Monday, October 31, 2011

LA Eiga Fest! (Nov. 11-13)

Hi Blog,

COMING VERY SOON my friends over at the LA Japan Film Society are doing the LA EIGA FEST; a short, but fantastic Japanese film festival on the weekend of November 11th - 13th.

Highlights include the West Coast premier of Yoshimasa Ishibashi's MILOCRORZE, Shinji Imaoka's international kappa-stroking Pink Eiga co-production UNDERWATER LOVE, Su-yeon Gu's face bruisin' HARD ROMANTICKER, and an exclusive 3D screening of Takashi Miike's 'no, this isn't 13 ASSASSINS part 2' jidaigeki, HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (most likely the only time it'll be screened in 3D for the foreseeable future).

But that's not all, you can get your Tokyo gore thirst slaked with Yoshihiro Nishimura's zombie milkshake HELLDRIVER and then later feel guilty about laughing at death by watching Hiroshi Nagashima's short documentary on the Tohoku Earthquake, REMEMBRANCE OF THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE.

Held at the Mann's Chinese Theater 6, in the black and crimson heart of Hollywood, the schedule of screenings is as follows:

Friday Nov 11th

7:30pm - Opening premiere – Milocrorze: A Love Story (Dir Yoshimasa Ishibashi)

Saturday Nov 12th

9:30am – Competition Selection: The Volunteer, For Real? (Dir Tsuyoshi Satoda)

11:40am – Shorts program 1

Rootless Heart (Dir Toshiko Hata)

Tidy up (Dir Satsuki Okawa)

Cat Shit One (Dir Kazuya Sasahara)

1:10pm – Competition Selection: Food and the Maiden (Dir Minoru Kurimura)

3:15pm – Shorts program 2 – Official Short Shorts Film Festival Selection

Super Star (Dir Kentaro Hagiwara)

Smile Bus (Dir Sang-joon Park)

Hokkaido Tourism (Dir Yosuke Hamaguchi)

Heaven’s Island (Dir Naoko Tajima)

5:05pm – Competition Selection: Door to the Sea (Reiko Ohashi)

7:25pm – Hard Romanticker (Su-yeon Gu)

9:50pm – Underwater Love (Shinji Imaoka)

12:00am – Midnight Screening - Helldriver: Director’s Cut (Dir Yoshihiro Nishimura)

Sunday Nov 13th

9:30am – Cannonball Wedlock (Dir Koji Maeda)

11:15am – A Man with Style (Yuya Ishii)

1:40pm – Remembrance of the Tohoku Earthquake (Hiroshi Nagashima)

3:05pm – Someday (Junji Sakamoto)

5:15pm – Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai 3D (Takashi Miike)

More info HERE.

If you're a fan of Japanese film, you definitely don't want to miss this. See you there!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shinya Tsukamoto Panel at the Tribeca Film Festival

Hi Blog,

Just a quick head's up that I'll be moderating a discussion with one of my favorite filmmakers, Shinya Tsukamoto, at the Tribeca Film Festival. He'll be in town supporting the rather badass TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN. The discussion will be happening THIS Saturday, April 24th, 2010 at the Apple Retail Store in SoHo, Manhattan. (103 Prince Street NY, NY)

Three random bits of trivia:
  1. If it weren't for Tsukamoto, I wouldn't be as much of a Japanese film dork as I am.
  2. If it weren't for Tsukamoto, I likely wouldn't have pursued filmmaking. I'd probably be making a living recycling bottles and searching the beach for loose change with a metal detector.
  3. The SoHo Apple Store is right next door to my old Post Office, where I had my PO BOX for 6 years. (Coincidence? Or evidence of fate's hand?)
TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN will be having its US PREMIER at the Tribeca Film Festival on these dates:

Sun, Apr 25, 9:00PM
Village East Cinema 1

Tue, Apr 27, 7:30PM
Village East Cinema 7

Fri, Apr 30, 4:30PM
Village East Cinema 7

Sat, May 01, 11:45PM
Village East Cinema

It's a new cut that he spent all fall and winter working on, as I understand it, and I believe that Nine Inch Nails was involved in the new theme music, if I'm not mistaken. (Update: I haven't been able to confirm this, but I'll likely ask about this on Saturday. Stay tuned!)

So if you're in NYC, please do stop by the discussion. It's free and frankly, this is an unusually rare opportunity to hear the master speak about his art. Both lead actor Eric Bossick and producer Masayuki Tanishima, are also slated to attend the discussion.

More info about the discussion HERE.

TETSUO screening info HERE.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bitchin' Wakamatsu Koji Series this Month!

Hi Blog,

My programming for the Cinefamily (aka. The Silent Movie Theater) here in LA, continues with a pretty awesome seven-film Wakamatsu Koji series that kicks off this coming Wednesday with the masterful UNITED RED ARMY. (And that was a long sentence!) The series will then go on to run for the first three FRIDAYS in NOVEMBER, offering a pretty great selection of films (almost all collaborations with leftist political radical screenwriter Adachi Masao) -- some of which have never played in Los Angeles before.

The films, in order, are:

1. UNITED RED ARMY: Wednesday Nov. 4th 8pm

2. SHINJUKU MAD: Friday Nov. 7th, 7pm (Double Feature ONE)
3. ECSTASY OF THE ANGELS: Friday Nov. 7th 830pm (Double Feature ONE)

4. GO, GO SECOND TIME VIRGIN: Friday Nov. 14th, 7pm (Double Feature TWO)
5. RUNNING IN MADNESS, DYING IN LOVE (LA Premier and, oh yeah, what a fucking cool title?): Friday Nov. 14th, 8:30pm (Double Feature TWO)

6. VIOLATED ANGELS: Friday Nov. 21st, 7pm (Double Feature THREE)
7. VIOLENT VIRGIN: Friday Nov. 21st, 8:30pm (Double Feature THREE)

Here're the film write-ups I did for the series (with some copy-editing and some additional notes done by the editors up at the Cinefamily):


Divisive, exploitative, cruel, vengeful, erotic, political, provocative, avant-garde -- Koji Wakamatsu is all these things, and a ridiculous amount more. A country bumpkin who wandered his way through the Yakuza and into one of the most prolific directing careers in Japan, Wakamatsu has created an unsurpassed, massive filmography of unique and disobedient works. While inextricably connected to the pinku eiga (Japanese soft-core film), Wakamatsu himself has always insisted that his films were something more. Certainly they contain copious amounts of sex and nudity, but this often was a cover for leftist political diatribes decrying Japan’s imperial inclinations, and its subservience to US foreign affairs on Asian politics. Now in his seventies and having produced more than 200 films in his career, Wakamatsu and his uncompromising worldview show no signs of slowing. In addition to his latest epic transgression, United Red Army (2008), The Cinefamily is thrilled to present six of Wakamatsu's other treasures -- some of which have never before screened in America!

United Red Army

"Consensus is boring." -- Koji Wakamatsu

For 35 years, director Koji Wakamatsu has been mulling over what happened to the idealism and moral imperative of the far left Japanese student movement that left a rash of dead bodies and unanswered questions, and his latest film is as close to his heart as Schindler's List was for Spielberg. In the unflinchingly violent United Red Army, Wakamatsu dramatizes the self-immolation of the fiercest of Japan's underground paramilitary groups, who, in the early '70s, after internal strife led to the murders of fourteen of its own twenty-nine members, fled to a remote mountain location and instigated a police standoff which lives in infamy to this day. No stranger to radical politics, Wakamatsu not only drew from interviews with surviving URA members, but also from his own street-level experiences with the URA and other subversive organizations at the time -- affiliations which landed him on the U.S. State Department's no-visa blacklist, where he remains to this day. Backed by a searing psych rock score by former Sonic Youth member Jim O'Rourke, United Red Army is a film that doesn’t pretend to have the answers, but is instead an epic dissection of ideology can trump reason.

11/7 @ 7pm / SERIES: koji wakamatsu: sexfilmrevolution
Shinjuku Mad
shown with
Ecstasy of the Angels

With a sensationally violent and squelchy opening that sets up the plot of a father searching for his child’s murderer through the Shinjuku underworld, Shinjuku Mad never lets up its relentless assault as the blood flies, the bodies pile and the suffocating alienation multiplies like H1N1 in a school playground, all while Japanese '70s space rock band Food Brain provides harrowing cuts of fuzzy skronk on the soundtrack. The film was embraced by college students, artists and intellectuals upon its release, for its abrasive style and its honest countercultural insight (hippies and bikers are to be equally mistrusted!) Scripted by Wakamatsu’s partner in crime and leftist political radical, Masao Adachi, this film is purportedly one of Wakamatsu’s personal favorites for its "…vicarious portrait of Swinging Shinjuku in its vibrant heyday, making full use of local landmarks…" One of six(!) films Wakamatsu released in 1970.

Ecstasy of the Angels, a jarring exercise in experimental cinema clothed in pink film trappings, trails a leftist terrorist unit that, after a failed attempt to steal weapons from a US military base, learns that they might have been set up to fail by their parent organization. Dispensing with conventional storytelling, Wakamatsu plunges the viewer into a melange of political dissertations, rough and sweaty sex, explosions and swanky nightclubs. Though it certainly looks and feels like an exploitation picture, Ecstasy clearly has much more on its mind. The infusion of radical politics into the head-spinning assault of nudity and gore makes for a very odd experience, and the rapid shifts in time, film stock (black and white alternating with colour), sound effects, and character affiliations make this a dense, truly rewarding hour and a half. Ecstasy was Wakamatsu's biggest production to date -- a fact that guaranteed that the film was still released even though the government viewed him as an instigator of violence and anarchy.

11/14 @ 7pm / SERIES: koji wakamatsu: sexfilmrevolution
Go, Go Second Time Virgin
shown with
Running In Madness, Dying In Love

An allegory for the end of the hippie movement? For the impotence of youth against the crushing oppression of a chaotic world? Or a cruel reflection of society’s self-destruction during the chaos of the 1960s? It’s up to you to draw your own conclusion, for Go, Go Second Time Virgin's grim teen rebellion has explosive impact that defies conventions. In the film, two psychologically battered teenagers of the opposite sex meet on a desolate urban rooftop and bare their psychic scars to each other. The boy feels a mixture of arousal and anguish when he sees the girl unclothed following a gang rape on the rooftop (in which he was a partial participant) but their relationship becomes far more devastating and perverse than a forced sexual encounter. Though running barely over an hour, Go, Go... packs a tremendous amount of artistry into every scene, as Wakamatsu gives us one of his most visceral and intensely focused works.

Lesser-known but still packing a mad punch, Running In Madness... tells of a student activist who is forced to flee Tokyo with his sister-in-law after he inadvertently shoots his police officer brother at a protest rally. We follow the two as they travel north to their hometown of Hokkaido, across a majestic winter landscape. Shot in a stellar psychedelic style and scripted by frequent collaborator Masao Adachi, the story was influenced by Adachi’s time spent with master director Nagisa Oshima, which led to Adachi's development of a more rigorous, formal approach to his work. Running In Madness is one of the first Japanese films to employ "Landscape Theory" (fukei-ron), a style of storytelling, according to Adachi, in which "all the landscapes one faces in...daily life, even those such as the beautiful sites shown on a postcard, are essentially related to the figure of a ruling power."

11/21 @ 7:30pm / SERIES: koji wakamatsu: sexfilmrevolution
Violated Angels
shown with
Violent Virgin

One of Koji Wakamatsu’s more infamous productions (and inspired by the real-life case of Richard Speck's 1960s student nurse killing spree in Chicago,) Violated Angels is a compact celluloid acid trip into one man’s derangement as he kills a group of nurses and regresses to a child-like state. Acting more as a protest piece than Grand Guignol debauchery -- although it strongly delivers the goods in that department, with shocking deaths filmed in lurid color by Hideo Ito (In The Realm of the Senses), and a bevy of ravaged beauties -- the film draws a strong analogy between the man’s dehumanized actions and the Vietnam War protest movement going on concurrently with its production in 1967. Filmed Corman-style in less than one week in order to seize upon the wave of publicity wafting off of the Speck murders, this melancholy mini-masterpiece plunges the viewer headlong into ice-cold madness.

Easily the most divisive film in this series, Violent Virgin is guaranteed to bewilder, titillate and spark debate in the theater lobby. Shot on a punishingly low budget and tight schedule, the film follows the bizarre ritual of a group of Yakuza and their female companions, who all go to the countryside to punish their boss’s unfaithful mistress and her chinpira (low-level Yakuza) lover. A simple-enough scenario for your average twisted pink film, but Wakamatsu, never one to take the straight and narrow path, grabs the material by its neck and yanks it into a Jodorowsky-esque realm of Christ symbology, dream logic and all-around bat-shit insanity. As well, it's all couched inside another nod to underground political struggles, as the Japanese title, Shojo Geba Geba (reportedly suggested by Nagisa Oshima) refers to the German word "Gewalt", linked specifically to violence from student protestors. Filled with sex and cruelty, as well as Wakamatsu's trademark fantastic eye for black-and-white images, Violent Virgin is one of the headiest and rawest works in all of late '60s Japanese cinema.
More info on the Cinefamily website. See you there!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Hi Blog,

It's been a while, eh?

I've been helping do some Asian Film programming over at the excellent Cinefamily theater here in LA and am happy to announce the LA Premier of Tomomatsu Naoyuki and Nishimura Yoshihiro's light-footed gorefest VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL. If you're reading this blog, then chances are good that you already know about it. But if not, here's the write-up that I did for the Cinefamily's calendar:

After barnstorming and brain-frying the minds of Asian film fanatics all around the world with knife-legged dog women and flesh key wielding "engineers" in 2008's cinematic acid tab Tokyo Gore Police, Japanese SFX-meister and genre director extraordinaire Yoshihiro Nishimura is back with this campier (and bloodier?) gore freakout. Co-directed with Naoyuki Tomomatsu (Stacy) and based on the manga by Shungiku Uchida, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl tells of two schoolgirls who pine for the love of the same boy. But did we mention that one girl is a vampire with a love for blood filled chocolates, while the other is a woman whose mad scientist father uses possessed and squirming pet screws to turn his daughter into an ass-kicking Frankenstein monster? More gonzo then you can ever imagine, this Japanese splatter film slips and trips across the line of good taste and does what most Hollywood horror films seem incapable of doing nowadays: entertain!

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Not content to let this film alone melt your mind out of your ears and nose, we went and dug up the rare and totally freaked short films that Nishimura and his band of SFX maniacs have made when they're between jobs -- and we're showing them all! Tokyo Gore Night is like a GWAR concert -- without the bloodstained clothes, and in Japanese!

The fine folks from Eleven Arts (the film's distributors) will be in attendance and the [blood red colored?] booze should be flowing freely.

Looking to next month, we will be giving Sono Sion's excellent LOVE EXPOSURE a proper Los Angeles screening with a special LOVE EXPOSURE event. While the movie did play in LA earlier this year, during the Asian Pacific Film Festival, the screening was poorly advertised and attended. Suffice to say, a film like LOVE EXPOSURE doesn't come along very often and so we're breaking out the big guns to have - what promises to be - one hell of a fun night out that you won't want to miss. I'll post about this screening in the coming weeks.

Ta-ta for now!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Angelinos! FUNKY FORREST Playing Friday June 5th at Midnight!

Hi Blog,

Katsuhito Ishii's gigantically weird film ナイスの森 (aka FUNKY FORREST) will be playing this Friday, June 5th, at midnight at the Silent Movie theater.

What's to say about the film? Well, it features color coordinated girls DJ-ing gnarled and moss covered trees; prolapsed anuses built into TV-sets; men dressed up as fuzzy animals with, erm... tails coming out of their crotches... Oh and it features Tadanobu Asasno and a fat, chocolate bar eating Caucasian kid as the Guitar Brothers. I dunno... You all should just go and see it. This is one film that is better on the big screen with a crowd (that is potentially high/drunk).

Here's what the Subway Cinema folks wrote about the film when they screened it in NYC back in 2006:
Not since David Lynch slunk onto the scene with ERASERHEAD has a more singular vision broken out of one man's skull and run riot across the silver screen seducing audiences with its sugary strangeness. But FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT is a hermetically sealed, fifth dimensional artifact from Planet Japan beaming out of our eyes and into our universe. The only movie with an A side and a B side this is a full-on invasion of third-dimensional Earthling brains by a twelfth dimensional alien consciousness.

From the director and cast who brought you last year's Audience Award Winner THE TASTE OF TEA, this flick invites you to drink the Kool Aid, take the red pill, show us your dancing and break the chains of reason and logic that bind our brains. Director Katsuhito Ishii (who directed the animation in KILL BILL VOL 1) and a crew of ace comedic actors (including Tadanobu Asano as the laconic Guitar Brother) have made a movie featuring TV's made of giant buttholes, powered by belly button energy and capable of producing miniature sushi chefs. Not everyone can master this frequency. As the Shorty Trio says, "Some days people laugh, some days…they don't." With its shoe obsession, fixation on Snickers bars, and its firm belief that the secrets of the universe can be unlocked by dancing, FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT strips everyday life of meaning, turns mundane tasks into bizarre rituals, and makes surrealist hay out of our most sacred ideals. This is not a movie. This is an invitation to join a dancing army of holy fools and travel through time and space to the super-elastic, thoroughly fantastic Planet of Piko Riko." (Link)

Other stuff I've written about Ishii.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wings of Defeat Documentary Airing Tuesday May 5th

Hi Blog,

I was the original editor on Risa Morimoto's documentary WINGS OF DEFEAT, about three years ago (back when it was still called "BEYOND THE SUN"). I've written about it here before. Anyway, Risa's documentary is a deeply personal exploration of the history of the Tokkotai (aka. the Japanese 'special attack force' that the Kamikaze pilots were a division of) and the effect that the war had on a generation of young men (both in Japan and in the US).

This is a very, very good documentary and while I'm bummed out that the version that is airing on PBS' [I]ndependent Lens this coming Tuesday, May 5th, is a shortened 52 minute cut, it's absolutely worth your time to watch. And then, if you feel inspired you can hit the PBS website for the film and vote for it if you like it. AND THEN, if you have the spare change, you can buy the full-length feature from the WINGS OF DEFEAT website, where you can also buy the follow up documentary that Risa and Linda Hoaglund made called WINGS OF DEFEAT: ANOTHER JOURNEY. (Not the best title in the world... Perhaps...)

Do try to check out the film. It really is worth your time.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sono's Love Exposure playing this Monday in LA!

Hi Blog,

Just stumbled on the news that Sono Sion's 4 hour magnum opus AI NO MUKIDASHI (Love Exposure) will be screening this coming Monday, May 4th, 2009 as part of the Los Angeles Asian Film Festival.

I watched this back in March and have to say that without question it's the best film by Sono Sion that I've seen. Is it flawed? Yeah. But there's something incredible about watching a 4 hour long exploitation film about Catholic guilt, up-skirt photography and revenge.

Those in the loop about current Japanese film (which includes just about everyone who reads my blog, so I'm preaching to the converted) will already know about this. But for those who don't please check out these links for more info. (Japan Times; Jason Gray; Ground Report)

I will end this by saying I did a very interesting interview with Sono Sion for Midnight Eye where we talked at length about the making of Love Exposure as well as his highly anticipated adaptation of the legendary (and totally excellent) history of Black Metal book, LORDS OF CHAOS. Look for that on Midnight Eye in the coming months.

Here's a link to the LA screening.

And here's the trailer:

ps - I've been told that LOVE EXPOSURE, which played at Shibuya's EURO SPACE, was a smash hit and broke all box office records there. Not bad for a 4 hour long movie!