Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Tag

Hausu (1973): Miss Havisham Joins the Donner Party   1 comment

hausu

Hausu. Every time I mentioned it to a fellow film lover, I heard, “Trippy!” or “You won’t forget that one.” Intrigued, I finally sat down to watch. At a Japanese school for girls, we meet our protagonists. Like the seven dwarves, our seven school girls exhibit one major personality trait each. Melody loves music. Sweet has a gentle nature. Fantasy has her head in the clouds. Prof reads constantly. Kung Fu lives for sport. Mac thinks of nothing but food, and Gorgeous is, as you might have guessed, gorgeous. Due to a change in their original plans to enjoy a holiday by the sea, the girls go instead to visit Gorgeous’ aunt in the country. The aunt lives alone pining for her fiancé who died in the war. Weak and wheelchair bound, Auntie never quite got over his death or that she never married. She lives isolated from the rest of the world. Through a series of flashbacks we see Auntie as she was with her lover and then after his death, looking bitter, at her sister’s wedding.
Soon after the girls arrive at Auntie’s house with their fluffy white cat, weird things start to happen.

cartoon cat
Boo!

Part fairy tale and part horror, Hausu both embraces and parodies slasher films. People die in weird ways and as their number starts to dwindle, the girls get more frightened and the pace more frenetic. Girls disappear, Auntie gains strength, and the skeleton in her kitchen does another dance.

auntie
Auntie and friend

Lines like “There’s a human hand in there.” and “Just let me eat you.” contribute to the Little Shop of Horrors vibe. The effects get stranger too. The cat’s green glowing eyes and the cut paper animation superimposed on live-action film look different from any other film I’ve seen.

cut paper

I enjoyed Hausu because it looks so different and combines fantasy, horror, and fairy tale well. I mean, how can you dislike a film which includes death by piano?

natalie portman in the professional
Does Auntie remind you of Natalie Portman in The Professional?

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Posted July 14, 2014 by Kerry Fristoe in Reviews

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Rashomon (1950)   Leave a comment

rashomon

I’m not sure why, but sometimes seeing foreign films feels like homework to me.  It shouldn’t because I’ve seen a few (Rififi, Das Boot, The Killer) I’ve really enjoyed, but there it is.  I watched this on a computer and I cannot wait to see it on the big screen.

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A woodcutter, a commoner, and a priest take shelter from a torrential rain storm and tell the story of a horrific crime.  They describe how a samurai (Masayuki Mori), his wife (Machiko Kyo), and a bandit (Toshiro Mifune) meet tragically in a lonely clearing in the woods.  One man dies and the resulting trial reveals a great deal about the people involved and much larger issues.  In a method which would later be known as the Rashomon effect, each of the participants tells his side of the story and the audience is left to discern the truth.   Rashomon played in only a few theatres outside of Japan during its initial release but introduced the western world to its director, Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Ran).  Kurosawa and his cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Ugetsu, Yojimbo) made a beautiful film about an ugly crime and in so doing brought Japanese cinema to the world’s attention.  The actors tell the different versions of the tale using every part of them.  The performances are feral and nuanced at the same time.  These actors pull feelings out of their souls.  I couldn’t look away.  Kyo (Gate of Hell, Ugetsu), as the samurai’s wife shows tremendous range and Mifune (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood) looks like he’s spring-loaded.  He is all energy and extremes which give his bandit/sociopath character an almost child-like quality.  The priest and the wood cutter, Minoru Chiaki and Takashi Shimura had long and prestigious careers in Japanese cinema as well acting in kaiju films, detective stories, and Shakespearean epics and give wonderful performances here.  You see the pain in their faces as they recount the terrible crime to the unfeeling commoner Kichijiro Ueda.   Rashomon touches on morality, shame, the place of women in society, and the very nature of man.  That it does so with such sparse dialogue (Japanese with subtitles), few locations and sets, and seven characters serves as a testament to the acting, direction, and writing in this absolutely incredible film.  I was blown away.  Watch this film as soon as you can.

rash3

Posted April 21, 2014 by Kerry Fristoe in Reviews

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