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Taifû kurabu / Typhoon Club (1985)

Taifû kurabu / Typhoon Club (1985)

Sucks not to be part of the cool club

Director: Sômai Shinji
Writers: Kato Yuji
Date: 1985

Genre: Drama
Description: Ordinary life, highschool, growing up, coming-of-age film, desire, life

Cast: Mikami Yuichi, Kudoh Youki, Ônishi Yuka, Miura Tomokazu, Benibayashi Shigeru, Date Saburo, etc.

Crew of note:

Runtime: 1 hr 55 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia: Number 59 on Kinema Jumpo’s 100 Greatest Japanese Films

summary
In a high school somewhere outside Tokyo, a bunch of kids are growing up. One day a storm hits, and five of them get stuck inside the school at night while one takes an adventure to Tokyo.

review
I find it somewhat strange how difficult it is to find a review of this highly regarded film. 5 pages of results for both “taifu kurabu” and “typhoon club somai” only reveal 1 review: a thoroughly misguided NYTimes review from 1986, that likens it to a “more solemn… ‘Breakfast Club'”. What was this dude watching?

Taifû kurabu / Typhoon Club (1985)

Obviously not this movie

For a film considered among the best in Japanese cinema (in fact, number 59 on Kinema Jumpo’s list), there sure is very little about it in English. Yet I can understand this to some degree, because even I find it hard to say much about it. That isn’t to say that nothing in the film stands out to be remembered and discussed, but rather I am left with the question, “What else is to be discussed?” Sure, there are the conceits of cinema (such as the surprisingly articulate, philosophical, and detached Mikami), but for the most part, Taifu kurabu feels more like a documentary than anything else.

He shows you the world of these adolescents, in a common time, in a common place. Yes, the subject matter is difficult and maybe complicated; the events that take place are far from ordinary. Yet Somai treats his subject with such respect and sincerity that even the most sensitive scenes have a certain tenderness to them. Some will pan him for his “distance”, but not only does it show that said respect, but it also puts his characters in context, and allows a very meaningful emptiness to permeate the screen. The tenderness I speak of isn’t one that is manufactured by cuts, close ups and other cinematic techniques. Instead it is achieved because Somai allows everything space to breathe and time to build, settle, and linger in one’s memory. Those who demand a closeup don’t understand his intention. *

Taifû kurabu / Typhoon Club (1985)

Definitely not a common classroom

Maybe I am right to think that really, I have nothing to say about Taifu kurabu that isn’t pseudo-intellectual nonsense. Yet perhaps the desire to say something, to give this under-appreciated film a page just to say its name, is the best endorsement I can hope to give Somai’s creation.

conclusion
Japanese cinema has a great tradition of making ordinary life seem so meaningful and fascinating. Taifu kurabu might not be about the ordinary, but everyone will find something here that will remind them or their youth. It is not because of generality–Somai’s world is one of a kind–but rather, because of the sincerity and tenderness, and occasionally ire, that we all, Somai included, feel for our own youth that is extended towards these characters.

things to take note of
The characters’ conflicts and pains
How Somai shoots sensitive scenes
Do you see yourself in one of them?

Taifû kurabu / Typhoon Club (1985)

Well, I'm definitely not the naked embarrassed guy!

best moment
Let’s dance!

why you should watch this
Great coming-of-age tale
Discusses many issues we all had while growing up
Maybe you’ll find something that reminds you of your youth

rating: 8

scorecard
Plot: B
Cast: C+
Cinematography: B+
Music: C+
Entertainment: C+

similar movies, maybe:
Can’t think of anything now, but it isn’t hard to find good movies about ordinary people and their not-so-ordinary lives

Note: I just did a google search 10 seconds after posting this review, and this review is number 1 for “taifu kurabu review” and on the first page for “typhoon club review”. Good news, I guess, but also somewhat disappointing, internetland!

* If you insist on knowing what I’m alluding to, then fine I’ll tell you. It’s the underwear dance numbers. Somai shoots these scenes from afar, and offers no close ups. I’m pretty sure a ton of people will squint, and even offer a zoomed image of it as the film’s best scene, but that’s pretty sad.

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That’s right, period films, but about yakuza. I wasn’t sure if there was a particular term for it, so yeah, I guess I’ll stick with that.

Kunisada Chuji / 国定忠治 / Chuji the Gambler (1960)

Like Kozure Okami, minus the babycart machinegun?

Kunisada Chuji / 国定忠治 / Chuji the Gambler (1960)
Director: Taniguchi Senkichi
Cast: Mifune Toshirô , Katô Daisuke, Aratama Michiyo, Natsuki Yosuke, Fujita Susumu, Tôno Eijirô, Tanba Tetsurô

Summary:
Chuji the gambler comes home to find the village, and his family, deep in suffering because of corrupt official Jubei. Unable to take any more abuse, the villagers, along with Chuji, revolt against the magistrate to take back their village and get revenge for their suffering.

The Good Stuff:
– Mifune being Mifune, but there are times when he’s just too Mifune for the character
– The script is by Shindô Kaneto, and the score by Satô Masaru, so you know it’s not your average movie

The Best Stuff:
– Refuses to glorify the yakuza/gambler lifestyle and gives a very balanced portrayal of Chuji, often a do-no-wrong folkhero
– Many of the scenes are at night, adding to the film’s darker tone

Matatabi sannin yakuza / 股旅三人やくざ / Three Yakuza (1965)

Face size proportionate to fame? Maybe not but they sure neglected Matsukata

Matatabi sannin yakuza / 股旅三人やくざ / Three Yakuza (1965)
Director: Sawashima Tadashi
Cast: Nakadai Tatsuya, Matsukata Hiroki, Shimura Takashi, Nakamura Kinnosuke, Tanaka Kunie, Fuji Sumiko

Summary:
1 – Nakadai is Sentaro, a yakuza wanted for murder, who finds himself under the protection and employment of a local yakuza boss. He is tasked with protecting a young prostitute from being rescued by her lover. Sentaro’s kind heart and conscience, however, cause him to feel conflicted.
2 – Genta (Matsukata) and Bunzo (Shimura) meet outside a gambling den. Genta helps Bunzo escape after getting caught cheating at the tables. They eventually find themselves in a small house occupied by Omiyo (Fuji), where the past is revealed.
3 – Nakamura is Kaze-no-Kyutaro, a seemingly world-weary, badass yakuza, who is hired by a small village to protect them from an evil government official taxing the town into the ground. This yakuza, however, isn’t the kind of person he says he is.

The Good Stuff:
– Yakuza action!
– Nakamura is hilarious in this one, one of his least “cool” characters

The Best Stuff:
– Three yakuza stories, three great leading men
– Three different characters that could have had an entire movie made for them
– Probably Sawashima Tadashi’s best film?

Hitori okami / 一人狼 / Lone Wolf Isazo (1968)

Put a mask on Raizo and he almost looks like Batman 0_0

Hitori okami / 一人狼 / Lone Wolf Isazo (1968)
Director: Ikehiro Kazuo
Cast: Ichikawa Raizô, Ogawa Mayumi, Iwasaki Kaneko, Nagato Isamu

Summary:
Isazo is a famous yakuza man traveling around as usual (he even gets an intro song). One day he meets a boy whose mother is revealed to be Isazo’s old lover. His once carefree and guiltless life suddenly changes as he finally decides to right some wrongs and follow the Yakuza code.

The Good Stuff:
– Interesting yakuza > samurai message
– Isazo is a pretty down-to-earth Yakuza, surprisingly!

The Best Stuff:
– Hard to imagine anyone but Raizô playing this role
– Great heroic climax

Kogarashi Monjiro / 木枯し悶次郎 / The Withered Tree (1972)

That bottom-most picture... yeah I can't make sense of it either

Kogarashi Monjiro / 木枯し悶次郎 / The Withered Tree (1972)
Director: Nakajima Sadao
Cast: Sugawara Bunta, Ibuki Goro, Watase Tsunehiko, Yamamoto Rinichi, Koike Asao, Enani Kyoko, Sasazawa Saho

Summary:
Kogarashi Monjiro is framed for a crime he did not commit, and is sent into exile on a deserted island along with other criminals. He spends his days pining for revenge, until one day, a chance to escape arrives. He takes it, along with a few of his fellow criminals, and returns to the mainland. There is only one thing on his mind: revenge.

The Good Stuff:
– Kinda reminds me of Mikogami no Jokichi, but Sugawara Bunta is way more badass than Harada Yoshio
– The exiled part of the story could have been more interesting

The Best Stuff:
– I like Sugawara’s sword style–simple, believable, and effective
– Sugawara Bunta as a yakuza is awesome, and you should already be aware of this by now

Mushuku mono / 無宿者 / Drifting Crow (1964)

Disclaimer: Movie does not feature a nude beach (lower right)

Mushuku mono / 無宿者 / Drifting Crow (1964)
Director: Misumi Kenji
Cast: Ichikawa Raizô, Ishiyama Kenjiro, Abe Tôru, Taki Eiko, Tsubouchi Mikiko, Sawamura Sonosuke, Mizuhara Koichi, Taki Keiichi, Fujimaki Jun

Summary:
Ipponmatsu goes on a journey to find his father’s killer. On the way he meets Kuroki, a samurai on a similar journey to find his father who disappeared 5 years ago after escorting a caravan that was robbed of 4,000 ryo. Ipponmatsu suspects Kuroki’s father of being his own father’s killer, but now they must work together to reveal the plot behind boss Sanshu-ya, the mysterious Shima-ya, and the even more mysterious person behind them.

The Good Stuff:
– Good murder mystery and plot twist
– Misumi Kenji knows how to shoot action sequences (if you don’t know this already!), so you know this will be a treat

The Best Stuff:
– The relationship between Ipponmatsu and Kuroki is fairly complex and nuanced
– Fights in the village are awesome

Same concept, slightly different genre!

Jushichinin no ninja / 十七人の忍者 / Seventeen Ninja (1963)

Obiously, the other 11 aren't important enough for the cover

Jushichinin no ninja / 十七人の忍者 / Seventeen Ninja (1963)
Director: Hasegawa Yasuto
Cast: Kotaro Satomi, Otomo Ryutaro, Konoe Jushiro, Azuma Chiyonosuke, Matsukata Hiroki

Summary:
A band of ninja led by Jingoza (Otomo), must steal a scroll detailing Tokugawa Tadanaga’s plot to take the throne. However, they must deal with ninja master Saiga Magokuro (Konoe), who must protect the scroll, and Tadanaga, at all costs.

The Good Stuff:
– 17 + 1 ninja. The more ninjas the better?
– A bunch of cool ninja moves and gadgets, though not as many as the Shinobi no mono series
– Azuma plays a Tokugawa once again. I wonder why.

The Best Stuff:
– Otomo, Kotaro, Konoe. That’s a pretty cool lineup.
– Revisionist history / hypothetical possible history movies are always interesting

Ninjutsu gozen-jiai / 忍術御前試合 / Torawakamaru (1957)

They just really don't like spiders I guess

Ninjutsu gozen-jiai / 忍術御前試合 / Torawakamaru (1957)
Director: Sawashima Tadashi
Cast: Arima Koji, Fushimi Sentaro, Hori Masao, Ôkôchi Denjirô, Tsukigata Ryonosuke

Summary:
Ninja clans fight with each other. Yes, that’s about it. By the way, this is a kiddie film.

The Good Stuff:
– Magic? I guess some people like that

The Best Stuff:
– Some nice swordfights and creative ideas, that will later be realized in the sort of the same but not quite the same (actually I’ve no idea why I’m making this comparison other than the presence of a giant frog and snakedragonthing) movie, Kairyu daikessen
– You don’t need a brain or an attention span to enjoy this film yay!

Ninja hicho fukuro no shiro / オリジナルネーム / Castle of Owls (1963)

Oddly, there are more ninjas on this cover than on Jushichinin no ninja's.

Ninja hicho fukuro no shiro / 忍者秘著梟の城 / Castle of Owls (1963)
Director: Kudo Eiichi
Cast: Otomo Ryutaro, Ohki Minoru, Kawarazaki Choichiro, Takichiho Hizaru, Mishima Masao

Summary:
The Iga ninjas are a dying breed as Toyotomi’s rule allows Japan to experience some peace. Juzo, an Iga ninja who had vowed revenge for the death of his family, is hired by a rich weapons merchant to assassinate Toyotomi, restarting his quest for blood. In his way are rival ninja, and his once best friend who has decided to become a government vassal.

The Good Stuff:
– Lots of ninja action, with jumps, tumbling and lots of thrown sharpthingies

The Best Stuff:
– Kudo is known for having very well shot movies, and this is no exception
– Great use of depth of field in forests
– Distanced shots of fights
– That low angle with the candles in the temple–you’ll see

Ninja gari / 忍者狩り / Ninja Hunt (1964)

Konoe Jushiro: Born to play the villain. Except he doesn't in this one.

Ninja gari / 忍者狩り / Ninja Hunt (1964)
Director: Yamauchi Tetsuya
Cast: Konoe Jushiro, Yamashiro Shingo, Sato Kei, Tamura Takahiro

Summary:
The Gamo clan hire Wadakura, Shinzo, Hachi and Yajiro to protect their clan from the Koga ninja and their Shogunate masters. As the Gamo clan daimyo nears death, the Shogunate sends a letter to allow a legitimate heir to succeed him. The shogunate, however, also sends their ninjas to destroy the proclamation to allow them to abolish the clan. The four ninja hunters, who once belonged to clans that suffered similar fates, will stop at nothing to get revenge on the Koga and their leader, Yami-no-Kurando.

The Good Stuff:
– Konoe is so evil even as the protagonist
– Interesting and realistic (that is, not overly cool) final battle

The Best Stuff:
– Quite a bit of blood and brutality
– Cheezy synthy soundtrack surprisingly works!
– Lots of plots and counterplots

Yoja no maden / 妖蛇の魔殿 / Ninja's Weapon (1956)

Kataoka Chiezo as a 22 year old when he was 53. Seriously.

Yoja no maden / 妖蛇の魔殿 / Ninja’s Weapon (1956)
Director: Matsuda Sadatsugu
Cast: Kataoka Chiezo, Tsukigata Ryonosuke, Yamagata Isao, Hasegawa Yumiko

Summary:
Ogata Taromaru’s family is slain by the corrupt and evil Sarashina Danjo. For 10 years he trains to become a ninja, and finally sets out to extract his revenge on those that have harmed his family. On the way, he meets a youth named Tsukikage Hamanosuke, who also bears a grudge against Danjo. On their travel together they also meet Orochimaru, a mysterious ninja who seems interested in their affairs. They head for Kyoto, where Danjo now resides, to get revenge.

The Good Stuff:
– Matsuda Sadatsugu is a reliable name for chambara and action movies
– Straight up action film unencumbered by a complicated plot
– Fights are more samurai than ninja

The Best Stuff:
– A somewhat (I stress somewhat) youthful Kataoka Chiezo playing a 22 year old is HILARIOUS
– Possibly one of Yamagata Isao’s most hilarious death faces (he dies a lot you know)

Joen / The Affair

Joen / The Affair (1967)

Not a bad affair if you ask me

Director: Yoshida Yoshishige (or Kiju)
Writers: Tamura Tsutomu, Yoshida Yoshishige
Date: 1967

Genre: Drama
Description: Love affair, love, marriage, extra-marrital affair, rape, identity, freedom

Cast: Okada Mariko, Minami Yoshie, Sugano Tadahiko, Shimegi Shigako, Kimura Isao, Takahashi Etsushi

Crew of note:

Runtime: 1 hour 32 mins
Color: Black and White
Trivia:

summary
Oriko’s and her mother had a difficult relationship. She knew of her mother’s relationships with men, and insisted she stop, interfering in the affair. Now that her mother has passed away, Oriko attempts to find out more about her from her lovers. Oriko herself is in an unhappy marriage; one without love. She wishes to divorce him, but her husband refuses. Through this dilemma she begins to understand her mother more and more, and that they are more alike than she thinks.

Joen / The Affair (1967)

'Oh mom you're such a slut'

review
Admittedly, this didn’t start that well for me. I’m not sure why, but I found myself uninterested for the first few minutes. The movie starts rather slow, and already comes out with an affair: Oriko’s mother and a much younger man. Okada Mariko, in fact, is just there to complain. Another movie about sarcastic, petulant women? Okay, probably not.

The film’s events are launched by her mother’s affair, and much of it revolves around love and love affairs. Yet what the film is truly about is Oriko’s discovery of herself, both as her mother’s daughter and as a woman. Her relationships with men–with her husband and with her mother’s lovers–all represent different parts of Oriko’s life. The juxtaposition of events (and rather clear dialogue) and character relationships creates a web of meaning brought about by contrast: freedom and comfort; submission and animal desires; choice and depth. We discover with Oriko who she really is, and what she really wants–one or the other, both, all, or none at all.

This is all created with about as much silence as conversation, and Yoshida proves himself a worthy student of Ozu in how he strings together images to surround events with more meaning and context. The beach, the forest, those long walks alone or with a companion, the smalled room (through close up), the cabin, her large but seemingly empty house… the camera is also one of the principal story tellers.

Joen / The Affair (1967)

I guess she isn't a fan of furniture

If the film has one flaw, it is that it may be hard to follow. The sequence of events feels somewhat confusing, even though they occur chronologically (I think), but I am unsure why I experienced this difficulty. Everything seemed to be next to one another, which, in my mind, merged one event with those around it, even if they were with different characters or in different settings. Perhaps this is a reflection of Oriko’s character.

Or perhaps this a reflection of my fickle attention span. :p

Joen / The Affair (1967)

This would be an awesome chambara scene if only they had katanas

conclusion
Despite my terrible attention span (that’s only really good enough for chambara), for the most part, I was captivated by this film. The images are very strong, and many scenes will linger long after they are seen. It is because of the way Yoshida combines his pictures and scenes that the movie is able to be more than a sappy melodrama, and maybe one of his most memorable films.

things to take note of
The excellent cinematography
The hand-held camera going around
Pay attention because the chronology of events and the cutting is a little confusing maybe

best moment
In the log cabin: meaning + great cinematography = good movietimes

why you should watch this
That log cabin scene alone is worth it, really
Okada Mariko!

rating: 8.8

scorecard
Plot: B
Cast: B
Cinematography: A
Music: C+
Entertainment: C+

similar movies, maybe:
Many of Yoshida’s films have the same feel, so probably those. Akitsu onsen, Arashi o yobu juhachi-nin, Juhyo no yoromeki… etc.
New wave-era directors like Shindô Kaneto and Kinoshita Keisuke, but not Oshima, Shinoda, Masumura

Shiroi kyotou / The Ivory Tower

Shiroi kyotou / The Ivory Tower (1966)

Yes, this movie is as serious as he looks.

Director: Yamamoto Satsuo
Writers: Hashimoto Shinobu, Yamasaki Toyoko
Date: 1966

Genre: Drama
Description: Medical drama, politics, success, greed, arrogance

Cast: Tamiya Jiro, Tôno Eijirô, Tamura Takahiro, Ozawa Eitarô, Ishiyama Kenjiro, Takizawa Osamu, Funakoshi Eiji, Katô Yoshi, Kishi Teruko, Ogawa Mayumi, Fujimura Shiho

Crew of note: Produce by Nagata Masaichi. According to imdb, Setsuko Hara makes an appearance, but I didn’t notice her.

Runtime: 2 hours 30 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia:

summary
Zaizen Goro may only be an assistant professor at Naniwa University, but he has already made a name for himself in Pancreatic surgery. He has become something of a rockstar in the medical world, and many sing his praises. Professor Azuma, his superior, however, does not approve of his attitude towards their profession, and is at odds over who to nominate as his successor. The selection of the new professor reveals a rich and complex political world inside Naniwa University–each player will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Shiroi kyotou / The Ivory Tower (1966)

Not exactly puppydog eyes

review
Yamamoto Satsuo isn’t that popular a name. Very few of his films are widely available, and most of them belong to a single genre: jidaigeki. This is the same director that helmed the first two Shinobi no mono (starring Ichikawa Raizo as Ishikawa Goemon) films, and the 16th Zatoichi. I was surprised, then, to discover that this amazing movie was directed by the same man.

I honestly thought this was going to be a borefest. I’d never seen a non-action film from this director, and I’d read that the film was heavy on the dialogue. While it is true that the characters talk, argue, and debate nonstop, the film is far from boring. In fact, the political world Yamamoto creates has a striking resemblance to politically-tinged jidaigeki. Japan’s feudal tradition, after all, continued well beyond the Tokugawa era. Replace labcoats with kamishimo (formal samurai wear), scalpels with katanas and Pancreatic surgery with… uhhh.. Pancreatic chopping-ups and you get pretty much the same movie in a different time.

Another great thing about this movie is its balanced portrayal of the different factions. Despite the fact that the audience will automatically gravitate towards Zaizen (Yamamoto presents him in the introduction of the cast and crew, and the first scene he looks like a heroic figure), each side is equally desparate, equally determined, equally dirty. Yamamoto obviously feels no allegiance to any of his characters, and the film benefits from his objectivity.

While the film does focus on the traditional Japanese politics inside Naniwa University, the film is also a compelling drama about man’s ambition: a young man’s ambition for the future, an old man’s ambition to be remembered, a ruler’s ambition to retain the status quo, an idealists ambition to do what is right, etc. Each of the principal characters has a different personality and motivation, but most, if not all, end up acting the same way.

*Warning: You will see guts and gross stuff.

Shiroi kyotou / The Ivory Tower (1966)

Guts? He's beginning to regret that second bowl of udon

conclusion
There are many possible meanings one can interpret from the film–political or personal–and maybe it is dependent on the viewer’s own personality. Yamamoto, of course, only subtlely suggests that there is something to learn from the film’s events. It’s unclear if the characters even learn anything from what just happened, but by the look on their faces, it is hard to imagine they haven’t. This is, by far, Yamamoto’s best film, and certainly a memorable one from the 60’s.

things to take note of
Microcosm of Japanese politics
Who is the real protagonist? Who is the hero of the film?

best moment
Guts!
Inspection time x2
Tamura Takahiro’s puppydog face
Zaizen sr. is humiliated
The outcome?

Shiroi kyotou / The Ivory Tower (1966)

Professors get their own catwalk in Naniwa University, apparently

why you should watch this
Probably the best Japanese medical drama evar? Or at least from the 60s
Complex political world inside the frame of a university

rating: 9.2

scorecard
Plot: B+
Cast: B+
Cinematography: B
Music: B
Entertainment: B

similar movies, maybe:
Medical dramas focusing on politics? Not a lot honestly. But another good doctor-y movie is Masumura Yasuzo’s Akai tenshi / Red Angel.

genres

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