Saturday, November 18, 2006

Notes on some Japanese films

The Blessing Bell (Sabu, 2002) with Susumu Terajima.
The Blessing Bell is a contemplative and urban tale which offers a slow pacing and a well structured narrative and sharply edited. The film opens with a static shot on some rails, like an invitation to a meditative journey... Then a man (Susumu Terajima) appears from the distant corner and walks pass by the camera and vanishes. This man encounters various people during his wandering (he walks and walks and walks aimlessly...), listens to them, their bad luck or difficulties (which permits to evoke various social problems such as unemployement, poverty, suicide, loneliness without being sentimental or pityful or anything alike, the film is more subtle), but does not utter a single word. He's an observer, a confident and a passerby and gets along with the course of the events, until he decides to take part and be an actor/master of his fate.
Great performance from Susumu Terajima and an interesting film with a Jim Jarmusch influence.

A Stranger of Mine (Kenji Uchida, 2005)
Divided into 3 main parts, the film is told from the points of view of 5 different characters : a lonely and desperate woman, a broken-heart, depressed salaryman, a embittered private detective (old friend of salaryman), a confident, cunning woman (ex-girlfriend of the salaryman), a fallen yakuza boss. All the characters are getting connected at some point, the film, a debut and still only film by Kenji Uchida, and whose narrative is very well structured, is a charming, simple, light comedy using also different genres, sometimes more romance, sometimes more comedy, sometimes more like a film noir. Very well played.

Antena (Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, 2004)
Antena is rather a heavy, psychological, family drama dealing with a childhood trauma and suffering, affliction from the sudden disappearing of the youngest daughter one night. The film is very physical, and the actors, especially the main actor (Ryo Kase) shows an impressive, and quite disturbing performance in a very sober, ascetic mise-en-scene.

Takeshis' (Takeshi Kitano, 2005)
Well, that's a very Kitano film!!! Almost impossible to summary this film, it seemed a bit all over the place, completely illogical and irrational, with absurd and humourous situations, flashbacks and "replays"and non-linear narrative, yet, typical of Kitano's filmmaking, his recurrent actors (Susumu Terajima, Ren Osugi, Kayoko Kishimoto...) are all excellent too. Highly recommended.
website

A Cheerful Gang Turns the Earth (Tetsu Maeda, 2006)
Entertaining, Pulp Fiction almost like but more in comedy style.

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