Takashi Miike – Dead or Alive 2: Tôbôsha AKA Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Quote:
From the ashes of Dead or Alive’s apocalyptic ending comes Dead or Alive 2, both a continuation of the series and a stand-alone film on par with its predecessor. Serving up shockingly graphic violence, sincere character nuance, engaging humor and transcendent magical realism with equal mastery, Dead or Alive 2 offers definitive evidence of why the New York Post hailed director Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) as “one of the most exciting, versatile directors working today.” Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Ichiban utsukushiku AKA The Most Beautiful (1944)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

The Most Beautiful is a wartime propaganda film depicting the efforts of female factory workers in a precision-lens manufacturing plant. It is episodic and anecdotal and very documentary-like. Donald Richie records specific instances of documentary techniques borrowed principally from Russian filmmakers such as the austere and static composition of its scenes. This need not be entertained to any considerable degree: the point is, holistically, the overwhelming impression is one of a document. We see many shots of the lens-making equipment, and through these learn the process of lens manufacture itself. Nearly every scene is segmented with shots of a parade (a military band, a marching platoon of young soldiers, etc.) and the film itself was shot in a real factory, a length to which Kurosawa would rarely go in later work. Continue reading

Yasuzô Masumura – Daichi no komoriuta AKA Lullaby of the Earth (1976)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Quote:
The story of an orphan girl, brought up in naive, rustic innocence by an elderly relative, who is suddenly exposed to the brutality, greed and deceptiveness of the outside world when her grandmother dies. Notwithstanding her healthy distrust of all strangers, which her upbringing instilled in her, it is not long before a cunning racketeer finds her weak point, that temptation which she cannot resist, that weakness, different as it may be, that each of us has, and brings her into his power. What follows is a depiction of her cruel descent into the depths of moral decay, as she becomes a collaborator in a system of exploitation, unbridled lust, vanity, and greed, in which she and other victims are always the losers. Continue reading

Yasujirô Ozu – Higanbana AKA Equinox Flower (1958)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Quote:
The first color feature film from Yasujiro Ozu, Equinox Flower is a spare, evocative, and compassionate portrait of aging, transition, and change. The title of the film refers to a red amaryllis flower that blooms near the autumnal equinox, and red imagery pervade the film: the brick train station building, the carpeting of the wedding banquet, Yukiko’s obi, the tea kettle at the Hirayama home. Similar to Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata and Andre Techine’s Ma Saison Preferee, the season serves as a reflection of Hirayama’s generation, attempting to reconcile with the profound cultural and social changes of postwar Japan. The film opens to the image of the train station and cuts to a shot of the hallway of the wedding reception. It is a reminder of Hirayama’s own transitional passage – an elegy for the quickly vanishing traditions of an irretrievable past, and a celebration of renewed hope and promise. Continue reading

Noboru Tanaka – Edogawa Ranpo ryôki-kan: Yaneura no sanposha AKA Watcher in the Attic (1976)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Watcher in the Attic is a 1976 Japanese film in Nikkatsu’s Roman porno series, directed by Noboru Tanaka and starring Junko Miyashita.

In 1923 Tokyo Lady Minako is the owner of a shabby boarding house with a collection of bizarre characters for tenants. Gōda, one of her tenants, spends most of his time in the attic spying on the other tenants through holes he has drilled into the ceiling. During one of his peeping sessions, Gōda witnesses the murder of one of the tenants at the hand of Lady Minako. Gōda becomes obsessed with Lady Minako, and determines to commit a grotesque murder in order to prove to her that he is her soul mate. He kills another tenant – a priest – by dripping poison into his mouth through the ceiling. A series of grotesque murders follow. The film ends apocalyptically with the Great Kantō earthquake which kills both of them during their intercourse. Continue reading