Thursday, May 3 2012
Getting our press badges later that day due to the general chaos of the new ticket system, we could still get our tickets for today and tomorrow in advance at the press/information desk. No more waiting which could only be a good thing.
(Japan 2011, director: Tetsu Maeda, original title: Gokudô meshi)
The premise of prison inmates who tell each other stories how they experienced their most delicious food in often surreal circumstances could have worked if it weren’t for some big letdowns.
The music has to be one of the most annoying I’ve heard in a while. Flutes piercing your eardrums in the most unfitting situations are in abundance.
What’s worse is how the stories get more and more exaggerated without creating any sense of fun or drama. The mix of seriousness and a light tone never makes you feel for the characters because the execution is too inconsistent. Especially one love story takes up too much running time (almost 30 minutes) and pulls you out from the fairy-tale like stories from before.
The idea of having stories tell more of their storytellers is a nice one, but it all ends up as being a farce, dragged out too long. The only thing this movie achieves is to make you want to get out and taste all the food, without the sour aftertaste of 2 hours wasted.
House (Nippon Heimkino) with Commentary by Jörg Buttgereit and Thilo Gosejohann
(Japan 1977, director: Nobuhiko Ohbayashi, original title: Hausu)
Jörg Buttgereit and Thilo Gosejohann, two experts of trash cinema are sitting on a sofa with snacks and some drinks, commenting on a movie in a relaxed home-cinema atmosphere…even if in front of the stage there are quite a lot of people on not-so-comfortable benches.
What sounds promising and is pretty relaxed considering you get your own bottle of beer and some peanut flips or potato chips, unfortunately doesn’t translate very well when the selected movie isn’t anything Buttgereit and Gosejohann are very familiar with. Something like a monster or splatter movie would have done wonders, but not House.
I remember watching House at the Fantasy Filmfest a long time ago, and for some reason I liked it. Maybe it had to do with the surreal dancing scenes, the Heidi-mountain-atmosphere with Japanese people in it. I know it wasn’t like anything I’d seen before.
Now after having experienced quite a lot of trash and weird movies, not only from Japan, it becomes obvious how bad and especially boring this so-called classic is. Apparently the director wanted to imitate or surpass Steven Spielberg’s movies (it came out around the time of Star Wars), as he said in the introduction, but of course the movie can’t be compared to other popcorn flicks.
It also didn’t bode well when this rather long introduction wasn’t commented on by the two trash-experts. It became more and more clear that both were trying to find anything to say, but had to follow the subtitles as well (a German/English dubbed version would have worked better). The audience itself were more talkative in between, so it would probably have been a better idea to just pass around the microphone. At some points the remote control was put to use, but not necessarily to good use. Pausing and going slowmo just for watching a woman get naked isn’t really that interesting or funny.
Maybe next time let Buttgereit and Gosejohann choose movies they know something about and like to watch? Just an idea…
(Japan 2010, director: Hitoshi Matsumoto)
Symbol, Hitoshi Matsumoto’s first movie, was one of the funniest, weirdest experiences I had at the Fantasy Filmfest, something I love film festivals for. Unfortunately it still hasn’t been released anywhere on DVD or Blu-Ray, so good luck getting this one out there.
A samurai has to make the young son of a samurai lord laugh or even smile in a timeframe of 30 days. If he doesn’t succeed, the unfortunate man is to be executed. It’s easier said than done because the boy never seems to move a muscle in his face and isn’t easily pleased.
What follows is a long sequence of absurd ideas and comic situations which at times are a bit hit and miss, but work anyway, as the audience can’t guess what happens next. Some ideas are so out of the samurai era world, one is just happy to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
The only problem the movie faces is its long running time. After one hour one expects a bit more insight of the main protagonist (and especially his daughter). Maybe that’s the main thing: in Symbol one has a white room in which anything is possible and one doesn’t really want to know that much about the main character as he’s trying to find his way out (which is weird considering one should have some connection to him). In Saya Zamurai one expects some kind of character development or story progression. Then again maybe that’s what the director’s intention is all along: playing with the audience’s expectations, twisting the typical storytelling devices and delivering the material the Theatre of the Absurd has been known to incorporate so many times: there is no meaning, no sense. It’s all just about playing games, passing time, struggling for a life which in the end doesn’t add up to anything with a specific purpose or goal.