I paused this halfway since Katy wanted to watch To the Ends of the Earth, which features a lead actor from Sono’s Tokyo Tribe – kinda thinking I should’ve rewatched Tribe instead of this. As Sono’s movies get wackier, I lose more interest… I hated Noriko’s Dinner Table, but it at least felt like he was aiming for something more than prefab cult movies for festival midnight sections and Alamo Drafthouses. Anyway, most of us are here for Nicolas Cage, and he’s good – the production design > acting > editing > writing. It’s written by an American cartoon voice actor and an actor from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Sono’s tendency to slow down and repeat everything does the weak script no favors.
Sofia in Ghostland:
The Cult of the Mushroom Cloud:
Escape from New York meets that Rutger Hauer movie Wedlock where the convicts wear exploding collars. This time there are multiple little bombs in his jumpsuit, so Cage can lose an arm or a testicle and survive to the next scene. He’s a bad dude (frequent slow-mo flashbacks to a bank robbery where his partner went all Michael Madsen on the customers), as is Governor Bill Moseley who hires him to retrieve escaped daughter Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde and Climax). The Ghostland isn’t such a bad place, compared to anywhere else in this movie, it’s just everyone there has mass delusions. The baddie with a nuclear-melted face turns out to be Cage’s psychotic criminal partner, and Cage turns his half-arm into a weapon – what horror movie fan could’ve seen either of those developments coming?? MVP the Ratman.
Psycho Nick Cassavetes beneath my favorite banner:
Ratman at left:
A journey through Japanese cinema and political history by the wacky House dude should’ve been very fun. I liked the stock characters (the romantic, the nerd, the tough guy, and the girl) and the Sherlock Jr. screen-hopping concept, but would describe most events, the onscreen text, compositing and editing all as “annoying.” Movie is a history lesson but it’s… no there’s no but, it’s just a lesson.
Some sharp comic-book images. Trips through silents and animation, the lo-fi greenscreen of late Ken Russell, poems between scenes. Lot of time spent in wars and discussing the atom bomb. After intermission, the Tough Guy spends some time failing to rescue a prostitute. He is Takahito Hosoyamada of All About Lily Chou-Chou… romantic lead Mario is Takuro Atsuki of another Obayashi, film history expert Shoue is Yoshihiko Hosoda of Detroit Metal City, all chasing young newcomer Noriko around. I lost track of characters, but superstar Tadanobu Asano was in there somewhere, and Riko Narumi (the unblind girl in Yakuza Apocalypse) and Hirona Yamazaki of As The Gods Will and Lesson of Evil. Fanta G (Yukihiro Takahashi of Norwegian Wood) is the guy in the spaceship, but I dunno about Kinema G (older guy inside the movies with the kids) since sites are using different character names than my subtitles did.
Omniscient space traveler Fanta G:
L-R: tough guy, nerd, romantic
Evan Morgan in Mubi:
And like Godard’s magnum opus [Histoire(s) du cinéma], Labyrinth of Cinema is haunted by the possibility that — if only things had been different, if only the movies had been more true — cinema might have altered the course of the 20th century, might have thwarted its greatest horrors. That it ultimately failed to do so is, for Godard, a source of deep sorrow — shame, even. And, like a spurned prophet, he retreated into monasticism, fled to his little tower on the shores of Lake Geneva from whence he issues the occasional gnomic utterance, if only to remind us that the world remains irreparably fallen. Obayashi, on the other hand, earnestly believes — as he himself tells us — that “a movie can change the future, if not the past.” Labyrinth of Cinema may be composed of bitter, inalterable histories, but it exists to shape an undetermined tomorrow.
Jiri Menzel had just died, but instead of one of his movies on a Monday night I chose his countryman. I’ve seen some career-bookend works by Zeman, his early Prokouk shorts and late feature The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but not the heyday works, and this was spectacular. Real people against illustrated backgrounds, the Sin City of its time. Every kind of animation and visual trick seamlessly integrated, the thin striped pattern from the book illustrations appearing everywhere, overall amazing visual design… and to think his Baron Munchausen is supposed to be even better and I’ve been meaning to rent it for twenty years.
Our Narrator is assisting a scientist when the two are kidnapped (along with a pretty lady, of course) by pirates and taken to an evil mastermind inside a volcano who gets the scientist to help him unlock the secrets of the atom and conquer the world. The narrator is alarmed by all this but the scientist is happily distracted with a new lab and new problems to solve, until the very end, when he realizes what he’s doing and nukes the volcano. In the meantime we get submarines, a fighting octopus, parrots and fishes, of course a balloon or two, and a fantasy tour through all the inventions of the era, real and imagined (camels on rollerskates!), an alternate vision of what Tesla could’ve been.
Nuclear war was in the air this month, so I double-featured two hour-long films.
Atomic (2015, Mark Cousins)
A bunch of period footage cut with no sense of rhythm… not sure what this adds to the conversation. It’s not fair that Cousins gets to use and manipulate the music of Mogwai, instead of vice versa. It’s diverting, at least.
The Bomb (2016, Kevin Ford & Smriti Keshari)
Started out so promising… scientific documents expertly composited over footage that was mostly unique from the other movie. Then it devolves into mumford-scored bomb montages with a long segment from that old standby Duck & Cover, ending up on the surface of the sun, just like the other movie. If we could’ve taken the first half of this movie and scored it with Mogwai, then we’d really have something.
This is a completely looney Japanese horror oddball movie released in the Eclipse Shochiku set. It’s cheap, weird and highly entertaining, also atomic-bomb-obsessed and weirdly Vietnam War-referencing, with stock footage edited in at key moments.
The most doomed flight of all time encounters a UFO, receives a bomb threat and hosts a gun-toting hijacker at the same time. Large-faced hijacker Hirofumi has little effect as the plane flies through red skies filled with crazed engine-clogging birds then crashes, killing the pilot and leaving first officer Sugisaka in charge. On the ground, the hijacker runs off and gets possessed by aliens in his forehead (recalling Jeffrey Combs in From Beyond), while the bomb-threat fella hides his bomb and claims he was only kidding.
Potential bomber allowed to roam free:
The gov’t rep gets homicidal:
So the survivors are hiding in the plane from alien vampires who appear to kiss people to death (Yuko Kusunoki of Dodeskaden and Kurahara’s Thirst for Love is next to be captured/possessed) except for psychiatrist Kazuo Kato (Kurosawa’s Ran) who wants to go outside and study the aliens, while government representative Mano (Eizo Kitamura of the Yakuza Papers parts 2 and 3, and Modern Porno Tale: Inherited Sex Mania) proves to be a bigger asshole than the aliens or hijacker, getting people killed in order to save his own skin. Bomber dies blowing a hole in the side of the plane, and American Mrs. Neal (Kathy Horan of Genocide and The Green Slime) comes after the vampire with a rifle and loses. When our hero Sugisaka (with his woman on his arm) finally lights the hijacker on fire, the alien oozes out of his forehead and possesses Rep. Moto’s underling then kisses Moto to death.
Sugisaka and the girl leave the crash site and find out they were about a mile from civilization, but everyone in the city has been killed by aliens – much more efficient aliens than the one attacking the downed plane, I guess. Burned bodies and atomic blasts are invoked in the apocalytic finale.
Sugisaka was Teruo Yoshida, in Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon a few years earlier, must’ve starred in too many horror movies in 1968-69 (including this, Horrors of Malformed Men, Inferno of Torture and The Joy of Torture) because he disappeared from the screen in 1970, and his loyal stewardess was Tomomi Sato of the 1979 Jigoku remake and Blackmail Is My Business.