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Eri Eri rema sabakutani / Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani / My God My God Why Hath Thou Forsaken Me?

Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani (2005)

I wonder where he plugged all those things

Director: Aoyama Shinji
Writers: Aoyama Shinji
Date: 2005

Genre: Nothing?
Description: Lemming Syndrome, noise, suicide, life and death, loneliness, music

Cast: Asano Tadanobu, Miyazaki Aoi, Okada Mariko, Nakahara Masaya

Crew of note: Music by Nagashima Hiroyuki, Cinematography by Tamura Masaki

Runtime: 107 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia: Asano plays the f’n guitar, and those are real sounds

summary
Lemming Syndrome! People infected with this mysterious virus suddenly feel the urge to kill themselves, which will eventually mean the end of the world in the most depressing and emptying way possible. But, there’s hope! Two experimental musicians may have a cure: noise music. Does it blast your brain’s senses and knock the virus out? Does the frequency of their aural onslaught resonate and destroy the virus? Or maybe voluntarily listening to their music for extended periods of time should be medically considered suicide. Whatever dudes, they rock!

review
[summary continue] Hana, a girl stricken with Lemming Syndrome, is brought to Mizui and Asuhara in hopes of ridding her of her suicidal tendencies. Stuff happens very, very slowly, and then everyone rocks out. The End.

Okay, it might not be that simple, but that’s already a fairly complete outline, minus possible spoilers. The movie really is quite minimal.. but the pictures are beautiful, and the soundtrack is superb. This is a viruszombieapocalypse movie minus the action, minus the escape, minus the drama, and instead focuses on the implications of a world slowly emptying itself of humanity. Include other favorites of philosophical discourse–suicide, art, beauty, chicks (Miyazaki Aoi <3)–and you get a recipe for.. well, probably a headache. This is a film that requires participation: interpret, contemplate, philosophize. In between bouts of raging air guitar.

conclusion
Many people with stamp this with the “too experimental” hazard, but I disagree. The plot is fairly linear, though very minimal; dialogue is sparse as well. The only thing that may hold back some viewers is the presence of Mizui and Asuhara’s noodling with instruments, but if you can get past that, and perhaps even enjoy it (like Hana, in the end), this can be a joy for your eyes, ears, and mind. It has all the philosophical trappings of the best virus/zombie/apocalypse films, with an emphasis on dis/connection, loneliness, and music. But best of all, it has the most badass concert in all of cinema.

things to take note of
The color (yellow and earth tones)
The importance of the music
The silence in between
Meaning? Symbolism? I bet it’s somewhere

best moment
The concert! m/ m/

why you should watch this
If you like noise or experimental music, this will be bliss
Asano Tadanobu + Miyazaki Aoi
Amazing music, amazing cinematography

rating: 9.25 (or 6 if you can’t stand the noiz)

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

similar movies, maybe:
Electric Dragon 80,000 Volts directed by Ishii Sogo, with Asano
Maybe other zombie/virus films, but this really is unique

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Zui hao de shi guang / Three Times

Zui hao de shi guang / Three Times (2005)

Three times in one movie? Well color me jealous

Director: Hou Hsiao Hsien
Writers: Chu T’ien Wen, Hou Hsiao Hsien
Date: 2005

Genre: Love Story
Description: 3 stories, 3 different time periods but 1 love story, 1911, 1966, 2005, symmetry, beauty, communication, love

Cast: Shu Qi, Chang Chen

Crew of note: Cinematographers of China/Taiwan/HK: Lee Pin Bing (who worked this one) >= Christopher Doyle 🙂

Runtime: 132 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
1911
Shu Qi works in a brothel, and Chang Chen wants her
1966
Chang Chen is a visiting soldier who encounters Shu Qi at a pool bar
2005
Chang Chen and Shu Qi…. hang out?

That’s probably the worst summary I’ve ever made, but I don’t think there’s any point in discussing the summary. Actually, they’re arranged 1966, 1911 and 2005. All you need to know is it’s three love stories, three stories about alienation, loneliness, communication, and connectedness.

review
It is difficult for me to explain why I love this so much. There are three stories, but in fact very little happens, and little is said. However, a lot is shown and the differences in each time period’s things, or materiality if you can call it that, that belie the similarities in their symbolism and themes is fascinating. The radio and pool table, the jewels and old dresser, the bike and the electronics… just some of the objects that fill Hou’s time periods.

Though the three segments can seem detached from one another, the use of the same characters creates solidarity, and in fact adds a layer of possibilities to the movie’s meaning. Could they be the same souls that find each other three times? Are they the same people that live out different lives dictated by circumstances and history? Why do they keep finding each other? What are they thinking to each other (as if they know what the other thinks)? I believe it is a mistake to ask questions in a review, yet many of these questions I still consider long after having seen the film, which probably would not have happened had Hou used three different sets of actors. Chang Chen and Shu Qi shine, and throughout the three segments I had this strange feeling that they were the same characters. And really, this is a good thing.

Wrap this all up in Lee Pin Bing’s beautiful colors, and Hou’s unintrusive, silent and still camera, and you’ve got a pretty picture with pretty actors in this beautiful film. Perhaps I have yet to make a good case for the movie, but I am at wits end. There are just some films that strike a cord in your deepest self, and this is one such movie that has absolutely moved me. I really don’t know what else to say.

Note: Some reviewers mention that Hou has more fleshed out versions of these segments in his other films, but this is wrong. Some compare 1911 to Flowers of Shanghai, but the events are almost 50 years apart. 1966 is about 20 years too early to be similar to Hou’s three personal 1980s films (A Time to Live, Dust in the Wind, and Summer at Grandpa’s). They might explore the same themes, but that’s about it. The only real similarity is in 2005 and Millennium Mambo, especially since they both star Shu Qi in a seemingly identical role. Still, 1/3 isn’t a good score. So this is certainly unique in Hou’s filmography.

conclusion
Hou isn’t known for his love stories (this is his only one, really), but his trademark themes of alienation, loneliness, communication, and connectedness–all essential yet possibly overlooked in the understanding of love–are explored with such insight that this becomes a truly special movie. The use of the same 2 actors in all three segments adds yet another layer of possible meanings. It can be frustrating how Hou tells us very little, but if you have the patience to think about what these things mean, and what could be, Three Times can be an unparalleled experience. This is a masterpiece.

things to take note of
Chang Chen and Shu Qi, their characters, and how they communicate
The different ways the three parts are filtered (the color)
The light
The many symbols, possible meanings, etc.

best moment
1911
The beginning
1966
The empty billiard hall or the final scene
2005
The bike ride or the shots in the room

why you should watch this
Because Hou Hsiao Hsien is one of my favorite directors, and this is my favorite of his
One of the most beautifully colored and shot movies of this and most decades
Chang Chen
Shu Qi
The lighting is brilliant
Hou is a master of alienation/connectedness and loneliness/communication themes
I made a review for this even though I had nothing substantial to say (and I probably just babbled above), just so this movie could be represented on here

rating: 9 – it would be more, but it’s a movie that is easy to find frustrating/boring, so I hesitate to hike it up. Otherwise it’d be more like a 9.4

scorecard
Plot: B
Cast: A
Cinematography: A
Music: A
Entertainment: B+ (at least for me)

similar movies, maybe:
Dolls by Kitano Takeshi, in that there are three stories and they are about love. Sort of. Different actors though, and all in the present.

Shinju: Ten no amijima / Double Suicide

Shinju: Ten no amijima / Double Suicide (1969)

Thanks for spoiling the movie, DVD Cover

Director: Shinoda Masahiro
Writers: Chikamatsu Monzaemon (original bunraku play), Shinoda Masahiro, Takemitsu Toru, Tomioka Taeko
Date: 1969

Genre: Love Story
Description: Ninjo vs giri, love and duty, in love with a courtesan, redemption, a loving wife, an inevitable conclusion, bunraku + film, honor, loyalty, metafiction?, desperation

Cast: Iwashita Shima, Nakamura Kichiemon, Fujiwara Kamatari, Kayo Yoshi, Kawarazaki Shizue, Komatsu Hosei, Takita Yusuke

Crew of note: Score by Takemitsu Toru

Runtime: 142 mins.
Color: BW
Trivia: Shinoda and Iwashita were married in 1967. Until now I think.

summary
Jihei, a struggling paper merchant is enamored by Koharu the courtesan. He spends his days and his hard-earned money with her, neglecting his work and his wife, Osan. However, Jihei cannot have Koharu because he is unable to buy her from her contract. Of course, his family soon finds out, and the real story begins.

review
Pure genius. The combination of bunraku and film is stunning and meaningful. The use of the puppeteers (clad in black like in bunraku), obviously a symbol of something (hint hint), is flawless–it is never obstrusive and serves a natural purpose. Oh, and it’s dang beautiful, too. The sets are a mix of bunraku sets and abstract Japanese design, which shows how far ahead Shinoda is. They move, change, and have a theater’s claustrophobic aura. It is impossible not to admire Shinoda and his crew for their vision, creating this mix of both art forms. It would sound silly for me to throw every superlative at it. This is definitely something that has to be seen. And I stress how important this is, how absolutely essential it is, in the meaning of this film. Thank God for The Criterion Collection, because their transfer really does justice to Shinoda’s black and white, and the shadows are as black as can be, and the whites sometimes blinding.

The story may have a simple premise, but the depth of conflict in the three main characters is amazingly portrayed, and choosing Iwashita to play both women was an inspired choice. It is difficult to imagine Koharu and Osan being played by different women, and the eventualities that overtake the film further emphasize the importance of this choice. Watch, as they make decisions you make think at first impossible.

The whole movie is blanketed by Takemitsu’s brilliant score, which I’d say is one of his best alongside his work for Suna no onna.

Though the title and the poster/cover pretty much tell you the ending, the journey to that end is captivating.

conclusion
Perhaps Shinoda’s masterpiece. A must-see for all fans of film, especially those with an eye for pretty pictures. Though, perhaps a little background in bunraku will help. Try to see a bunraku in person before this film; or if impossible, after. It will help you appreciate this movie more.

things to take note of
The amazing, amazing sets
Spot what doesn’t belong (in a traditional period film)
That ending
The puppeteers and what they do
Takemitsu’s brilliant score

best moment
Whenever the sets break down or change
That ending

why you should watch this
A great movie that blends film and bunraku (Japanese puppet play)
The fact that it’s film + bunraku!!
Iwashita’s best performance, imo

rating: 9.2

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

similar movies, maybe:
Dolls by Kitano Takeshi’s got bunraku, but actually they aren’t similar at all, except that they’re both great. And have bunraku.

genres

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