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Thread: What Asian Films Have You Been Watching Recently?

  1. #601
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    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).


  2. #602
    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"

  3. #603
    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.

  4. #604
    Thursdays are reserved for SBs around my house, so I put on Hsia Hsu's kung fu comedy, KID FROM KWANGTUNG. Director Hsu reunites with Wang Yu, Wong Mei-mei & Sharon Yeung from his earlier film LION VS LION and like that flick, this one includes a very entertaining lion dance scene with a chicken and a centipede. The flick is pretty slow going other than the aforementioned lion dance fight but it sure picks up when Hwang Jang-lee arrives on the scene. He's worth the price of admission alone. Speaking of kickers, Wong Mei-mei is also very underrated in my book with her flexible kicking techniques. Although she doesn't get to really show her stuff in her limited role here.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  5. #605
    I re-watched Ahn Guk-jin's 2015 debut feature ALICE IN EARNESTLAND. This flick was actually in my top 10 a few years back and upon a re-watch it still captures the multi-mood, genre busting feel of some of the early 2000 Korean flicks. A bit of really off beat humor/black comedy mixed with social satire with a dash of ultra violence. Okay, it's not SAVE THE GREEN PLANET! or anything but still a very engrossing and funny film which gets progressively darker. The lead actress, Lee Jung-hyun, who is probably better known as a pop singer does a fantastic job portraying a quirky naive headstrong character who develops psychopathic tendencies as she is pushed to her physical and mental limits. Recommended and my impetus for a re-watch is due to this film being the subject of What's Korean Cinema Ep #45 on the POF.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  6. #606
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    The Tale of Zatoichi (座頭市物語) (Japan, 1962) [BD] - 4.5/5
    Zatoichi meets honourable but enemy gang affiliated samurai Shigeru Amachi in the beautifully written and directed opening film. It's curious how ninkyo'ish the storyline is (before the genre even existed), with Katsu and Amachi's meetings and discussions being old fashioned romanticized male honour/duty/friendship cinema at its best (you don't find anything quite like this in modern cinema, except maybe in 80s John Woo films). At the same time it steers away from the dull evil gang vs. good gang yakuza film pattern by making both gangs rotten. And the entire movie is funny and touching, with both elements beautifully integrated into the narrative rather than slapped on top of it. Also Amachi, an actor I've sometimes dismissed in his Toei films, is extremely good here. One of the all time best yakuza films.

    The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (続・座頭市物語) (Japan, 1962) [BD] - 3.5/5
    Part 2. Zatoichi meets a man from the past (Katsu's brother Tomisaburo Wakayama). Enjoyable, wonderfully short (72 min) sequel nevertheless feels slightly superficial compared to the amazing original. The score (by Ichiro Saito instead of Akira Ikufube) dates the film, the storyline is built on back-story threads intentionally left loose in part one, and the Katsu-Wakayama pairing isn't milked to the full until the fantastic last 15 minutes. Still very good, but there was potential for even more.

    New Tale of Zatoichi (新・座頭市物語) (Japan, 1963) [BD] - 4/5
    Part 3. The first colour entry and a return to top form with comparable honour/duty/respect play as the original film. Zatoichi is about to leave the yakuza life behind when he encounters a man who isn't evil, but must kill Zatoichi because his brother was slain by him. Effective and very touching. Three further points of notice: the film contains one of Akira Ikufube's most beautiful scores, features stunning framing throughout, and intensifies the action with powerful sword action sound effects (something that, typical to older chambara and yakuza films, was largely absent from the first two Zatoichi movies).



    Zatoichi's Flashing Sword (座頭市あばれ凧) (Japan, 1964) [BD] - 3/5
    Part 7. Evil yakuza Tatsuo Endo tries to obtain a riverside area from a decent boss who is harbouring Zatoichi without knowing his true identity. Standard entry with a routine storyline. Katsu is lovable as usual and Endo has a great evil laugh.

    Adventures of Zatoichi (座頭市関所破り) (Japan, 1964) [BD] - 3.5/5
    Part 9. Sometimes you can do without a good plot. The characters, scenery and the hugely atmospheric final duel, all handled with finesse, make the uninspired `yakuza scheming with corrupt officials to extort villagers` plot surprisingly unobtrusive. Smooth sailing with the world's most lovable movie character.

    Zatoichi's Conspiracy (新座頭市物語・笠間の血祭り) (Japan, 1973) [BD] - 3.5/5
    Part 25. The last of the original run before the 1989 one-time revival. This one is better than the previous few entries, more in line with the classic 60s films than some of the cruder 70s entries. Nothing unique, but there's a nice atmosphere and the film makes a satisfying closing for the series.

  7. #607
    I watched Hideo Gosha’s Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron (1978) and can’t recommend it. For one thing it’s long: 2.5 hours spread over two disks in the HK DVD version I watched. The film is most interesting when it functions as a pre-modern caper movie. It opens with ninja types walking on a tight rope with umbrellas to keep their balance to perform a heist. It seems in 18th-century Japan the nation’s finest samurais have joined forces to create an “Arson and Theft Investigation Arm.” (Who is investigating the murders and rapes we never learn.) We see samurais working at desks and reading what are apparently crime files. One samurai complains about the paperwork. The samurai cops are always just a step behind the bandits, although they kill dozens of them. There’s a down-at-the-heels sexy female aristocrat who uses her body and feminine wiles to set up a very elaborate crime. (Plenty of boobs in this movie.) I honestly thought that the film was about her and we would discover how she became this slutty criminal.

    Instead she simply disappears at about the two-hour mark; and the movie veers off on a totally different trajectory without her and without the samurai police. The head (the magnificent Tatsuya Nakadai) of the extremely diminished bandit gang has a score to settle with the shogun who besmirched his name long ago. I am bound to say that for someone so touchy about his honor, he did seem very comfortable leading a life of crime for years. It turns out that he was the shogun’s accountant. Somehow he also is the natural father of the shogun’s son, although this is as much of a surprise to him as the viewer. Nakadai goes Sword of Doom on the shogun’s men, but in this movie he has an escape plan, which goes awry when his row boat inexplicably explodes. Somehow he survives anyway. Long before this I had given up wondering why things happen. The final scene is Nakadai visiting the grave of some old man who had volunteered to pretend to be him and be executed in his stead at the exact same time the now resigned head of the samurai police – who seemed to be a bit of an asshole -- is visiting that man’s grave. Go figure.

  8. #608
    Member tetrapak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Takuma View Post
    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.


    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.


    very interested to watch these 4 ... thanks for sharing... I didn't know that the Meika Seri film was a documentary!

  9. #609
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tetrapak View Post
    I didn't know that the Meika Seri film was a documentary!
    I can hardly believe I finally saw it. My short history of missing the film:
    2014: Meika Seri retrospective in Laputa Asagaya (Tokyo). Skipped the screening in favor of a Shunji Iwai triple feature.
    2016: Meika Seri retrospective in Cinema Vera (Tokyo). Missed the first screening due to a delayed flight.
    2016: Meika Seri retrospective in Cinema Vera (Tokyo). I was seated for the second screening, but I got so sick I had to leave before it started.
    2018: Meika Seri retrospective in Shin bungeiza(Tokyo). I wasn't in town.

    Then finally:
    2019: My girlfriend's mother mails me a copy

  10. #610
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Finally! Toho is releasing Kumashiro's Failed Youth (青春の蹉跌) (1974) and Africa's Light (アフリカの光) (1975) on DVD on 2019/12/18.





    Also the same day, Koreyoshi Kurahara's Two in the Amsterdam Rain (雨のアムステルダム) (1975)


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