Renji (the guy from Dolls) may be psychologically torturing his wife, or they may have a normal, boring life. The wife may be hiding in the attic pretending she’s a spider, or she may not. Depends who you ask.

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She meets a guy I don’t remember where, and talks to him about her horrible husband… one day they are caught talking or possibly he wants to hug her or something at the house and she retreats to the attic and becomes a series of bugs eventually a giant spider that comes down the stairs and is about to eat the husband then she turns back into the girl with a scissors in her hands and he hugs her and it’s all over I think then they’re packing and maybe moving out.

An okay movie, whatever.

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Terrific! Maybe the best samurai movie I’ve seen. I never cared much for samurai movies, though… still, this was a blast. Stylish and musical in that late-60’s manner, with all the zooms and close-ups and depth-of-field tricks that you’d want.

Tatsuya Nakadai is Genta, “a former samurai haunted by his past, prefers living anonymously with gangsters” and Etsushi Takahashi is Hanji, “previously a farmer, longs to become a noble samurai”. Criterion’s promo blurb continues: “But when both men discover the wrongdoings of the nefarious clan leader, they side with a band of rebels who are under siege at a remote mountain cabin. Based on the same source novel as Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro, Kill! playfully tweaks samurai film convention, borrowing elements from established chanbara classics and seasoning them with a little Italian western.”

Tatsuya Nakadai starred in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Sanjuro (second-billed to Mifune), Harakiri, High and Low (again second to Mifune), Kwaidan, The Face of Another, Sword of Doom, Samurai Rebellion, Kagemusha (title role), Ran (the elderly lord) and this year’s The Inugamis. Wowie.

Lots of samurai movie recommendations in Chris D’s essay at the Criterion site. One day when I’ve completely run out of must-see movies, I must see the whole Zatoichi series. “What is so rewarding about Kill! is Okamoto’s expert balance of seemingly disparate elements. He walks a tightrope, skillfully juggling humorous moments, fierce swordplay, and more sober, dramatic sequences, all punctuated by Masaru Sato’s alternately whimsical and wistful score.” Howard Hampton’s essay is useful too, and saves me from attempting a character description: “Tatsuya Nakadai as a hobo swordsman, plus a peasant bumpkin turned would-be samurai, a dispossessed retainer, one kidnapped chamberlain and one kidnap-per-chamberlain, a mercenary who needs thirty ryo to buy his wife’s freedom from a brothel, and even seven squabbling samurai in search of a raison d’être.”

Guess I strongly prefer these late 60’s samurai movies to the stuffy, slow, traditional 50’s ones that everyone so reveres. This one, darker and more cynical, reminds me more of Seijun Suzuki than Akira Kurosawa. Fun, nimble little movie, and brilliant looking camerawork throughout.

Takeshi Kitano plays sort-of-himself, a superstar gangster actor. But mostly he plays a beat-down loser wannabe actor who keeps failing auditions for small parts on TV shows. His neighbors laugh at him, and he works at a convenience store. But one day a real gangster hides in the store then dies in the back room, and the loser Kitano finds himself with a Falling Down-style bag full of guns… goes on a mighty rampage. Or does he? Dream sequences and fantasies are flowing in and out of the picture.

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There aren’t as many Kitanos as I thought there’d be, and the whole thing made more sense than I thought it would. Lesson learned again and again: when everyone says a movie is difficult and confusing, that don’t necessarily make it so.

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As usual, The Internets come in handy here. A couple weeks later, I saw the dvdbeaver review with a ton of great screen shots… really a great looking movie, full of signature Kitano setups, but I was too busy following the story and reading subtitles to notice at the time.

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Rotterdam Film Festival calls it “a mocking, almost surrealist film about the star Kitano, his oeuvre and his failed alter ego”.

Trivia: Tetsu Watanabe the noodle cook was in Fireworks and Sonatine, Kitano’s friend Susumu Terajima was in Brother and Fireworks and everything else, and the manager & taxi driver was Ren Osugi, the chief from MPD Psycho.

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So two approaches. I’m tempted to consider this viewing a test run, this writing a rough draft, and sit down with all of Kitano’s films, watch or rewatch them, then see this one again to catch more of the references. On the other hand, even though it’s an extremely self-referential film, I know the Kitano persona well enough to get the overall joke, and I enjoyed watching this… why not take it on its own merits instead of turning it into a study project? Kitano’s films are all worth re/watching anyway… maybe I’ll get to ’em after my upcoming Seijun Suzuki fest.

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In the meantime I’ll have to say I liked this one more than I thought I would… it pretty much made sense, and looked great.

After a decade of slow self-education in cinephilia, I’ve finally sat down and watched an Ozu movie.

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These happy folks are travelling to the city to visit their children and grandchildren. It’s implied that they won’t make the trip again, then right after they get home, the wife dies. The kids aren’t very receptive, can’t be bothered to break away from their daily lives and jobs and make time to treat their parents with respect and attention. Their daughter-in-law, though, wife of their deceased son, takes them in, takes time off work to entertain them, and is the one who seems saddest at the wife’s funeral.

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Nicely paced, very well told story. Liked it surprisingly well… figured it’d be an overlong slow-paced thing full of symbolism I don’t understand… but it’s just a modern family story. Apparently all of Ozu’s films are modern family stories, each just like the last, and all just as good. Looking forward to finding out for myself.

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Listened to thirty minutes of the commentary before my burned DVD crashed the computer and I gave up. Remember allll the shots have those low camera angles demonstrated by the cinematographer in Tokyo-Ga. He says something about ellipses in continuity, how actions are implied but not shown and how characters names and positions are slowly revealed instead of being explained up front… viewer has to pay closer attention than usual to figure out what’s happening. Says Ozu’s signature dialogue is “It’s a beautiful day”, said twice in this movie. Setsuko Hara (the daughter-in-law, above) was “one of the genuine superstars of Japanese cinema”. Wenders’ Until the End of the World is a tribute to Ozu (maybe I won’t hate it next time after I’ve seen a few Ozu films). Tokyo Story is sometimes seen as a remake of Leo McCarey’s Make Way For Tomorrow. And Ozu makes “mini documentaries of Japanese middle-class life”.

Katy didn’t watch it. Can’t even guess if she would’ve liked it or not.
EDIT 2015: Katy liked it.

Cameraman Masuoka (played by Shinya Tsukamoto, director of Tokyo Fist, Tetsuo & Haze!) is obsessed with fear. He catches a guy looking terrified in the subway stabbing himself in the eye, and Masuoka is off on a goofy adventure to find out what scared the old man to death. On his way home, he’s often annoyed by a kooky neighbor claiming to be his wife, ranting about how their daughter is missing. Masuoka can’t be bothered with this – he needs to explore the magical subterranean wonderland beneath the city, where he evades monsters long enough to find and rescue a young naked woman, who he brings home. The woman doesn’t respond to much, acts like an animal, etc. Still being harassed by the kooky neighbor, Masuoka finds a way to kill her without being detected. He probably has sex with the young woman too – if he does explicitly, I’ve blocked it out already. Either way, she of course turns out to be his daughter, and of course he murdered his wife and there you go.

The movie is shaky and ugly and lo-fi and annoying all of the time, often being filtered through our protagonist’s unsteady videocams. Except when the guy goes underground and finds his daughter – really nice looking few minutes in there. Not so bad overall I guess. From the director of all seven Ju-On The Grudge movies.

Katy didn’t watch this one. Katy wouldn’t have liked it one bit!

Watched on the night Imamura died. Thought it was the right time to expose myself to a great new filmmaker. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t like the movie.

Dude kills wife. Eight years later, out of prison, opens barber shop. Has pet eel. Girl works for him. Bunch of obvious stuff happens, but not so obvious that I can remember the details two weeks later. That’s why I write in this thing… to write about movies I didn’t like right after I see them, so later I’ll remember why I didn’t like them. Too late now. Oh wait, I remember complaining about a dream sequence when someone jumps out of the water and grabs the dude’s boat and says… something…

Wonderful movie, maybe the best of the Taisho trilogy. Starts and ends very free-flowing, dreamlike… little bit of storyline in the middle there. Suzuki shifts to different scenes and characters within the same shot. Lots of color, flowers, unexplained images. Beautiful.

Man with mustache and large hands apparently likes a girl who’s afraid of old women and cherries. He also likes a german girl with her “hair in the japanese style”. Or maybe they like him, or nobody likes anybody – I was mostly gazing at the flower petals, really. A meddling mustachioed man with a hat and cane threatens everyone with his gun. Maybe some or all of them die by the end of the movie.

Katy didn’t like it and is mad that I made her watch it. Guess I won’t try showing her Yumeji next week.

giving away the ending