Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kumakiri's Kazuyoshi's new film NON-KO at FILMeX

Hi Blog,

Been meaning to post about this for a while and am now just getting around to it. My old friend Kumakiri Kazuyoshi, for whom I did the subtitles for his debut feature KICHIKU DAI ENKAI (for its initial film festival run), has a new film in competition at the upcoming TOKYO FILMeX called NON-KO 36 SAI: KAJI TETSUDAI. (The English title is just: NON-KO)

Although I have yet to see it, it appears that this film is a kind of return to Kumakiri's roots. It's a simple character drama with the cast and crew positions filled out by Kuma's old team. Sakai Maki stars as Bando Nobuko and Ujita Takashi again picks up the scriptwriting reigns with Kumakiri. Kumakiri's old Osaka Geidai pal Akira aka. AKAINU has composed the music and Kimura Toshiki is on for producing duties.

The story is as follows:
Nobuko tried to be successful as an actress in Tokyo (stage name ‘Nonko’), but wasn’t popular. She married her manager and soon divorced. Now a once-divorced woman in her mid-30s, she returns home to the Shinto shrine that her family runs, to help out with domestic chores. Her father is always in a stubborn rage, her mother is always trying to calm things down. However, Nonko’s married sister, who already has a daughter, scathingly says of Nonko, “It’s all over for her.”
There’s no place to run to and no place to belong, just a backwards little country town. The only thing to do is ride her bicycle to her friend’s bar to drink with the owner, another divorcee. She can’t remember the last time she got dressed up or had sex.

Nonko, who is totally lacking in ambition, encounters a young man named Masaru. He has great expectations about selling chicks at the shrine festival. Nonko ends up taking him to the house of Yasukawa, who allots space for festival stalls. Masaru is rather naïve and pitiable, but this earnest and straightforward younger man puts a smile back on her face, and she gradually becomes more emotionally and physically receptive, until her ex-husband, Udagawa, makes his appearance.
Nonko’s heart begins to tremble.

I'm excited to see this as I think that Kumakiri is an immensely talented filmmaker who succumbed to early career success (to some extent). Of just about all of the young directors I encountered, Kumakiri has shown without a doubt some of the best intuitive filmmaking skills. And plus, any director who casts Wakamatsu Koji as Babe Ruth is doing something right.

NON-KO will be playing FILMeX Nov. 24th at 6:30pm and there are English subs, I think.

Here's a clip from the local Yorii news, where NON-KO was shot, talking about the filming of the movie and its recent premier. Kumakiri is, naturally, heavily featured.

And here's the link to the trailer.

There's plenty of more info about the film on the very English friendly website. Something tells me that they're actively courting the international audience...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obayashi's HAUSU on IFC! (aka. HOUSE)

Hi Blog,

Outcast Cinema's Marc Walkow brings word of IFC Channels amazingly cool and yet, totally unexpected, broadcasting of Obayashi Nobuhiko's HAUSU (1977) later this month. 

Regular readers of this blog know that HAUSU is one of my favorite films-- and certainly one of my favorite horror films inspired by a seven-year-old's story idea. (That would be the director's daughter.) I've alread written about it here so I won't repeat myself. That said, the plot synopsis on the IFC Channel's website is incorrect. HAUSU isn't a murder mystery. Where'd they get that from?

Here's the trailer again because it's so damn good.

HAUSU is being broadcast Saturday Nov. 22nd at Midnight and 3am on the IFC Channel. (I think that would make it really late Friday night for those who are staying up, right?)

Link to previous postings.

Link to the IFC Channel's Page.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ギャランドゥ - The Gyarando

Hi Blog,

One of the running jokes in Japan that I always found funny, but never really got (that's kind of like laughing because everyone else is) is the Gyarando. (aka. ギャランドゥ)

For a country where chest hair is generally a fairly limited prospect there's a joke that a man with a hairy chest has a 'Gyarando.' I never knew where it came from. In fact, I always thought it was a "Gyaran + Do" As in a nice 'hair-do,' that was also known as a 'Gyaran.'

Anyway, I found out some months back that like many slang and jokey expressions in Japanese, this one was rooted in pop culture-- this time it's a 1983 hit pop song by Saijou Hideki (西城 秀樹) called, you guessed it: 「ギャランドゥ」. And thanks to the wonderful time travelling scientists over at YouTube, you can watch a video artifact of it right now. On your computer.

Oh! But first, here's a riddle you can ponder while you watch this video: why does Gyarando refer to chest hair in the first place? Apparently, it's because Saijou Hideki is prancing about with a billowing open shirt, proudly showing off his bare chest-- only, he has no chest hair (as far as I can tell). See for yourself:

Next time you're in Japan, you'll never have to pretend that you know what the whole 'Gyarando' joke is all about. Laugh freely. Go on.

Update! The "Pretty Person" has posted this comment and I find it so educational -- especially the 'boomerang' bit -- that I want to include it in the post. Thanks 'Bijindesu!' (Btw, did you find my posting via YouTube?)
"You are only half right. Galando is is not chest hair, it is the hair on the lower belly.
Hideki wwas wearing speedo when he was on some idol swimming competition shows. His lower belly hair showed up above the speedo, looked like the extension of pubic hair. It was embarrassing for girls to mention it directly. So a singer said on her radio talk show to ask guys with Galando to come for some event. That started the word Galando meanig lower belly hair. Galando is a word created by the song lyricist, made up of "Gal and Do"

Also, Speedo is called "boomerang" in Japan because Hideki wore speedo while he was promoting his hit single "boomerang"

Here's the vid, minus the speedo...


Monday, November 10, 2008

One more for Late Bloomer: Roger Ebert is a fan?!

Hi Blog,

Roger Ebert watched Shibata Go's LATE BLOOMER and likes it. Crazy.

"You watch for a while and the movie is tough going. Then it takes hold and you begin identifying with Sumida. He is a bad, bad man. You can sort of understand that."


Oodles of previous Late Bloomer posts.

Midnighteye review and Shibata Go interview. The first ones in English, btw.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shogun Assassin! Hannukah, Christmas, or Kwanza - Here's a gift for ya

Hi Blog,

Just got my review copy of this 5-film box set in the mail. It comes in a slip case with fold out packaging ala Homevision's legendary BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY box set. The set also includes two essays by Monsieur Patrick Macias: "Samurai and Son - The Making of Shogun Assassin" (this is adapted from the original interview published in Macias' "Tokyo Scope" book, I think) and "The Greatest Team in the History of Mass Slaughter - Three Decades of Shogun Assassin."

But you know what's also cool about this? The fact that Animeigo actually put together full liner notes for this set. You remember those? Back in the day Animeigo's LaserDisc liner notes were the best. They served as a primer, a glossary and a history lesson all in one. I've asked them numerous times why this essential tool was no longer being produced. Answer: money. But I've always felt that people would be willing to pay a little more to get something better in the end. It appears that this box set has made it financial worthwhile for them.

The films look good. They sound good. But are these really the original Lone Wolf and Cubs? Short answer: yes and no. (It is Shogun Assassin, I know) The first two are the famous re-edits of LW&C. Three through five are English language dubs of the films that Animeigo did on their own. In fact the box set includes an on-camera interview with the English dub director Scott Houle. So question is: why don't they include the original Japanese audio tracks with English sub options? They clearly have the subtitles from Animeigo's original LW&C LaserDisc release from way back when. What gives?

No clue, but I do know that the Shogun Assassin DVD releases have been a big seller for Animeigo. I guess the old belief is true that Americans don't like subtitles. Still, having the option would've been nice.

As a final recommendation, I would've had Animego contact Tom Mes at Midnighteye since he was commissioned way back when to write a book on LW&C. Alas, the book never came out. I quite liked it and think that this would've been a good opportunity to get some interesting background into the series as a whole. But truth be told, this is the SHOGUN ASSASSIN collection and not LONE WOLF AND CUB collection. I know. I get it. Still, someone should talk to Mr. Mes about that book... I'm just sayin'...

Oh, and one more thing: there's what looks to be an amazing retrospective of Wakayama Tomisaburo and Katsu Shintaro films at Teatoru Shinjuku (テアトル新宿) starting Nov 11th thru Dec 5th. And yes, you can watch the LW&C flicks in their original celluloid glory. Japanese link here.

Der Eisenrost

Hi Blog,

Back in 1995 when I first went to Japan I found myself in a particularly bad spot. I had no money, I was alone in Tokyo, I knew no one, it was お正月, and I for reasons that are way too complicated to explain here had half of my belongings including my passport and flight ticket stuck over on the other side of the country. In short, I was royally screwed and without a plan.

Now, when you're down and out like this you either roll up into a little ball and give up or you draw power from different sources and fight back. I fought back and drew my power from Japanese film and music. Specifically noise and experimental (industrial) stuff. Things like Tsukamoto Shinya's TETSUO (鉄男) and the music of Ishikawa Chu's (石川忠) band (and Tsukamoto's composer of choice) Der Eisenrost. It was during this trip that I got my hands on my first Der Eisenrost music collection.

Here's quick write-up about the band, that I stole from their website:

"DER EISENROST" are formed back in April 1993 ,And since then, we have been appealing our metal-percussion with heavy rock and punk musical style to audience. In December 1993,Released live and studio mixed CD ;ARMORED WEAPON" from Jpan overseas label..
On December 1995,
released"TOKYO FIST" on CD. It was soundtracks of SHINYA TSUKAMOTO's films"TOKYO FIST". 2 years after, DVD"TOKYO FIST" D.E.R.'s live video by SHINYA TSUKAMOTO special tracks. Live DVD out in 2005.
We playing many club and
musical festival, Some audience said "You are cool and so crazy!" "Your style are only you style!"
In Japan, In 1993-1995 D.E.R .played with Esplendor Geometrico,dive(klink). [MIX2000] was famous big festival with 100 over bands in Sapporo Hokkaido.Joined from U.S. U.K.and many country. [Drive to 2000] 10days about 117bands. D.E.R. proud to join in this special program.DER EISENROST's metal percussion instruments are all made by ISHIKAWA. He has made so many instruments from metal scraps such as engine tank of a truck and wheels of motorbikes. At their live performances, the metallic beats generate more speed and tension than "TETSUO" film.

Of course, I would've loved nothing more than to have actually seen them perform live, but alas I wasn't able to. That said, for many years I've enjoyed Ishikawa's soundtrack work for Tsukamoto. Most recently I finally got around to watching Tsukamoto's entry into the omnibus film FEMALE (his entry is called TAMAMUSHI - 玉虫) and while I will review that soon here, it has a score by Ishikawa Chu that is very reminiscent of SNAKE OF JUNE (六月の蛇). This got me thinking about what ever happened to Ishikawa's band Der Eisenrost? I know that he's been working steadily, but is this band kaput?

No, in fact. It turns out that they're alive and well -- they just played a show at the end of Sept. in Osaka (!!) -- and have a recently updated MySpace page along with an (somewhat) English friendly homepage. Nice!

Listening to these old tracks on MySpace, after all of these years it's amazing to think that these guys are still collaborating and are even making commercially successful films together, like NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE 1 & 2 (悪夢探偵). (Don't know whethere ND2 will be successful or not, but you get what I mean.)

Anyway, here are some links to the Der Eisenrost stuff . Enjoy the music. I find that it makes me want to get to work and kick some ass. (Or get to work, kicking ass.)

Der Eisenrost MySpace link.
Homepage link.

From the wonder that is YouTube comes some videos:

New Liner Notes for Ten Nights of Dreams - Out Now!

Hi Blog,

Woah, it's been over two months since my last update. That's something like 14 months in dog years. (Or about four generations of house flies.) Anyway, I've been busy working a lot lately and have also had family obligations and so, in the meantime, the fun stuff like doing a Japanese film blog has to take a back seat to the 'grown-up' (read: paying) responsibilities.

That's the reason why I'm only now writing about Cinema Epoch's DVD release of TEN NIGHT OF DREAMS (Nikkatsu Corp.) which came out last month. I've got a new set of liner notes on the disc talking about Soseki Natsume and the historical context of the short story collection from which this film was adapted.

The film itself is a mixed bag with some really strong entries and others that are, well, uneven. That said, one the great things about an 'omnibus' collection is the fact that there's plenty of other entries to watch and enjoy. Don't like what you're seeing? Skip it.

Wanna know my highlights of this collection? (In no particular order...)
  • Yamashita Nobuhiro's entry # 8 (幻覚的)
  • Yudai Yamaguchi's entry # 10 (ゲロ的馬鹿に笑いもの)
  • Suzuki Matsuo's entry # 7 (ファンキ)
  • and, perhaps, Shimizu Takashi's entry # 3 (不気味)
Keep in mind that this is one man's opinion. But you won't know unless you check it out.