Unfortunately due to some university work and other real-life stuff, the remaining days at the Nippon Connection in Frankfurt couldn’t be covered in this blog as it was supposed to happen. Sorry about that. As it’s been some time since I was there, it all becomes a bit blurry what happened on the individual festival days. Still, the reviews were already prepared during the time of writing of the first two days, so there shouldn’t be a problem diving right into it again.
But to keep it short I decided to provide no background stories, i.e. what was happening on those specific days outside of the cinema. I might include a few photos, but all in all the following blog entries will be about the movies only (especially since I recently went to the Fantasy Filmfest in Cologne which will have reviews of more than 40 movies, not to mention a short trip to the Gamescom this year as well).
Friday, May 4 2012
Die! Directors, Die!
(Japan 2011, director: Makoto Shinozaki,original title: Shine! Shine! Shinema)
Last year there was a horror-documentary similar in the way acting, camera work and special effects were below low budget and the whole thing was unintentionally funny. A documentary about J-Pop-girls who went to a haunted school building, borrowing heavily from Paranormal Activity (or as the producer said Paranormal Investigation, a rip-off).
Now this isn’t anything new: A movie in the making, which turns the participants insane, murdering each other, then the final cut making the ones who watch it on the internet do more or less the same to each other etc.. The setting: A film school building where many years ago a director killed his audience because they didn’t like his movies.
An ironic statement on student filmmaking? A love letter to horror cinema with many references? Probably all of it but in very bad execution. If you have a scene in which a character is walking around in snow for 5 minutes without anything happening (aside from the camera man stumbling behind), completely removed from the scenes before, you know the director is in desperate need of an editor. A script maybe? Who needs that if one can just have close-ups of people sticking sharp objects into their eyeballs? And what’s with that baby-swinging-with-umbilical-cord-scene? Oh, funny that.
With no sense of direction, awful camera work, terrible acting, not one bit of suspense or continuity, this is a typical movie one is glad stays at film festivals to show young filmmakers how NOT to do it.
A Honeymoon in Hell: Mr. and Mrs. Oki’s Fabulous Trip
(Japan 2011, director: Ryûichi Honda, original title: Ôki-ke no tanoshii ryokô: Shinkon jigoku-hen)
A young couple are looking for their lost rice cooker in one of the least desirable places: hell. That’s where they book a weekend honeymoon trip.
All a bit weird, yes. But that’s what I like Japanese movies for. Still the end product could have been better, especially the pacing. After one hour of the two main protagonists walking through a wood not daring to stare behind them when they hear sounds and voices, then being attacked by red-faced people doesn’t sound too exciting when it all looks like taking place in your typical woods and mines facilty surroundings, crowded by people with bad make-up. Maybe it would have worked in an anime, but in live-action it just doesn’t create any otherwordly atmosphere.
When the couple arrives in a hotel, things start to become more interesting. Without telling too much, the ideas of food and entertainment in hell make up for some nice I’d-like-to-try-that or I’d-like-to-be-there feelings.
It’s a light-hearted movie which is a bit too long, suffers from low-budget special effects and only mildly-interesting character development and story progression. Something for a rainy afternoon.
The Woodsman and the Rain
(Japan 2012, director: Shûichi Okita, original title: Kitsutsuki to ame)
The rather boring and routine life of a woodcutter is disturbed when he joins a film crew to help them with location scouting and later filling in a role…as a zombie.
Unlike the premise of a trash movie, this one is quite a touching mix of drama and comedy. Sure it takes its time and it could have done without 20 minutes of additional, long scenes, but all in all it’s a fun 2 hours to watch. The main actor’s performance fits his role perfectly, his transformation from a one-liner grumbling man to a happy one is done particularly well. The whole zombie idea makes for some bizarre and laugh-out-loud situations, and the drama never feels exaggerated. It’s the perfect mix few Japanese movies achieve (just remembering the awful Sukiyaki). At the time of writing, some days after the closing night, it’s also nice to know it won the Nippon Cinema Award, something it fully deserves and hopefully will get it a wider release.
A short note on the film festival’s presentation: unfortunately there were some sound problems, a shrill tone coming out from one box (funnily the character in the movie was looking in the exact same direction when it happened) and then no sound at all. I’m pretty sure this had nothing to do with the film copy as there were further problems in other screenings later that day. It’s a bit annoying that the movie wasn’t rewinded as there were some minutes the audience missed.
(Japan 2011, director: Toshiaki Toyoda, original title: Monsutâzu kurabu)
The story of a young man living outside of society isn’t anything new, especially since most of his monologues sound very familiar if one knows David Thoreau’s book Walden. Now mix the whole anti-system message with a David-Lynch-like creature appearing, the hermit being a small-time terrorist who remembers his bad childhood, it doesn’t really make for anything mind-blowing.
Actually there’s not much happening besides his remembering, which doesn’t make the audience feel much sympathy. Add some unintentionally funny scenes like him wearing razor-cream as disguise, sitting in a subway and some passengers commenting on his appearance, a special police force falling over their own feet in the snow, one wonders what the whole thing is all about.
Sure it’s a political statement, but there are many movies which do it in a subtler way. The first thing literature students learn is that showing is more effective than telling. In this case the director should have better done without his speeches and concentrated more of pacing.
It’s also interesting to note how different the audience in the cinema was. Part was laughing out loud in some scenes, others were already captivated with the whole anti-system-message. For me that message could have stayed in a bottle or film archive far longer and never seen the light of day. Not even drinking sake helped endure those 72 minutes of self-pity and self-love the protagonist (and probably the director) showed.