Sunday, March 04, 2007

Watched February 26 - March 4, 2007

Snezhnaya koroleva / The Snow Queen (Lev Atamanov, 1957)

A lovely adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson story -- marred only by a Disneyesque frame (featuring an not very interesting Jiminy Cricket wannabe). Uses a boldly colored and simple style that would seem to have influenced a number of subsequent animators.

More screen shots:

Sero hiki no Gôshu / Gauche the Cellist (Isao Takahata, 1982)

Takahata's lovely adaptation of a famed Japanese children's story by Kenji Miyazawa (story teller, poet, Buddhist scholar and agronomist). One of the rare films that that portrays the mid 1910s in Japan, it tells the story of a young cellist in a the movie theater orchestra of a provincial city (and market gardener in his day job). Visually quite stunning -- echoing both Western (e.g. Friedrich) and Eastern (e.g. Hiroshige) artistic influences.

Mou gaan dou / Infernal Affairs (LAU Wai Keung & MAK Siu Fai, 2002)
Mou gaan dou II / Infernal Affairs II (LAU Wai Keung & MAK Siu Fai, 2003)
Mou gaan dou III: Jung gik mou gaan / Infernal Affairs III (LAU Wai Keung & MAK Siu Fai, 2003)

Possibly an interesting comparison piece to Scanner Darkly -- featuring a mobster working as a mole in the police department and a police officer working as a mole in a gang. Andy Lau and Tony Leung both get well-deserved praise for the performances -- but the whole cast is simply stellar. All three films are good, but I'd rank the second (a prequel) a little lower (too much plot). The third, which jumps from tome to time -- from prior to the first film to after to during, etc. (not a stand-alone film - by any stretch of the imagination) is (in some ways) the most intriguing (and the most PK Dick-esque).

Fune o oritara kanojo no shima / Getting Off the Boat at Her Island (Itsumichi Isomura, 2003)

A very Takahata-esque live action film about a young woman (Yoshino Kimura) coming to her hometown (on a small island in Ehime prefecture, Shikoku) for one last time prior to her impending marriage (which she dreads telling her parents about) to a young Tokyo-ite. While there, she is drawn into a search for her first middle-school love. Ren Osugi, as the woman's father (a retired school principal) is especially wonderful (evoking memories of Chishu Ryu). More images:

Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia / Curse of the Golden Flower (ZHANG Yimou, 2006)

Re-watched on DVD -- which is not quite the same as seeing this in a theater. It seemed _more_ over-the-top in some ways on the small screen. But GONG Li's performance stands out just as strongly -- regardless.

Toki o kakeru shôjo / The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Mamoru Hosoda, 2006)

Hosoda is the director Miyazaki fired from the "Howl's Moving Castle" project. With this film, Hosoda seemed to want to show he can make a better "Ghibli film" than Studio Ghibli can these days. And I'd say it is quite possible he succeeded. Stylistically and thematically a mix of Takahata and Miyazaki (with a tiny bias towards the former), this adapts a famed children's science fiction story (the most famed prior adaptation being a somewhat dated 1983 film) about a high school girl who suddenly begins experiencing time disruptions -- faced with bad events, she jumps back in time and tries to avert them.

Kamome shokudo / Seagull Diner (Naoko Ogigami, 2006)

Ogigami, a young Japanese woman director -- and fan of the work of Aki Kaurismaki -- goes to Finland -- and shows us the story of three Japanese women running (and working in) a Helsinki diner. Markku Peltola (The Man Without a Past) plays a small (but essential) part. A charming and interesting "little" film that deserves to be more widely known. (It reminds me a bit of "Take Care of My Cat" or "Linda Linda Linda" -- but featuring middle-aged ladies instead of young women).


Steven H said...

Glad you liked the Isomura, Michael. I would love to see The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, it sounds great.

Also, I've started my own Japanese film related blog here:


Michael Kerpan said...

I am sad that GWLTT will not be getting a subbed Japanese release -- I hope this means a US release will be forthcomimng.

I wish more of Isomura's work was readily available -- as the two films I HAVE seen are so engaging.

Best wishes as to your venture into Blog World. ;~}