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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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Tonari no Yae-chan / Our Neighbor, Miss Yae

Shimazu Yasujiro - Tonari no Yae-chan / Our Neighbor, Miss Yae

That sock gets a heck of a lot of attention

Director: Shimazu Yasujiro
Writers: Shimazu Yasujiro
Date: 1934

Genre: Drama, Shomin-geki
Description: Neighbors, friendship, young love, divorce

Cast: Aizome Yumeko, Obinata Den, Isono Akio, Iida Chouko, Okada Yoshiko, Katsuragi Ayako, Iwata Yukichi, Mizushima Ryotaro

Crew of note:

Runtime: 76 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia: Two famous directors acted as assistants on this film, Toyoda Shiro and Yoshimura Kozaburo.

summary
Two families live in rural or suburban Japan, somewhere in the Kansai region probably. The two families are quite close to each other; the two fathers are drinking buddies, the children are friends, and the mothers happily look out for the other family’s well being. One day, Kyouko, Yae-chan’s sister, comes home after leaving her husband whom she is unhappy with. Her arrival suddenly stresses the once peaceful pair of homes; the father becomes unhappy, the mother worried, the sister envious of her relationship with Keitaro.

review
Before seeing this movie, I thought Yae-chan would be an old hag living alone, throwing cats at passersby and drinking tea from a flower pot. Then people would find out she’s not actually a crackhead and the neighbors learn to love her. Then she dies and people remember her fondly, and not as the crazy lady with a mysteriously unending supply of cat ammo. I have absolutely NO idea why my brain made up this story, though I’d like to categorically deny childhood trauma and repressed memories. This was my second Shimazu film by the way.

Thankfully Tonari no Yae-chan is neither as absurd nor as depressing as my made-up-movie. In fact, it’s actually quite delightful. Sure, there’s the conflict created by the arrival of Kyouko, one that is sufficiently complex and complicated. The scenes with Kyouko are a little melodramatic, actually, but despite the fact that I’m not a fan of sappy melodrama, these moments didn’t really hurt that much.

What I enjoyed most about this film were the pointless everyday encounters between Yae-chan and Keitaro. There is something very natural, very modern about how they talk to each other, or actually, how they flirt with each other. Not only is it hilarious, it’s also quite unique, as I don’t remember any other film from the 30s with such a non-judgmental, care-free and modern picture of youth getting their flirt on. Really.

Shimazu Yasujiro - Tonari no Yae-chan / Our Neighbor, Miss Yae (1934)

Proof: Getting their flirt on

I was not pleased, however, with Yae-chan’s parents’ decision (spoilers*) at the end, though Shimazu pulls this back a little by isolating this decision to the two old people. Yae-chan’s far too lively, far too hopeful, indeed far too important for them to drag along. Some might consider it a little naive, how the movie ends just as it begins with the youngsters playing, but I’d like to think it’s more a result of an enthusiastic, positive outlook. And it’s during the best parts of the film, unencumbered by drama or farce, simply letting the neighbors be neighbors and live their normal happy lives, that Shimazu shines.

conclusion
The movie has some flaws. Ok, there are quite a bit of flaws, but it doesn’t dampen how enjoyable some of the best scenes are. I would have been more pleased if the film had continued showing the growing fondness between Keitaro and Yae-chan without having to insert Kyouko (the inevitable conflict), as their conversations and exchanges are some of the most relaxed and realistic from this age. Still, this is a fine film despite all my complaints, one that fans of old Japanese movies should certainly see.

things to take note of
The relationship and exchanges between Yae-chan and Keitaro
Yae-chan’s pretty cute

Aizome Yumeko in Tonari no Yae-chan

This cap kinda reminds me of Juri-chan's 'Okaaaaasaaan' moment from Swing Girls for some reason, which is awesome you know

best moment
Socks those dirty dirty socks

Tonari no Yae-chan / Our Neighbor, Miss Yae

Disclaimer: film does not include foot fetish scene

why you should watch this
Shimazu, though pretty unknown in the west I think, is considered one of the early masters of Japanese cinema, particularly the shomin-geki, movies about middle-class Japanese homes.

rating: 8.1

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

similar movies, maybe:
I’ve so far only seen one other Shimazu, Kon’yaku samba-garasu (1937), so maybe that one. It’s pretty good.

* According to Jacoby’s “A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors”, Yae-chan’s parents’ decision to move to Korea is a not-so-subtle endorsment of Japanese imperialism. I was weirded out by the choice of moving to Korea, so maybe this is true, though I’d like to think it isn’t.

Jirocho Fuji

Jirocho Fuji (1959)

The naked man is Katsu Shintaro. I think.

Director: Mori Kazuo
Writers: Yahiro Fuji
Date: 1959

Genre: Jidaigeki, Yakuza
Description: Yakuza doing good, yakuza is a samurai, doing the right thing, fighting the bad guys, a great man and his men

Cast: Hasegawa Kazuo, Katsu Shintaro, Ichikawa Raizo, Kyo Machiko, Wakao Ayako, Hongo Kojiro, Funakoshi Eiji, Negami Jun, Takizawa Osamu

Crew of note:

Runtime: 106 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
Jirocho Fuji (Shimizu no Jirocho, 19th century folk hero) is a local yakuza boss, who, unlike his more ruthless neighboring bosses, enjoys doing good and hates harming the innocent, instead of, like, cutting off pinky fingers and extorting people in gambling dens. Obviously, this is pissing off some of the other yakuza bosses, so they set out to find a way to get rid of him.

review
Actually, I don’t really have anything to say about this movie. But scanning through the googleplex I saw that there was not a single review for this film (just a lot of dead links), which is unfortunate because this is a great movie somewhere in between jidaigeki and nikyo-eiga.*

The story of Jirocho Fuji or Shimizu no Jirocho isn’t very well known outside of Japan, even though he has to be one of the most famous Yakuza ever, and has about 50+ movies bearing his name. In case you’re interested about his background and history, here is an excerpt from “Yakuza: Japan’s criminal underworld” by David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro (from google books):

Page 01
Page 02 **

Sounds like an interesting guy right? Well, this film is supposed to be the Jirocho “mega movie”, with a big budget, an all star cast, and a veteran director. The movie combines action, comedy, and a little drama, and feels far removed from the bloody, dark and brooding ninkyo-eiga of the 70’s (example: Yami no karyudo / Hunter in the Darkness, a chambara ninkyo-eiga). It’s a delightful blend that never takes itself too seriously, and aims primarily to entertain. The film also covers quite a lot of events despite its short running time, packing as much excitement, intrigue, laughs and swordfights as it can in its length. The film culminates in a final battle along the Fujigawa river, and though not quite as epic as some other swordfight climaxes, is still very enjoyable.

Portrait of Shimizu no Jirocho

He.. didn't look very nice?

I seriously had nothing to say, yet I felt compelled to help this film get some recognition from google (and hopefully also people). Isn’t that enough to make you want to see it? Ok I’m done now.

Shimizu no Jirocho and Ishimatsu

Review Writing Lesson #97: Nothing to say? Spam funny pictures.

conclusion
Seeing Hasegawa, Katsu, Ichikawa and other Japanese film regulars all in one movie is always fun. The movie is also solid and simple, with no flaws and no distractions. It’s enjoyable and well done, a fantastic genre film, as long as you don’t expect much in terms of epiphanies and insights into the human condition. Kurotakagi even calls it a Daiei genre masterpiece. It probably is, and it’s a fine introduction to Shimizu no Jirocho’s folk hero story.

things to take note of
I’m not actually sure

best moment
Whenever Katsu does something funny/stupid
The fights, I guess?

why you should watch this
Katsu Shintaro in one of his funniest performances, by far
Great intro to this folk hero
The first 7 names in the cast should be pretty recognizable to Japanese film fans

rating: 8

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

similar movies, maybe:
O-Edo shichininshu / Seven from Edo

* Ninkyo-eiga = “chivalry movie” about honorable Yakuza
** Since these two pages are available over at google books, I assume I’m allowed to put them on my corner of the interweb as long as a cite the book correctly, so no one sue me please?

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

Akarui mirai / Bright Future

Akarui mirai / Bright Future (2003)

SHINY JELLYFISH

Director: Kurosawa Kiyoshi
Writers: Kurosawa Kiyoshi
Date: 2003

Genre: Drama
Description: Jellyfish, acclimation, lost youths, things that don’t work, new liking the old, dreams, death, life, and metaphors. Oh, and twinkly things.

Cast: Odagiri Jô, Asano Tadanobu, Fuji Tatsuya

Crew of note:

Runtime: 115 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
Yûji and Mamoru are friends who hang out and pretty much like to do nothing. When Mamoru goes through a series of troubles, he leaves his jellyfish, who they’ve been acclimatizing to fresh water, with Yûji. Alone, disconnected from society, and feeling that typical youthful disillusionment, Yûji tries to search for meaning in his life while taking care of crazy jellyfish.

review
Kurosawa Kiyoshi is best known for his psychological thriller/horror movies Pulse and Cure, but this movie can stand on its own against them. Plus, Jellyfish are certainly more interesting (and more common?) than psychos, monsters, or the paranormal. Also, they’re quite shiny and illuminated.

Although it seems like the jellyfish will be the stars of this movie, it turns out Odagiri’s character gets most of the screen time. I was surprised to find that this is more a film about… a dude. Just another normal dude. I suppose I was too excited about jellyfish.

Despite my initial disappointment, I was quickly convinced of the film’s quality. Perfect shooting style, with high contrast and spaced out whites, alluding to the title and giving the entire movie a dream like quality. Music was great too, a whimsical, dramatic, electronic score that does its best when it acts against the scenes. Still, halfway through, I was looking for jellyfish massacres at the beach, or possibly a giant mutated jellyfish zapping Tokyo with its tentacles. Kurosawa throws a curve ball and instead follows Yûji through his rather mundane and meandering life. Although the movie seems to be rather plotless, or rather, avoids the plot that would have made it more successful and accessible (jellyfish or hot chicks), Kurosawa creates a deceptively simple movie filled with complex metaphors of whatifs, youth, and life with dreams and broken things.

conclusion
Expecting something similar to Kurosawa’s other films, I was delightfully surprised. This one is slow, sparse, meditative, and explores disconnection, relationships, and an obsession with fixing things. Not quite the jellyfishdisaster movie I was hoping for, but certainly something of greater value.

things to take note of
Asano’s cool pants
The father-son relationship between a father and a son. Who aren’t related.
Oooooohhhh.. Shiny! Jellyfish!

best moment
Oh No! JELLYFISH!
On the roof

why you should watch this
Asano Tadanobu and Odagiri Jo are two of the most interesting actors of their generation
Jellyfish
Surprisingly touching film

rating: 8

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

similar movies, maybe:
Helpless, directed by Aoyama Shinji, also starring Asano
Tenten / Adrift in Tokyo, directed by Miki Satoshi, also starring Odagiri

genres

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