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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.

Kokyô / Home From the Sea

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

Only a Japanese and Chinese DVD exist I think. Once again English people I'm disappointed

Director: Yamada Yôji
Writers: Miyazaki Akira, Yamada Yôji
Date: 1972

Genre: Drama
Description: Dumping rocks into the sea, the times they are a-changing, tradition, ordinary life, the importance of work, home

Cast: Igawa Hisashi, Baisho Chieko, Ryu Chishu, Maeda Gin, Ito Mayumi, Atsumi Kiyoshi, Ito Chiaki

Crew of note: Music by Satô Masaru

Runtime: 101 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
Seichi and Minko are a husband and wife, captain and engineer team working a boat in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. They collect rocks from construction sites in the area, and dump them into the ocean with their rusty fickle ship. As Japan continues to develop its post-War economy, bigger businesses are opening up in the region, putting their livelihood in danger. Despite all his efforts, Seichi, proud of his work as a boat captain, is having difficulties making ends meet. His brother-in-law offers to introduce him to a shipping company in nearby Onomichi, but Seichi is hesitant; is he ready to uproot his family and move on, give up his work, his boat, and his home?

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

Not a shipwreck. That's actually their boat.

review
In the West, Yamada Yôji = Tasogare seibei / Twilight Samurai. This is inevitable, because its pretty much the only Yamada film to get much acclaim, to get any screen time outside of Japan. Actually, Tasogare Seibei isn’t even what Yamada is known for in his homeland. There, he is known as the director of Tora-san, a film series about some lovable oaf that went on for 48 films and 25 years. You really can’t be blamed if you’re surprised that Tasogare Seibei is his 70th or so film. Yikes.

Once starting his journey with Tora-san, Yamada films outside the series became somewhat infrequent, at least, compared with his amazing output for it. One of these, and perhaps one of his most memorable, is Kokyô / Home From the Sea. By the 70s, many of the most popular directors were either part of the Japanese New Wave movement or made Kaiju-eiga or Yakuza-eiga. Even pinku-eiga directors were more popular during the 70s. Traditionalists, concerned with the state of old, rural Japan, in presenting it as it is without the embellishments of Marxist theory or fancy film techniques, were, to my knowledge, not quite as common, or at least not as well known. But films like these, about the changing world and persons and families trying to keep up, are timeless; you could transport this tale to today or 60 years ago, and it would still be true, still be significant.

I always find these chronicles of small struggles–small according to the writers of epics and history books anyway–fascinating. At worst they are uneventful, generic and inconsequential. But at their best, they can be moving, unique yet familiar, and very very powerful.

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

In Japan, engineers are allowed to be cute

What I loved most about this movie is how elegantly it traces the difficulties of arriving at a decision. Where most films would focus on what happens after a decision is made–in comedy, a success, in tragedy, a failure–Yamada stops at the choice itself. The result, it seems, is not quite as important, not quite as valuable as the decision to endeavor. It’s not a cliffhanger or a truncated and incomplete story, as many of those used to more traditional story-telling, where the outcome is the true prize of the narrative, will feel. It isn’t to say that the outcome is irrelevant, of course it’s relevant, but it is how Seichi and his family come to their decision, and what they decide, that is truly meaningful here.

conclusion
I like blood, bombs and boobs as much as the next guy, but there is also something to be gained from this kind of movie. It might not be entertainment, it might not be arousal, but there is a kind of satisfaction that I don’t think the English language quite understands, is quite capable of expressing. In Japanese, there is such a thing as “mono no aware”, which I wouldn’t deign to translate or explain, but it is present in movies like this. I can’t say that I completely understand it yet, I doubt many people from anywhere do, but after seeing many great films like this, I feel like it starting to become something familiar, something I love.

things to take note of
The boat and how they work it
The relationships in the family
Ryu Chishu in a post-Ozu role. he looks.. really old?

best moment
The last day before doing what they decided
Slow motion rocks

why you should watch this
Dumping rocks in the sea will never look this beautiful or be this touching

Kokyô / Home from the Sea (1972)

Or be this dangerous!

rating: 8.3

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

similar movies, maybe:
Dude, I gots tons of reviews about ordinary life already.

Kame wa igai to hayaku oyogu / Turtles Swim Faster than Expected

Kame wa igai to hayaku oyogu / Turtles Swim Faster than Expected (2005)

Afro-Juri would have blocked the whole poster

Director: Miki Satoshi
Writers: Miki Satoshi
Date: 2005

Genre: Comedy
Description: Ordinary life, ordinary person becomes a spy, a sudden change in the way one lives one’s life due to a philosophical change, living as a spy

Cast: Ueno Juri, Aoi Yû, Iwamatsu Ryo, Fuse Eri

Crew of note:

Runtime: 90 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
Suzume is a bored, lonely houswife somewhere in rural-ish Japan. She’s got a pet turtle to keep her company, but her husband (if I were him I’d never leave Juri-chan’s side, dumbass) is always away on business. Everything changes though, when she accidentally spots an ad to become spy, and inquires about it.

review
I find it rather embarrassing that I’ve already written several reviews of movies with Miyazaki Aoi, and have yet to write one for a film starring Ueno Juri. Note! Juri-chan is my number 3, while Miyazaki Aoi is 4. My girlfriend requires that she be number 1 and that no one’s number 2–since its my favorite number. Anyway.

One of the reasons I started writing reviews was out of boredom. With nothing to do during my spare time (and occasionally at work, shhhh), I found writing about movies rather pleasant. Yet there are times I still long for greater adventure–not necessarily a James Bond/Ogami Itto/Wong Fei Hung kinda life–on the side of my relatively comfortable life.

Well, Suzume gets to keep that comfy life, and get some adventure too. And all it takes is an absurd ad and some imagination. The way her life changes–despite there being no actual change!–is fascinating and quite meaningful, accompanied with tons of laughs and happy funtimes. The silly characters that inhabit her town–the spy couple, the noodle shop man, Aoi Yuu in a great cameo–try to hide their own sillinesses (pluralized noun form of silly?), and this results in some of the best moments in the film. Sure, nothing much actually happens in the film (leading me to have nothing much to talk about), but in the context of Suzume’s new job, her new mission, and her new friends, even something as dull and dreary as a visit to this town can be a magical, meaningful trip.

conclusion
It’s easy to say that this film is simply a feel-good movie. But underneath the laughs, the afro and strange circumstances, there’s an interesting proposition: how much does a change in perspective–or the way one approaches living one’s life–affect life itself, in a tangible, permanent way? Miki treats this message brilliantly, and Juri-chan is impossible not to love. Despite the fact I rate Miyazaki Aoi’s movies better, Juri-chan is still far and away my favorite actress, and Kame wa igai to hayaku oyogu is certainly one of the reasons that she is.

things to take note of
The boredom?
The spy bizniz
Juri-chan ❤

best moment
Finding the ad for the spy biz
What Suzume does in her boredom

why you should watch this
Ueno Juri ❤

rating: 8

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

similar movies, maybe:
Tenten / Adrift in Tokyo, also by Miki Satoshi

Top Ten Movies About Ordinary Rural Life

Ordinary life can be very fascinating, especially when it features a place, a time, a people that we do not know. The best of these films are both interesting and captivating, not only because of the locales, but also because of the lives that the cinema shows us. To the characters in the film, these may be their ordinary lives, but to most of us, they are exquisite.

1. Huo Jianqi – Nashan naren nagou / Postmen in the Mountains (1999)

A heartfelt trek through the Chinese countryside, with two men, their dog, and the mountains. The father is retiring, and the son must take his place. This is their last, and only, trip together. See review.

Nashan naren nagou / Postmen in the Mountains

Sling bags are for sissies; all the cool postmen use backpacks

2. Ishii Katsuhito – Cha no aji / The Taste of Tea (2004)

A crazy, trippin’ ride with a crazy, trippin’ family. Try and Google the poster. Surreal, somehow believable, and yet unbelievable at the same time. This is, hands down, the strangest movie on this list. Not sure how to describe it, but the movie feels like living inside all of their minds. Trippin’.

Cha no aji / The Taste of Tea

Possibly: Halloween party, movie extra, cosplay event, or robot-themed porn shoot

3. Shimizu Hiroshi – Arigato-san / Mr. Thank You (1936)

A guy who says “thank you” to everyone he meets; how can you not approve of his manners? A road movie with many characters and personalities, it is able to discuss the life of women during the time, the difficulties of
Depression era Japan, the “lostness” of meandering youth, the importance of appearances and face, and even some sexual conduct, and these are all inserted into the movie with such a light touch that you barely notice that so much has happened since you got on the bus.

Arigato-san / Mr Thank You

He drives a bus and says thank you a lot, what's not to like?

4. Miki Satoshi – Kame wa igai to hayaku oyogu / Turtles Swim Faster Than Expected (2005)

The most urban and most modern of all the films here, it nonetheless discusses the monotony of everyday life, and how a change in perspective can make all the difference. This film is criminally under-appreciated, and it’s hard to understand why. Insightful, delightful, and starring Ueno Juri with an afro.

Kame wa igai to hayaku oyogu / Turtles Swim Faster Than Expected

Not shown: Juri-chan spying on me, buying various juicy meats

5. Yamashita Nobuhiro – Tennen Kokekko / A Gentle Breeze in the Village (2007)

Not as interesting as many of the films in this list–probably the most ordinary of these ordinary movies. However, the great music and cinematography plus charming young characters, and maybe even a love story, are enough to make this a must see. This is a personal favorite for some reason; I couldn’t rank it higher or lower than this.

Tennen Kokkeko / A Gentle Breeze in the Village

...?!?

6. Jia Zhangke – Sanxia Haoren / Still Life (2006)

Zhangke, who pretty much lives on “ordinary life” movies, scores big time with this, my favorite of his films. Slow, meditative, political, and sparse, there is a grand feeling of lost-ness, of alienation, of distance. This has the least plot of the items on the list, but if you want to get lost somewhere without leaving your home, this is it. (Ren xiao yao / Unknown Pleasures and Zhantai / Platform are similar)

Sanxia haoren / Still Life

Eventually, stuff happens. I think.

7. Hou Hsiao-hsien – Dong dong de jia qi / A Summer at Grandpa’s

Based on Chu T’ien-wen’s childhood, the film follows Tung and Ting who visit their grandpa during their vacation. Notice the ambient sounds all around–the train’s horn to end scenes, the crickets, the grass brushing against each other, the howling wind, footsteps on their wooden floor–they welcome you. To anyone who’s ever visited relatives in the country, whatever country, this movie will feel familiar and welcoming.

Dong dong de jia qi / Summer at Grandpa's

Summer + bored kids = DISASTER

8. Liu Jie – Mabei shang de fating / Courthouse on Horseback

A courthouse on frickin’ horseback! How can that not be interesting enough? Justice, tradition, cultural relativism, are just some of the topics discussed in this film. Two men, their guide, a horse, and tons of crazy squabbles. See review.

Mabei shang de fating / Courthouse on Horseback

The crazy looking dude in the middle is actually the judge

9. Naruse Mikio – Hideko no shasho-san / Hideko the Bus Conductress

Takamine Hideko in her most adorable and charming role. Hideko literally takes you around her town, even narrating its special features as you ride along with her on the eponymous bus. At only 53 minutes long, the shortest on the list, but Hideko’s magnetic character will make you want to pass through here more often.

Hideko no shasho-san / Hideko the Bus Conductress

More like Hideko the talkative bus-lady

10. Wang Quan-an – Tuya de hun shi / Tuya’s Marriage

Although somewhat frustrating, it is also striking to see Tuya’s difficult life–her love for her husband, her responsibility to herself and her family, the choice of remarriage. With her husband crippled, and a well needing to be dug, she has very few options left. She isn’t someone you will always root for, but it is hard not to hope for her best. The two characters, Bater and Sen’ge, are named after their real selves. By using these amateur actors, Wang is able to create a place that feels even more real.

Tuya's Marriage de hun shi

In Mongolia, marriage also sucks

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