Sang-soo Hong – Ok-hui-ui yeonghwa AKA Oki’s Movie (2010)

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Synopsis
“NYFF” wrote:
NYFF perennial Hong Sang-soo’s latest may be his wittiest—and his most deeply felt—work to date. Toggling between the present and the past, reality and fiction, and divided into four chapters (and different points of view), Oki’s Movie recounts the amorous and artistic adventures of talented young director Jin-gu (Lee Sun-kyun), his middle-aged cinema instructor, Professor Song (Moon Sung-keun), and Oki (Jung Yumi), the woman who loves them both.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” wryly plays throughout, the protagonists nobly fumble their way through romance and work, culminating in Jin-gu’s disastrous post-screening Q&A. Hong’s eleventh feature is a comedy with tremendous emotional heft, concluding with a heartbreaking précis on the vagaries of the heart and the terrors of aging. Continue reading

Masahiro Shinoda – Himiko (1974) (HD)

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An imagined life of the prehistoric Japanese Queen Himiko, based loosely on a few mentions in Chinese chronicles. Himiko is presented as the head priestess of the Sun Goddess cult and a spirit medium. This cult later was used by the Japanese Imperial family as their claim to rule. Himiko is made queen when the king is killed, but lets the men around her rule. She is then deposed and killed because she lusts after her half-brother, who is more interested in Adahime, who supports the Earth Goddess. Continue reading

Tomu Uchida – Kiga kaikyo aka The Straight of Hunger (1965)

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A very complete article about Tomu Uchida :
Here some words coming from it and about this particular film :
“Straits of Hunger is a definite attempt on his part to essay the modernist style and subject matter then being mined by such as Imamura (whose work in my opinion it surpasses). By this time Uchida worked invariably in colour; for this film only, the grainy look of ’60s black and white ‘Scope was aped and intensified by the decision to shoot on 16mm before blowing up to 35. The film is the story of a criminal, Inukai, who escapes justice after a theft which caused the destruction of a Hokkaido town. A brief encounter with a prostitute leads her to become romantically obsessed with him; years later, seeing his photograph in the newspaper, she goes to look for him, only to be killed by him when she threatens to betray his now hidden past. The narrative construction is masterly. The film is divided into three segments, each of different timbre: the first, an action-packed account of Inukai’s flight; the second, a bleak and realistic study of the life in Tokyo of the lovelorn prostitute; the third, an account of the psychological duel between cop and criminal. The drama moves, with geographical symmetry, from the strait dividing Hokkaido from Japan’s main island of Honshu, through northern Honshu to Tokyo, then northward again to conclude at the strait. The symmetry gives the film a sense of inevitability, as the past exerts a controlling influence on the present. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Dodesukaden [+Extras] (1970)

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By turns tragic and transcendent, Akira Kurosawa’s film follows the daily lives of a group of people barely scraping by in a slum on the outskirts of Tokyo. Yet as desperate as their circumstances are, each of them—the homeless father and son envisioning their dream house; the young woman abused by her uncle; the boy who imagines himself a trolley conductor—finds reasons to carry on. The unforgettable Dodes’ka-den was made at a tumultuous moment in Kurosawa’s life. And all of his hopes, fears, and artistic passion are on fervent display in this, his gloriously shot first color film. Continue reading

Ishirô Honda – Gojira AKA Godzilla (1954)

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One of the longest-running series in film history began with Ishiro Honda’s grim, black-and-white allegory for the devastation wrought on Japan by the atomic bomb. As his visual metaphor, Honda uses a 400-foot tall mutant dinosaur called Gojira, awakened from the depths of the sea as a rampaging nuclear nightmare, complete with glowing dorsal fins and fiery, radioactive breath. Crushing ships, villages, and buildings in his wake, Gojira marches toward Tokyo, bringing all of the country’s worst nightmares back until an evil more terrible bomb — capable of sucking all the oxygen from the sea — returns the monster to its watery grave. The original film is chilling, despite some rather unconvincing man-in-a-suit special effects, and brimming with explicitly-stated anti-American sentiment. All of that was removed for the U.S. release directed by Terry Morse. It was replaced with bad dubbing and tedious added footage starring Raymond Burr. The resulting edit was just another monster movie, but was still popular enough to assure future Toho Studios monster films a wide American release. Gojira No Gyakushu (1955) was next in the series. Continue reading

Nagisa Ôshima – Nihon shunka-kô AKA Sing A Song Of Sex (1967)

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In Oshima’s enigmatic tale, four sexually hungry high school students preparing for their university entrance exams meet up with an inebriated teacher singing bawdy drinking songs. This encounter sets them on a less than academic path. Oshima’s hypnotic, free-form depiction of generational political apathy features stunning color cinematography.

This gets our vote as the most overlooked of Oshima’s films, underrated perhaps because its English title makes it appear frivolous. It’s decidedly not. Despite flights of comedy, (unnerving) sexual fantasy, youthful yearning, karaoke and hootenannies, Sing a Song of Sex offers an intent, penetrating portrait of a generation confronting its new freedoms and its inability to act on them. Oshima obviously considered the film very important, one infers from the essays he wrote about it. Continue reading