You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘music b’ tag.

Shokei no shima / Punishment Island

Shokei no shima / Punishment Island (1966)

I love covers that give absolutely no clues about the movie. Like this one

Director: Shinoda Masahiro
Writers: Ishihara Shintaro, Takeda Taijun
Date: 1966

Genre: Drama
Description: Revenge, exile, flashback, juvenile delinquent, penal colony

Cast: Nitta Akira, Mikuni Rentaro, Iwashita Shima, Sato kei, Komatsu Hosei, Tonoyama Taiji

Crew of note: Music by Takemitsu Toru

Runtime: 88 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia: Shinoda and Iwashita got married in 1967 after this film was released.

summary
Saburou, a man with a mysterious past, is on his way back to Kojima Island to look for Otake, a man with whom he bears a grudge. Through a series of flashbacks we discover his connection with the island and the man he is looking for, and why he has returned after 2 decades. There he meets Matsue, a bully from his past, Kuroki, an old teacher and Aya, a beautiful girl he once knew, before finally finding Otake.

review
If you like jidaigeki and yakuza eiga like me, then you’ve definitely heard of Sadojima (Nichiren was a famous exile there) or Abashiri Prison (of Abashiri bangai-chi fame, starring Takakura Ken) or a host of other nameless prison islands. The Japanese seem to enjoy throwing criminals into exile, and they even have a word for it: Shimanagashi (literally, island exile). Kojima, featured in this movie, is a fictional penal island for juvenile delinquents.

Shokei no shima / Punishment Island (1966)

They look so happy playing with a dead eel ;_;

It’s not hard to imagine why Saburou is returning to Kojima–the title is Punishment Island for cripe’s sake. And while it’s made clear from the very start that he’s there for some revengin’, it is the way Shinoda reveals Saburou’s tortured past through small, repetitive and overlapping flashbacks that makes this such a great movie. The plot develops slowly, almost painfully slow, as we feel Saburou’s escalating anxiety, almost a morbid excitement, that’s built up over years and years of waiting for the right time to come back. And once there, will he or won’t he?

The choice of having a totally anonymous actor in Nitta Akira to play the lead adds to the tension; his is a new face that we’ve never scene before, with strong, coarse features and an unknown past. The audience has nothing to recall about him even as an actor, and that mystery is a big part of what makes his character so compelling. His performance is chilling and intense; you can just imagine him being beaten and scarred as a child. Mikuni’s work as Otake is also brilliant as ever.

Shokei no shima / Punishment Island (1966)

Take note of that crutch. It will surprise you near the end

Last but not the least, the movie is stunning–which is pretty obvious given it’s Shinoda. Iwashita on a cliff with an undulating background; the long take at the end with a kanon statue on the table; the grayed and filthy children on the rocky hills; Kojima in the background as Saburou looks on from a boat; the many long takes and long shots; the isolation in every frame. An island is just a pile of rocks and yet Shinoda makes it seem so much more. There may be no walls and the ocean may seem traverse-able (how is this not a word?), but Saburou’s island of Kojima has kept him imprisoned even after 20 years.

Shokei no shima / Punishment Island (1966)

Kojima: a big big pile of rocks and murderin

conclusion
The way Shinoda stages scenes is a sight to behold. It is no exaggeration to say that the last major scene is one of Shinoda’s best, and perhaps it’s one of the earliest signs of his curiosity in using traditional performance art (Bunraku in Shinju: Ten no amijima; Kabuki in Buraikan; here just a stage play, and only really in the last scene) in his movies. This may not be the best place to start with Shinoda, but if you’ve seen his other films and enjoyed them, this will definitely be another blessing.

things to take note of
Amazing pictures of the island
The long shots
Isoooolaaaation

best moment
The last scene in the house and how amazing it is

why you should watch this
Another excellent Shinoda. That guy just never fails to impress me.

rating: 8.6

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

similar movies, maybe:
Movies about islands and isolation? Uhm, Hadaka no shima / Naked Island?

Advertisements

Shang xue lu shang / The Story of Xiaoyan

Shang xue lu shang / The Story of Xiaoyan (2004)

Wo yao shang xue (written on the left) = I want to go to school. Wow an educational caption!

Director: Fang Gangliang
Writers: Zhao Dongling
Date: 2004

Genre: Drama, Comedy
Description: School, children, education, working student

Cast: Wu Xu, Ai Liya, Yang Shulin, Zhao Xue, Hu Zhixiao, Ren Huan, Guo Haowei

Crew of note:

Runtime: 91 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia: Based on a true story

summary
Wang Yan is a little girl in a little town in western China. Her school has just raised tuition from 20 yuan to 24 yuan and 80 cents, and unfortunately her family might not be able to afford to send her to school next semester. She figures that if she can earn it herself, she should be able to continue attending school. The little businesswoman works her way from eggs, to a pen, to a small lamb, to picking berries, all to earn enough money to go to school.

review
Like most, I hated school when I was a kid. Homework, boring classes, evil teachers, waking up early… aside from PE and lunch time (actually, basketball time), was there ever anything fun about school? Only the nerds ever wanted to go, and they were picked on relentlessly. Except during exams, then they were everyone’s best friends. I suppose when you live someplace where education is a basic and provided right, you end up taking it for granted. And maybe that’s why movies like Shang xue lu shang are alien enough to be unique and interesting at first glance, but also have the ability to feel familiar in its themes.

Shang xue lu shang / The Story of Xiaoyan (2004)

PE is awesome is one of those universal themes

That’s how movies like this become successful: it is set in a foreign land, in a strange culture, in a world we’ve never been to before, and yet the story, characters and themes are able to resonate deep within us. They make sense, sort of, even though the film is as foreign as the language they speak. Luckily, cinema seems to work in a language that we all understand, and Fang uses it well. He works many long and wide shots of the the terrain to frame Wang Yan’s struggle, but remembers to keep us close for dear moments. The music punctuates key scenes, but never feels pandering or manipulative.

The cast of characters that surround the main character also add to the film’s great charm. Dagua and Erguo are adorable, like most little brothers are; the groom-to-be is a hilariously thrifty businessman; the teacher is supportive but has problems of his own; and her mother, though she does not approve of her plans at first, eventually gives in. Wang Yan and the people around her are richly drawn and real.

Shang xue lu shang / The Story of Xiaoyan (2004)

A kid selling a blind man a lamb. Yes.

This is “Little Kid Overcoming Adversity” done right, and Wang Yan is the perfect protagonist for a movie like this. She is the best thing about the film, and even though the adversity she faces may not be especially severe or insurmountable, her positive attitude and hopefulness is welcome in a genre usually filled with tears. Unlike other movies that use sadsack children for quick sympathy and bathe their stories in that misguided “Depressing is Deep” mantra, Shang xue lu shang’s protagonist is optimistic and feisty while her story is lighthearted and a joy to watch. Her quest to earn that 24 and 80 is one part underdog story, one part meaningful, one part comedy, and 10 parts enjoyable. Okay maybe my math (and English) have gone down the drain, but you’ve never wanted to see a kid go to school more in your life.

conclusion
Okay so I probably can’t make a better conclusion than what I wrote in that last paragraph so I’m just gonna stop here and tell you to just read it again and go look for this movie. k?

Shang xue lu shang / The Story of Xiaoyan (2004)

Donald Trump with a cap instead of a toupe

things to take note of
Wang Yan’s optimism
Lack of melodrama and predictable life drama

best moment
“Shan!”
Dagua, Ergua and Wang Yan running around
Making moneys

why you should watch this
Best child-wants-to-go-to-school movie evar

rating: 8.2

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

similar movies, maybe:
Not One Less? But that one sucks

Eburi manshi no yûga-na seikatsu / The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman

Eburi manshi no yûga-na seikatsu / The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman (1963)

The poster just screams most hilarious boring movie ever

Director: Okamoto Kihachi
Writers: Ide Toshiro, Yamaguchi Hitomi
Date: 1963

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Satire
Description: Salaryman, narration, docudrama

Cast: Kobayashi Keiju, Aratama Michiyo, Ehara Tatsuyoshi, Tachikawa Hiroshi, Tôno Eijirô, Nakamaru Tadao,

Crew of note:

Runtime: 103 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia:

summary
Eburi is a salaryman in Tokyo, living an ordinary life. He works at an ad agency as a writer, tends to talk nonstop when he drinks, and unconsciously aspires to become a real writer. One day, after having one too many drinks at a bar, he comes home having promised two editors the best story they’ve ever read, except he doesn’t remember he promised anything and doesn’t even know what to write! Eburi, and his otherwise boring, average, uninteresting life, run through the filter of his perceptive and babbling brain, becomes the topic of his soon-to-be popular semi-autobiographical novel.

review
The salaryman is modern Japan’s version of the Edo period’s lowly samurai footsoldier classes (yeah there were many subclasses within samurai). Stuck in a dead end job, with no opportunities for anything better, and not many options other than what they already have, they usually lead very boring, meaningless lives. At the very least, samurai had infrequent battles, wars and clan conflict to make things exciting, and to give them a glimmer of hope in achieving anything worthwhile. It also makes for enjoyable action movies for audiences. But what do salarymen have? Well, in Eburi’s case, he gets to write a story about his boring, meaningless life. And what the audience gets is a movie about him writing about his boring, meaningless life.

Eburi manshi no yûga-na seikatsu / The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman (1963)

The boring face or boredom

Okay, that sounds a LOT worse than it is, but that’s really what the Eburi manshi… is about. On paper it sounds like this should be the most boring movie imaginable: it’s about a boring guy, with his boring voice narrating his boring life about his boring book. Yet if you pay attention to just how boring everything is–I mean, really LISTEN to what Eburi is saying about himself and about his life–it actually is quite fascinating.

Eburi manshi no yûga-na seikatsu / The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman (1963)

Oh Eburi, you and your silly silly life

And its the dialogue, the narration, that truly shines, along with Kobayashi’s delivery. He says SO MUCH and talks about so many things so fluidly that it’s hard to imagine that these were not Kobayashi’s own thoughts, and that he was not actually drunk while being filmed. The observations he makes are incredibly detailed to the point of nonsense and his descriptions of everyday Tokyo life are so full of vibrancy and energy that he sounds like he’s hallucinating. How could this man, living this life (I’ve used the word boring so many times sheesh) have such a rich and powerful vision of this city? When he describes his life it’s almost as if every moment is magical, every event important. But he’s just another faceless, ordinary salaryman, right?

Well, maybe he isn’t, and maybe behind every seemingly common man is an interesting story. Maybe all of us are like Eburi, and all of us have led fascinating lives worth ink on a page. Or maybe we’re all just delusional. Huh.

Eburi manshi no yûga-na seikatsu / The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman (1963)

..And the predator has his prey trapped, backed against the corner.. and he TALKS. Nonstop. About his mom

conclusion
Eburi proves that the salaryman is an interesting and worthwhile subject despite the dead-end life that one lives. In fact, it probably is because of his seemingly meaningless (to everyone but those around him) existence that his life is given meaning in the context of cinema and [insert related academic field here]. Hats off to Okamoto for another brilliant satire. I still don’t want to become a corporate slave though.

things to take note of
The many, many jokes and descriptions
The narration

best moment
Eburi is drunk and talks nonstop. Really.

why you should watch this
This is Kobayashi Keiju’s best work as a leading man

rating: 8.6

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

similar movies, maybe:
Other deadpan comedies/satires from Okamoto, maybe Satsujin kyo jidai / Age of Assassins or Nikudan / Human Bullet

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.

Kamyu nante shiranai / Who’s Camus Anyway?

Kamyu nante shiranai / Who's Camus Anyway? (2005)

They look like they're shooting.. nothing?

Director: Yanagimachi Mitsuo
Writers: Yanagimachi Mitsuo
Date: 2005

Genre: Drama, Metacinema?
Description: Making a student film, university students, love triangle, movie about a murder, acting

Cast: Kashiwabara Shuuji, Maeda Ai, Nakaizumi Hideo, Abe Shinnosuke, Tamayama Tetsuji, Yoshikawa Hinano, Honda Hirotaro, Kuroki Meisa, Isaki Mitsunori, Taguchi Tomorowo

Crew of note:

Runtime:
Color: Color
Trivia: The director’s first feature was “Godspeed You Black Emperor!”

summary
A bunch of students at a University are making a film entitled “The Bored Murderer.” On the way they face budget problems, a new lead actor, love triangles, logistics issues, a crazy girlfriend, and all the associated headaches of trying to organize a movie. Their mentor/teacher is a bit nuts, too, having not directed a movie in years and experiencing chronic depression after the death of his wife (2 years prior). Film making, tons of film references, and other stuff happen.

Kamyu nante shiranai / Who's Camus Anyway? (2005)

Stuff like this.

review
If you’re a film nerd, you need to pay attention to really appreciate this film, maybe even watch it twice. Though the references can be a little daunting, a little research can reveal a lot of interesting things about this movie. The first sequence is one of the more obvious, as Yanagimachi employs an impressive long shot as some students discuss, what else, their favorite long shots mentioning Mizoguchi, Altman, etc in the process. Even without any knowledge about most of the things they mention, it is still possible to pick up on the hidden meanings and subtle references within the film. Whenever a reference is made, it’s also usually a self-reference somehow. The only thing that disappointed me is that most of the names mentioned are American or European directors. The only Japanese name I remember them mentioning Mizoguchi.

Most of the movie is about the film making process, yeah, but not in terms of technical know-how or technique or genre conventions. Instead, a significant amount of time is spent on everyday activities that affect the making of the movie. As mentioned in the summary, they go through quite a bit of trouble trying to make ends meet, and this is pretty much the great struggle they have to overcome. Kinda like a university/student movie, only with tons of film references yeah?

The film’s greatest achievement though, is how successfully and intelligently it mixes reality, the reality of the film, and the fantasy within the film. That’s three levels of mindboggleyness right there that I can’t quite explain. See it, and you’ll know what I mean.

Btw SPOILERS AT THE BOTTOM.

conclusion
If you have an academic interest in film, see this movie. If you are interested in the process of filmmaking, see this movie. If you are interested in how murder-mystery movies are made, see this movie. There’s much to be learned and appreciated. I originally gave it a really high score after seeing it, but I let it sink in, and I can’t give the movie more than the score below. The ending is very creative and intelligently executed, actually it’s pretty amazing, but just like the students making “The Bored Murderer”, it’s just an exercise in film making, and I expect more than that from watching movies.

Kamyu nante shiranai / Who's Camus Anyway? (2005)

Film making = A bunch of students crammed into the back of a tiny pick up truck

things to take note of
Tons of references I didn’t catch
What happened at the end??

best moment
The ending

why you should watch this
Inventively blurs the lines between film and reality

rating: 7.9

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

similar movies, maybe:
None, probably

~~~

Don’t continue reading unless you want the movie spoiled?

Seriously, the movie will suck if you have it spoiled.

***

Maybe you should just come back once you’ve seen it?

[][][]

Still a warning, yup.

+++

I was too lazy to make another page for this, because, well, yeah, Lazy.

/\/\/\

I’m running out of symbols.

===

Ok that’s it.

!!!SPOILERS AHOY!!!

Kamyu nante shiranai / Who's Camus Anyway? (2005)

Sort of a spoiler, but not really

Ok then.

The ending is pretty much the one thing that makes the movie memorable, because without it, it’s just a film nerd’s melodrama. But the ending. Did the murder happen, or didn’t it? That’s probably a bigger mystery than the murder-mystery within the film. What? So let’s think about this again.

– This is when it gets really confusing, as the “student film” and the film we are watching begin to seemingly become merged. It is difficult to tell whether we are seeing a scene from the perspective of the students, or from the perspective of an audience watching these events occur.
– Since we do not know the script of their film, it is difficult to tell whether some of the following scenes are part of the script or not
– The crew and their camera never enter the house. We know that the murder scene is included in their film though, because they rehearse it, and some of the crew members remark that the director seems to glorify the violence in the script (so naturally, the murders should be shown). Even though he isn’t there it’s unlikely that they change the script drastically. It would be a pretty asshole move to change the script with the director in the hospital.
– When Ikeda hammers the old lady, it looks like it’s actually hitting (it’s a student film, so the hammer should either be a rubber mallet or miss entirely). Is it an actual murder, or are we seeing the student film? Is this the final version of the student film with special effects (aka ketchup), or is the murder real? It looks pretty real.
– It is difficult to tell whether Ikeda is still playing his role perfectly, or has transformed into the Bored Murderer himself.
– The scene where the old man knocks on the door is filmed twice (the first being a test shot), but Ikeda is only shown to react to it once, presumably the second time. If he were really going nuts, he would have noticed the first knock too. The second knock, which is the one they film, is the only one he reacts to.
– After knocking on the door, the old man knocks on the windows looking for his wife. Maeda’s character comments on the scene, and the old man nervously continues to knock looking for his wife. He enters into the house and looks for her. It is unclear whether this is a continuation of the scene or an actual event.
– The crew disappears after the scene of the old man knocking on the windows and the next time we see them, they are filming Ikeda’s escape. It is unclear whether the entire sequence with the old man is part of the film (our perspective and the students’ merging in this occasion; it would be funny not to include this scene in their movie) or an actual event.
– Ikeda stops in front of his bike, but decides to run instead. This is apparently congruent with the script because the crew are delighted. Is it all part of the script or did he actually decide to run instead?
_ The credits show the crew mopping up the blood. This is also ambiguous, because it could either mean: a.) They decide to keep the insurance money from the old lady’s death or; b.) It’s fake blood. The fate of the old man is not revealed, however.

Personally, I like to think that the murder did not take place. The student film will show the murder–one of the few parts of the script revealed. Combine this with the fact that the crew never enters the house, and it becomes plausible that when the movies move inside, the students’ camera and our camera become merged. Otherwise, they would not have been able to capture the murder scene, which they said they’d shoot first (so they definitely won’t come back to redo the inside shots). All the scenes that occur outside, which the students can see, all follow their script.

However, a more likely conclusion is that the murder is both real and unreal. We know that the director is merging both worlds, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, between fiction and fact. That’s the whole point of the movie. Whether there was a murder or not is moot, because the director of the film wants to present a situation where it is impossible to tell the difference between the two realms. Also, the movie constantly refers to Camus and The Stranger. Experiences are only what they are and have no meaning after the fact. Existentialism absurdism blablabla. So, fuck it, I just wasted my time typing all that.

genres

calendar

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Archives