Four seasons in the life of an orphaned family: such is the topic of Nobody Knows, the new film by Kore-eda Hirokazu, who was already noticed in Cannes in 2001 with Distance, which was presented in the section “Certain Regard”. The interior universe of four children left to themselves after their mother abandons them. A film about the difficulties of childhood, drawn from a news story.Review
Four seasons in the life of an orphaned family: such is the topic of Nobody Knows, the new film by Kore-eda Hirokazu, who was already noticed in Cannes in 2001 with Distance, which was presented in the section “Certain Regard”. The interior universe of four children left to themselves after their mother abandons them. A film about the difficulties of childhood, drawn from a news story.
A landmark in fantasy cinema, this lyrical ghost story is set in medieval Japan amid a bloody conflict between rival fiefdoms. While the warrior Kichi’s impoverished wife (Jitsuko Yoshimura) and mother (Nobuko Otowa) wait for his return from battle, they maintain a humble existence by luring lost soldiers into the surrounding fields of tall grass and murdering them in order to sell their armor and weapons for food; the bodies are then disposed of in a deep cavern. After learning that her son has been killed in battle, Otowa begins to concoct a scheme to frighten her daughter-in-law into staying at home with her indefinitely. After killing a soldier clad in a hideous demon mask — which hides his grotesque, scarred face — the mother dons the mask and succeeds in frightening Yoshimura away from her new lover’s house. To her own horror, the mother quickly discovers that the mask is now securely stuck to her face, and her attempts to remove it culminate in the greatest horror of all. Fraught with sexual tension, nefarious schemes, and Freudian symbolism, this compelling masterpiece, by turns hypnotically beautiful and shockingly brutal, represents the finest in horror filmmaking, driven by powerful imagery and aided by sumptuous black-and-white photography.
(Cavett Binion on All Movie Guide)
Middle-aged Hideo lives alone with an inflatable doll he calls Nozomi. The doll is his closest companion. He dresses it up, talks to it over dinner, and has sexual intercourse with it. However, unbeknown to Hideo, Nozomi was created with a heart. After Hideo leaves for work each day, Nozomi dresses in her maid’s outfit and explores the world outside their apartment with a sense of child-like wonder. She encounters various city residents who metaphorically are as “empty inside” as she is. When Nozomi meets Junichi, who works at a local video store, she falls in love with him and gets a part-time job at the store. She learns about the world through the movies she watches with Junichi, but her happiness with him is interrupted by a dramatic turn of events. Director Koreeda has stated that the film is about the loneliness of urban life and the question of what it means to be human.
Review by Roger Ebert:
The people materialize from out of clear white light, as a belltolls. Where are they? An ordinary building is surrounded by greenery andan indistinct space. They are greeted by staff members who explain,courteously, that they have died, and are now at a way-station before thenext stage of their experience.
They will be here a week. Their assignment is to choose one memory,one only, from their lifetimes: One memory they want to save for eternity.
Then a film will be made to reenact that memory, and they will move along,taking only that memory with them, forgetting everything else. They willspend eternity within their happiest memory.
That is the premise of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “After Life,” a filmthat reaches out gently to the audience and challenges us: What is thesingle moment in our own lives we treasure the most? One of the newarrivals says that he has only bad memories. The staff members urge him tothink more deeply. Surely spending eternity within a bad memory wouldbe–well, literally, hell. And spending forever within our best memorywould be, I suppose, as close as we should dare to come to heaven.
In the shady black markets and bombed-out hovels of post–World War II Tokyo, a tough band of prostitutes eke out a dog-eat-dog existence, maintaining tenuous friendships and a semblance of order in a world of chaos. But when a renegade ex-soldier stumbles into their midst, lusts and loyalties clash, with tragic results. With Gate of Flesh (Nikutai no mon), visionary director Seijun Suzuki delivers a whirlwind of social critique and pulp drama, shot through with brilliant colors and raw emotions. Continue reading
Two young people, Hidenori and Sunako, are on the run from the law following Hidenori’s killing of his mother. The two manage to hitch a ride in a passing ice-cream van, but Sunako is assaulted by its driver while bathing in a stream in a forest. They escape through the trees, eventually ending up in a secluded wooden cottage where they hide out, eking out a feral existence by raiding neighbouring gardens. With Hidenori still in a state of shock, Sunako eventually breaks the communication barrier using her body, seducing him in a bathtub full of floating ripe tomatoes. It is a turning point in their relationship, and Hidenori then becomes the sexually dominant partner in this strange relationship. One day, Hidenori plunges a knife into his stomach, forcing the pair to leave their makeshift haven and seek help in the big city. Continue reading
How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equally absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years. Continue reading