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June 28, 2012

The Great Killing

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Dai satsujin
Eiichi Kudo - 1964
AnimEigo Region 1 DVD

The second film by Eiichi Kudo to get an official U.S. DVD release is mostly known for the use of hand held cinematography. If The Great Killing is any indication, Kudo should also be acknowledged as a great formal stylist. The hand held camera work is tremendous, especially when one considers that these were 35 mm cameras that weighed over one-hundred pounds, and required a two man team for operation. The final battle begins with a stampede of horses that disrupts the procession of a lord, the heir apparent to the shogunate. The footage often looks like newsreel footage, perhaps deliberately so, as Kudo also used sound recorded at student protests for his soundtrack. There is a real sense of immediacy that works so much better here than what might be found in the shaky cam footage of the current crop of "found footage" movies.

Kudo also shows that he is as good as any of the acknowledged masters of Japanese cinema, or world cinema, for that matter, in his use of compositions. The placement of characters in the wide screen, and the emphasis of depth of field, are both remarkable. In the scenes where the characters have to sit according to protocol, Kudo places his characters in such a way that the viewer is forced to observe both the width of the frame and the presentation of depth within that frame. A typical setup would have two vassals on each side of the frame, a ranking official approximately midway in the field of vision, and the high ranking official in the back, all in focus. Kudo also plays with sense of scale in his placement of characters in some shots.

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The basic story is to some extent a variation on the same narrative setup for Kudo's 13 Assassins. A small group of disenchanted samurai plot to disrupt the plans of a high official, Lord Sakai, whose high taxation has caused financial ruin for many farmers, and who hopes to act as the power behind the throne for the young heir designated to be the next shogun. The original group of rebel samurai have been hunted and killed. Sakai's men track down one of the rebels to the home of Jimbo. Arrested due to his protection of a rebel, Jimbo's wife is killed by Sakai's men. Jimbo seeks to avenge the death of his wife, but instead of acting alone, is urged to join with several others by the mysterious Lady Miya.

Even though Jimbo is the main protagonist of the film, following his evolution from unintentional observer to determined participant, it is Lady Miya who is the more interesting character. Miya is both pragmatic and idealistic, and her beauty is both her strength and weakness. What also interests me is that she is one of the rare females in what was at the time still a very male dominated genre, not a subordinate character like a wife or romantic interest, nor as someone to be protected or rescued. If Lady Miya is not the fiercely independent woman personified by actresses Junko Fuji and Meiko Kaji, it may not be totally coincidental that such a character would be in a film from the same studio, Toei, just a few years prior to these better known actresses who became that studio's stars. There is very little information on Nami Munakata, the actress who played Lady Miya, other than that her career was very brief, from 1964 to 1967.

Definitely The Great Killing should be seen by those who may not necessarily be interested in the samurai film, or think that the only artist who worked in the genre was Akira Kurosawa. Aside from the mix of visual styles, there are individual shots of impressive quality, such as the stampeding horses running towards the camera, or long shot of a lone samurai walking in a field in the rain, with its variety of gray zones. An extra bonus is AnimEigo's colored subtitles, making it easy to follow multiple voices in conversation.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:52 AM

June 25, 2012

Attack of the Crab Monsters

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Roger Corman - 1958
Shout! Factory Region 1 DVD

An approximate dual anniversary at the time. It was a little over seven years ago that this blog was launched. It was also approximately fifty years ago (yeah, I'm THAT old) since I saw my first Roger Corman film in a theater.

At the time I saw Attack of the Crab Monsters, it was the day following a surprise goodbye party given to me in June, 1962. In a matter of days, I would be leaving Teaneck, New Jersey for Evanston, Illinois. I'm not sure what was playing at the Teaneck theater at the time, but it must have been something that had no interest to us. Instead, we looked at nearby Hackensack, at one of the two theaters on Main Street. There was some interest in Cabinet of Caligari, based more on the reputation of the silent film, which we might have read about but hadn't seen. After reading about the silent classic in "Famous Monsters of Filmland", I finally saw the original film a few years later, and that reworking by Robert Bloch, a few years ago as well. We settled on the special matinee showing of Corman's film, which was playing with the biblical epic, Herod the Great.

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Was the theater, the Oritani? I can't say for sure. If it weren't for the invitation to see a double feature of Carousel and The King and I on my last day in in Teaneck, there would have been some sort of symmetry, as the first film I saw when I moved to Teaneck was Hercules, also in Hackensack. Some movie going experiences are more memorable than others, and I recall seeing what must have been an hour's worth of cartoons, primarily from Warner Brothers. And there may have been more previews, but I do recall vaguely those for The Leech Woman, and The Brides of Dracula. The latter made a real impression on me as the film became something that I wanted to see from that point on. I had to wait decades, first for the VHS version, and later, the DVD. What can I say, for this ten year old boy, those Hammer starlets were the sexiest women he had ever seen.

I haven't seen Herod the Great since that first time. If the opportunity arose for another viewing, it would be primarily to catch classic Italian cutie pie Sandra Milo.

As for Attack of the Crab Monsters, I had caught it at least once on television, and again theatrically as part of a Roger Corman retrospective that took place at New York City's Kips Bay Theater, almost forty years ago. Seeing it again on DVD, it doesn't hold up as well for me as some of the other Corman films from the era before he took on Edgar Allan Poe. I don't know when I started being conscious of Corman's name except that I eventually realized that I was watching a bunch of films he had something to do with, and that I was fascinated, even though these were films that weren't good for me, as compared to something by Stanley Kramer. And I could not foresee a future where Roger Corman would be the first director I would interview, for one of the student run newspapers at New York University.

What affection I have for Attack of the Crab Monsters might be attributed to what the place the film has in my lifelong cinephilia, as well as the experience of watching the film at a time of single screen movie palaces and matinee shows more or less pegged for children. The price of admission could not have been more than fifty cents, so I certainly got my money's worth. What also was revealed over an extended period of time is that for those devoted to cinema is that even the most seemingly random film watched in childhood may become more meaningful in the most unexpected ways.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:08 AM | Comments (1)

June 24, 2012

Coffee Break

Raymond Burr and William Challee in Desperate (Anthony Mann - 1947)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:59 AM

June 21, 2012

Kakera: A Piece of Our Life

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Momoko Ando - 2009
Third Window Films Region 2 DVD

Even without fully reading the original manga, "Love Vibes", Momoko Ando has made the significant change of having the two principle characters look distinctly different, as well as changing the names. But what interests me more in this regard is the difference between Hollywood and Japan in using graphic novels as source material. The Hollywood films are based on stories written by men with characters who, if not superheroes, are in some way mythic. The Japanese films often are sources from female writers, and are about relationships of very human characters.

Haru is short, a bit awkward, and seemingly uncertain about her life except that she wants to be loved. Hara's idea of love may be unclear, but it's not what she's getting from her boyfriend, a lout with questionable hygiene, worse table manners, a girlfriend on the side, and a habit of immediately kicking Haru out the door in the morning. Riko, taller and more stylish in dress, is more certain of herself and her feelings. Riko zeroes in on Haru at a coffee shop, initiating a relationship that takes a toll on both.

Even though it is physical attraction that attracts Riko to Haru, the relationship that we see is primarily one of emotional needs, and a conflict between Riko's certainty and Haru's vacillations. The two view fireworks from a distance, and as if stated as a riposte to Alfred Hitchcock's love and fireworks in To Catch a Thief, one comments that the fireworks look like war. Documentary footage of war plays on a television set while Haru, knocked out by a fall, is sexually taken advantage of by her boyfriend.

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Rika states that it is categorization that makes things difficult rather than basing love on gender. Ando deliberately chooses show only a few scenes of kissing and a couple of playful moments between the two women as a strategy for not allowing their relationship to be clearly defined. Even the last scene is open ended so that the future of the relationship is left to the imagination of the viewer. As Ando has stated, "I just wanted to say that before we talk about being a woman or a man, we should figure out how we should try to live our lives as human beings. We;ve all got hearts. That's the message."

Rika is a sculptor of prosthetics, creating artificial body parts for people. Momoko Ando has commented on how Kakera was made in part as a reaction to the feelings of disconnection people have, and Rika states that one of her prosthetics will not be a substitute for any emotional absence. Going back to the war analogy, the characters here are conflicted, neither being happy alone, nor with anyone else unless that relationship is on one person's terms. Love, it would seem, is not simply a piece of life, but something fragile and in fragments that doesn't always hold together.

This post is part of the Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Garbo Laughs and Pussy Goes Grrr.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)

June 19, 2012

Yes or No? So I Love You

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Pu Chai Lulla: Yaak Rak Gaw Rak Loey
Sarasawadee Wongsompetch - 2010
Lots Entertainment Region 3 DVD

One of the popular descriptions people give to their own relationships is, "it's complicated". And so it goes with Yes or No?. Even though the film has been touted as Thailand's first lesbian romance, the characters understand how messy affairs of the heart can be, and also that there is tyranny to labels whether self-attached or applied to others.

Mostly centered on two college students, Pie has just changed dorm rooms due to her discomfort with a lesbian roommate. She finds that her new roommate, Kim, is tall and boyish looking with her short (for a Thai female) hair. After dividing the room with red tape, Pie sets some rules. Eventually the uneasy truce evolves into friendship, which in turn evolves into a more emotionally involved and volatile relationship.

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As Kim's Aunt Inn says, it is not appearances but what is in the heart. While Kim looks the part of the "tomboy", she freaks out at the appearance of a cockroach, and is afraid of the dark. Going further against the grain of stereotyping, at least for the female characters, is that the aggressively lesbian Jane is also the most super feminine. Only Jane's sidekick, the gangly, effeminate, and very gay Boyd, who perhaps makes the other males in this film nervous, would be considered a stock character.

This is a very gentle comedy drama. What works best is that there is the understanding that for these two girls, whatever they feel about each other is subject to parental and peer pressure, as well as uncertainty about one's sense of self. What is also of interest is that both Pie and Kim's attraction, deemed by some as unnatural, is played against their respective studies of the natural world, Ichthyology and Botany. While the film is clear eyed about homophobia, especially in the depiction of Pie's mother, there is also a brief moment of magic realism when a brief flurry of butterflies surround Pie and Kim.

Yes or No? was the directorial debut of Sarasawadee Wongsompetch. The film was enough of a commercial success that Yes or No 2 is scheduled for release later this summer. The film also gained Sarasawadee Wongsompetch a nomination for Best Director for Thailand's National Film Association Awards. Previously, Sarasawadee had served as a Second Unit or Assistant Director, most notably on Ong Bak. There is virtually nothing in English about Sarasawadee other than her filmography. Yes or No? has been screened for western audiences primarily in GLBT film festivals.

This post is part of the Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Garbo Laughs and Pussy Goes Grrr.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:45 AM | Comments (2)

June 17, 2012

Coffee Break

Laura Harring and Jill Marie Jones in Drool (Nancy Kissam - 2009)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 10:07 AM

June 15, 2012


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The Kite
Prashant Bhargava - 2011
Khushi Films

The threads to the kites in Patang get tangled and cut, much like the main characters in the film, not always directly or on purpose. Taking place over the course of two days, with most of the activity concurrent with an annual kite flying festival, the film serves as both a family drama and casual documentary. Past and present coexist sometimes uneasily in sprawling Ahmedabad. Successful Dehli businessman Jayesh returns to visit his family, with his daughter, Priya. His real intention is move the family members from their crumbling mansion to a new condo, a plan that the Ahmedabad relatives resist.

The conflict of happiness, be it that which is chosen, and that which is perceived by others, is not unique. In its own very casual way, Patang's narrative portion recalls the films of Douglas Sirk, where material well-being is often mistaken as the solution for any spiritual void. The more interesting, if not fully developed character, is Priya, who primarily observes the world through the lens of her Super 8 camera, finding that neither her family nor Ahmedabad are quite as described by her father. The film takes place in the older part of the city with crowded streets, where the occasional free cow shares the street with the pedestrians, motorcycles and mini-taxis.

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Shot primarily with HD camera, the footage is interspersed with 16 mm film, with rough focusing and frequent camera flare, is meant to represent the film shot by Priya. Part of the film serves as a documentary about the making of the kites, with finely cut glass attached to the kite thread, which allows for cutting in the festival kite wars, but also means that those handling the kites have heavily bandaged fingers to protect themselves. One of the nicer images is of the sky full of kites, looking like a sky full of colored birds crowding over the city.

Perhaps as an informal concession to Bollywood tradition, the soundtrack is full of pop songs composed for the film. As the lyrics were not subtitled, I can only assume that some of the songs served as commentary. There were scenes of dancing, none formally choreographed, of a trio of young women, including Priya, on the roof of the family house, answered by a trio of young men on another roof, and dancing in the street as part of the festivities.

In a film that is mostly about family and cultural traditions, nothing speaks more about globalization than the Spiderman mask that a street urchin wears constantly as a cap. Bhargava's film raises more questions than can possibly be answered regarding the trade offs one makes in life. Additional commentary is presented by two absent characters, Jayesh's brother who was too attached to outmoded ways doing business, and Jayesh's wife, unable to break away from a wholly westernized life for even a few days. The kites provide a metaphor for those working with, or destroyed, by both literal and symbolic winds of change.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:15 AM

June 14, 2012

Red Scorpion

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Joseph Zito - 1989
Synapse Film Region 0 DVD

One of the best reasons to check out the new DVD of Red Scorpion is for the supplementary interview with producer Jack Abramoff. After a few years as a movie producer, Abramoff comments that he went "into other areas". Talk about understatements! As it turned out, Abramoff probably made a lot more money as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist than had he remained a movie producer. On the other hand, the double dealing and general chicanery that goes on in Washington makes Hollywood look like a bastion of integrity.

I bring this up because Abramoff originated the story for Red Scorpion. The documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money provides more background, with Abramoff's trip to Angola to meet with anti-Communist leaders there. The film takes place in a fictional African country but there is no mistaking the subject when the bad guys are mostly Russian and Cuban soldiers.

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This was the film that established Dolph Lungren as an action hero, back when movie audiences embraced European guys with ripped bodies, speaking heavily accented English. Sure, there were a couple of American guys as well. But Dolph Lungren followed the path established by an Austrian named Arnold, and a Belgian named Jean-Claude. And Lungren does cut an imposing figure, between his towering height and massive build. As the film progresses, Lungren is seen wearing a pair of pants that are so short that the display of beefcake takes on a homo-erotic edge. M. Emmet Walsh succinctly gets it right describing Lungren's character as "King Fucking Kong".

Walsh plays a journalist who is a friend of the African anti-Communist leader Lungren is assigned to assassinate. The pudgy character actor is fun to watch spouting off profanities, and at one point shooting at the Russians and Cubans chasing after him. Any political agenda expressed by Walsh or anyone else in this movie needs to be taken with a grain of salt. What Red Scorpion is really about is making the world safe for the world to shake its collective booty to the songs of Little Richard.

The film was shot in Namibia. Setting aside all the action set pieces, there are a couple of moments of sheer visual beauty in desert scenes that suggest a modest budget Lawrence of Arabia, as well as a single shot of Lungren under a naturally formed rock bridge, the kind of shot that might remind some of John Ford in Monument Valley. Joseph Zito's commentary track is informative about the difficulties in making the film, as well as impressing on the viewer that all the stunts and explosions, and there are lots of both, are all very real, with no computer generated effects, miniatures, and with Lungren doing virtually all of his own stunts.

I don't know if a rehabilitated Jack Abramoff could return to Hollywood. But I will be the first to attest that making an action adventure film with questionable politics is never a crime.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:03 AM

June 12, 2012

Seeking Justice

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Roger Donaldson - 2011
Anchor Bay Entertainment Region 1 DVD

First off, I say we cut Nicolas Cage a little slack. I suspect some of us might even take a role in (shudder) Human Centipede 3 if that's what it took to help pay down back taxes of eight million dollars. Sometimes, you just can't be choosy.

And, yeah, there were times while watching Seeking Justice that I wondered what happened to the Nicolas Cage of Leaving Las Vegas, or even the entertaining and ridiculous National Treasure, as well as the Guy Pearce of Momento and L. A. Confidential, and Roger Donaldson, a wildly uneven director who seems to have peaked with No Way Out, back in 1987. Even a screenplay with characters who quote Shakespeare and Edmund Burke still feels generic. Just when I thought this film would be as forgettable as Trespass, the film Cage made with Nicole Kidman that went virtually straight to DVD, patience was rewarded with the last ten minutes of Seeking Justice.

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The setup is that Cage plays an English teacher in inner city New Orleans at Rampart High. January Jones is his wife, a concert cellist. Jones is assaulted and raped. Guy Pearce is the mysterious stranger who knows Jones' attacker, and offers private resolution in exchange for calling in a favor or two in the future. Of course, nothing good comes of this, as the chess playing Cage finds that he's an unwitting pawn in someone else's game. I refuse to believe that screenplay writers Todd Hickey and Robert Tannen did not see Strangers on a Train and Magnum Force, or maybe even The Star Chamber before penning this story about a secret vigilante force in New Orleans, where strangers murder strangers.

Maybe it's the somewhat unusual setting of an abandoned mall, with its empty display cases, stilled escalators, and stripped mannequins, but Seeking Justice comes truly alive in this setting, where the principle characters have their final showdown. The effect is as if everyone had saved their energy for this one scene, kind of like a runner who keeps pace suddenly sprinting before the finish line. There is also the added kick of seeing January Jones with a gun, but then anyone who knows me knows that I'm a sucker for girls with guns.

Seeking Justice unsurprisingly did not get much a theatrical release in the U.S. But it is the kind of film that's reasonably entertaining for home viewing. Say what you will about Nic Cage and his movies where he seems to always play a character bent on revenge for one reason or another, Seeking Justice is a hell of a lot better than Trespass.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:54 AM

June 10, 2012

Coffee Break

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Collette Wolfe and Charlize Theron in Young Adult (Jason Reitman - 2011)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 07:52 AM

June 07, 2012

Countess Perverse

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La Comtesse Perverse
Jess Franco - 1974
Mondo Macabro Region 1 DVD

There's a scene in Countess Perverse which is basically of actress Kali Hansa on a sailboat, heading to the dreaded island belonging to Count and Countess Zaroff. In a voiceover, she describes the fear of looking at the high, forbidding cliffs, and the trepidation of viewing the Zaroff's geometric marvel of a mansion, an actual building called Xanadu, It's a leisurely paced scene, and one that unexpectedly made me think during the voyage of Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising, and later, when Hansa feverishly runs up the stone staircase to the mansion, of the earlier films by the Kuchar brothers. And it struck me that maybe why some of the critical assessment I've encountered regarding Jess Franco in the past is so wrong is because the critics are condemning Franco for not being a conventional filmmaker making conventional films. There are extended moments, such as this opening scene, where Franco is much closer in spirit to the so-called underground filmmakers who wrangled their friends and any available equipment, and made movies virtually on the fly inspired by the mythic elements of movies, and sometimes classical myths as well.

I wasn't sure what to expect as reviews based on previously available versions of this film would have you believe this was the worst film in Franco's prolific career. As far as I'm concerned, Franco should be given his due simply for offering the world the iconic image of Alice Arno wearing almost nothing but a bow and arrow.

There is also the sight of Franco's late longtime muse, Lina Romay, a baby faced nineteen year old, in one of her first big roles. As film historian Stephen Thrower mentions in the DVD supplement, Romay and Franco were meant for each other, with the screen's least inhibited exhibitionist performing for cinema's most devoted voyeur.

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Frequent Franco collaborator Howard Vernon as the Count. Some might consider a nude, posterior view of Vernon as the most horrifying sight in Countess Perverse. Be that as it may, Vernon shows again why he made such a great screen villain with his soft, malicious laugh. Vernon makes a threatening presence simply by standing around, his aloofness barely disguising any evil plans in the making.

The story is a variation on The Most Dangerous Game, the names of the villains is a giveaway. Franco ups the ante with lesbian couplings, threesomes, lots of nudity, and cannibalism. For those who need to know the plot, essentially Lina Romay is invited to dinner and discovers too late that she's the main course. This is the kind of film that would be best appreciated by those who've been familiar with Senor Jess and his idiosyncratic cinema.

Franco's films have been notes for their sometimes unique musical scores. Here the music more or less alternates between fuzz box rock guitar, and the kind of creepy crawly organ music that was perfected when Lon Chaney's version of Phantom of the Opera was first released. There's also some flute driven jazz for good measure.

The DVD also includes an interview with actor Robert Woods, mostly discussing working with Franco, but also touching on his career in Hollywood and Europe. The actress I'd want to know more about is Tania Busselier, best known for her work with Franco, who also worked on two of the last films by Marcel Carne. The DVD of this film, which was recut into several versions, primarily for soft core as well as hard core markets, was taken from Franco's original negative. The film was also signed by Clifford Brown, one of Franco's many pseudonyms, although Franco's name appears on the screenplay credits.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:05 AM

June 05, 2012

Accident - A Second Look

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Yi ngoi
Soi Cheang - 2009
Shout! Factory Region 1 DVD

At the time that I originally wrote about Soi Cheang's Accident last year, the film had been out long enough for me to assume that there would be no U.S. release of any kind. That's all changed with the forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases.

I was glad for an excuse to see Accident a second time. Over the past few months, I have finally gotten around to seeing four of Soi's previous films. What is of interest to me is how his films are thematically linked. Certainly, Accident is where everything comes together in terms of both style and substance, making it his strongest film to date.

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What is common in Soi films is that his films often revolve around people who exist in the margins of society. Especially in the films made before Accident is the conflict between those who have materially comfortable lives and those who are scrambling just to get by. Accident doesn't have the class or cultural divisions of those earlier films, but the tie with those films is a protagonist who finds himself getting deeper and deeper into an irrevocable situation that offers no escape. Of Cheang's earlier films, the one most similar to Accident is Dog Eat Dog, about a Cambodian hit man adrift in Hong Kong, whose carefully planned life falls apart when he addresses his own previously suppressed humanity.

Anyone who has seen Coppola's The Conversation will recognize how much of the character of Harry Caul is in Louis Koo's "The Brain". The quartet that stage what appear to be accidents are all known by nicknames. We have Michelle Ye as "Woman", the wizened Feng Tsui Fan as "Uncle", and frequent Johnny To supporting player Lam Suet as "Fatty". "The Brain" creates the accidents, and directs the others in the staging. Things fall apart when an even bigger accident takes place during the staged accident, and "The Brain" also finds his apartment broken into, with the contents of his safe robbed. Where The Conversation ultimately hinged on the verbal inflection of certain words, leading to Caul's paranoid breakdown, "The Brain" puts meanings into conversations he partially hears but does not see, or meetings he has witnessed but not heard.

Visually, there are repeated uses of glass, glasses, and windows, both as ways to see and to be seen, and as a reflecting surface. Also there is much use of circular shapes, such as with the little telescope used by "The Brain", or the windows of the office that he observes. The key moment in the film takes place during an eclipse, when one circular object obscures another. There is also the selective use of red as a signifier of death or danger.

Possibly the best thing I can say is that seeing Accident a second time did not put a damper on any of the suspenseful moments.

Even better, for someone reading this, is that I have had one Blu-ray of Accident to give away. The only requirement is that you are a U.S. resident, are the first person to respond in the comments section, and are not paid to write about movies.

Eduardo wins!

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:49 AM

June 03, 2012

Coffee Break

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Virginie Ledoyen in Shall We Kiss? (Emmanuel Mouret - 2007)

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:38 AM

June 01, 2012

Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl

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Zumu appu: Biniru-bon no onna
Takashi Kanno - 1981
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

Someone at Nikkatsu knew exactly what they were doing when they had Junko Mabuki wear those little black panties. Getting around the rule of no shots of genitalia and no pubic hair, those black panties look almost like the black patch of the forbidden zone. The camera zooms in on those panties while Mabuki is fingering herself, with wetness becoming more obvious. Even within the boundaries of Roman Porno, Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl is made by some people who were unafraid of pushing the depiction of sex beyond previous restraints.

I don't know much about Junko Mabuki other than that she briefly was a very popular Nikkatsu Roman Porno actress for a very, ahem, brief time, from 1980 through 1982. Most of her films were part of a bondage series. There is a bit of rope play here, most notably with Mabuki tied to a cross. Whether that particular scene is deliberately sacrilegious might be up to debate, but it is certainly one of the more visually striking moments.

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The story, as such, is about a photographer, Kimura, who shares a little apartment with his assistant, and a model. Kimura's specialty is shooting photos of young women dressed as schoolgirls, showing off their white panties or urinating at convenient locations. A mysterious woman, Nami, appears at seemingly auspicious moments. A bit older and more sophisticated in dress, Nami proves willing to do the kind of posing that the others models won't or can't do.

Aside from the close up of the wet panties, there are shots of bulging from men's pants, oral sex, urophilia, and frequent scenes of eating, drinking and cooking. To cop a line from a tuna commercial, the film is not about good taste, but what tastes good. I can't absolutely vouch for the veracity, but I assume that there is some truth to the presentation of this lower end of the porno industry being populated by failed artists and students looking for a relatively quick and easy yen. What I found most interesting were the ways in which the filmmakers inventively worked around and with taboos of what was allowed within the Japanese film industry. Strangely enough, the most obvious digital manipulation in this film is of an obscured logo on the shirt worn by the other main female character.

Showing how little there is available online in English, I found out more about Junko Mabuki in these notes about a CD entitled Slave of Love. My curiosity is piqued by the comparison to Ingrid Bergman. I am thinking such a comparison might be based on Bergman's frequent playing of a woman who is subjected to the psychological tortures of various men. There's even less to be found on Takashi Kanno other than that he directed one other film titled Masochism. I have also taken it upon myself to order a copy of Jasper Sharp's book on Japanese soft core films to assist in my own coverage of these DVDs. Certainly, like the other Nikkatsu titles, may be of appeal to certain enthusiasts. But there is a certain fearlessness, especially on the part of Junko Mabuki, that is to be admired.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at 08:18 AM