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?

Hard to believe I haven’t seen a new Kiyoshi Kurosawa movie since the great Tokyo Sonata. Starting to catch up, but I hope that’s worth doing. I enjoy a slow-boil movie, but this one just kinda stayed lukewarm. Interesting stylistic choices for a 2013 ghost movie – from a director who has sometimes over-relied on horrid digital effects, this uses none. Ghosts appear as regular people, no indications of who is living or dead, and their appearances or other otherworldly happenings are signaled by slow lighting changes.

Lonely piano teacher Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu of Atlanta Boogie) is visited by her long-missing husband Yûsuke (Tadanobu Asano of Bright Future and Last Life in the Universe) who explains that he drowned at sea three years ago. He says it was a long trip back to her, and people helped him along the way, and he’d like them to revisit those people together.

At Shimakage’s house, pre-collapse:

Yûsuke in teacher mode:

First is Mr. Shimakage, who is dead and does not realize this. Yûsuke’s visit with Mizuki brings back memories of his wife, which allow him to let go and disappear, his house becoming decrepit overnight. Next, the Jinnai family, who are alive but have a sad ghostly relative psychically tied to their piano. Then Mizuki meets Tomoko, with whom Yûsuke was having an affair while alive. Then at a village where Yûsuke had been a teacher, Mizuki briefly meets her dead father, and their host Kaoru briefly meets her dead husband (who was flown in from a darker, more interesting movie).

Mizuki and the Dead Father:

I’m pleased that a shy Japanese piano teacher would listen to Sonic Youth:

M. D’Angelo:

I’d planned to write at least a few words about Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s almost surreally boring Journey to the Shore, which multiple critics here have dubbed Journey to the Snore. Trouble is, just thinking about the film makes me nod off, making it difficult to formulate any thoughts.

“We live three times as long since man invented movies.”

First movie watched in 2017. Interweaving life stories of family members during the year grandma spent in a coma, with mirrors of behaviors and situations across generations.

NJ and daughter Ting-Ting with the happy couple:

NJ is Nien-Jen Wu (cowrote Hou Hsiao-Hsien films including City of Sadness and The Puppetmaster). He’s a reasonable, middle-aged, frowny-faced guy disillusioned with his job. He bumps into an ex, Sherry, at the wedding, then arranges to meet her in Japan while courting software developer Ota (Issei Ogata, the emperor in The Sun) for work. Having casual conversations with Ota about music and spending his days with Sherry (Su-Yun Ko also played a lead male character’s Tokyo ex in Taipei Story) gives him nostalgia flashbacks of first love, while his daughter Ting-Ting is home dealing with similar issues firsthand.

Ting-Ting starts the movie feeling guilty that she might be responsible for grandma’s stroke, and soon adds more typical teenage problems into the mix, as she picks up her new neighbor Lili’s barely-ex-boyfriend Fatty, but the two of them are nervously unsure how to be in a romantic relationship (and incidentally, he later murders the neighbor’s mom’s boyfriend).

The neighbor with Fatty, who is not fat:

Min-Min is the mom of the family (Elaine Jin, also a mom in A Brighter Summer Day), has a breakdown while trying to talk to her comatose mom then disappears to a meditation retreat for the rest of the movie. And young son Yang-Yang is a slightly offbeat kid (spotted in his room: Astro Boy, Mickey Mouse, Batman, Pikachu… and the Hindenburg) who takes photos of the backs of people’s heads (a naïve, questioning photographer/observer who shows people things they can’t see for themselves, named after the film’s director, hmm).

Yang-Yang couldn’t deal with the wedding reception food:

Newlywed astrology nut A-Di is Min-Min’s brother, can’t keep his financial or romantic act together, with his longtime ex-girlfriend Yun-Yun showing up at the wedding and baby shower and making scenes. His wife Xiao Yan threatens to leave then comes back thinking A-Di has attempted suicide – he says he just fell asleep in the tub with the gas on. And I think A-Di’s money is stolen by business partner Piggy (yes, there’s a Piggy and a Fatty).

Yang won best director at Cannes, and died of cancer seven years later without producing a follow-up, which was rumored to be an animated Jackie Chan feature.

Kent Jones:

The New Taiwan Cinema was a predominantly urban phenomenon, the better to dramatize the rapacious speed of cultural upheaval. And Yang, Hou, and the slightly younger, Malaysian-born Tsai have employed, each in his own unique way, the sights, textures, rhythms, and social configurations of city living to devastating effect … Yang has set his city symphonies in a variety of emotional keys — the doleful lament of Taipei Story, the gridlike coolness of The Terrorizer, the comic hysteria of A Confucian Confusion, the carefully modulated fury of Mahjong. In Yi Yi, he brings all of these moods together, never allowing any one of them to take precedence over another. Which is to say that this is a grand choral work, with a panoptic majesty.

I thought I heard that this was the kid-friendliest of the post-Mononoke Ghibli movies, and maybe so, but it’s also one of the most unexpectedly bizarre. A magic fish-princess flees her underwater bubble-hatted environmentalist mad-scientist Liam Neeson-sounding dad and befriends a five-year-old boy, turning herself human to stay with him on land during a major flood.

After the flood, octopi and trilobites and eels and jellyfish waste no time moving in:

Most of Neeson’s activities are never explained:

Ponyo running on watery waves of blue fishes is some magical animation:

Human boy Sosuke and his mom meet Ponyo’s ocean-goddess mom:

Set during whatever era of Japan when Christianity was outlawed, the story follows dour missionary Rodrigues and Garrpe, his balding friend who is less good at dialogue acting, as they arrive in a small town to clandestinely spread their religion. This turns out to be harder than they suspected, and they’re eventually captured and brought to their predecessor and teacher Ferreira, who has abandoned Christianity and tries to convince them to do the same.

Rodrigues:

Obviously watched in preparation for Scorsese’s upcoming remake. I didn’t find it all that engaging or convincing, which I suppose means there’s more hope for remake improvement than there was for Infernal Affairs / The Departed. I tend to make a really big deal out of less-than-convincingly delivered dialogue, so I generally favored the Japanese cast in this movie, who I couldn’t understand, over the English speakers, who I’m afraid the director couldn’t understand. And unrelated to the film’s quality, I couldn’t make it play in proper full-screem on my TV, so it’s the last Filmstruck movie I’m watching until they get Roku support.

Iwashita:

Looking around online, I’m not the only viewer who was reminded of Apocalypse Now (which this movie predates by eight years). Played at Cannes with fellow crisis-of-confidence films Solaris and Images. The white guys haven’t been in much else, but Ferreira was the prolific Tetsuro Tanba (grandpa in Happiness of the Katakuris). The supposedly Christian guy who sells out Rodrigues to the cops was Mako, Bob Hope’s companion in The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell. And Shima Iwashita, convinced to apostatize when her husband (Woman of the Dunes star Eiji Okada) is buried to the neck and nearly trampled by a horse, was a regular Shinoda star, also in The Demon and Sword of the Beast.

Tanba:

“We’re realists while they’re fantasists!”
“Realism will lose!”

I always watch the wrong Sion Sono movies. I heard either Love Exposure or Guilty of Romance was good, so somehow I got the idea to watch this instead – and I hated it, so now my chance of ever watching those others is lower.

Okay, I didn’t hate it. You can’t hate a movie where a group of young, failed filmmakers called the Fuck Bombers end up choreographing an actual gang war, and where stuff like this happens:

But it feels like Sono has cult-ready ideas, good-enough execution, and little sense of timing. Endless hours of build-up, and everything gets repeated to death by the time the end finally comes. Maybe it feels different at a midnight screening with a giddy audience, and at least it’s an improvement on Noriko’s Dinner Table (which I just realized has similar plot points to Alps).

Lead gangster is Jun Kunimura, who I just saw playing the devil, probably, in The Wailing. His daughter, a former advertisement star and the rainbow swordsman above, is Fumi Nikaidou (Lesson of Evil). Rival leader Ikegami is Shinichi Tsutsumi of One Missed Call. Hirata (Shin Godzilla star Hiroki Hasegawa) is the lead Fuck Bomber, and his Bruce Lee-prototype star is Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi, star of Versus).

C. Marsh in Cinema Scope:

When Hirata dreams of filmmaking, he dreams of the practice’s classical conception, romanticized with the rigor of a hardcore purist: he envisions rack lighting, metres-long camera dollies on steel rails, a trained crew of hundreds, and, above all else, the sprocketed hum of rolling celluloid. In the end that’s what he gets, and it costs him everything. Sono seems sympathetic to the sentiment – he relishes the physicality of the traditional film equipment as much as Hirata does – but he ultimately undermines it. The form itself is a joke. The movie was shot digitally, on Red Epic: and though his characters would be doubtless loathe to admit it, the results look more than fine.