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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:

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

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.

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.


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

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.


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.

Jigoku / Hell

Jigoku / Hell (1960)

Apparently there's no need to elaborate

Director: Nakagawa Nobuo
Writers: Nakagawa Nobuo, Miyagawa Ichir么
Date: 1960

Genre: Horror
Description: Hell, hell on earth, man’s sins, man is an animal, other evil things

Cast: Amachi Shigeru, Numata Yoichi, Mitsuya Utako, Arashi Kanjuro, Nakamura Torahiko, Miyata Fumiko, Ono Akiko

Crew of note:

Runtime: 101 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia: I got this film by mistake, confusing it with Jigokumon. Hm, actually that doesn’t count as movie trivia.

Shir么 and Tamura are classmates in university and friends. Sort of but not really, because Tamura’s pretty creepy and is also an asshole. One evening, on some remote dirt road, they accidentally run over a thug and quickly drive away from their crime. The thug’s mother and girlfriend vow to avenge the lowlife’s death, and with the growing guilt, Tamura’s weirdness, family troubles and some really terrible turn-of-events, the world slowly turns into HELL.

First of all, WTF was I thinking? I absolutely hate watching scary films, because seriously, why would I want to voluntarily give myself nightmares? Still, I have a long-standing curiosity about films with “Jigoku” in the title, and I somehow convinced myself to see this, knowing it was an important film.

So, was it worth it? Sort of, but not really (for me anyway). The movie is a difficult watch, even though it doesn’t involve any common horror tropes like monsters or ghosts or axe murderers. However, it becomes pretty obvious that outright scares isn’t the point of this movie at all. Rather, Nakagawa tries to create a depiction of Hell and Hell On Earth, not only with astounding visuals, but with mood and atmosphere as well.

The second half of the film usually gets the most attention because of its truly visionary and unparalleled representation of hell. Seriously, it’s pretty crazy. There are tons of things commonly associated with hell, but watch out for the water wheel–it’s possibly the scariest thing in hell, evar.

That said, the first part of the movie is also quite important. Before entering into hell, the world Shir么 inhabits slowly turns for the worst; as I’ve said, turns into hell on earth. There is a sense of absurdity, of irrationality in many of the events that take place in the first half. And while it is somewhat annoying and way too depressing (and a little sappy), the message is quite clear. In fact, I found myself more disturbed during the first half than the second–life is what it is and is closer to fact, hell here is an interpretation.

Arashi Kanjuro in Jigoku / Hell

30 years to get from Tengu to Enma? Advancement opportunities my ass*

Thinking about this film is giving me the creeps so I’ll stop now. See this though if you aren’t a sissy?

I was thoroughly, completely freaked out while watching this film. It isn’t at all gorey, and really doesn’t have many horror-y moments. But it’s such an assault on your senses with its version of hell that it’s hard not to be a bit unnerved by the whole experience. Which is exactly the purpose of this movie, I guess. Not exactly a fun film to watch (unless you’re Satan, maybe), but certainly accomplished and significant in the development of the (psychological?) horror genre.

things to take note of
The many symbols and things, like the number 9
Hell on Earth
This is Buddhist hell, not Christian hell

best moment
Hell, duh

why you should watch this
Nakagawa Nobuo is the father is this thing called J-Horror, probably
This is the strangest, and possibly most precise depiction of not only Hell itself, but hell on Earth as well

rating: 7.9 but only because I don’t like scary movies

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

similar movies, maybe:
For some reason, I get the same creepy vibe from Onibaba

* The “tengu”, used in Kurama Tengu (which Arashi starred in in 1928), is a Japanese folklore monster. Normally it’s translated as “goblin”, but this isn’t very accurate. The tengu is usually depicted as a man-like bird monster, or a dude with a really long nose. Imagine Adrien Brody with feathers and a scowl, maybe. Enma is the king of Buddhist hell. Also, do your own damn research.

Rokudenashi / Good-for-Nothing

Rokudenashi / Good-for-Nothing (1960)

Yes those antacids were good for nothing 馃槮

Director: Yoshida Yoshishige
Writers: Yoshida Yoshishige
Date: 1960

Genre: Drama, Crime
Description: A bunch of good for nothing, spoiled brat and his friends, making the wrong decisions, trying to make a life worthwhile, punks, Japanese new wave, disenchanted youth

Cast: Tsugawa Masahiko, Takachiho Hizuru, Kawazu Yusuke, Yamashita Junichiro, Mishima Masao, Chino Kakuko

Crew of note: Music by Kinoshita Chuji (Yoshishige’s brother)

Runtime: 88 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia: Yoshida Yoshishige’s first film. He is often considered an important figure in Japanese new wave cinema

Jun is part of a gang of misfits, literally good for nothings with absolutely nothing to do, one of which is a spoiled brat with a rich father. And what do you do when you’re bored? You party, go to the beach, mess around with people, and try to steal from your father. Not exactly a great idea, but at least it makes things exciting.

It is interesting how directors such as Oshima and Yoshida started out. During the early 60s, the Japanese movie industry was undergoing a crisis of sorts, with revenues dropping due to the introduction of the television. In an attempt to find new talent and create new, more interesting and contemporary films, young directors like the two above, were given opportunities at studios like Shochiku. Strange, when you consider how strict these companies were, and how they were known for limiting their directors’ creative freedom (from forcing scripts on them to rejecting ideas).

This generation of film makers, however, was finally given freedom to pretty much do as they pleased (at least, for the first few years until studios became more suspicious of the content of their films). Yoshida pumped out three films in his first 2 years in the director’s chair, and Rokudenashi is his first.

At the age of 27 and coming from a literature background, Yoshida turned to cinema because of his ire over the “stuffy academic milieu” (from Cahiers du Cin茅ma 1970), hoping to be a voice against the “predominantly industrial, commercial cinema.” A film about good-for-nothings is naturally a great topic, don’t you think? But what makes the film unique is that the use of the title, “Rokudenashi”, is not so much a condemnation, but a simple description of the way these young men want to be. If you expect a moral lesson or a cry of social concern over the degradation of the attitude of the young, well, you ain’t getting any. Instead Yoshida delivers a punch in the gut and a healthy dose of ride cymbals, existentialism, and poor decisions.

I’d like to propose that, perhaps, Rokudenashi is more an allegory for the incoming brand of film makers that were slowly starting to emerge as the best and brightest in Japan. “Fuck you politically correct studio executives, we’re going to do this shit anyway.” Life may be meaningless and absurd, but being cool, listening to cool music, and making out with chicks sure beats being lame and boring.

It’s hard to argue with Yoshida with pictures like this:

Rokudenashi / Good-for-Nothing (1960)

Tokyo is empty and he needs a toilet. SUSPENSE ENSUES

This is an important film to see for Japanese new wave fans as an introduction to Yoshida’s style and influences. And if this movie can be summed up in a sentence, it will surely involve his glossy, jazzy style and translation of the French new wave. For some reason, he is not quite as well regarded as some of his contemporaries such as Suzuki, Imamura, Oshima, Masumura. But after seeing this film, it will be difficult to argue against the fact that this was one of the the most visually and musically stunning films in early Japanese new wave.

things to take note of
The jazzy jazziness
Some strange angles that are really brilliant
Tracking shots and movement

best moment
The screencap above

why you should watch this
Yoshida’s first film
Contains some brilliant shots; the one above is probably in my top 10

rating: 7.8

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

similar movies, maybe:
Oshima Nagisa’s Seishun zankoku monogatari
Masumura Yasuzo’s Kuchizuke

Xixiang ji / Romance of the Western Chamber

Xixiang ji / Romance of the Western Chamber (1927)

Yes, adding naval battles makes any film more interesting

Director: Yao Hou, Li Minwei
Writers: Wang Shifu (original play), Yao Hou (adaptation)
Date: 1927

Genre: Love Story
Description: Love story, scholar dupes the bandits, calling reinforcements, proving one’s worth

Cast: Ge Cejiang, Hu Chichang, Lam Cho-cho, Li Dandan, Zhu Yaoting

Crew of note:

Runtime: 50 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia: Based on the famous play by Wang Shifu, written during the Yuan dynasty

Zhang is a young scholar who enters a temple to learn. He meets Yingying, a girl who is famous for her beauty, and they quickly form a bond. Love at first sight and all that cheezy stuff. Unlucky for them, because Sun, a ruthless bandit leader, is outside with a master plan to kidnap Yingying and make her his wife (or worse!). Trapped between a bandit attack and a mother unwilling to marry her daughter off, Zhang must find a way to defeat the horde and prove himself worthy of Yingying’s hand in marriage.

Although based on the famous play, I was expecting it to be a boring romance since all the naughtybits would have to be omitted. Another drama from the silent era, yawn yawn.

It was a pleasant surprise that this was, in fact, closer to an action-comedy movie than a cheezy love story. Yes, of course the love story between Zhang and Yingying remains the center of the movie, but there is enough action, witty dialogue and odd circumstances to keep things interesting. The elaborate battle sequences, with complete period armor and weapons, is very well coordinated for 1927, if a little redundant. They really went all out to complete this period piece, and Yao and Li are able to recreate the Tang dynasty effectively with their sets.

The story itself is quite simple: Zhang must win Yingying’s hand in marriage. However, he isn’t Superman or Brad Pitt, so he must use what he has to save the day. No, he isn’t secretly a kung fu master, and he doesn’t suddenly know how to throw kame-hame-ha’s. He just uses his brain and calligraphy brush and finds a simple solution. Just like the story: simple yet effective. Probably a good lesson for 1927 too: even nerds can get hot chicks.

There is nothing too specific to recommend about this film, other than the fact that it’s good. Great sets, great costumes, and a good adaptation that follows the original’s story while making it interesting for audiences of the time, and even today. If you can find this film, watch it. We’re lucky it survived.

things to take note of
The intertitles, I guess
Great costumes and gear

best moment
The raid on the temple
The weirdest duel in history

why you should watch this
Interesting fight sequence, one of the few you’ll see (or find relatively easily) from this era
Old movies are always interesting

rating: 7.8

Plot: C+ (based on a classic, but the movie’s too short)
Cast: C+
Cinematography: B
Music: C+
Entertainment: B+

similar movies, maybe:
For films in the same era, I’m not quite sure. But this film is one of the great-great-grandads of wuxiapian, I think, sharing similarities with King Hu’s influential “A Touch of Zen” and other romanticky action flicks, and all the way up to the “Hero”s and “House of Flying Daggers”es of recent times. No wire-fu yet, of course.

Mizu no onna / Woman of Water

Mizu no onna / Woman of Water (2002)

Boredom or dramatic meditation?

Director: Sugimori Hidenori
Writers: Sugimori Hidenori
Date: 2002

Genre: Drama
Description: Water and fire, girl who owns a bathhouse, arson, symbols, pictures, beauty, love

Cast: UA, Asano Tadanobu

Crew of note: Music by Kanno Yoko

Runtime: 115 mins.
Color: Color

Ryo is the sole-proprietor of a bathhouse in the country. One day she is visited by Yusaku, a man who she shares no past history with. He decides to stay there, and works with Ryo in the bathhouse. Their relationship develops, but this unity of Ryo, the element of water, and Yusaku, the element of fire, cannot last.

Remember those moments in elementary and highschool when you woke up late, panicked for 2 seconds, looked out the window to see a world blue from rain, sighed and went back to bed? That incomparable feeling of 9am in bed, in a warm blanket, in a colder world, while the pitterpatts serenade you back to sleep. The feeling I got from this movie is similar, the associated drowziness included.

The world of Mizu no onna is beautiful. Rain, earth tones, rustic settings, old houses, bath tiles, spring water, forests, chopped wood, furnaces… it seems like a place I’d want to live in, or at the very least visit. Yet at the same time, it seems empty, lonely. At the same time feeling right at home and lost in the same world.

It is difficult to talk about this movie, because it is built on imagery and atmosphere. These are two things that the film does excellently, with its depiction of UA’s rain and Asano’s fire. Their contrasting personalities and elements make for an interesting dynamic, one that is mostly subdued and silent.

This subtlety, indirectness, aloofness, abstractness, what have you, of the characters, of the film, of the camera, can just as easily alienate and disconnect the audience as it can draw them in. Eventually, there must be something more than representations and significations to create a lasting impression; a significance beyond impalpable interpretations. Yet because of the assured direction and unity of Hidenori’s vision, it’s obvious that this film has achieved its purpose, that of using pictures as an extension of his two characters. I have to say that Mizu no onna achieves this, and is one of the most innovative “purely visual” films I’ve seen, and yet I found myself uninterested for portions of its length. That is more a warning (for those who need a clear cut story) than criticism though.

On long road trips to nowhere, I always find myself stumbling upon the most beautiful places on Earth hidden in the most unassuming locations. I take a lot of pictures, explore, and take in as much as I can before eventually (and inevitably) moving on, sure to remember bits an pieces of the place as some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. Yet that’s all I remember, bits and pieces. This film is very similar; there are moments of absolute beauty, but it is difficult to remember as a whole. The quality of the pictures and the music is undeniable, but its narrative struggles to compare. But narrative isn’t really the point of this movie; it is about what we see and how see it.

things to take note of
The images of water and fire

best moment
The water, the fire

why you should watch this
If you like amazing pictures and amazing music, and can stand the utterly boring plot
A very intriguing visual style in emphasizing water and fire

rating: 7.2

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

similar movies, maybe:
Not a clue



November 2020