched last month.
I tried to discover Johnnie To’s early frontiers with A Hero Never Dies, but succeeded with this one – it’s a Tsui Hark-style HK movie, with the horrible comedy and dialogue and crazy action crystallizing into weird perfection.
Opens with a couple agreeing to buy a neglected, secluded house, the deal interrupted by the supercop husband leaping out a window to catch a thief stealing the realtor’s car. He is Damian Lau (just off the Royal Tramp movies), and doesn’t realize his wife Anita Mui (star of Rouge) is the masked superhero known as Wonder Woman, who’s investigating a wave of babynappings, orchestrated by an Evil Master with growling henchman Anthony Wong.
Meanwhile, friendly bounty hunter Maggie Cheung gets a killer introduction jumping her motorcycle over a cop barricade. And Invisible Woman Michelle Yeoh is… wait, she’s working for the bad guys helping steal the babies, and a baby is killed during the first big fight… this trio isn’t so heroic. But Michelle is sad about her inventor boyfriend dying, and she realizes she’s Anita’s long-lost sister, then they all team up to take down the master.
As a train explodes through a building, a dynamite-tossing Motor Maggie leads the fight vs. flying-guillotine-armed Anthony Wong on a landmine-rigged street. There’s too much awesome, looney tunes shit happening to keep close track of plot details, but Anthony must have survived since he returns in the sequel.
The Visible Woman:
Anthony, before his face gets messed up by the Trio:
I pulled out the earliest Johnnie To movie I could find, thinking “surely his visual and character quirks and his tendency to upend expected narrative weren’t fully developed yet,” but yup, they were. These movies are so stylish and unpredictable, and I could watch them forever.
Jack (Leon Lai of Fallen Angels) and cowboy Martin (Ching Wan Lau, the Mad Detective himself) are rival enforcers for crime lords, and when their bosses team up and go straight, their men are left crippled, unemployed and forgotten. After a wheelchair-improvement montage they take righteous revenge on their former organization(s).
Jack up high, Martin down low:
Been a long time since we rocked with this movie, and I can’t trust my teenaged thoughts so I had no idea if it’d be good. It’s very good, Coppola inspired by the birth of cinema in his 1897-set story, drenching his delirious movie in dramatic shadowplay and stylish crossfades. Gary Oldman wins the day, appearing in six or eight different forms, and as in The Book of Eli, evil Oldman’s henchman is played by Tom Waits. But Tom’s Renfield seems less pivotal here than I’d hoped – he’s in a few scenes but doesn’t even leave his asylum cell. At least after playing calmly menacing in one movie and a cool gearhead in another, I get to witness him screaming mad in this one.
Reeves vs. Oldman vs. Oldman’s shadow:
The other actors are hit or miss. You can plunk Winona Ryder into any costume and time period and she’ll thrive, but who had the idea to have Keanu Reeves play a Brit and Anthony Hopkins play a German? Ryder gets a little fan club of diehard dudes in the second half: Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes and cowboy Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer himself, a year prior), which leads to some good chase and adventure at the end. Monica Bellucci was a nobody back then, playing one of D’s nameless hissing vampire brides.
Waits #2 with Richard E. Grant:
First time watching this in high-def… oh my.
Extremely fun movie, opening with a powerful monk capturing an evil old man who’d been training for 100 years to ascend to human form, and I don’t know a whole lot about Chinese mythology but supermonk (Vincent Zhao, who took over the Once Upon a Time in China series after part 3) seems kinda like the bad guy. This is confirmed towards the end when he’s singlemindedly pursuing his enemies while carelessly destroying temples and drowning monks as collateral damage.
Green and Supermonk:
Supermonk has a tentative alliance with two snake sisters. White Snake (Joey Wong, lost in the huge cast of Eagle Shooting Heroes, also in the Chinese Ghost Story trilogy) is older and more powerful, while Green Snake (Maggie Cheung, at the tail end of her period of starring in ten films per year) is more bold and curious. They seduce some local guy (Wu Hsing-Guo), who will die along with White in the climactic supermonk-caused catastrophe.
Meantime we get colorful sets, giant snake tails, ludicrous side plots, tons of flying, great staging and action.
Wu Hsing-Guo, resurrected:
Previous stories and films based on this folktale have been named White Snake, so the titular focus on the younger sister indicate Tsui’s and Farewell My Concubine writer Lillian Lee’s intention to turn tradition on its head.
Watched on Kaurismaki’s birthday, this movie suddenly taking priority after I learned that André Wilms’s character Marcel from Le Havre originated here. Not as much rock music as usual for A.K., but prime cut “Leave My Kitten Alone” plays in a major scene. My second movie this week where someone is given two opera tickets instead of cash. I don’t think the dubbed French quite works, and Sam Fuller’s French seems quite bad, but quite the droll movie.
Marcel is a drunk writer, who meets a couple other poverty-level artists including composer Kari “Polonius” Väänänen, and they become fast friends, sharing cash and a car and living spaces. The painter (Matti Pellonpää, manager of the Leningrad Cowboys) gains a benefactor in Jean-Pierre Leaud then gets deported, Marcel gets set up by publisher Fuller, women come and go but the painter’s love Mimi (Evelyne Didi, great) sticks with them until the end.
With the composer, left, in their ridiculous three-wheeled car:
Mimi with Rodolfo: