Kazuo Hara – Gokushiteki erosu: Renka 1974 aka Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 (1974)

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An impressive documentary in which Kazuo Hara tackles an unusual and highly personal subject: his former girlfriend, Takeda Miyuki. In many ways this film feels like a home movie, with the eventual out of sync sound and the occasionally blurry cinematography. It is also, however, an impressive personal and subjective documentation of a relationship as well as an example of alternative lifestyles in 70’s Japan. During 3 years Kazuo Hara follows his ex-lover, a feminist, bisexual and independent woman. The most impressive parts come from the highly personal moments (and some could argue, for the voyeuristic pleasure of the spectator) such as when Miyuki is having a new relationship with a black American man and when she gives birth to his child, all alone in her bed. Even at a time today when the personal lives of many people are bared in all fronts, from internet to reality shows, this film still stands out. After all, there is a major difference to simply being shown someone else’s life for TV ratings and having it candidly discussed from a first person point of view. Continue reading

Satyajit Ray – Charulata aka The Lonely Wife (1964)

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Calcutta 1879. Bhupati Dutta (Sailen Mukherjee), a wealthy intellectual edits and publishes a political weekly in English called ‘The Sentinel.’ His sensitive and beautiful, young wife Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee) spends her time doing needlework and reading Bengali novels. Sensing her loneliness, Bhupati invites her older brother Umapada and his wife Mandakini to live with them. Umapada becomes the manager of the magazine but Mandakini, a rustic and unlettered woman is no companion for Charu. Bhupati’s cousin Amal (Soumitra Chaterjee) arrives to spend his vacation with Bhupati. At Bhupati’s suggestion, the literary minded Amal helps and encourages Charu with her writing. The two get more and more drawn to each other. Bhupati, busy with the magazine as usual, is unaware of this development… Continue reading

Teruo Ishii – Edogawa ranpo taizen: Kyofu kikei ningen AKA Horrors of Malformed Men (1969)

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PLOT SUMMARY
After escaping from an asylum, young medical student Hirosuke assumes the identity of a dead man in order to solve the mystery of a weird doppelganger whose picture he sees in the newspaper. Traveling to faraway Panorama Island, he discovers a mad scientist surgically remaking normal human beings into misshapen monsters…but that is only the beginning. Hirosuke soon learns the horrible truth about the island and his own family’s shameful past, and finds himself plunged into the depths of incest, murder, and madness. Continue reading

Aditya Assarat – Wonderful Town (2007)

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It takes place some time after the 2004 Tsunami in a now nearly deserted tourist town. An outsider (an engineer) comes to town and becomes involved with local life. The unfinished mourning process and grieving permeate the film’s atmosphere, diegetic pace is slow and lyrical. The town’s beachfront is being redeveloped, but the residents’ inner life seems stunted. Seemingly unable to contain mourning and guilt, the film steadily moves toward a notion of sacrifice and violence (see René Girard). The plot’s outcome is depicted with much moral restraint and emotional distance and the lack of closure left uncommented.

–stefflbw Continue reading

Naomi Kawase – Sharasojyu aka Shara (2003)

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A film about mourning and its eventual passing. Like in Antonioni’s L’avventura and in Fahrhadi’s About Elly, the unexplained, unresolved disappearance of a central character puts into motion the complex interplay between the public and personal dimension of mourning. Kawase herself plays the mother who, seven years after the disappearance of one of her twins, is heavily pregnant again. This coincides with upsetting news from the authorities. The family and neighbours and friends are plunged once more into the work of mourning. But by means of an extraordinary street festival, a family ceremony of acceptance in which the curse of the disappeared is at last transformed into a benign omen for the coming birth, and the birth of a new family member the trance-like state of collective dissociation is broken. Ultimately, it is not just the disappeared twin who can pass on to the next life in peace, but the entire family. The three core scenes, the festival, the ceremony, and the birth are overwhelmingly effective, in part due to Kawase’s (and her team’s) subtle control, in part due to the impossible admixture of calm and joyous exuberance. If the ending does suggest notions of rebirth, release from the curse of eternal return and memory, it is accomplished, like the entire film, in the absence of dogma. There is no lesson here other than that life ought to be gentle. Continue reading

Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Loong Boonmee raleuk chat AKA Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

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Confession: my only previous exposure to Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai director who’s one of the most lauded auteurs currently working, was a DVD copy of Tropical Malady, which frankly bored my pants off. Watching Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives on the big screen at the New York Film Festival’s Alice Tully Hall, it occurred to me almost immediately that waiting to see anything by Weerasethakul on DVD is a terrible idea. For Uncle Boonmee, the large theater screen works like a window onto a bigger world populated by larger-than-actual-size memories and myths. And the photography is not the kind of crisp, high-contrast work that translates well to home video (though Blu-ray might do OK by it) — shots taken within the Thai jungle, for instance, are unfailingly dense and moody, with different and ever-darker shades of green layered on top of each other like thick brush strokes in an oil painting. Sometimes it feels as if the whole film were shot at twilight, or using day-for-night shooting and processing trickery. Continue reading

Keigo Kimura – Fûten Rôjin nikki aka Diary of a Mad Old Man (1962)

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Diary of a Mad Old Man is the journal of Utsugi, a seventy-seven-year-old man of refined tastes who is recovering from a stroke. He discovers that, while his body is decaying, his libido still rages on — unwittingly sparked by the gentle, kindly attentions of his daughter-in-law Satsuko, a chic, flashy dancer with a shady past. Pitiful and ridiculous as he is, Utsugi is without a trace of self-pity, and his diary shines with self-effacing good humor. At once hilarious and of a sadness, Diary of a Mad Old Man is a brilliant depiction of the relationship between eros and the will to live — a film of the tragicomedy of human existence. Continue reading