Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Watched January 29 - February 4, 2007

Watashi no nisan / My Older Brother (Yasujiro Shimazu, 1934) (not yet in IMDB -- which lists only 35 of Shimazu's 160 films)

An early Japanese sound film starring Kazuo Hasegawa (heart throb of historical films -- in his first "modern" role, still working under the name of Chojiro Hayashi) and a young Kinuyo Tanaka. A romantic comedy, with elements of suspense and sentimental melodrama, all crammed into 70 minutes or so. Hasegawa is a prodigal son, who has just been returned to his brother (Reikichi Kawamura), who owns a limousine service. To show his gratitude for his kind reception, Hasegawa volunteers to chauffeur a couple of rather shady individuals who arrive just at closing time. It turns out they are on an errand to return a young runaway heiress to her home (whether she wants to go or not). Hasegawa, seeing a maiden in distress, rescues Tanaka.

The film mostly chronicles the pair's adventures -- as Tanaka meets new experiences,
such as less than sanitary roadside restaurant and the ramshackle apartment of one of Hasegawa's buddies. Tanaka is a hoot here, getting a rare chance to handle a purely comic role -- and engaging in such risque behavior as trying to change clothes in the back of a moving limousine (causing poor Hasegawa acute embarrassment).

More screen shots:

Kagemusha / Shadow Warrior (Akira Kurosawa, 1980)
Alexander Nevsky
(Sergei Eisenstein, 1938)

The first portion of this film about a double hired to impersonate warlord Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadai in both roles) is quite engaging. Midway through, however, the focus shifts to battle scenes that I found mostly pretty uninteresting. (As it turns out, this film is not historical, but purely a bit of "alternate history" -- albeit using real historical personages). By the end, Kurosawa has slid pretty close to the style he would use in "Ran" (cold and empty but with lots of spectacle and action). I was so aggravated by the battle scenes in "Kagemusha", I decided I needed a restorative -- and so watched Eisenstein's "Alexander Nevsky", which left me in a decidedly better mood.

Chik geuk siu ji / Bare Foot Kid (Johnnie To, 1993)

A superb film about a young rural martial arts expert (Aaron Kwok) who comes to town to look for an old colleague of his father (TI Lung). As it turns out Ti works for a fabric dying business run by Maggie Cheung, who hires Kwok (after he chases away thugs trying to convince her to sell her business. Along the way, Kwok runs across Jacqueline Wu, a young teacher at a school run by her father. Wu is initially mean to Kwok when he comes to learn to read and write, but then regrets her action. Meanwhile the town's new magistrate is biding his time, waiting to put the local crime boss (who also owns a dying company) out of commission. Kwok gets over-enthusiastic in protecting Cheung's interests, causing events to start spiraling out of control.

The story is interesting, the actors are excellent -- and the action scenes are quite awesome. The new Hong Kong DVD of this (Shaw Brothers) film is gorgeous.

More screen shots:

Still Life / Sanxia Haoren (JIA Zhangke, 2006)

Jia's new film depicts the ancient Sichuan city of Fengjie, as it is progressively demolished, while the water levels rise due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. It focuses on two visitors from the northern city of Shanxi who come to Fengjie looking for missing family members. The first searcher is a miner (HAN Sanming) looking for the wife who left him to return to her hometown (taking their young daughter) 16
years previously. the second is a woman (ZHAO Tao) looking for her husband, who came south to work a couple of years before, but who has become progressively undiligent about keeping in touch.

Since pictures can speak louder than words, here are screen shots from the quite good mainland DVD:


Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a Super cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Ran Movie Review

Michael Kerpan said...


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