Not good in almost any sense but absolutely a must-see for the bonkers imagination factor. Full of hilariously suggestive images, making a mockery of sex and religion. Tsui Hark cowrote/produced this anime remake, though it feels less written and more like it’s making up its rules as it goes along, with world-building ambition way beyond the league of the physical effects and baby computer graphics teams (there’s a cellophane blob and some mighty morphing). It’s impossible to dislike, or to imagine that we could do any better today.

The aliens invading Hong Kong in human disguises mostly take the form of hot chicks, and mostly they murder hot chicks… the movie is overall a big fan of hot chicks (this is apparently accurate to the original version).

Windy and Daishu:

Human cop Leon Lai likes lightsaber alien Windy (they play the killer and his agent in Fallen Angels) after they save each other’s lives. Half-alien cop Jacky Cheung (lately Bucktooth So in OUATIC 1) likes human traitor cop Orchid (Carman Lee Yeuk-Tung of Burning Paradise and Detective vs. Sleuths), but Sgt Yuen Woo-Ping keeps them apart. Alien boss Daishu is captured by the cops and kept magnetically captive (this is movie royalty Tatsuya Nakadai, star of Harakiri, apparently game for anything) while his evil son Roy Cheung (one of The Mission boys, also City on Fire) runs rampant in the city, plotting to hook the whole city on a drug that will simply kill them in a couple days. As the movie’s nonsense intensifies, the son ends up juiced to death by a jet engine, and the aliens’ vacuum powers reverse the flow of time and a psychokinetic police force lands a plane atop a skyscraper.

Sgt Yuen Woo-Ping orders all men in this movie to wear glasses:

and sometimes glasses get dirty:

Set in Beijing leading up to a grand lion king dance event. For a friendly sporting competition, a lot of guys sure get set on fire or catch spears through the chest. Focus is less on individual kung-fu, more on lion-head spectacle, though enemy-turned-ally Clubfoot (Xiong Xinxin, villain of The Blade) is the breakout star of the former. The comedy and romance get pretty bad – in fact anything that isn’t a lion-head dance is wasted time, and Foon is the worst offender. The photography is sharper than ever though, especially when Rosamund is around, and there’s some good shadowplay. Rosamund’s Russian motion-picture supplier turns out to be an assassin, caught in the act by his own tech.

New stunt coordinator Yuen Bun did Dragon Inn and the Royal Tramp movies the same year, later went on to work with Johnnie To on greats like Throw Down and Sparrow. Interesting to hear Tsui in the blu extras complain about lack of originality in modern film – everyone studies the same references and produces the same movies.

The madness, montage, and absurd deadpan humor has all been doubled in intensity from Gimli Hospital. Veronkha is married to amnesiac Ari Cohen (Page’s dad in The Tracey Fragments). One-legged Kyle McCulloch’s dead beloved was Iris, a lookalike of Veronkha. Michael Gottli (Gimli’s Gunnar) is blind again, with a wife who (I think) is not Veronkha. What happens in the second half, though? Maybe the least memorable Maddin movie, it casts an amnesiac spell on the viewer.

Jonathan Rosenbaum agrees… from Essential Cinema:

The superimposition of a late-20s / early-30s style over a story set around 1917 yields a movie that is oddly ahistorical and that seems set adrift from any sustained sense of place, time, or even meaning. The film’s true subject, in fact — if it has one at all — is amnesia: virtually all the major characters suffer from it acutely, to such a degree that they can barely grasp their own identities — or anyone else’s, for that matter. And the film induces a kind of existential free fall in the spectator that is oddly akin to the helplessness of the characters.

My HD copy was not HD, so the stills look crappy, but there was a nice shot of a wreath with the words “dispatched by wounds innumerable” on a little banner.

Same idea as Serpent’s Path – this time Sho Aikawa’s daughter is the victim, and he dispatches some guy he assumes to be the killer within ten minutes of movie time. Now what?

A guy who looks suspiciously like Creepy but is another actor – somebody Sho presumably killed horribly in Dead or Alive, and the star of Kitano’s Getting Any? – offers the directionless Sho a job at his “import/export” company. The business of this company involves Sho stamping an endless pile of documents in a shabby office while the other guys have some kinda shakedown/blackmail/hitman thing going on. These guys appear small-time, so the boss gets involved, and the boss’s boss, and they want to recruit Sho and put down the others, but they don’t go down so easy. Similar look and tone to the other movie, but goes in a more traditionally yakuza direction.

In here somewhere is Chief Ren Osugi of Nightmare Detective… Ren’s Sonatine and Fireworks costar Susumu Terajima… Kill Bill boss Shun Sugata… but I didn’t catch character names, so I’ll sort it out during the next Kitano or Miike binge.

Kurosawa is a White Dog fan:

Great writeup by John Lehtonen. A small piece:

Eyes of the Spider is a film of emptiness, its protagonist hollowed at the outset. Empty time and empty people, and what is projected onto and, eventually, out of this emptiness. Tonally and generically dynamic, it moves its cipher hero (and Aikawa’s iconographic image) through a variety of generic scenarios and roles: the husband, the salaryman, the yakuza.

I had watched either Serpent’s Path or Eyes of the Spider (I forget which one) in the pre-blog era on VCD so after enjoying Chime (and before this year’s Serpent’s Path remake) it’s time to re/watch these in HD. They both hinge on a kid’s abduction/murder, and each main character’s plot spirals out of control, in very different ways.

Creepy Teruyuki Kagawa kidnaps gangster Yûrei Yanagi (Boiling Point) with the help of Creepy’s math professor friend Sho(w) Aikawa. But the gangster says another guy did the crime, and they have to keep kidnapping gangsters. The second guy (the husband in Door) fingers a third guy (a minor player in early Miike films), who takes them to the room where they’ve made torture videos for profit (these rooms were common in late 90s/early 00s horror).

Sho and Creepy:

Why is Professor Sho capably handling all the details and abductions here, what’s his deal? And why is he privately coaching the abductees on what to say? I guess he’s just trying to help kill as many members of this organization as possible – including Creepy, who it’s revealed used to work in their organization and therefore thought his own family would be exempt from the business. Darkest subject matter given a matter-of-fact tone with an absurd edge.

Michael Sicinski:

Formally, we can already see Kurosawa’s primary style taking shape; the clinical viewpoint and tendency toward long shots emphasize both an objective, godlike perspective as well as a sense that the film frame is a container, trapping its characters in culture and history. If the overt narrative of Serpent’s Path is somewhat vague, Kurosawa fills in all the crevices with a pervasive dread. Considering Kurosawa’s earliest work was purely genre based, here we see him breaking away from those strictures in a fairly dramatic fashion.

Everyone wants to fuck the knife boy. Gangster Wang (Tomorowo Taguchi, star of Tetsuo I and II) is mad that gangster Ishi fucked the knife boy in exchange for a new knife, so he destroys Ishi’s gang. Kippei Shiina (Outrage) is the lead detective in this typical cops-vs-criminals story, tormented that his brother Shinsuke Izutsu is working for the other side of the law. But Miike is attracted to excess, so the violence is particularly brutal, the gang’s business (organ trading) especially sordid, and the craziest actor (in this case wide-eyed Wang) runs off with the movie. It all leads where it must: the brothers beating the shit out of each other in a decrepit room, the cop pumping how many bullets into Wang, then some narrator (the knife boy?) informing us that the cop will turn up dead a month later.

Feuding brothers and their clueless parents:

Wide-Eyed Wang:

Plays outwardly like a spy drama – armed cyborgs in sunglasses travel to exotic places trading data to rebels – but everyone here is terrible at spying, repeatedly saying all their motivations to each other. Even when alone, this guy speaks his thoughts out loud, to the delight of the bosses who’ve bugged his nervous system Innerspace-style. But delight is the wrong word – everyone is using their direct-to-video serious-voice, with the only fun coming from the cool prosthetic effects. Brion James shows up, since this is a wannabe Blade Runner, and you think finally some class in this joint, then he plays his whole part in a German accent.

After a fun gun-shootin’ waterslide Alex is saved by a little creeper who then knocks him out (Merle Kennedy of Night of the Demons 2, she later gets to bazooka Brion). I paid attention to the wrong side characters, was looking up some guy (Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat) who only lived about one minute, and missed Jackie Earle Haley and Thomas Jane. The lead baddie is Jack Deth of Trancers, a cyborg who replaced the police commissioner I think. Nude Girl Cyborg Julian was Deborah Shelton, who got drill-killed in Body Double. I idly wondered if Pyun cast a French-accented kickboxer as the lead (“Alex”) to rip off JCVD’s Cyborg… but Pyun made Cyborg too. The movie does have three guys at once jumping out windows whilst firing machine guns, so, no complaints.

I realized that Tsui Hark wrote/produced this Dragon Inn remake between Once Upon a Time in China movies, and I proceeded to watch it with the wrong soundtrack selected, wondering why everyone was so badly dubbed, damn it. Beautiful action film, with more people twirling through the air holding swords than I’ve ever seen in a movie before.

Tall Tony 2 is protecting the children of his late superior from the power-mad evil eunuch’s forces. He meets up with fellow fighter/girlfriend Brigitte Lin at the desert inn run by Maggie Cheung, a mercenary whose chef serves previous guests for dinner. They spend half the movie looking for the secret exit door and when they finally escape through it after defending a massive attack on the inn, they only get a three second head start over president eunuch Donnie Yen due to a scarf mishap – they might as well have walked out the damn door. Maggie and her chef choose the righteous side and help the others defeat Donnie during a sandstorm. I saw Iron Vest in there somewhere, guess he did not survive.

Mouseover to see what happens when you hold your battle pose for too long:
image