Blog Archives

Six Four (2016)

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For those who mark time in the West, 1989 was a common year, 365 days long. For Japan however, it was two years in one. The Japanese calendar is based on periods or eras, marked for every year of an emperor. 1989 was the year that Emperor Hirohito, the ruler that had seen the nation both into and out of the Second World War and beyond, died at the age of 87. He passed away on January 7, one week … (read more)

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Smuggler (2011)

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Failed — or at least distracted — actor Kinuta (Satoshi Tsumabuki) spends his days dismally holed up in front of a slot machine, a poster child for what we in Australia would call pokies addiction. Quiet and vulnerable, he is manipulated into taking a job he can’t turn down and joins a team of smugglers for the Yakuza: moving a truck full of things that need to pass unnoticed, often things that are suspiciously man-shaped.… (read more)

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Suicide Club (2001)

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Those of our readers who are familiar with Japanese cinema should be no strangers to gory films from Japan. Suicide Club, which I am going to be reviewing here, is one such example. However, in contrast with recent popular gore-packed films such as The Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, which are all way over-the-top in their handling of violence and have premises that are unlikely to happen in the real world, … (read more)

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Sakuran (2007)

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If Sakuran was a person, it would be the kind of person other people write songs about; quirky and vital and brave, marching to the beat of a drum no one else hears; charming and impossible to dislike, drawing everyone in like moths to a flame which is in the end gone far too soon.

Which sounds like a cliché (or a 70’s rock star) and in fact is. At first, Sakuran seems to be all about style and nothing … (read more)

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Electric Dragon 80,000V (2001)

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Common sense dictates that any film featuring the line “He conducts electricity! He talks to reptiles! He’s the man!” is bound to be good. But there are certain elements that separate the good from the great, and director Ishii Sogo has brought them all to Electric Dragon 80000V. Tadanobu Asano looking for lizards in the back streets and sewers of Tokyo? Masatoshi Nagase as the coolest half-deity assassin you’ve ever seen? A soundtrack so loud that it could turn … (read more)

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The Hidden Blade (2005)

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Yohji Yamada’s second film is soft with the same rural beauty that made Twilight Samurai such a remarkably refreshing period piece. It is a personal story, unconventional perhaps because its subject matter seems so very conventional, and Yamada is becoming something of a thematic auteur with his quiet, realistic portrayals of the samurai way of life, his harmless non-heroes, his uncomplicated humour and his slow sense of inevitable conclusion.

Munezo Katagiri (Masatoshi Nagase) is an unmarried samurai indentured to a … (read more)

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Stereo Future (2001)

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Hiroyuki Nakano’s Stereo Future can quite confidently be described by something that might have seemed a bit of paradox had it been applied to just about any other film.

Fresh and funky.

And it even manages beautiful and charming too, but maybe it’s all due to the fact that the film doesn’t try too hard, somehow speaking without saying all that much. Hiroyuki Nakano paints with a light hand, using the far greater weight of colour, music and the lush … (read more)

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Dead End Run (2003)

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Ishii Sogo is what I would call a Rorschach director: he makes films that are often as incomprehensible as those ink blots used in psychological testing, but which can tell a great deal about you by your reaction to them. It follows that Ishii’s films are not enjoyed by everyone, and can be lauded as ‘excellent fun’ or condemned as ‘weird and boring’.

As described in the synopsis, each sequence begins with a chase down an alley. After a little … (read more)

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