Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nemuri Kyoshiro 2 (1993)

The second part of the late Eighties/early Nineties TV incarnation of Sleepy Eyes Of Death. Identical dialogue, but no charismatic lead to speak it, direction that does not try to do anything with what little budget is there and a total joylessness and lack of madness in everything are keeping the film many levels below the Sixties version.
Could be a good cure for insomnia, though.

Rise: Blood Hunter

Sometimes films can still surprise me in a pleasant way. Rise is a revenge flick with vampires and does most things very right and equally well: The pacing is great, most set pieces are well thought out and there's no bad actor to be found. The film even delivers friendly doses of sleaze and the blackest of humor.
The story itself (Lucy Liu is raped and killed by vampires, rises from the dead and hunts down her killers) is obviously not very original, but director Sebastian Gutierrez (who also directed the overlooked She Creature) injects enough twists into the body of the genre (sorry) to keep me satisfied (see also: verve & style).
I was also surprised and happy to see that Gutierrez does his best to show us Liu as not much less monstrous than her killers. The scene in which she picks up some poor hitchhiking sod and feeds on him is especially effective, making clear that our heroine is neither innocent nor nice nor honest to herself.

Darling of the Day:
"We could do this the easy way...But where would be the fun in that."

Friday, September 28, 2007

28 Weeks Later

Have you by chance seen any post-apocalyptic zombie films? Then there's really no reason to waste your time on this.

Oh, and would it really be such a bother to mix the ingredients of the genre at least a little bit differently?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sunshine (2007)

Another part of the series "House of Unmet Expectations", only this time it's a very pleasant surprise. I was expecting a sluggish movie with a nonsensical last third, but what I got was the best science fiction film in years.
The movie stands in the glorious (but nearly completely unmined on film) tradition of explorative hard SF, like the better moments of Arthur C. Clarke, although with a much less concrete idea of transcendence. Still, there is a real sense of wonder and awe about nature/the universe. The main theme of the film is the relation of individuals to this awe - an interpretation that makes the last third of the movie much less senseless and market-driven as some would have you think. And thinking actually is what is expected of you as viewer. The tendency to spell out what you have to feel and think in every given second of a movie that can make many films with a message terribly grating is completely missing. You'll be getting as much or as little out of Sunshine as you are willing to put into.
Also, this is a very beautiful to look at, tight thriller, even including some obvious (and very uncomfortable) riffs on Tom Godwin's classic but despicable story The Cold Equations.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Living Coffin

I very much wanted to like this film, but except for very few atmospheric shots near the beginning, there's not much to like here.
It's a cross between the kind of western in which the hero's horse is billed just slightly below the hero himself and Mexican gothic horror, made hardly watchable by an extremely unmysterious mystery plot and the never helpful tendency to explain everything supernatural away with stupid "natural explanations". Things like that drain the fun out of everything.
And as if this wasn't bad enough, the movie we have to endure a hero so clean-cut that a typical Gene Autry character would be a decadent monstrosity next to him and the kind of OCR (Odious Comic Relief, for the uninitiated) that just isn't excusable. Further features are sloooooow paaaaaaciiiiing and some sub-standard action scenes (even for 1958). So it isn't much as a serious movie and most of the time just not trashy enough to be funny.
Big exception and personal favorite is when our hero waddles into a swamp and is rescued by a well thrown rope. Thrown by his horse, that is.
Fortunately there are better movies about the Weeping/Crying Woman to see. 

Darling of the Day (so early in the film that you are still looking forward to nice gothic horror):
"The unburied wander through the dark forests and the only way to get them away from the house where they died is piercing a clock with a knife on the hour of their dead."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Bloodthirsty Roses/Evil of Dracula

I don't know much about Japanese horror pre-Ringu, but what I know, I like. And what's not to like in a dream-like, very European feeling (Italian contemporary gothic) vampire movie, with some neat little twists to the standard lore and as much mood as possible? The main difference between this and comparable Italian movies is the faster pace, which makes for a nice change. The film's aesthetic reminds me of Mario Bava in its emphasis on color and its (quite hypnotic) sense of lightning. So, I haven't the slightest clue where it stands in the evolution of Japanese horror, but it's great.

Darling of the Day:
"It's like a dream. Nobody would believe you."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gojira (1954) (Japanese Cut)

There's not much that hasn't been said or written about this film, so I'm keeping it even shorter than usual. What hits me when watching Gojira (and make no mistake, the film packs quite a punch) is the sense of sadness and bitterness that permeates most of it. A sadness that does not have its roots in the lost war, but in the trauma of the bomb and the mirror the war held up in the face of the Japanese (and the German) people, showing something monstrous that most people in both countries tried to forget as fast as possible. But films like this want us to remember.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


So this is supposed to be the New Hope Of American Horror?
Well, at least it isn't torture porn or a hopeless try to reach the glory of the Seventies or a dumbed down remake of a superior film (American or Japanese).
But what it is is only a jokey cross of slasher clichés and Eighties gore, without any sense of timing, tension or mood or the slightest bit of originality. Borderline racism, by the book plotting (you know exactly who is going to die at which point of the movie, if you have seen more than one other slasher), and shoddy, unimaginative monster make-up don't help to make this watchable. There is not a single idea to be found, not to speak of new ideas.
I don't get what the part of horror fandom that sings its praises sees here. The slow-mo blood spurting? My, how impressive.

Yakuza Zombie

The beautiful, beautiful title promises lots of stupid fun, the actual film delivers even more: A loving, slightly parodic homage to Kinji Fukasaku's jitsuroku movies, including riffs on trademark scenes and themes, and a justly byzantine plot. While the humor is actually funny.
Oh, and there's a zombie, who stands in for the misused and betrayed yakuza and comes back from the grave only to get misused and betrayed again, but, being a zombie and quite hard to kill, this time at least gets his vengeance.
The whole beautiful, surprisingly ungory (he's not a flesh eater, you see) mess is carried by the palpable enthusiasm of all participants. The film projects so much fun that the flimsy production values don't matter at all.
How much a novice to yakuza movies will get out of this is anybody's guess, though.

Darlings of the day:
"Yokohama has lost, the Giants are doing well and we can't have a funeral. We're the laughing stock."

"Hon, do you know what they call me?"
"A bad luck fuck. Every man who sleeps with me gets killed. You're so brave."
"I like it."


I helped a woman get her soul back from an American tourist who photographed it away. To do this I persuaded the guy to let me take a photo of him with his own camera and directed him right into a security zone and the loving arms of airport security.
Adventure games are still the most pleasing way to be a sociopath.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Witch from Nepal

A collaboration between director Ching Siu Tung (A Chinese Ghost Story) and young Chow Yun-Fat has to brilliant, doesn't it? Well not exactly. "Watchable" is the term that really comes to mind.
Chow plays the fantastically named Joe, who inherits the mystical powers of a murdered Nepalese demi-god/king, as well as his pupil, Sheila-the-not-very-Nepalese-sounding-or-looking and his archenemy Meowing, Shaggy Haired Nameless Guy.
Of course Joe has a girlfriend. Of course Joe beds his new pupil anyway. Of course, Sheila sacrifices herself, so that the cheating bastard can stay with his girlfriend. Of course girlfriend wants him back. And of course Joe fights Kitty Evil Guy to avenge his killed pupil/lover/human shield.
Fortunately, the movie has some very special guest stars: A bunch of Italian Zombies, brightening the mood for about ten minutes. And the showdown is not bad at all.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Body Jumper

If the goal in unleashing this thing on unsuspecting friends of crap movies like me was to rehabilitate American teen horror comedies as "terrible, but not as soul crushing as Body Jumper" I can only congratulate on a job well done.
It's somewhat surprising to find a film that features even more annoying teenagers, even more tasteless and unfunny jokes and even more disinterested direction than its American counterparts, but here it is, and I have lived through it. Barely.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gamera 2 - Attack of (the) Legion

How Shusuke Kaneko went from making the greatest kaiju movies since the invention of latex to the abyss of boredom that are the Death Note films is one of the more disturbing mysteries of my movie watching experience.
Gamera 2 is just wonderful and surprisingly exciting: Evil Plant/Insect Monsters from Outer Space attack. The flying turtle and the Japanese Defense Forces fight them. Who will survive?
And survival actually is uncertain in Kaneko's kaiju. Unlike in older kaiju (let's ignore the Daimajin series as an historical aberration) there is a visible and obvious body count that plays an important part in Kaneko's strategy of taking the story and its social dimensions as realistic and straight as possible. He even goes as far as making the pseudo-scientific babble much more real world scientific than usual. This kaiju is a real Science Fiction film.
And, as always, there are moments that remind me of other movies, especially the great giant ant attack of the Fifties, Them.
The philosophical streak and obsession with real world detail in the script even brings to mind Nigel Kneale, if he had ever made a kaiju.
But no kaiju can be good without strong monster battles. Not surprisingly, Kaneko knows exactly how to film them. Seldom do giant monsters feel as big as here and seldom are their fights so visceral and bloody.

If there is any appearance of respectability to destroy left for me, now is the time to do it: I can see quite an obvious way for a religious interpretation of the movie where Gamera is Jesus (both dying and being resurrected) and Legion (yes, the film uses that bible passage to name it) the devil, slugging it out until the devil is destroyed by the bright light of god filtered through Gamera. Fortunately for atheists like me, one does not have to read Gamera 2 that way.

Darlings of the Day:
"The pod is in flower."
"A flower? What color?"
"I didn't ask. We're going to blow it up."

"We were beaten the moment it flowered."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

R'lyeh rising

Found here:

Silver (1999)

I'm always sad when I have to join the choir of people calling a film boring, but boring is what this movie is.
Although it does start so promising: Silver is the story of a woman whose parents are killed by a group of yakuza (including Leatherface's Japanese twin). To seek vengeance, she learns karate and trains as an FBI agent to become ready to go undercover as a pro-wrestler and search for the killers.
The killers we never hear a single word about again. Instead, she hunts down and kills a yakuza boss/dominatrix. Then follow twenty minutes of something supposedly meant as character development and...It just drags on.
What's really disappointing is that the script contains enough of the elements that director Takashi Miike normally loves to film, starting with not always healthy sexual practices and ending with a wee bit of ultraviolence, it's just that he doesn't seem to care at all. Neither does this viewer.

Darlings of the Day
"...since you'll now have the chance to use the skills you learned both in the FBI and as a Women's World Champion Karate master."

"Let's see how bad I can rip your rectum."


Mateys, t'day be International Talk Like A Pirate Day!
If ye don't ken pirates, landlubbers, look:

An' play:


Edit: Oi, and walk th' plank here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jens Lekman, Night Falls over Kortedala

The first music thingie I write here, and it's about a #1 record. A Swedish #1 to be clear, but still - how mainstream can I get?
In a better world, Lekman would be The King of Pop worldwide, his straight faced and straight laced sounding voice standing in stark contrast to the soul-infused sweetness (infectiousness?) of the music.
Sweet as it sounds most of time, there is another contrast to hear that keeps Lekman's music far above the usual clever retro pop: The contrast between the instruments that (at least sound) played "live" and the sampled parts is more classic Hip Hop than Whitebread Pop. And, thinking about it, the samples' musical sources seem to be more often than not black music, while Lekman sounds as "white" as possible.

Reminds me a little of Jimi Tenor's experiments in Scandinavian modern Soul.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Say Yes

Oh, it's one of 'em murderous hitchhikers again, only this time, he's from South Korea.
Well, usually very reliable Patrick Galloway more or less raves about the qualities of Say Yes in his book Asia Shock, but I don't see very much to rave about here. Sure, it's well acted, slick like every single South Korean film I've seen, nicely paced, brutal etc, but it doesn't get to me at all. Most of the time I felt myself watching in abstract appreciation mode. "Oh, that's supposed to be creepy". "This is a very disturbing face Hitchie makes there". "Ah, a sudden and brutal outburst of unpredictable violence". Immersion? Not so much.
The original Hitcher is still the Evil Hitchhiker Movie of choice.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Things I don't want to read in reviews again, ever

  • This is not for everyone.
    You don't say, sweetheart. Next thing you're going to tell me is people have different tastes.
  • The characters are deeply flawed. (usually said as if there was something wrong with it)
    Obviously, the reviewer's world is only filled with perfect people like himself.
  • The characters are unsympathetic.
    Of course we want to read only about characters we like. As long as they're not interesting.
  • The evil author uses big words and complicated sentences.
    Now the author wants me to read carefully, too!
  • Many things remain unexplained and stay ambiguous.
    It's getting even worse. The author doesn't take me by the hand! She expects me to think and have my own opinions!
  • I need three pages of exposition! I don't understand anything that is only implied!
    Just shut up Critic, will you!


Most excellent

Favorite web horror host Count Gore De Vol has something very special on his show this week: Wrestling Women vs The Aztec Mummy.
If you have never seen a Mexican wrestling movie before, this is a great start.
Click here, you know you want to.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bohachi: Clan of the Forgotten Eight

What a sad world this would be if Teruo Ishii hadn't been born. One of the craziest - if not the craziest - directors of Japanese exploitation movies, he always showed as much style and humor as madness.
Bohachi is a mixture of chambara and Ishii's patented ero guro style. Tetsuro Tamba plays the psychopathic assassin Shiro, who is hired by the Bohachi clan, a kind of prostitution monopolist. The clan's boss (proudly wearing the biggest, purplest circles under his eyes) instructs Shiro to kill the competition. Shiro does, and while we are watching his progress marks of picturesquely spurting blood and low-but-far-flying body parts, we also get to see breasts, torture, breasts, naked fighting, very black teeth, breasts, ropes, the most striking colors and breasts.
The mood of the picture is as bizarre as one could wish for; the grand finale, an opium-drenched orgy that transforms into an epic and completely over the top, color-drenched fight scene, is worth the price of admission alone.

Darlings of the Day:
"Driving spikes between the nails and flesh...How will she cry?"

"The sex with a woman with Syphilis can be fun."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Mission (1999)

One of Johnnie To's best films. Crams a surprising amount of character, humor, intelligence and action into just 84 minutes.
Plot: Five gangsters play bodyguards for a triad boss. One of them makes a fatal mistake. Will friendship or honor prevail?
My favorite scene is the very slow shoot-out in the middle of the picture, the exact opposite of the usual hyper-kinetic Hong Kong action, but oh so suspenseful. Precision beats speed. At least in this movie.

1. Go to
2. Put in Username: nycareers, Password: landmark.
3. Take their "Career Matchmaker" questions.
4. Post the top ten results.

1.Business Systems Analyst
2.Industrial-Organizational Psychologist  
3.Foreign Service Officer 
6.Political Aide  
7.Database Developer  
8.Web Developer 
9.Computer Programmer
10.Customer Service Representative

Actually, I wouldn't want to be buried in most of these.


How many video games lead one to watching art house movies? Well, Stalker - Shadow of Chernobyl does. I could gush about it, but that is what British journalist Jim Rossignol was born for. I'm limiting myself to the Russian movie that inspired parts of the game. I tried to watch it some years ago, but was incredibly bored. Today, after years of desensitization by every damn kind of movie, it seems hypnotic, interesting, a little slow and incredibly annoying to me.
Hypnotic and interesting is the film's sense for the uncanniness of industrial ruin(s), its mood of decay, sadness and a kind of awe.
What annoys me is its tendency to treat its characters as symbols instead of people and (getting stronger and more annoying as the film progresses) the by now classically Christian whining about "intellectuals" who "think they understand everything", "have no belief" and so on and eulogistic talk about the intrinsic worthiness of sorrow and unhappiness.
As someone who has been quite unhappy for not insignificant parts of his life my reaction to this is: Fuck you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Karanlik Sular

Well, a Turkish supernatural Dario Argento meets Jess Franco meets strange religious overtones in an art house jamboree. In other words: Very interesting to look at, but leaves me completely bewildered.

Sleepy Eyes of Death 12: Castle Menagerie

Sadly, the last part of the series. At first I was a little disappointed with this outing, as it seemed like a relatively conventional tale of Nemuri stoically trying to ignore a palace intrigue, which is very nice, but not the apocalyptic closing point I was hoping for. Until, a little over half its running time over, the film suddenly goes mad, never recovering its obviously fake posture of sanity again. So this turned out to be an appropriate ending.

"Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the men I have killed. Please tell me when and where I killed him."

"I want to bind your arms and legs and play with you until I kill you." (Somebody loves you, Nemuri Kyoshiro)

"I can cut your womb in a second."

Sleepy Eyes of Death 11: The Human Tarantula

The last time the world ended in snow, this time it's fire. Apart from their happy abandonment of realism, Nemuri Kiyoshi's adventures ten and eleven haven't that much too do with each other.
This part revels in erotically charged violence and psycho-sexual perversion like Poe and Freud meeting for a bottle of sake.
Favorite set piece: Nemuri and evil shogun's daughter consummate their very special love in a house full of freshly slaughtered corpses right in front of a crucified woman.  

Darlings of the Day:
"A 19 year old boy isn't as much fun to torture and kill as a man like me."

"I'm too used to this kind of woman's body. Don't you have anything for me?"

"'For my nation and people.' It makes my hair stand on end."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sleepy Eyes of Death 10 - Hell is a Woman

Not the slightest clue what the title's supposed to mean.
It is the beginning of winter, especially in the hearts of the characters in this film. Most of the time it plays like a dark and very old legend, with protagonists who seem to know or at least suspect in what kind of legend they are acting and which roles they have to play, giving the story a feeling of unreality, as if everyone was caught in a half life. However, there are outbursts of strangeness and kinetic violence, when the literal fog lifts only to reveal things we don't really want to see. Ichikawa's Nemuri Kiyoshi walks through the movie more like a force of misfortune and grim justice than a human, in the end dissolving into the snow.

More Darlings of the Day:
"I can hold you if you want. Or I can fall asleep."

"It sounds beautiful. But death is never beautiful. It's rather painful. You have to struggle with pain until death comes."

"I've never killed anyone who wanted to be killed."

Sleepy Eyes of Death 8 - The Sword That Saved Edo & Sleepy Eyes of Death 9 - Trail of Traps

Sleepy Eyes 8
s private film theory fragment 763: The chambara genre can be divided into to sub-genres, the serious chambara and the damn outrageous chambara.
This one is (unusual for the Adventures of Nemuri Kyoshiro) a serious chambara by Kenji Misumi. It is a nice mystery story with our hero playing the role of the detective, fighting a conspiracy that could destroy Edo. We learn that technology can be destructive and that high ideals often lead to terrible deeds.

Sleepy Eyes 9
Speaking of damn outrageous chambaras... Here we have a perfectly great and perfectly mad example of the sub-genre. Nemuri Kyoshiro (Ichikawa) travels to Kyoto, protecting a woman in possession of a golden statuette of the Madonna against a satanist cult, meeting a freak show of bizarre people (sharpshooting killer nuns!), leaving no weird sentence unuttered and no person alive. Kazuo Ikehiro directs as if there was nothing strange going on at all, automatically winning my undying admiration.

Darlings of the Day:
"However, you should know that I am not a moral person. You can trust me on this because I, myself, am telling you."

"I see women as sexual objects."
"Oh my."

"I like to sleep with women. But not enough to kill somebody."

"Being treated with poison tea is not my favorite thing."

"The last person in the world he saw was me. What an unlucky man he was!"

"Welcoming me with guns instead of crystal rosaries. How very bizarre!"

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Under the Flag of the Rising Sun

Turns out Kinji Fukasaku made one of the few really harrowing anti-war films. It uses a similar technique to Kurosawa's Rashomon, but instead of crying out "Oh, the Humanity", this is actually interested in people and pain and hurt and guilt as important in themselves, not just as points in a philosophical discourse.
I can't say much more about the movie right now, I just watched it and it hit me a little too close for comfort. 

Sleepy Eyes of Death 4 - Sword of Seduction

In which our intrepid hero learns that he is the product of rape by a fallen Christian missionary during a Black Mass. Also, lots of women want to sleep with him. Also also, the same lots of women want to kill him.
Extremely pulpy and lurid.

Darlings of the Day:
"I've never felt a premonition of good news, but I can always sense bad omens."

"If you're warning me that I'm going to hell you're a little late. I'm already there."

"That's right. I'm an unworthy being. That's why I can kill you ruthlessly."

Samaritan Zatoichi

People say this is one of the lesser Zatoichi movies, there's nothing new to, we have seen every scene in one of the eighteen movies before. I tell you these people don't have a clue and are obviously unable to see one of Kenji Misumi's masterpieces properly.
Yes, we have nearly every classical Zatoichi scene and theme: there's Zatoichi quarreling with children, Zatoichi walking through gorgeous landscapes, Zatoichi making fun of people who try to make fun of him, Zatoichi loaded with guilt, Zatoichi charming the ladies, Zatoichi proving his prowess, the gambling scene, the capable foe with style, the silliness and so on. But each and every of this standard scenes is changed and reduced to its core, polished until its ideal form can be seen, reaching something like perfection. There is no better Zatoichi movie.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sleepy Eyes of Death 6 - Sword of Satan & Sleepy Eyes of Death 7 - Mask of the Princess

Sleepy Eyes 6
Nemuri Kyoshiro (as always Raizo Ichikawa) spoils the plan of some evil people to get control of their clan by saving a child. The nice thing: He feels committed to do so because he was so mean to the child's mother that she killed herself. Entertaining.

Sleepy Eyes 7
Chambara as samurai horror pulp fiction. Director Akira Inoue uses every weird camera angle and framing device known to mankind and eldritch beings to give the movie a feel of utter strangeness. A generous use of purposefully jarring transitions which would make Lucio Fulci proud and motives and themes like madness, masked masterminds, mechanical deathtraps, dead trees, betrayal and byzantine revenge plots means that this is the perfect movie for my tastes.

Darlings of the Day:
"Oh." (Pause) "And what is it that makes you desire me in particular?"

"Orin! Try throwing your shuriken at me! This woman's back will catch them nicely."

"For a villain like me, this is a very nice grave."

Doberman Cop (1977)

A strange mess of a movie. Its plot line contains Sonny Chiba as hick cop from Okinawa coming to Big City Tokyo, an obsessed yakuza turned music manager, the Japanese ancestor of "Pop Stars", a pig, a serial killer, Dirty Harry's favorite weapon, a biker gang, unfunny humor, vigilante "justice" and a singer with a past. If I have forgotten anything, you can be sure it is in there somewhere.
The confusing mess of a plot is directed by Kinji Fukasaku in his patented dynamic and/or disorienting jitsuroku style and to my surprise actually makes for a very watchable film.
It seems as if the initial plan was to cash-in on American and Italian Tough Cop movies, but somewhere on the way someone (Fukasaku?) decided to inject an unhealthy dose of Japanese obsessions and plain weirdness. I wouldn't go as far as calling it a deconstruction of the genre, although it's nearly there.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Two Shaw Shorts

Perils of the Sentimental Swordsman is the third part of the Sentimental Swordsman series. Titular hero Ti Lung (who doesn't use swords) goes undercover in a place called Ghostly Island and meets the usual barrage of weird characters that director Chu Yuan loved to throw at his audience. I was delighted.

Eight Diagram Pole Fighter is usually counted among the best of the late period Shaw Brothers films. In the first half hour I couldn't fathom why. Even more patriotic melodrama than usual plus terribly stagy acting were very hard to endure. But after that the movie became a blast, the acting seemed to get more less stiff and quite ferocious and there are just so many beautiful ways to mistreat people with staffs...

The Last Legion

I'm not sure why most critics hate this stupid piece of fun in history as fantasy mode about a few upright legionnaires lead by Colin Firth, Sir Ben Kingsley as Gandalf's little brother Merlin and Aishwarya Rai (as living proof of my theory that training as a dancer is a great base for action acting) defending the rightful (boy-)ruler of the Roman Empire and his sword Excalibur, fighting against evil Dr. Bashir of DS9, evil Goth Kevin (Lucius Vorenus) McKidd and some guy in a mask.
Nope this is no grand historical epic, more the B-version of it, but -as in most things- the B-version is a lot more lively and entertaining than its A-list brethren, if a little bit bathetic. There's no dull minute and some fine action set pieces, though. Also, the film is mercifully short.
Oh, and it makes me want to play Rome:Total War.

Innocent reader beware! I actually like spiritual godfather The 13th Warrior quite a bit.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cops vs Thugs

Kinji Fukasaku's jitsuroku films are very dear to me, which is a strange thing to say about films that seem so absolutely convinced of the ultimate uselessness of human kindness or love or hope. All relationships in them are doomed from the start, because all relationships in the films of this phase of Fukasaku's career are based on violence. And what begins in violence, ends in violence.
But these are no European art house flicks, so instead of ponderousness and middle-class self-pity we are served a precisely drawn kind of carnage; brutality directed both inwards and outwards.
But another "but": This alone would make Fukasaku only a nihilist, someone who produces fun, if somewhat flat, bloodbaths. If it weren't for the hurt that shows in every small gesture of friendship and kindness, even in the most cynical of jokes. Fukasaku showing the world as he saw it didn't mean he liked it this way, only that he was unwilling to lie about it - to the viewers or himself.

Darling of the Day:
"Who must we kill to stop all this nonsense?"

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Flash Point (2007)

is the third product of the creative pairing of Wilson Yip (direction) and Donnie Yen (Donnie Yen), following the fantastic Sha Po Lang and the idiotic Dragon Tiger Gate. I'm glad to find nothing of the latter here. What I am seeing instead is the most Hong Kong 80s movie made this century. This story of cop-on-the-edge Yen and his undercover-partner Louis Koo and their fight against three Vietnamese gangster brothers who love their mother very very much has everything that made Hong Kong's wave of action movies of the 80s so wonderful: No CGI, no jump cuts, stupid humor, high melodrama and the most exciting action sequences imaginable, presented with the relentless drive of a mad greyhound.
While I've heard the usual moaning about Yen's one-note acting, I insist on having seen at least a chord. And really: How subtle an actor do you need for this kind of role? I found his glaring and hitting people more than satisfying.

Darling of the Day:
"Don't talk about my mother!"

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


One of the weirdest Takashi Miike films, therefore weird enough to weird out David Lynch. A yakuza called Minami is instructed to kill and dispose of a anniki and friend, whose mind seems to have seen sounder times, times when he did not identify poor little doggies as "yakuza attack dogs" that only attack yakuza and did not proceed to slaughter them, hopefully.
Anyway, Minami accidentally kills his brother and loses the body on the way to the yakuza deposition facility. This is the beginning of Minami's odyssey in search of the corpse through Nagoya and most of Miike's obsessions and some really indescribable scenes. It all culminates in a weird (and I mean weird) sex/birthing sequence.
Personally, I haven't the slightest clue what any of this means, but who cares? Miike certainly doesn't.

Darling of the Day:
"You aren't from Nagoya, are you?"

Monday, September 3, 2007

Sleepy Eyes of Death 5: Sword of Fire & Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2: Wildcat Gambler

Sleepy Eyes 5
This is much better again, its gender politics only questionable instead of abominable. The return of Kenji Misumi injects something like a heart which sometimes even beats in the right place; other times at least in interesting wrong places.
The evil woman here isn't evil because she's a woman, but because the only thing she (and nearly every other character, our hero excepted) cares about is money.
Still not as great as parts one and two.

Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2
Hm, Meiko Kaji's character doesn't have much more than name and occupation in common with her role in the first part. Now she's a much more traditional female ninkyo hero, fortunately not quite as mild-mannered and modest as Junko Fuji, but still obviously the only kimono wearing woman in the 70s. She has suddenly acquired a dead father-to-be-revenged and doesn't play billiard anymore.
Solid fun. Plus Meiko Kaji & Sonny Chiba.

Darlings of the Day (Samurai Edition):
"Hey! Hey! We are not talking the way we should be. You, the merchant, waxing lyrically while I, the samurai, utter vulgarities?"

"The moonlight that kisses my face shall be the last sight in this world for you!"

"Such selfish nonsense! That's another reason why I can't stand Daimyo."

Darlings of the Day (Yakuza Special):
"It gives me good luck to stick my hand in a beautiful woman's kimono."

Sleepy Eyes of Death 3: Full Circle Killing

I am not easy to annoy, but not only having the hero of a piece rape a woman, but obviously saying that she deserves it on account of her uppityness not only annoys me, but really really pisses me off.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Three short things about Johnnie To

Election 2
Probably even more grim and disconcerting than the first part. The plot is really no way to ingratiate oneself with the Chinese government. What I tend to call "a great film".

Running out of Time
Much slighter and quirkier action-comedy thingie. Lau Ching Wan is wonderful as only cop with a brain in town. Very fun.

Running out of Time 2
Could possibly be a graceful, if worse sequel, but smarmy Ekin Cheng and his Magical Hair do not a charismatic criminal mastermind make. If he at least would stop grinning. The script could have used one or two ideas, too.

Red Peony Gambler 6: The Notorious Gambler

Sadly the last Red Peony film I could get a hold of. Parts seven and eight stay elusive. At least this is a strong outing. It begins sappy, but before long starts to pack quite a (emotional) punch. There are some interesting moments that shed light on the complicated structures that connected yakuza and peasant economy, producing a strangling kind of tie that -as far as I know- still exists today.
I was surprised by a few variations of the ninkyo formula, especially Tetsuro Tamba as a westernized, but honorable yakuza and the changes to the traditional style of final climactic battles.

Darling of the Day:
"If I say something needs to be settled...I mean you!"

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Exiled (2006)

I only have the smallest clue how and why Johnnie To still makes stuff like this work. "Stuff" being a combination of grand operatic Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed, absurdist humor, male bonding and an actual interest, if not love for, his characters, most of it in the same scenes at once.
Also there is this palpable sense of unpredictability, even though all genre conventions are in place. You know roughly what will happen next, but the how and why are merrily dancing over borders you weren't even sure existed.
And it's not even his best film.

Fathers, Sons & The Lies at the Heart of the World

Mushuku Mono

One of Kenji Misumi's grimmest pictures is at its core a story about sons and lost fathers, whose absence only makes their dominance over their sons' lives more complete.
Both protagonists define themselves mainly through what they take for the fate of their fathers, transforming themselves into mirrors of their own images of what their fathers were like. As it is making their fathers' images the hearts of their worlds; becoming a lie.
Naturally, after finding that they have turned themselves into lies, one of them has to die, the other to kill his father and learn that this is exactly what his father expects of him.
Surprisingly there is hope for him: He throws away his sword.

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Stolen from

Some flowers are different than others

Red Peony Gambler 4: Second Generation Ceremony
Do you like unfunny humor? Do you like it when half of a movie consists of scenes that don't do anything to enhance or advance mood, plot, characters or theme of the movie? Do you like to be bored by bored direction?
Then this is the right film for you.
Oh, and Ken Takakura...Yeah, you guessed it.

Red Peony Gambler 5: Oryu Returns
To me delight, Tai Kato returns, too. Everything I said about RPG 3 fits this one as well. Kato does some especially nice things with mirrors and the juxtaposition of theater and life.
I'm not sure if the even higher level of melodrama here is a good or a bad thing. What I do know is that it feels appropriate for a genre that is as highly stylized (or ritualized) as the ninkyo eiga.