Found another movie from the director of the Maiku Hama series. Silent-ish – no sync dialogue or music score, but we hear sfx and voices on tape. A detective whose thing is that he’s always eating eggs (Shirô Sano of Violent Cop) takes on the case of a kidnapped daughter named Bellflower and is sent on the usual goose chase, but with riddles and gyroscopes. In the end the whole adventure and kidnapping was a ploy to complete a silent film fifty years in the making.
Played Critics Week at Venice along with Assayas’s debut. Relaxed pace and lack of dialogue makes it hazy and dreamy – per the title, it’s not one to watch late at night. Funny that a few hours after watching this, I read: “it made me wonder what it’d be like to see, for once, a cinephilic film that isn’t in any way about cinephilia.”
A young hot blank dude (Nightmare Detective Ryuhei Matsuda) is found wandering with amnesia and returned to his wife Narumi (Masami Nagasawa of Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister). Blank teen boy Amano (also the name of my favorite sandwich place) recruits dickhead reporter Sakurai (Sion Sono’s Fuck Bomber) to help him locate a blank girl (Yuri Tsunematsu, also in Wife of a Spy) at the center of a recent crime.
Blank Nightmare Detective backed by choir:
But the blank trio are really aliens, learning about human concepts on their way to build a device from scavenged parts that will invite global destruction. The boy and girl finally meet, ruining a cop’s sense of self over wacky comedy-suspense music. The reporter is surveilled by Ministry of Health officers in an unmarked van. Gunfights and CG explosions ensue, and none of it’s very good, ruining my plans to follow this with the miniseries spinoff Foreboding.
Reporter, blank girl, and blank boy with machine gun:
Something to space-out to on the plane, one of those very silly sci-fi movies from the 60’s that gradually becomes a Godzilla knock-off. Movieishness is high, reasonable human behavior low, with some really cool miniatures, but the zero-gravity effect of “dangling stuff on strings” is lame. A mission to Mars (to discover why all other missions to Mars have disappeared) is led by Captain Sano with White Biologist Lisa. They stop for a shower on the moon base, where radio operator Michiko is jealous of the white girl, leaving behind their doctor who wasn’t feeling well, and picking up the whiny, dubbed, panic-prone Dr. Stein. Their ship loses power after they collect a Luminous Object near Mars, and they get a tow home. Of course the object grows into a giant monster that threatens Tokyo, but at least the massive-scale destruction and countless deaths resolve the astronaut love triangle. The cast is mostly nobodies, but the comic relief guy was in an Imamura film, and the guy in charge of ground control is Eiji Okada, star of Hiroshima Mon Amour and Woman in the Dunes.
The X has a name: Guilala
The flying saucer is a Monty Python fan:
Uh oh, opens with fun goofy comedy music. This is fast-paced for Ozu – it looks like Tati and there’s a lot of cartoon farting (proud of myself for making that connection, David Cairns mentions Tati in the first minute of his extra feature).
The neighborhood adults exchange petty gossip – one mom is falsely accused of embezzling from her woman’s association to buy a washing machine, one couple is correctly accused of walking around in their nightclothes all day. Meanwhile the kids are obsessed with farting (one kid keeps doing it wrong and running home for a change of pants) until they find a new past-time: staying mute and hungry until dad agrees to buy a television. Movie’s about modernization, aging, retirement, usefulness, the point of small talk – typical Ozu topics in a fart-comedy disguise.
Collection of useful subtitles for film-twitter meme-reactions:
Hou is weirdly good at capturing technology in transition. Lead character Yoko has a cellphone in this, but there are pay phones around, and you could still call a bar and ask to speak with a customer. There’s also a minidisc recorder, which is very exciting to me. The story, not so much though – Hou thought it would be interesting and Ozu-like to follow a Japanese girl around. His follow-up Three Times was slowly sensuous, while this is just uneventful.
a womb of trains:
She visits her parents, tells mom she’s pregnant over a late night snack. She won’t marry the baby daddy, who lives in Thailand and works at an umbrella factory, bringing her umbrellas when they visit. She researches a dream she had about a goblin stealing a child, and interviews locals to locate a cafe which a Taiwanese author used to frequent. Her book store friend records train sounds on minidisc, and people murmur to each other about art and memories and technology.
Rosenbaum called it “a provocative and haunting look at Tokyo and the overall drift of the world that’s slow to reveal its secrets and beauties,” and I was disappointed not to agree. Yoko’s parents are stars – Kimiko Yo of Yumeji and Hiruko the Goblin, and Nenji Kobayashi of Twilight Samurai and a bunch of Obayashis – and the minidisc guy is Ichi the Killer star Tadanobu Asano.
Gradually rewatching the Suzukis I saw on DVD back in the day. This is one where Jo Shishido plays a tough dude, if you can imagine. He rolls into town acting like the biggest badass in the world, which impresses the local gangsters. He’s hired by one gang boss, and separately by the boss’s girl, and he barges into the other gang boss’s office with a shotgun and gets hired by him, too. Every genre cliche flying fast and furious to a swinging soundtrack. It all sounds like the usual until you see how this thing looks and moves.
Turns out Jo is an ex-cop out for revenge on the bastards who killed his partner, and all his noisy pot-stirring gets the gang war riled up. He’s assigned a gun crazy dummy sidekick (Eimei Esumi, second banana to Jo in a few other movies) by Boss Nomoto (played by the tormented youth star of Everything Goes Wrong). Boss Sanko is Kinzô Shin of Man Without a Map – a hands-on guy, he rigs a bomb and kamikazes his car into Nomoto’s house. Jo discovers that his ex-partner’s widow (the rich second wife from the first Kwaidan episode) is the gang’s secret puppetmaster, and killed her husband, so he sics Boss Nomoto’s razor-crazy gay brother on her, a happy ending.
Jo and Sanko at his office behind a movie screen:
This kind of scenario comes up pretty often:
A total acting study, enamored with its actors, and about acting. These are really fun to watch – I preferred Drive over Wheel, even though the former is too long.
My book report to Richard on the Murakami story: Published in 2014, I still don’t know if the lead character’s name Kafuku is a reference to Kafka (or Murakami’s 2002 novel Kafka on the Shore). The Chekhov play is in the original (but much LESS Chekhov). Driver Misaki’s mom died while driving drunk, not in a landslide, and Misaki’s character/personality isn’t really explored beyond her driving ability. Kafuku is telling the driver stories about the young actor Takatsuki who slept with his wife – this happened years earlier, so the driver never sees the actor in person – but some of the dialogue is the same. The biggest change: the Saab 900 is yellow in the book.
Our man Kafuku is Hidetoshi Nishijima, lead cop in Creepy… driver Toko Miura a minor player in Lesson of Evil… deadwife Oto is Reika Kirishima of Godzilla Final Wars, and both she and her husband have been in Murakami adaptations before. Actor Takatsuki is Masaki Okada – looked familiar but nope, in a recent Miike sequel and a Japanese remake of Cube. One guy in the play’s cast must be Filipino – a Lav Diaz regular, I’ve seen him in Norte.
I noted at the beginning that author/narrator Donald Richie’s comment on “the people the Japanese ought to be” sounded patronizing, but I’m also vaguely aware that Richie devoted his life to Japanese culture, so I dismissed it, and appreciated the rest of this hourlong movie as the sort of outsider travelogue that Chris Marker used to make. The mountain/island scenery is wonderful – I kept watching out for the Naked Island. Unexpected inclusions: a monk who likes Sinatra, a reference to Council Bluffs. “I wish to celebrate our differences for as long as possible.” Watched with Katy (who did not get over the patronizing thing and is now anti-Richie) from the Sundance ’92 collection – this played alongside A Brief History of Time and Reservoir Dogs and twenty others I used to see every week at the video store that didn’t look appealing enough to rent, all now available for instant streaming, not quite looking appealing enough to watch.
Jiro (Black Sun star Tamio Kawaji) is a tormented James Dean type. Once I caught onto the fact that he tears off running at the end of every scene, it was always funny. A youth-gone-wild movie, all the parents lived through hell in the war, now their kids are all owowowowoe is me. Even if I hate all the whiny characters, it’s still a great-looking film that moves like a bullet.
There’s an abortion plot, plenty of money troubles, some muggings and car theft, then Jiro kills his widowed mom’s boyfriend with a wrench, and drives into the night to his own death. A bartender gets the last word, “Jiro was a nice boy,” but no he wasn’t.
Yoshiko Nezu is good, was in two more Suzuki movies in the next year, then disappeared: