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Thread: What Asian Films Have You Been Watching Recently?

  1. #601
    Watched a really bizarre Korean indie shot on digital called ANTI-GAS SKIN. Apparently it was shown at festivals in 2010 but wasn't released until a few years later. Equal parts social satire, horror thriller and experimental film set against the backdrop of a mayoral election all the while a gas mask wearing killer is on the loose in the city. Film focuses on 4 individuals whose paths cross on election night while all on their individual quest to find the mysterious masked individual. The most interesting character was a teen-aged "wolf girl" - yes, a high school student who literally has "werewolf syndrome" aka hypertrichosis who is in charge of a suicide cult. The director must've watched a lot of Sion Sono before making this project. This character would've made an interesting story in itself and was really the only entertaining plot line in the whole movie. The only familiar face that I recognized was prolific character actor, Park Ji-hwan as a traffic enforcement cop with an ailing mother who imagines himself a superhero & martial artist and embarks on capturing the masked killer. There is also a weigook in the movie, some mentally unstable redneck US Army soldier whose Korean lover has been killed. He literally starts humping at her gravesite. I'm sure the director is ruminating about the US military presence in Korea with this character but who knows? In the beginning when first introduced to his character, there is a scene of traditional Korean dance and one of the tourists is a dead ringer for film critic, Tony Rayns! Wonder if it was really him? Anyway, I couldn't sit through two hours of this crap and pulled the plug about halfway in and fast forwarded to the ending. Not helping matters was the fact the embedded English subs were terrible - I mean worse than google translate as if the person who made subs just starting making shit up.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  2. #602
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    Modern Path of Chivalry (現代任侠道 兄弟分) (Japan, 1970) [TV] - 2.5/5
    Chris D. described this film as “soulful”, “lyrical” and “genuinely touching”. He's not entirely wrong, but I don't think those elements come through as strongly as he suggests. Sugawara is an honourable gangster who goes to prison and later meets relatively decent but short tempered yakuza Machida who now serves rotten oyabun Watanabe who has taken an advantage of Sugawara's wife. Not bad modern day ninkyo film with a melancholic tone, but the story and context are hardly unique, and the form a little less impressive than I expected. The theatrical poster is a beauty.

    Bloodstained Clan Honor (血染の代紋) (Japan, 1970) [35mm] - 2/5
    Unusually bland Kinji Fukasaku film about the yakuza exploiting port slums in post war re-construction era. Fumio Watanabe is the rotten one, Bunta Sugawara an honourable boss who receives no thanks from the blind common folks to whom yakuza are all the same. Unlike most Fukasaku films, this movie proceeds at leisurely pace and plays out more like a ninkyo tale, only without the romantics and with very few points of interest. One of Fukasaku's least recognizable pictures. Unrecognizable is also the first of the film’s two theatrical posters which depicts (and credits) Tomisaburo Wakayama and Junko Fuji, neither one of whom are in the film. What happened?

    Three Pretty Devils (三匹の牝蜂) (Japan, 1970) [DVD] - 3/5
    Enjoyable lightweight sukeban style film mostly void of violence, with Reiko Ohara, Yoko Ichiji (both very cute) and Daiei's Junko Natsu having fun fooling horny men out of their money. Lots of disco scenes, brief nudity courtesy of Ichiji, some yakuza elements with white suit Asao Koike whipping the girls, and don't forget to adjust your ears for some lovely Osaka accents (how accurate I have no idea) with Expo ‘70 serving as backdrop. Also features the always reliable Tsunehiko Watase, minor appearances by Yumiko Katayama, Osman "you interested in Japanese girls? Oh yes, of course" Yusuf and gay pop singer Peter (who had a pretty good voice). An obvious cinematic relative of Stray Cat Rock (even briefly featuring the wooden Akiko Wada) which Nikkatsu put out 5 weeks earlier, and Toei's own Delinquent Girl Boss, which followed two months later.

    Three Brothers' Identical Dice (ゾロ目の三兄弟) (Japan, 1972) [TV] - 1.5/5
    Akira Kobayashi, Tsunehiko Watase and X Tanaka goof around and fight some bad yakuza at the end. None of it matters as far as the audience is concerned. The one bit of semi-originality: the "final walk" is done by car instead of foot. It's sad 60s ninkyo master Kosaku Yamashita sank to such dull and unimaginative programmer pictures in the 70s.

    Gang of Men (男組) (Japan, 1975) [DVD] – 3/5
    Part high school film, part prison flick, part karate actioner, all comic book movie. And it's got rugby too. Righteous delinquent Nagare Zenjiro (uncharismatic Masato Hoshi) spends the nights in youth prison and the days in high school at the request of desperate principal Hideo Murota who's hoping to bring some balance to the school terrorized by a high school gang. Mostly standard manga madness, but the fun part is that the gang is employing a bunch of miscellaneous of fighters, including Korean exchange student Bruce Lee. Also, throughout the film the hero wears (exceptionally manly) long handcuffs that do nothing to hinder him but rather function as weapons! There’s a nice upwards quality trend with best parts saved for the last. The karate finale on a rocky beach is unexpectedly good, with effort and excellent cinematography making up for Hoshi not being a martial arts star.

    Bakamasa Horamasa Toppamasa (バカ政ホラ政トッパ政) (Japan, 1976) [Netflix] - 1.5/5
    Light-on-action businessman type yakuza film was a few years ahead of its time in that it is hopelessly dull. Bunta Sugawara leads a pack of three criminal/businessman/no goods. Nothing interesting happens, in fact, nothing much at all happens.

    Gang of Men: Delinquent Prison (男組 少年刑務所) (Japan, 1976) [DVD] – 2/5
    Sequel/remake with new cast and director. The storyline is the same as last time with delinquent Hiroshi Tachi sent to a high school to fight an evil schoolboy gang (yes, my brain is still a bit confused about the logic). Then there's a new transfer student, a French speaking girl who worships Satan and holds black masses. And martial arts action. And rugby. Unfortunately the film doesn't focus on any of those enough. The martial arts scenes are run of the mill with some of the most blatant ignorance of continuity between shots in recent memory. And that’s despite Japan Action Club brought in to do them! But there are some delirious details and scenes, like the opening fight against sunset, human sacrificing for Satan, and Hiroshi Tachi, who is better than the previous film’s Masato Hoshi. Director Akihisa Okimoto only did a handful of films on his career, including the cool The Classroom of Terror (1976) and the miserable Yokohama Underworld: The Machine-Gun Dragon (1976).

  3. #603
    Caught the live action of INUYASHIKI directed by Shinsuke Sato & thought it was pretty decent. Never read the manga, so my only source is the anime which is offered on Prime for free since their Anime Strike VOD service was discontinued. It was cool that they kept the nihilistic bloodlust in Hiro Shishigami's character & more importantly the CGI wasn't distracting as in some other sci fi live adaptations. Overall, I would definitely give it a solid recommendation.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  4. #604
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Front Row Life (かぶりつき人生) (Japan, 1968) [DVD] - 2/5
    Tatsumi Kumashiro's debut film about a moody gal whose fat mother is a stripper. The daughter gets a bit into the same trade, and runs into some unpleasant men, one of whom wants her to star in a pink film. Kumashiro fans should enjoy this as it’s unmistakably his work; I wasn't that impressed by it though, nor were the audiences at the time it seems. Kumashiro was back to assistant duties until Nikkatsu went Roman Porno. This film is tame compared to those, a character drama with mainly talk, but there are a few (non-striptease) scenes that show brief glimpses of nudity while pretending to be part of serious narrative. You get the feeling they calculated how much they could get away with.

    The Turkish Bathhouses of Japan (札幌・横浜・名古屋・雄琴・博多  ルコ渡り鳥) (Japan, 1975) [TV] – 3/5
    A Toei documentary exploration of "Turkish baths". The film features toruko-wanderer Meika Seri employing herself in the country’s many brothels in a fictional frame story into which documentary footage and interviews with real pros are inserted. Shingo Yamashiro narrates, Tsusai Sugawara pops up, and there’s footage of foreign prostitutes and a visit to a women’s toruko with male workers. The most obscure thing we learn: 90% toruko girls own a pet because they are lonely! Some of the lengthy footage with bubble specialist sex workers doing their thing is also interesting, though marred by tons of fogging, and this being an exploitation doc you can never be quite sure what’s staged and to what extent. The structure works pretty well anyway, with real footage balanced with a fictional road movie drama and not too many boring moments. A bit better than Sadao Nakajima’s similar pictures from a few years earlier. Note: Turkish baths were re-named into Soaplands in the 80s after the Turks took offense. The younger Japanese are no longer familiar with the term “toruko”.

    The Day of No Return (Kaerazaru hibi) (帰らざる日々) (Japan, 1978) [DVD] - 3/5
    A young man (Toshiyuki Nagashima) returns to his hometown and recalls his youth, including an unlikely friendship with a brutish bully (Jun Etô), and a girl (Kahori Takeda from Pink Hip Girl) whose father (Atsuo Nakamura in a Yoshio Harada role) was a yakuza. Told in parallel in 1978 and 1972 with plenty of period detail. Another good, though not exceptional film by Japan's top youth film director of the 70s, Toshiya Fujita. He's ironically best known abroad for his most atypical film, Lady Snowblood. Perhaps that makes sense though, as revenge films travel better, and serious youth dramas are a genre the Japanese are for some reason much more comfortable with than the rest of the world.

    Prey (餌食) (Japan, 1979) – 4/5
    Yuya Uchida x Koji Wakamatsu x Reggae. Uchida is a pot smoking ex-rocker back from the States. He hooks up with a small community of ex political radical, a bozo zoku style lone youngster and a teenage girl while growing increasingly concerned about the heroine trade conducted by gangsters in the show biz back-stage. A little more laidback than your average Wakamatsu fair, with an amazing non-stop reggae soundtrack and no graphic sex. Not the director at his most intense, yet unmistakably Wakamatsu all the way to the ending where Uchida goes postal in bright daylight and starts shooting random people on the street.

    Shanghai Rhapsody (上海バンスキング) (Japan, 1984) [35mm] - 3/5
    Enjoyable but overlong Shanghai musical set in the 30s and 40s. With Fukasaku's usual frantic pacing I was quite enjoying the film until at 45 minutes I realized there's still two thirds to go (most directors would’ve taken 80 minutes to get that far). Plenty of singing and dancing in night club context, a gwailo gangster speaking English and Japanese in the same sentence, and a brief, hysterical Etsuko Shihomi karate scene (she has the film’s biggest supporting role as Chinese girl marrying a Japanese musician). For a while I though the film was drawing a naive depiction of Japanese-Chinese co-living until I realized the war just hadn't started yet. When it does, it’s Japanese soldiers executing children on the streets. Not what the target audiences expected perhaps, but this wouldn't be a Fukasaku film without that kind of brutal honesty.

    Big Magnum Kuroiwa Sensei (ビッグ・マグナム黒岩先生) (Japan, 1985) [DVD] – 3/5
    “Violence education is my motto”, explains one of the new teachers at the School without Honor and Humanity, an institution full of delinquents, neo nazis and girls flashing their breasts (imported Nikkatsu actresses, I believe). And by "violence education" he means using violence in education. But the real badass in the school is the other newcomer, Kuroiwa sensei, a harmless looking old man who is actually a secret agent armed to the teeth, sent by the Board of Education! A relatively insane Kazuhiko Yamaguchi high school action comedy runs out of bullets at the end when the educational Rambo has to clear the school of bad boys without actually killing anyone. Lame. It's because the film was a family friendly mainstream comedy manga adaptation, released just prior to the 80s high school action boom (Be-bop High School and Sukeban Deka followed soon). It's still a good bit of fun, though.

    Railroad Man (鉄道員) (Japan, 1999) [VoD] - 1/5
    Old man devoted his life to work instead of family and spends most of the movie seeing b&w and sepia toned flashbacks. Popular Takakura movie could just as well have been women's sappy TV drama because nothing sets it apart from those other than the occasional widescreen landscape shot. Shinobu Otake's wife character so exceedingly tailor made for female TV audiences that any other viewer's head is likely to explode à la Scanners.

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