Spotlight on Japan: Late Autumn

There are 3 names that always come up when one reads about the history of Japanese cinema: Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu. Of these three, Ozu is probably the most mysterious one because he is considered the most “Japanese” director possible. What does that mean? Is his aesthetic somehow distinctly Japanese? Or does his philosophy reflect the general opinion of the nation? Even the Japanese themselves can’t explain this description – it’s something they know from experience. Read more of this post

In a Lonely Place

Only an actor with the talent, charisma, authenticity, and magnetism of Humphrey Bogart could play a character by the name of Dix Steele with the kind of conviction that slowly morphs our inevitable giggles to terror and sadness. It goes without saying that Bogey is an undisputed cinematic legend, but what continues to strike me about his work is the raw humanism that he displays. There’s a darkness and danger that seems to permeate his being in every role. That razor’s edge tone especially seems to stand out in an era of Hollywood’s Golden Age that had a penchant for stock, sympathetic characters and stories that either feigned tragedy or provided light, comic escapism. Bogart is always a shot of existential angst into an era that seemed to be going through a kind of dramatic Enlightenment. In a Lonely Place isn’t as well known in the Bogey canon as films like The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, or the indomitable Casablanca, but it may stand as the ultimate Bogey film and performance because no film seems to have so thoroughly captured the man himself. Read more of this post

Spotlight on Japan: Yakuza deka



If there is one word that can perfectly describe Yukio Noda’s Yakuza deka (often translated as Ganster Cop) then it would be random. What begins as a fairly normal story of an undercover cop investigating the yakuza takes a turn for the bizarre as it becomes an incomprehensible stream of action scenes during the second half of the film. What’s even worse is that the film is already utterly bad right after the opening credits are over. Read more of this post

From the Dustbins: Tetsuo – The Iron Man

 

SHE IS SO HOT

I had a hard time deciding whether or not this truly belonged under the Dustbin moniker, but after realizing that the only people who have probably heard of this film are either cult film aficionados or art film fanatics, I decided that it deserved this treatment.  I’m still not wholly convinced, however, seeing as how cult films are generally dusty old niche things that are remembered, and this certainly has been remembered like any other cult film has.  It’s certainly not something rotting away forgotten in a garbage bin someplace, particularly when one considers that it’s even received a third sequel just this past year.  But all the same, obscure films are obscure, and if I dare say so myself, this film is obscure enough.  Read more of this post

Spotlight on Japan: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Spotlight on Japan is a brand new weekly column reserved for my reviews of Japanese films. Let’s see how this thing works out.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) is an animated film with huge historical significance. It started a new era in Japanese animation by bringing together the staff who would found Studio Ghibli, the most consistent and popular Japanese animation studio of all time. Along with a few other films in the 80’s, it created a completely new level of animation quality never seen before. Its monetary success created a playground for Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki – who would become the most prominent figures of the industry by releasing one masterpiece after another, which they are still doing. Picking Nausicaä as the first film for Spotlight on Japan was a no-brainer thanks to its status. Read more of this post

The Immoral Mr. Teas

The Immoral Mr. Teas might not be the first film title that comes to mind when the name Russ Meyer is mentioned, but it may have been the most important in his career and, indeed, the most important for the genres in which he’d spend most of his career working in. Released in 1959 with a budget of just $24,000, Mr. Teas eventually grossed $1.5 million, which helped to finance Meyer’s subsequent films outside of the help of the major studios. But it was also a watershed (on a relative level) in the world of film as it was the first film to unapologetically feature nudity in a film that wasn’t completely underground and pornographic, or under the guise of a “naturist/nudist” film. It essentially opened up the floodgates for what would become sexploitation, but Mr. Teas itself seems harmless by today’s standards. Read more of this post

Yeelen

One of the great joys of world cinema is its ability to transport us to places, times, and cultures that are completely different from our own. Anyone who has had their life enriched by the glimpses into Japanese, middle-class domesticity via Ozu, or Indian humanism via Satyajit Ray, or even American history via Ford should recognize that miraculous ability. However, it’s as frequently the universal familiarity of such films as much as their foreignness that draws us in, and allows us to recognize that some themes are ubiquitous no matter the time or place. In the spirit of appreciating that worldliness that cinema brings, a film such as Souleymane Cissé’s Yeelen should be appreciated, even if it doesn’t reach the cinematic heights of Ozu, Ray, or Ford. Read more of this post