An aged film actress relates her life story to an interviewer and cameraman at her house. She draws them into her memories so they appear to be watching/filming her life from the sidelines, as she starts by explaining she only went into acting to locate a cute revolutionary artist she once met. Chiyoko’s transformations and the stagings and transitions of the flashbacks are wonderful, sliding through Japanese history and cinema – the movie could’ve happily gone on like this for another hour. Instead it has to wrap up, Chiyoko explaining that she didn’t need the boy, she just loved the pursuit, and the interviewer confessing that he’s a stalker from way back, and returns a memento he found during her studio years. Satoshi Kon’s second feature after Perfect Blue; I’ve also seen Paprika, and feel like his movies are good, but not getting why people think they’re the most amazing things in the whole world. A few years after this movie, Kon made the series Paranoia Agent, which is the most amazing thing in the whole world.

The opening scene sets up some teen school drama – girl who wants to fit in and act adult, lovestruck fool who obsesses over her, and his friends, the popular class president and their weirdo buddy Don. So it’s gonna be that kind of movie… except the lead girl (does she not have a name?) is gulping boozy drinks all at once, her throat bulging as they go down. The animation style keeps changing, and facial expressions extend off people’s heads when they get excited. It’s mentioned that the class president is famous for his cross-dressing and that Don hasn’t changed his underwear in six months. The lead dude lays out his scheme to follow the girl everywhere, bumping into her “by chance” until she thinks it’s fate that they should be together. Then she imagines she’s a train and cho-choos off into the night – this is all in the first four minutes. There’s singing and dancing, so I’m pretty sure it’s a sequel to Girl Walk: All Day.

Soon our girl is beating up a molester in another bar, meeting gamblers and gangsters and secret societies. She faces off against the droopy-eared elf leader of the criminal underworld, who she drinks under the table, the beginning of his rapid decline. There’s a nighttime book market with its own guardian spirit, a hallucinatory hot pot competition, the president using his panopticon to track down a guerrilla theater production rigged by Don Underwear to search for his missed-connection. I can’t tell if the movie believes in fate or is mocking its characters for believing in it. The night ends with everyone tired and sick, except our Girl, who delivers healing soup to everyone in town at once, Santa-like.

Don Underwear and his Apple Girl:

Placeholder post until I watch this again on blu-ray, since it didn’t stay long in theaters. Doomed adventure story in a hopeless land, like a post-apocalyptic Fantastic Mr. Fox. The animation, voice acting, production design all perfect, and an overwhelming joy to watch in theaters. Haven’t yet read the articles about how Wes’s representation of Japan and treatment of women are problematic, so I’m free to love the movie in blissful ignorance, for now.

Things I Can Remember: Yoko Ono is the scientist who leaks the government-suppressed cure for snout fever to the exchange-student leader of the revolutionary youth. The conflicted lead dog of the pack who finds young Atari is a long-lost brother of Atari’s companion/bodyguard Spots, who now runs with a gang of suspected cannibals. And I can’t think too hard about the ending when they swap dog-to-human translation devices because it makes me emotional.

EDIT: watched again two months later on blu-ray

“This is a distant uncle’s worst nightmare”

That familiar Fantastic Mr. Fox feeling… whenever I think about this movie for any reason, I have the strong urge to rewatch it immediately.

A great swordsman defeats an entire army of thugs who murdered his sister, then is made immortal by an old woman, and this entire backstory only takes up the first twelve minutes of the movie. Miike wasting no damn time with this one, supposedly his hundredth film, though I’d like to see what list they used to calculate this, since IMDB considers Pandoora a movie, and counts MPD Psycho as three movies.

Anyway… fifty years later, the “itto-ryu” is a supervillain samurai clan killing all the dojo heads in the Tokyo, including the parents of this girl Rin, who reminds our man of his sister, so he agrees to take on the gang. Rest of the movie is a series of high-energy fights, one-on-one and one-on-hundreds, against badasses with a variety of weapons. I found Sukiyaki Western Django too tiresomely goofy, 13 Assassins too classy and Hara-Kiri too faithful – this one’s just right.

Our heroes:

Clan leader Sôta Fukushi:

Our immortal hero is Takuya Kimura (Faye Wong’s bf in 2046, voice of Howl, star of two separate movies called Hero), Rin is the voice of Mary, and the fey cult leader starred in As The Gods Will. That leaves all the specialty assassins:

Kuroi Sabato (Kazuki Kitamura of Miike’s video game movie Like a Dragon) wears Shredder headgear, goes down first. Magatsu (Shinnosuke Mitsushima of the next Kore-eda movie) has long spiky hair and a sweet facemask. Shizuma Eiku (Ebizô Ichikawa, main dude in Miike’s Hara-Kiri) is a white-haired immortal who knows how they can be killed (bloodworm poison!). Makie (Erika Toda of the Death Note series) wields a double-edged spear and changes sides, and Shina (Hayato Ichihara, bullied boy of All About Lily Chou-Chou) is a blonde dude who focuses on killing the girl even when the army is attacking. Chiaki Kuriyama (Gogo in Kill Bill) is a government spy with long blonde hair, and Tsutomu Yamazaki (Goro in Tampopo) leads the government army, which needless to say in a Miike film is no better than the murderous cult. With no main-cast crossovers between this and 13 Assassins, it looks like Miike is trying to turn every actor in Japan into a badass killer.

Maatsu:

Makie:

Willow Maclay on her blog:

Miike doesn’t pull any punches as things reach a climax (with a few bloated, unnecessary side plots here and there) frequently zeroing in on Manji’s immortal body as it falls apart, but impossibly perseveres. When Manji finally confronts the man who wronged Rin … he’s barely a man anymore, more zombie than alive, and there is no elegant duel between sword wielding warriors. It is merely an act of execution, a job being completed, and a loss of life. It is with blunt honesty that Miike displays this final dance not as something worthwhile or justifiable, but another violent act in a long string of violent acts that Manji has committed during his lifetime, and some day Rin will die because of his actions.

A hell of a weird, fun flick. The central story is a sort of Western parody: a couple of truckers come across a lousy ramen place run by a woman named Tampopo and decide to help her improve it, recruiting more experts until she has the best ramen in town, then disappear into the sunset. But the movie’s most genius idea was cutting little food-related vignettes into the main film, basically an improvement on the structure and focus of The Kentucky Fried Movie.

The first I’ve seen by Itami, who also made episodic comedy The Funeral, and died twenty years ago this week. Tampopo is Nobuko Miyamoto (Itami’s wife, star of Sweet Home), along with her team: main trucker Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki: Farewell to the Ark, Kagemusha, Rikyu), his sidekick Gun (Ken Watanabe, the most famous Japanese man in Hollywood), broth master Yoshi Kato (a bunch of Shinoda films including Silence), noodle expert Shohei (Kinzô Sakura of Itami’s A Taxing Woman), and hardass interior designer Pisken (Rikiya Yasuoka of some early Miike movies).

I’ve already forgotten half of the incidental sideplots, but the recurring one featured a white-suited gangster (Kôji Yakusho, the guy from Doppelganger, Tokyo Sonata, Eureka) and his girl (Fukumi Kuroda of Tales of a Golden Geisha) having weird food sex.

AKA Journey to Agartha… anime adventure story, which gets into some grand life-and-death mythology and re-enacts Orpheus… it didn’t exactly pull all of its component parts into a coherent whole, and it lacked the emotional impact of Your Name, but was full of incident and beautiful light and backdrops and fantastical beasts, so I have no major complaints.

Asuna has a pet cat, working mom, dead father, and no particular characteristics. One day she meets an underworld boy who saves her from a giant creature then promptly dies. Soon she travels to his land along with her cat, the dead boy’s twin brother, and her homicidally bereaved super-soldier substitute teacher, who plans to descend into the land of the dead with a magic crystal and a submachine gun and demand the resurrection of his late wife. It’s kind of a crazypants movie.

Also, the cat dies and is eaten by a Quetzalcoatl. And so are our heroes.

Shinkai’s third feature (Your Name is his fifth). Our copy was English dubbed, which seemed just fine, but the commentary is in subtitled Japanese, so I can’t really play it while working.

It’s an offbeat movie featuring some cross-dressing guys (some are gay, some transsexual, some I dunno), and also it’s a movie about the making of an offbeat movie, and also a semi-doc about the men/women participating in the movie, with oblique references to current politics (riot police on TV). Scenes are repeated, there are flashes of avant-garde weirdness (and harsh blasts of annoying music, just to let you know it’s the late 1960’s). Then they get high and just dance and fuck around for ages.

Fake-bearded director of the film-in-the-film is named Guevara:

There’s an Oedipus story in here somewhere… I think young Eddie killed his mom, and after taking over the Bar Genet from his boss/rival Leda, Eddie later turns out to be sleeping with his own dad, then pokes his own eyes out. But the bulk of the movie is this free mix of Godard formal weirdness, Oshima rebel 1960’s flavor, goofs and retakes, title cards and poses, and plenty more tricks which seemed to indicate that the central plot wasn’t so important.

Memorial screening for writer/director Toshio Matsumoto, who died in mid-April, and made plenty more excitingly weird-looking movies. Pîtâ (Eddie) was later in Ran (and, unfortunately, Guinea Pig 4). The dad (and owner of the club?), Yoshio Tsuchiya, had smallish roles in Kurosawa movies, and the murdered mom, Emiko Azuma, had been in Insect Woman, later Suzuki’s Kageroza. Not the first drama I’ve seen to include out-of-character actor interviews in the middle of the movie. Kubrick stole the bit where they play action scenes in fast-motion with organ music for A Clockwork Orange.

Oedipus Rex:

Same:

An exciting anime feature, which we got to see on a big screen thanks to the Alamo (in a dubbed version which was refreshingly free of slumming Hollywood celebs). Jumps between protagonists, between bodies, between time and space, then throws in a town-destroying meteor. Incident and action piles up, more and louder, until the body-swapping boy appears to have saved hundreds of lives and we fast-forward to the couple’s first real-life (chance) meeting.

M. D’Angelo:

The film’s body-swapping setup foregrounds questions of identity, beginning with the way that both teens react to their new, temporary genders; Taki-as-Mitsuha spends so much time feeling up his own breasts, for example, that it becomes a running gag. Meanwhile, Mitsuha-as-Taki starts flirting heavily with a slightly older female co-worker at the restaurant where Taki works, and it really looks as if Mitsuha herself is smitten, rather than merely doing Taki a favor while she’s in control of his actions.

D. Ehrlich:

Like all of Shinkai’s films, the richness of the light coats everything it touches with such an evocative hue of nostalgia that the plot only puts a damper on things (and there’s a lot of plot here). Watching these colors bleed between Taki and Mitsuha’s divergent lives is all you need to appreciate the beauty of being in this world together, and the tragedy of how that same beauty always seems to slip through our fingers.

Devout priests Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver convince Ciaran Hinds to send them to Japan, where Christianity has been outlawed, to covertly spread the good word and to locate their teacher Liam Neeson. I’ve seen this story told before, in Masahiro Shinoda’s film, so I knew the general outline and some of the characters. I liked Scorsese’s three-hour remake (with a new epilogue) a hell of a lot better – even if I still can’t comprehend some of the characters’ actions, it’s an intense, awe-inspiring film. Would’ve been cool if it had hung around in theaters, since I would’ve liked to watch again after a few weeks or a month, but I guess America wasn’t interested in sacrifice and devotion this holiday season because it only lasted a week.

I couldn’t resist stealing a couple of screenshots from Film Comment:

In Japan, our white saviors meet interpreter Tadanobu Asano (lead ghost in Journey to the Shore), Shinya Tsukamoto himself (tortured to death by being tied to a cross and pounded by the surf for days), drunken traitor Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka of Tokyo Tribe), and eventually, toothy torturer Issei Ogata (extremely different from his gentle software developer in Yi Yi and twitchy emperor in The Sun).

J. Cabrita:

There is an essential balance to Silence, subverting a colonizer’s prejudices while also considering the prospect that Rodrigues’ missionary work is disseminating objective truth; one does not reduce the other, but enlivens it, makes it meaningful, potent and mysterious. Adapted from a novel by Shusaku Endo, a Japanese Catholic persecuted for his religious values at home and discriminated against for his race abroad, Scorsese’s film also occupies the novel’s ambiguous middle ground.

N. Bahadur, who also makes good connections with The Age of Innocence:

In terms of the film’s critical distance from Rodrigues, what is important is that it is not Christianity which is being critiqued but rather perspective. The moral fundamentals of both religions in the film do not include concepts of pride and glory which both Rodrigues & the Inquisitor demonstrate. Both men are completely invested in their way of viewing the world – fully formed yet opposing views which make sense – and by watching their debates we can already see Scorsese’s perspective: does moral righteousness negate a moral perspective? A colleague mentioned: “they talk about faith needing to take root, but it only becomes faith after becoming rootless.” Perhaps on a moral and ideological level, Rodrigues and the Christians are right: advocation for a Universal truth, yet they fail on a political level because of the failure to see the colonial implications of their actions. While the Japanese in the film prove to be far more selfless and with rather more reason or martyrdom, yet on a moral level the Inquisitor is despicable and inhumane.

G. Kenny:

The opening title, with its sounds of nature followed by absence of sound, constitutes an arguably almost literal-minded demonstration of the movie’s theme, but that plainness is purposeful … And of course the most virtuoso filmmaking of the piece, the scene where Rodrigues comes to his most crucial decision. It’s just crushing, not least for the way it’s set up. Liam Neeson’s Ferreira, speaking to his former student of “a suffering only you can end,” tells Rodrigues his sacrifice will be “the greatest act of love ever performed,” and Rodrigues’ Japanese interpreter (Tadanobu Asano, great) tells the priest, “It’s just a formality.” Which is it, for God’s sake? And then the soundtrack drops out for the second time.

Bilge, from his great Voice article about Scorsese’s holy trilogy:

There’s a vanity behind Rodrigues’s sense of responsibility, too, and Silence slowly interrogates this earnest man of the cloth. Once he gets separated from fellow priest Garrpe (Adam Driver), Rodrigues is accompanied through the film by … the unchanging, ever-present face of Jesus, about whom he dreams at night. The priest even sees Christ’s visage replacing his own reflection in a pool of water, and he giggles maniacally at the thought that he might be headed for a fate similar to his messiah’s; he exults in the glory of a martyr’s death … Rodrigues will not die a martyr. He will not become a saint. His sacrifice will not be written about in the annals of his faith; if anything, he will be a shameful footnote. But he will, finally, achieve true compassion for another man [Kichijiro], the two of them united in their weakness. And in this, who’s to say that he has not found the divine?