Tomorowo Taguchi

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Who's Camus Anyway? Review


Excellent
In my many years of writing about film, I've only really tried to make a movie once. Foreseeing any big changes, that will be the last time I will be trying to become a director. It's hell: The actors are always on budgeted time, the crew is lazy, and the writer tends to be pretentious to the point of excruciating, likening what you're doing to his work to an anal rape from which he will never recover. I've never had a higher regard for good directors than I did during that week-long shoot. But strangely, the director in Mitsuo Yanagimachi's sublime Who's Camus Anyway? is the character that you hold in low regard.

The 10 years since we've seen Yanagimachi here in the states will make for a rude awakening; where 1985's Fire Festival was brutal and brooding and Shadow of China was just plain, old bad, Who's Camus Anyway? is ferociously witty and hypnotically alert. The film depicts a collegian film crew preparing to film The Bored Murderer, a true story of a high school student who kills an elderly woman for seemingly no reason. The story's main character is said to have a close relation to Mersault, the main character in Camus' classic The Stranger. During the eight days that the film exists in, the crew prepares and shoots the film with help from their teacher, Professor Nakajo (Hirotaro Honda). The film immerses itself in every crew person, giving special attention to the director, Naoki (Shuji Kashiwabara), who must deal with an overbearing yet generous girlfriend (Hinano Yoshikawa), and his assistant director, Kiyoki (Ai Maeda), who seems to become the object of everyone's affection by the end of the eight days. There's also Ikeda (Hideo Nakaizumi), the effeminate and strange lead actor who is the catalyst for the film's chilling finale.

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Shinjuku Triad Society Review


Grim
Takashi Miike tries to get all the sex out of his system in one fell swoop with Shinjuku Triad Society, the first in a rough series of films called the "Black Society Trilogy" and Miike's first film that wasn't a straight-to-video production.

You got oral sex, you got straight sex, you got anal sex. You got men, you got women. You got violent sex. You got prostitute sex. You got yourself a ton of sex here.

Continue reading: Shinjuku Triad Society Review

Who's Camus Anyway? Review


Excellent
In my many years of writing about film, I've only really tried to make a movie once. Foreseeing any big changes, that will be the last time I will be trying to become a director. It's hell: The actors are always on budgeted time, the crew is lazy, and the writer tends to be pretentious to the point of excruciating, likening what you're doing to his work to an anal rape from which he will never recover. I've never had a higher regard for good directors than I did during that week-long shoot. But strangely, the director in Mitsuo Yanagimachi's sublime Who's Camus Anyway? is the character that you hold in low regard.

The 10 years since we've seen Yanagimachi here in the states will make for a rude awakening; where 1985's Fire Festival was brutal and brooding and Shadow of China was just plain, old bad, Who's Camus Anyway? is ferociously witty and hypnotically alert. The film depicts a collegian film crew preparing to film The Bored Murderer, a true story of a high school student who kills an elderly woman for seemingly no reason. The story's main character is said to have a close relation to Mersault, the main character in Camus' classic The Stranger. During the eight days that the film exists in, the crew prepares and shoots the film with help from their teacher, Professor Nakajo (Hirotaro Honda). The film immerses itself in every crew person, giving special attention to the director, Naoki (Shuji Kashiwabara), who must deal with an overbearing yet generous girlfriend (Hinano Yoshikawa), and his assistant director, Kiyoki (Ai Maeda), who seems to become the object of everyone's affection by the end of the eight days. There's also Ikeda (Hideo Nakaizumi), the effeminate and strange lead actor who is the catalyst for the film's chilling finale.

Continue reading: Who's Camus Anyway? Review

Ley Lines Review


Good
Ley Lines is billed as the third and final film in Japanese director Takashi Miike's "Black Society Trilogy," but that doesn't mean you have to see the first two films, Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog, to follow along. All three films are loosely connected by themes and overarching philosophies, but they're three different stories with three different sets of characters (though some actors appear in multiple films).

Like the first two films, Ley Lines concerns itself with outsiders trying to navigate both an insular Japan and the even more insular -- and violent -- world of organized crime in Tokyo. But this story begins out in the sticks. Black sheep Ryuchi (Kazuki Kitamura) can't wait to break the bounds of his boring country life by moving to the big city to look for trouble. His younger brother Shunrei (Michisuke Kashiwaya) disapproves, but after all of Ryuchi's friends, with the exception of the excitable Chan (Tomorowo Taguchi), chicken out on joining the adventure, Shun decides to tag along.

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Tetsuo Review


OK
Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a "medium sized monster" production. So says a title card in the slow credit scrawl for what has come to be thought of as the ultimate "industrial" film. The "medium sized monster" could refer to just about anything: a man (the medium sized Godzilla), the film itself (a brisk 67 minutes), or the country of Japan. Or it could just be some snide joke. But I think it hints at something more, something inherent to the film and to Japanese culture at large. It is the regimented industrialization of Japanese commerce and culture that is monstrous in Tetsuo. It is the bleak skyline and the hawsers and conduits and telephone wires that blanket the country like spider webs. It is the steady pulse of machine rhythm that is slowly, but surely, replacing the steady heartbeat of nature. It is the repulsion and the attraction of industrial life.

Tetsuo begins with a metal fetishist (director Tsukamoto) cutting open his thigh and inserting a cable into the gaping wound. The fetishist is then promptly run over by an office worker (Tomorowo Taguchi) heading home for the day. The next morning, the office finds several metal whiskers growing from his cheek. Soon his entire body is wrapped in a metal flesh and it draws him towards an apocalyptic showdown with the metal fetishist, who is now, like the office worker, a giant ambulatory pile of rusted metal.

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A Snake Of June Review


Weak
Bullet Ballet director Shinya Tsukamoto turns to perversity and blackmail with the oddly titled A Snake of June, a black and white (or more accurately, blue and white) mystery that will first catch your eye, then have you scratching your head.

It starts with a demure Japanese woman who receives a letter in the mail, inscribed "Secrets of your husband." Inside are photographs of her in a tart outfit and -- gasp -- wearing makeup. Hubby wouldn't approved, so when the blackmailer calls on her cell phone, ordering her to go buy a vibrator and lock herself in a bathroom stall with it, she obliges.

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Full Metal Yakuza Review


Weak
It's the flipside of RoboCop in every way: The hero's a cyborg, but everything else is twisted: Instead of a cop, he's a street thug. Instead of a slick Hollywood movie, it's a direct-to-video flick made on the cheap. And instead of taking place in Detroit, Full Metal Yakuza hails, as we'd expect, from Japan.

Takashi Miike is unapologetic about ripping off Robo, but at least he's got a sense of humor about it. Never mind electricity: This flick's hero eats metal for energy. And our underground designer puts efforts into ensuring that the yakuza has the world's longest schlong (no one should be left unsatisfied by the full metal yakuza!), which appears pixilated every time it's on camera.

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11'09''01 - September 11 Review


OK
Simple premise: Eleven filmmakers each get 11 minutes to put their thoughts about September 11, 2001 into film. Documentaries about 9/11 have certainly been made to date -- I'd be surprised if less than a dozen had been released -- and this very format has even been done before too (see our review of Underground Zero).

What September 11 has that the other films don't is star power and international perspective. The 11 directors who submit work here represent a walk of fame of international cinema. Though I'm not familiar with the work of Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran) or Idrissa Ouedraogo (Burkina-Faso), to name a few, names like Penn, Lelouch, Iñárritu, Nair, and Loach represent some major names.

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