Author Archives: Ben Jennings

Yoshiwara: The Pleasure Quarter (1960)

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In making its belated Australian debut at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year, Tomu Uchida’s 45-years-old Yoshiwara: The Pleasure Quarter veritably brought the house down. It is a gorgeous, sumptuously colourful widescreen melodrama in a similar vein to Uchida’s Chikamatsu’s ‘Love in Osaka’, but with an even more astonishing shift in tone in the final act.

Uchida’s standby actor Chiezo Kataoka stars as the disfigured Jirozaemon, a wealthy but naïve and lonely textile manufacturer. When his friends drag … (read more)

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Chikamatsu’s ‘Love in Osaka’ (1959)

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Tomu Uchida’s Chikamatsu’s ‘Love in Osaka’. Strange way to name a movie, right? Well, it is named that way for a much better reason than Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, I promise.

What we have here is essentially a standard romantic melodrama (see synopsis), but with a delightfully twisted streak of narrative artifice. To put it simply, the movie is dominated by a supporting character, Chikamatsu, named after the writer of the play upon which the movie … (read more)

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An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

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If you’ve never seen an Ozu film then, ironically, the final one he ever made is probably a good place to start. An Autumn Afternoon will never be recognised among Ozu’s absolute masterpieces, yet it has an agreeable accessibility and humour that make it a very fine initiation into his world. And for Ozu’s many fans, the movie represents a perfect crystallisation of his famous thematic obsessions and legendary film style. Telling (surprise surprise!) a story of familial tribulation in … (read more)

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Men Suddenly In Black (2003)

Men Suddenly in Black is a one-joke yet consistently funny spoof of Hong Kong gangster movies. I should probably make it clear from the outset that I have virtually no standards when it comes to the send-up comedy genre, as I find the jokes that don’t work frequently funnier than the ones that do. So if you load your movie with transparently stupid references to other movies and genre conventions, you’re unlikely to get an entirely bad review out of … (read more)

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Koma (2004)

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Koma is a slick and enjoyable thriller from Hong Kong, very much in the same vein as the current crop of Japanese and Korean cute-girls-in-danger horror movies, but actually made a little more interesting by its lack of supernatural elements. Which is not to say it isn’t just as delightfully ridiculous.

At the beginning, rich spoiled brat Chi Ching (Angelica Lee) witnesses the aftermath of a horrible crime. Extremely drunk after a friend’s wedding reception, Ching finds a woman who … (read more)

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Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

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“…an unalterable and unquestioned law of the musical world required that the German text of French operas sung by Swedish artists should be translated into Italian for the clearer understanding of English-speaking audiences.”

The Age of Innocence

I couldn’t help but think of Edith Wharton’s witty summary of 19th century opera society as I watched Memoirs of a Geisha. Hollywood’s oriental-chic movie of the year is based on a novel narrated by a Japanese geisha, but written by … (read more)

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Short Time (2005)

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In doing a little online research about this pretty damn kooky South Korean action comedy drama, I discovered quite by accident that it’s actually a remake of a fairly obscure 1990 Hollywood movie by the same title. It’s quite commonly accepted that part of the reason South Korean cinema is experiencing such a boom at the moment is its ability to emulate Hollywood, and this movie is a perfect example.

Having said that, while I’ve not seen the Hollywood version, … (read more)

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Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer (1992)

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Tsukamoto Shinya’s Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer is a slightly superior pseudo-sequel to 1988’s Tetsuo, and like that movie, it’s weird, crazy stuff indeed. Logic and rationality quail, run away and quickly die of fright when confronted with a movie like this. While it must be said that it is more narratively comprehensible than the original film, that isn’t saying much.

The story, so far as one can tell, involves a mild mannered businessman (Tomoroh Taguchi) whose son is killed and … (read more)

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