Kaneto Shindô – Gogo no Yuigon-jo AKA A Last Note (1995)

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Quote:
Veteran Japanese filmmaker Kaneto Shindo was 82 when he directed this meditation on life, death, and loss. Following the passing of her husband, elderly former actress Yoko Morimoto (Haruko Sugimura) travels to her summer home in the mountains of Central Japan. Upon her arrival, her servant Tokoyo (Nobuko Otowa) has sad news for her — her long-time gardener has recently committed suicide. Adding to Yoko’s sorrow is the arrival of Tomie, an old friend from her days in the theater, who is traveling with her husband Tohachiro Urshikuni (Hideo Kanze), also an actor. Tomie has grown senile, and Tohachiro no longer has the money to support them; he informs Yoko that they’ve chosen to kill themselves rather than entering an old age home that they can’t afford anyway, and they are taking this final trip to say goodbye to their friends. As Yoko deals with this troubling news, Tokoyo has a confession to make — she had an affair with Yoko’s late husband, who was the biological father of Tokoyo’s daughter. A Last Note received the Critics Award at the 1995 Moscow International Film Festival. Continue reading

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Jun’ya Satô – Golgo 13 (1973)

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Review @ sketchesofcinema
Takao Saito’s Golgo 13 comics aren’t very easy to adapt into live action features due to their international nature, but Toei went all the way with this first attempt. Junya Sato shot the film on location in Iran with mostly foreign cast. The lead role is played by the heavenly cool Ken Takakura, whose combination of charisma, black sunglasses and M16 assault rifle makes him one of the coolest asssassins in film history. Both execution and storywise the film could be better – and it would’ve been a good to opt for local languages istead of having the entire Iran speak Japanese – but with its rare international setting, superb leading man and some exciting action Golgo 13 easily ranks more interesting than Toei’s average action thrillers of the era. Due to the high expenses the studio didn’t allow Golgo 13 to return to the big screen until in 1977 in a slightly inferior Shinichi Chiba film Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment. Continue reading

Yoshihiro Nakamura – Shirayuki hime satsujin jiken AKA The Snow White Murder Case (2014)

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Plot:
Yuji Akahoshi (Gou Ayano) for a television show. He receives a phone call from an old high school friend, Risako Kano (Misako Renbutsu). She tells him that her co-worker at a cosmetics compay was stabbed to death and then doused in flames. Yuji Akahoshi decides to interview workers at the company and others that knew the victim, Noriko Miki (Nanao), for his television show.

Yuji Akahoshi soon discovers that another co-worker, Miki Shirono (Mao Inoue) disappeared the same night of the murder. She was last seen running to the train station shortly after Noriko Miki’s death. Yuji attempts to unravel the mystery of Miki Shirono. Continue reading

Koji Wakamatsu – Tenshi no kôkotsu AKA Ecstacy of the Angels (1972)

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A group of militant extremists whom we know only by their code names – the days of the week – realize that they’ve been betrayed by their own organization when a nocturnal weapons raid on a U.S. Army base goes awry. The delicate internal balance of trust and friendship splinters apart. Their already fragile, idealistic young psyches quickly disintegrate into a morass of sexual paranoia, violent recrimination and sadistic torture that completely destroys their ability to function as an organization Continue reading

Hayao Miyazaki – Tonari no Totoro AKA My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

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Quote:
No number of superlatives that I could laud upon Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro could convey the amount of joy that it brings me, but I’ll throw out a few anyway. It’s Miyazaki’s finest work! It’s the best film of 1988! It’s the best animated feature ever made (even better than two other great animated films of ’88: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Akira!)! I’ve seen it countless times, but it never loses a bit of its enchanting luster. It invigorates me with the same sense of gleeful pleasure that most people talk about when they describe movies like E.T. and The Wizard of Oz, but I’d gladly take it over either of those two classics. There’s something special and elusive about the wonderland Miyazaki creates, and I think he gets closer to a child’s mindset here than either of those two films do. The main reason for this is probably because Miyazaki doesn’t saddle his movie down with an adult’s unnecessary desire for plot and meaningful action. Don’t get me wrong here: it’s not as if this movie has no plot, but it doesn’t play out in the schematic way that most coming of age films do. There are no big revelations, no momentous life lessons learned, and best of all no superfluous morality. The movie takes place in an overwhelmingly decent world, but it never harps upon that decency, so it feels intrinsic instead of tacked on. Continue reading

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