Blog Archives

Hana (2006)

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Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest work, and his first foray into the period piece, is one of those films that before you see it, you find yourself wondering: what on earth could a semi-realist director best known for emotionally honest documentary style films do with the samurai genre? How will his organic style show through? How will he achieve the unexpected charm and humour that is such a strong characteristic in all his films to date no matter what the content?

But … (read more)

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Eli, Eli Lema Sabachtani? (2005)

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This film is not for everyone. Many people will hate it. Nonetheless, it is a fairly strong film that will appeal to those of a thoughtful nature, particularly if they also know a bit about New Music.

This one actually reminds me quite strongly of many Taiwanese films, although for me this was more successful in achieving what they set out to achieve. There’s little dialogue, little action, and a very meagre plot, but it still managed to put me … (read more)

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Rampo Noir (2005)

Forget wells and videos and all manner of watery metaphors, Rampo Noir returns to the source with a refreshingly new bent. Based on stories by Japanese gothic horror author Edogawa Rampo, this collection of short films is both experimental and confronting in a way that cheap frights will never, ever be, and it’s actually not an easy thing to watch.

The anthology opens with Mars Canal, directed by Takeuchi, and for the first few minutes, I probably wasn’t the … (read more)

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Last Life in the Universe (2003)

Last Life In The Universe has so many things going for it. For starters, it’s directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, who made the glorious Monrak Transistor. Although this film had a very different feel, simplicity in place of energy, it’s still made by a talented director who’s capable of making it work well.

Then there’s the cinematographer: it’s hard to find better than Chris Doyle. I imagine that people must be queueing up to use the services of this rather … (read more)

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Ichi the Killer (2001)

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Remember the old architect sketch from Monty Python? A group of Masons offer a tender for an apartment building, and one of the architects presents designs for a slaughterhouse, justifying it thus: “This is not just a slaughterhouse. There’s no blood caked on the walls and flesh flying out of the windows incommoding passers-by with this one!”

That is so, so, not Ichi The Killer. There is blood caked on the walls. And the only reason there’s no … (read more)

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Vital (2004)

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It might have been easy to descend into a creepy, stomach churning genre film when the main narrative device of the story is a cadaver, but somehow that’s exactly what Shinya Tsukamoto’s 2004 film Vital isn’t. Instead, and it sounds strange to say, it is something of a love story, a subtle, sedated ode to loss and the process of grieving that is at times both vaguely discomforting and quietly beautiful.

In yet another solid performance of minimalist effort, … (read more)

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Distance (2001)

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Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda has produced a film that has touched upon one of the most sensitive issues for contemporary Japanese filmmakers: terrorist cults. Even though Koreeda’s film is fictional, there is always the inevitable comparison with the Aum cult sarin gas attack. There are a number of films, such as Canary, dealing with this sensitive problem. However, no filmmaker has probed the aftermath of the issue so poignantly and innovatively as Koreeda.

Distance has a very basic story: … (read more)

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Café Lumiere (2003)

Hou Hsaio-hsien’s Café Lumiere, his plaintive tribute to the incomparable Yasujiro Ozu, is certainly sure to piss off large sections of its audience. I had the curious experience of seeing it with quite a big audience at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and much of this crowd was comprised of people who were only there to ensure themselves good seats for the next session in that cinema: Kung Fu Hustle, introduced live by Stephen Chow himself. Needless to … (read more)

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