Akira Kurosawa – Ikiru [+Extras] (1952)


REVIEW:Shan Jayaweera, Senses of Cinema

Along with the various uses of time and perspective in the narrative, Ikiru displays all the other hallmarks that make Kurosawa such an important and influential filmmaker. The framing, shot composition and editing techniques all beautifully work together to bring out the story the most dazzling of these being the sequence reminiscing about his son. The dissolves and the matching of shots past to present are used to such effect that the audience is left feeling his pain not of imminent death but wasted life. Special mention must also go to Takashi Shimura’s beautiful performance as Mr Watanabe. Shimura and Kurosawa worked many times together, most famously in Seven Samurai where Shimura played the head samurai. As Mr Watanabe, Shimura’s mannerisms and reactions take the audience into the inner most depths and thoughts of the character. His performance lingers through the second half even though we barely see him. Read More »

Hee-chan Ra – Bareuge salja AKA Going By The Book (2007)



A string of bank robberies puts the public in a panic and they demand action from the newly appointed police chief to crack down on the perpetrators. In order to appease the residents of the city and carry out his own ambitions, The police chief appoints naive traffic cop Jung Do-man to infiltrate the world of the robbers. Read More »

Shinya Tsukamoto – Bullet Ballet (1998)



Carrying a gun

If there were awards for great titles then Bullet Ballet would surely be up for a gong or two. At once suggesting both violence and elegance, it sounds like the perfect Hong Kong era John Woo film, an all-action but balletic explosion of slow-motion gunplay that became the director’s trademark. But this isn’t John Woo, this is Shinya Tsukamoto, a director whose deeply personal style is a million miles from Woo’s slickly filmed action works. Tsukamoto’s concerns are far more localised, to the city in which he lives, to his neighbourhood, to his own body, and his cinematic style is far edgier and more dangerous. Which is not to knock Woo in any way, but nowadays when Woo is making the vacuous Paycheck, Tsukamoto is making the extraordinary A Snake of June. He is one of those rare directors who has never sold out and never compromised his vision. Tsukamoto is the very personification of a great outsider film-maker. Read More »

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


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. Read More »

Satyajit Ray – Charulata aka The Lonely Wife (1964)


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… Read More »

Aditya Assarat – Wonderful Town (2007)


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 Read More »

Naomi Kawase – Sharasojyu aka Shara (2003)


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. Read More »