Saturday, May 5 2012
Rakugo or Japanese storytelling the German way
This was a rather special day and different from the others. Not only was it raining in buckets, but I also got the chance to see one of the outside-of-the-cinema activities, namely Rakugo, the art of traditional Japanese storytelling, presented by Till Weingärtner, a German comedian.
The most interesting thing about it was how he tried to involve the audience in his show, explaining with how little one can tell a story, just using one’s imagination when watching the presenter’s gestures and facial expressions.
The only problem was that the story he told, weren’t very much Japanese. They were more like everyday comical situations with Japanese names in it. The humor was a bit lame as well most of the time, even though apparently that was one of the minor concerns. It would have been better to have included some myths and other stories, but then again as it was open to all audiences (among them children of course), it was obvious the humor and presentation were more mainstream.
Still for something with free admission, it was an interesting experience on a rainy afternoon, and I wished I had had some more time seeing more of those culture-related events (like exhibitions).
Shinya Tsukamoto live on stage without another Tetsuo flick
Something which is always interesting about the Nippon Connection is the appearance of those who make the movies, i.e. directors, producers, actors etc. This time I had the chance to see Shinya Tsukamoto live on stage, doing some QA before and after his featured film Kotoko. Even with the serious subject matter he seemed a pretty down-to-earth-guy, making jokes all the time. His first thing was to take a picture of the audience with a smile on his face. It’s not often one sees such natural kindness without any pretensions in a director even if the movie didn’t work on all levels (see review below).
Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below
(Japan 2011, director: Makoto Shinkai, original title: Hoshi o ou kodomo)
A small girl who’s left to her own devices most of the time, because of her mother’s business trips, finds time to go outside and starts discovering voices from somewhere. It turns out there’s a whole new world filled with monsters and other people below earth who are in some way connected to the afterlife.
Borrowing heavily from age-old formulas established by Center of the Earth with the typical anime-like life-is-so-precious-I-keep-my-memories melodrama, the movie doesn’t succeed in keeping the audience’s attention for very long. Characters come and go, in a short time they become friends and then everyone is starting to cry their eyes out. If there were any well-written dialogue to understand their feelings, it wouldn’t be too bad. Unfortunately, the movie relies too much on its presentation. The only redeeming feature: Studio-Ghibli-beautifully-drawn visuals and a nice soundtrack…don’t make up a good movie. There’s simply no tension, characters stay uninteresting all the way through. And even cute little creatures like Mimi, the sort-of-looks-like-a-cat thing, is annoying after a while. The other creatures and the visualized world don’t do anything new than just stealing from other sources. There’s even one painting portraying dictators and warmongers like Hitler, Dschingis-Khan et al. which make the whole adventure even more ridiculous than it already is.
Another point is the violence: Fights usually end in some blood-spurting, which stands in stark contrast with the cute and more child-friendly atmosphere. All in all the animated movie’s presentation doesn’t help hiding the fact there’s not much of a story to tell, and with 2 hours long, it’s even more annoying to wait for the conclusion.
(Japan 2011, director: Shinya Tsukamoto)
A woman tries to raise her child on her own while suffering severe mental health problems, her only refuge singing songs.
A rather bleak prospect for a director who used to do superfast trash with the Tetsuo-series. The camera is still unsteady (and there are some pseudo-splatter-scenes), but that’s all pretty much all that remains of his past output. It’s rather slowly paced, a bit too slow in some cases. The songs are also drawn out and with a running time of 90 minutes, 60 would have sufficed and worked better, especially since there’s not a lot of story and character development.
The movie succeeds in portraying the mental state of the woman by making the audience feel torn between one violent emotion and the next, but it could have done with better pacing.
(Japan 2011, director: Yûdai Yamaguchi, original title: Deddobôru)
A group of prison inmates fight for their lives in a baseball match organized by a group of Nazis. Forget about the story, enjoy the ensuing carnage!
After last year’s awesome double-feature with the over-the-top Helldriver and the fun trash-rollercoaster Karate Robo-Zaborgar, Sushi Typhoon delivers another crazy splatterfest. Not having seen the spiritual predecessor Battlefield Baseball and only recently having watched the not-so-good Yakuza Weapon by the same director, my expectations were just high enough because of the fun trailer (something which doesn’t happen too often). Like Helldriver it has much more going than what is promised. Some special effects are a bit lame, not every action scene is amazing, but it’s interesting to know there can still be new ideas found in fighting scenes. They’re mostly ridiculous, but that’s what Sushi Typhoon’s whole concept of moviemaking is about and why it works.
No long dialogues, the characters all more or less explained in short bursts of information, not much of boring gaps, it’s one fun sequence after another with gore and blood galore.
Some of the humor (like the main protagonist always having time to smoke an out-of-the-blue cigarette) are even reminiscent of the Naked Gun series.