Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 25 Apr 2017, 07:16

Theater Introduction: Cinema Vera

This one of my favourite theaters in Tokyo. I've often posted about it, but I think I never gave it a proper introduction, so here goes. Cinema Vera shows only retrospective program. About 65% of the program is devoted for Japanese film retrospectives, which cover anything from Sonny Chiba to Toei Jitsuroku Yakuza films and Nagisa Oshima. The rest is for foreign films ranging from Italian Neo-Realism to Russian Cinema and silent movies.

All program is played in double features with the same two films playing back to back from 11 am to around 10 pm. As common for theaters that play double features, there are no screening specific tickets but rather entrance tickets that allow you to enter anytime between the films. You can watch both films, or just one if you don't care for the other.

Cinema Vera has a pretty good medium size screen (6.8 x 2.9m). As for 2017, about 75% of the Japanese program plays in 35mm. This depends on the studio, though. I have never seen a digital screening of a Toei film; they've all been film screenings. However, with Nikkatsu you get about 70% film and 30% digital, and with Shintoho you get about 15% film and 85% digital screenings. The digital screenings can be anything from DVD to HD DCP. The film prints are like those of most other theaters; some are amazing, most are fine, some are poor (Shin bungeiza is the same, while National Film Center and Laputa Asagaya tend to have only great prints).

The lobby isn't especially beautiful but they always decorate it with original posters (including some very rare ones) for the current program. The screening room which has 142 seats is pretty good with relatively comfortable seats and usually movie soundtrack played during the breaks. Like in all Japanese theaters of this kind, the audience generally behaves very well, but there's been an increase of irritating hipsters (the worst of whom come to see old movies mainly to laugh at them... I pretty much wanted to kill the young woman who was laughing at Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri) in the audience. However, you don't run into them often and if you're able to attend screenings on weekdays during daytime, you can avoid them almost certainly. They only show up occasionally for evening screenings, usually during weekends.

Examples of past program
Sonny Chiba Festival (24 films incl. Wolfguy, Army Intelligence 33, Jail Breakers, The Street Fighter, Tokyo daijishin magnitude 8.1...)
Teruo Ishii retro (24 films, incl. Horrors of Malformed Men, Joy of Torture, Yakuza's Law, Orgies of Edo, Prisoner's Black List, Japanese Hell...)
Toei Jitsuroku Yakuza retro (19 films, incl. Okinawa Yakuza War, Cops vs Thugs, Graveyard of Honor, Japan Organized Crime Boss...)
Meiko Kaji retro (19 films, incl. Lady Snowblood, Yakuza Graveyard, Women's Police, Jailhouse 41, Sex Hunter...)
Tatsumi Kumashiro retro (24 films, incl. Rolling on the Road, Front Row Life, Failed Youth, Yakuza Goddess: Lust and Honor...)
Noboru Tanaka retro (20 films, incl. Monster Woman '88, Noboru Ando's Filthy Escape into Sex, Village of Doom, She Beast Market....)
Chusei Sone retro (24 films, incl. Taiyo no kizuato, Hakuchu no onna gari, Red Violation, Red Classroom, Lust Under Uniform, Hellish Love...)
Norifumi Suzuki retro (19 films, incl. Ninja's Mark, Sex & Fury, Killing Machine, Roaring Fire, Star of David, School of the Holy Beast...)
Producer Kei Ijichi retro (18 films, incl. Lost Chapter of Snow: Passion, The Man Who Stole the Sun, Retreat Through the Wet Wasteland...)
Producer Kanji Amao retro (17 films, incl. Tokugawa Sex Ban, Terrifying Girls' High School, Insane Sex Tribe, The Boxer ...)
The Violent 90s retro (17 films, incl. Dead or Alive, Rainy Dog, Score, A Night in Nude, Gonin, Boiling Point, Pornostar ...)
Sadao Nakajima retro (24 films, incl. Aesthetics of a Bullet, Kunoichi ninpo, Cold Wind Monjiro, Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok, Sukeban 5...)
Ichiro Araki retro (15 films, incl. Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, Delicate Skillful Fingers, Journey to Japan, Neon kurage...)
Noboru Ando retro (20 films, incl. Account of the Ando Gang: Killer Younger Brother, True Account of Ginza Tortures, The Wolves...)

Lobby and ticket counter
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The screening room is there...
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Sonny Chiba
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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 13 May 2017, 10:54

A few pics from Jimbocho Theater.

I dropped by before Christmas when they had a series for cinematographer Shinsaku Himeda (left).
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I saw Imamura's Pigs and Battleships (1961) and Kumashiro's Africa's Light (1975). Here's what I wrote about the latter

Africa’s Light (Japan, 1975) [35mm] – 3.5/5
This a bit of a slow burner for nothing much happens in the film. However, you’ll be surprised by how it grows on you. The film is about two semi-slackers (Kenichi Hasegawa and Kunie Tanaka) with an ultra-intimate friendship (wait for the scene where sick Tanaka pees in his pants, and Hasegawa then dries him with a towel) working, slacking and drinking in a freezing Hokkaido town. For a modern comparison point, imagine an early 2000s Nobuhiro Yamashita film with less humour and more 70s grit. Cinematography by Shinsaku Himeda is solid, and the film’s minimal score is quite lovely. The film was a Toho production, one of the many mainstream films by Roman Porno master Tatsumi Kumashiro. His other mainstream film, Failed Youth (1974), is often considered one of the best Japanese films of all time.

Africa's Light (left) and Failed Youth. I really wanted to see Failed Youth , but had no chance that time. There's no dvd release either...
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Godzilla was there too:
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I also visited there last month when they had a series for dance themed films.

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The only one I saw was Seijun Suzuki's Carmen from Kawachi, which wasn't too bad although I prefer his crime films.

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Somai's Tokyo Heaven, which I've never managed to see. DVD is OPP and ridiculously expensive.
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Finally, this has nothing to do with Jimbocho, but I found a Gremlins miniature vending machine at a train station. Pretty awesome!
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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby Guro Taku » 13 May 2017, 23:55

Guro Taku wrote:
HungFist wrote:Ghost in the Shell is the one that I haven't been able to see in 35mm (it does screen in National Film Center in January, but I have no chance being there...)

Surely some smaller theaters will put the anime on as a double feature with the Hollywood flick, which comes out in March? Would seem like a missed opportunity if they didn't.

I just got back from a screening of an English subtitled 35mm print of the 1995 GHOST IN THE SHELL in Vienna's Filmcasino and while it is certainly great to be able to scratch that off my list, the most interesting part was still the intro by the guy hosting the screening. He said they really wanted to do the screening much closer to the release of the US flick but all prints were blocked from 6 weeks before the release to 6 weeks after! How about that?! Guess they really wanted to avoid having people do direct comparisons, even with Oshii's film readily available on any number of home video formats. And granted, it's still much less extreme than James Cameron buying the rights for the BATTLE ANGEL ALITA anime just so he can keep it out of circulation...

As for the film, do I really have to say anything? It's a masterwork and I don't think anybody would bother to argue otherwise. I remember when it came out in 1995 and was marketed as "the next AKIRA", which makes me feel all sorts of old. My enjoyment was probably increased by not having watched the film in a few years, probably since it hit BD. Also adding to the experience was the fact that the screening was sold out. Actually there was so much demand for tickets that they'll do another screening next month!

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 14 May 2017, 04:36

That's interesting. Thanks. Maybe that explains why there hasn't been any recent screenings here.

How was the print?

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby Guro Taku » 14 May 2017, 19:08

HungFist wrote:How was the print?

Absolutely flawless. Not a single sign of wear. It had the Japanese end credits with the Kenji Kawaii score and not the English end credits with that U2 song.

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 15 May 2017, 16:00

Guro Taku wrote:
HungFist wrote:How was the print?

Absolutely flawless. Not a single sign of wear. It had the Japanese end credits with the Kenji Kawaii score and not the English end credits with that U2 song.


Cool.

Hopefully I'll get to see it in 35mm some day as well.

**********

Last time when I was in Tokyo I needed to kill some time in Shibuya. I went to the famous Shibuya Crossing Tsutaya rental store, which I believe is the biggest in Japan. They have separate floors for Japanese and Foreign cinema, and those are no small floors either. The cool thing is that they still have many VHS-cassettes, especially for films that have not been released on DVD in Japan (or anywhere).

Teruo Ishii corner
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Orgies of Edo (1969), not available on DVD in Japan (HK Video released a DVD in France, though)
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Roman Porno and Oniroku Dan films... Devil In the Flesh (1977), Lady Caligula In Tokyo (1981), Slave Contract (1982), Girl and the Wooden Horse Torture (1982)...
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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby Guro Taku » 27 May 2017, 15:31

HungFist wrote:Some months earlier I was also in Meguro to see Akira in 35mm...
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This was actually my second time seeing Akira in 35mm... the previous time was in 2014, also in Meguro
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In-depth interview with AKIRA director Katsuhiro Otomo:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarde ... ac25c6d253

A lot of info was news to me, like that he was completely dissatisfied with his own anime adaptation at the time of its release and only made his peace with it some 20 years later.

I also found his comments about the continuously threatened Hollywood remake interesting, especially that he had screenplay approval written into the contract. I really can't wrap my mind around how they'd Americanize something as Japanese as AKIRA. From the various bits and pieces that leaked from the production it looks like the studio is just making an X-MEN flick.

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 27 May 2017, 18:08

Teruo Ishii retro in Cinema Vera: Part 1/2

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Killer's Black List (1970) (x2) + The Joy of Torture (1968)
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Killer's Black List (1970) + Abashiri Prison 9 (1967)
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Yakuza's Law (1969) + Tattooed Ambush (1964) + Jitsuroku 3 okuen jiken: Jiko seiritsu (1975)
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Abashiri Prison 9 (1967) + Settlement (1967)
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Prisoner's Black List (1970) + Bohachi bushido (1973)
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Woman's Body and the Wharf (1958) + Orgies of Edo (1969)
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Japanese Hell art
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Ishii kantoku
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Seeing Bohachi bushido in 35mm was pretty amazing! Fantastic action, terrific fast paced scrip, amazing visuals, impeccable imagination and hot girls. Certainly Ishii's best film and one of the masterpieces of pinky violence! This was the first time I realized the ninja played by Ryuhei Uchida belongs to the Kurokuwa clan, the same one that keeps sending assassins after Ogami Itto in the Lone Wolf and Cub films. Of course the Bohachi clan also appears in the 3rd Lone Wolf film...

Orgies of Edo was nice on the big screen also, although I think it is one of the lesser of Ishii's ero-guro films. Gotta love the scene where two foreign midgets rape a Japanese girl, who the gets pissed and starts whipping them in return! Dear Toei, why don't you make films like this anymore?

Woman's Body and the Wharf was a pretty cool and atmospheric, although slightly too talkative 50's sexy noir. Digital unfortunately, but Shin Toho films are hard to come by in 35mm.

Prisoner's Black List basically plays out like an unofficial Abashiri Prison film with added scatological humour. Even features Kanjuro Arashi as Onitora. Kinda entertaining, but the action at the end is rather by-the-book.

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 27 May 2017, 18:59

Teruo Ishii retro in Cinema Vera: Part 2/2

Horrors of Malformed Men (1969). Second time seeing in 35mm, amazing as always. The soundtrack is coming out in Japan in June, btw.
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Queen Bee and the School for Dragons (1960)
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Secret Agent 101: Bodyguard Murder (1966). Cool Hong Kong / Macao locations and fast pace with some cool swing, but weak script and ultra shabby stunt action at the end. Shochiku was no place for filming action movies, Ishii admitted in an interview.
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Love and Crime (1969). It's impossible not to have a good time with films like this. That being said, this jitsuroku bloodbath with 3+3 true (love) crime episodes is not among Ishii's best ero-guro films.
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The gruesome, atmospheric and at times hypnotically beautiful Inferno of Torture (1969), whose star...
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... Yumiko Katayama was there! She's 67 years old, but still beautiful and full of energy.
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Someone please interview this girl for DVD / BD extras! She's awesome!
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She was telling some great stories about Toei and how she got into Inferno of Torture, where she plays the first girl tattoeed by both Asao Koike and Teruo Yoshida. She said she joined Toei via Toei's new faces competition (like Sonny Chiba and Ken Takakura before her). Toei brought the screenplay to her but she refused it on basis of the nudity and its extreme nature. The film later went into production with a different actress, who however quit in the middle of filming because she couldn't take it! Meanwhile Katayama had agreed to do a bikini shoot for Heibon Punch, but it turned out a nude photo shoot! She used a fake name, but Toei found out said now she has no excuse not to do (replace the missing actress in) Inferno of Torture.

As many people probably know, Ishii had caused quite a stir with The Joy of Torture which had been hated by the press, and even Toei stars like Tomisaburo Wakayama and Koji Tsuruta publicly spoke against it. There was actually a protest by Toei Kyoto Studios staff against Inferno of Torture during its production. The Ishii gumi ("Ishii gang") was quite widely disliked by the Kyoto staff back then. Inferno of Torture was Katayama's first starring role and not all the attention it brought to her was positive. After the film, Tomisaburo Wakayama had her cast in one of his movies and made her play an extra (a farmer with a dirty face who appears in some group scene with 70 other extras) apparently just to humiliate her because she was in Ishii films.

She also revealed a fun bit of trivia: she had been offered a nun's role in The Joy of Torture, but she refused because she was asked to shave her hair. Unthinkable for a 19 year old girl!

In case your memory isn't so good, Katayama was also in films like Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless to Confess, Female Prisoner Scorpion and Criminal Woman: Killing Melody

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby Guro Taku » 27 May 2017, 19:15

HungFist wrote:She was telling some great stories about Toei and how she got into Inferno of Torture, where she plays the first girl tattoeed by both Asao Koike and Teruo Yoshida. She said she joined Toei via Toei's new faces competition (like Sonny Chiba and Ken Takakura before her). Toei brought the screenplay to her but she refused it on basis of the nudity and its extreme nature. The film later went into production with a different actress, who however quit in the middle of filming because she couldn't take it! Meanwhile Katayama had agreed to do a bikini shoot for Heibon Punch, but it turned out a nude photo shoot! She used a fake name, but Toei found out said now she has no excuse not to do (replace the missing actress in) Inferno of Torture.

As many people probably know, Ishii had caused quite a stir with The Joy of Torture which had been hated by the press, and even Toei stars like Tomisaburo Wakayama and Koji Tsuruta publicly spoke against it. There was actually a protest by Toei Kyoto Studios staff against Inferno of Torture during its production. The Ishii gumi ("Ishii gang") was quite widely disliked by the Kyoto staff back then. Inferno of Torture was Katayama's first starring role and not all the attention it brought to her was positive. After the film, Tomisaburo Wakayama had her cast in one of his movies and made her play an extra (a farmer with a dirty face who appears in some group scene with 70 other extras) apparently just to humiliate her because she was in Ishii films.

She also revealed a fun bit of trivia: she had been offered a nun's role in The Joy of Torture, but she refused because she was asked to shave her hair. Unthinkable for a 19 year old girl!


These stories are priceless and we can't thank you enough for sharing them here with us! It's such a shame that Toei never includes any extras on their catalogue releases (apart from stills and a trailer if we're lucky) and all these great stories will eventually be taken to the grave by the people who made the films. Even if Toei eventually does a BD box set with Ishii's ero-guro films (I bet they're waiting for an anniversary or for somebody to die) at best they'll package them with screenplay and lobby card reproductions. Our only hope would be a release in the US or UK but unfortunately I can't see Arrow getting these (the BBFC still routinely censors "sexual/sexualized violence", making pretty much any pinku/pinky titles off limits) and who else would? Discotek Media did a special edition of BOHACHI BUSHIDO that has a great interview with Yuriko Hishimi but they seem to be focused exclusively on anime these days...

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 28 May 2017, 06:04

Thanks. Totally agreed about everything you said. Listening to Katayama actually reminded me of that (awesome) Yuriko Hishimi interview.

I just remembered a few more things Katayama mentioned. She said she's now proud to have been part of Ishii gumi as Ishii's films enjoy cult reputation around the world, but she has actually never seen Inferno of Torture! She can't stomach violent movies! She said she recently subscribed to Toei Channel (TV) but half of the movies there are too shocking for her to watch! She feels like the characters on the screen are real people.

She also recalled the filming experience (Inferno of Torture) as "being naked from 9 to 5".

She was also asked about Asao Koike who plays the serial killer rapist in Love & Crime, and she said she remembers how he was giving her advice how to put on the maebari...

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby Guro Taku » 28 May 2017, 14:00

HungFist wrote:She also recalled the filming experience (Inferno of Torture) as "being naked from 9 to 5".

Does the audience still react with deafening silence to something like this or, unlike during movies, is laughter allowed?

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 29 May 2017, 15:52

Guro Taku wrote:
HungFist wrote:She also recalled the filming experience (Inferno of Torture) as "being naked from 9 to 5".

Does the audience still react with deafening silence to something like this or, unlike during movies, is laughter allowed?


Laughter is very much allowed (and frequently heard).

And while movie going is generally speaking heaven in Japan, you do sometimes get a couple of hipster idiots who come there to demonstrate their personal superiority by laughing at movies. The worst one I ever came across in Japan was a woman in her 20s who thought Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri was hilarious. Same happened in Lady Snowblood (again a young woman). You can avoid those idiots by watching movies daytime on weekdays (they only show up for evening and weekend screenings, and thankfully not often for those either).


I made a full list of the Ishii program at Cinema Vera for another board; I might post it here as well for anyone interested:

Invaders From the Planets, Super Giant 3 [DCP]
The Earth in Danger, Super Giant 4 (1957) [DCP]
Woman's Body and the Wharf (1958) [DCP]
Black Line (1960) [DCP]
Queen Bee and the School for Dragons (1960) [DCP]
Gang vs. Gang (1962) [35mm]
Underworld Boss: Eleven Gangsters (1963) [35mm]
Tattooed Ambush (1964) [35mm]
Secret Agent 101: Bodyguard Murder (1966) [35mm]
Settlement (1967) [35mm]
Abashiri Prison: Challenging the Wicked (1967) [35mm]
The Joy of Torture (1968) [35mm]
Shameless: Abnormal and Abusive Love (1969) [35mm]
Orgies of Edo (1969) [35mm]
Love and Crime (1969) [35mm]
Yakuza Law (1969) [35mm]
Inferno of Torture (1969) [35mm]
Horrors of Malformed Men (1969) [35mm]
Blind Woman's Curse (1970) [DCP]
Killer's Black List (1970) [35mm]
Prisoner's Black List (1970) [35mm]
Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight (1973) [35mm]
Jitsuroku 3 okuen jiken: Jiko seiritsu (1975) [35mm]
Wakusei Robot Dangard A tai Konchu Robot Gundan (1977) [35mm]
Japanese Hell (1999) [35mm]
Blind Beast vs. Killer Dwarf (2001) [35mm]

As you can see, the Shin Toho films are all digital screenings while the Toei films are all 35mm. That reflects the general situation in Cinema Vera and other similar theaters (Shin Bungeiza, Jimbocho). Toei films have always screened from film prints; never seen a digital screening. Nikkatsu films tend to be around 75% film screenings. Shin Toho is maybe 10% film screenings. Toho is almost always film, and Daiei too except in Kadokawa's own theaters where they do DCP retros as if it was something to be proud of.

Laputa Asagaya is a bit of a exception in the sense that I'm not aware of them ever having screened a movie in the "wrong" format. In other words, pretty much everything plays in 35mm (or 16mm). For example right now they are running three retrospectives with a total of 60 movies, all 35mm. The only digital screenings I recall seeing in their program have been the rare special screening of a new film, and Toei V Cinema series (although shot on film, I believe they were never distributed in theaters, hence film prints were probably never produced)

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby Varrick » 30 May 2017, 11:27

Guro Taku wrote: Our only hope would be a release in the US or UK but unfortunately I can't see Arrow getting these (the BBFC still routinely censors "sexual/sexualized violence", making pretty much any pinku/pinky titles off limits)


wow I really hope this isn't true for the most popular pinky violence titles.. I still hope for some of them released by Arrow.

On the same topic, we got lucky that Media Blasters included a Norifumi Suzuki interview in the Girl Boss Revenge Dvd before he passed in 2014

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 02 Jun 2017, 18:08

While I was in Tokyo, I also visited a small theater called Cinema Novecento in Yokohama.
- http://cinema1900.wixsite.com/home

This recently established 28 seat theater is what you could rightfully call a mini-theater. While they are also screening some recent indie films, most of the films are older stuff from kaiju films to film noir and Roman Porno. There are quite a few special events with filmmaker quests, though tickets to these events cost premium price. Screening format varies, it can be anything from 35mm film to DCP or even DVD. Check the website in advance.

There's also a mini-restaurant and bar with a couple of tables.

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I went there to see Ishiro Honda's Rodan (1956) in 35mm.

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby Guro Taku » 03 Jun 2017, 06:24

Looks really comfy but with a screen that small, is it really that different from watching something on your TV at home?

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 03 Jun 2017, 06:52

Guro Taku wrote:Looks really comfy but with a screen that small, is it really that different from watching something on your TV at home?


Your TV doesn't play 35mm prints ;)

It is the smallest screen I've ever seen in a cinema, though the curtains are half-closed in the photo and the photo (taken from the vary back) makes it look even smaller than it is.

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 09 Jun 2017, 13:49

First visit to the pink theatre Cine Roman Ikebukuro.

Stairway down to the theatre. You can also see the ticket vending machine.
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Upcoming program
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Upcoming program
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Upcoming program
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Upcoming program + vending machine for drinks.
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A few quick observations:
- Located in the basement floor.
- Corridor and stairs full of sleazy porno posters.
- Tickets bought from a vending machine.
- Employee who checks the tickets looked like a rapist from a 1980s Roman Porno film.
- No breaks between the films as no one is expected to see films from the beginning / for the story.
- One customer sitting in the dark cinema with sun glasses on.
- One customer thinking aloud during films ("oh, there was camera").
- One customer walking around with small bells attached to his clothes.
- One customer whose phone rang four times during the film.
- One customer walking around in dress and high heels. I'm not too sure "she" was a woman.

The place is clean, though. There is actually a small break after three films when the staff comes in to clean the place a bit. It's a bit of a zoo otherwise, but that is to be expected from a pink theatre whose customers are mostly sleazy, senile old men. Speaking from a bit of experience, you'd probably witness far more suspicious customers and behaviour if you went there a few more times.

Movies are played in triple features, with the same three films playing from morning to night. I had not visited the place before because, unlike Shimbashi Roman Gekijo (R.I.P), this is more a of real pink cinema focusing on T&A and little else. Roman Porno films play only once a month, with one RP paired with two pink films, and the film selections are usually not terribly inspired. The other films are mainly OP, Xces and Shin Toho.

I'm a little embarrassed to say but I couldn't really make out of the screening format. The films I saw were Embraced by the Dark (1982) and Chikan to nozoki: Shitagi mania (1991?). Embraced by the Dark looked like a good, film-like DCP. Chikan to nozoki looked like a dirty 35mm print digitalized without any clean up though I wasn't quite 100% sure what I was seeing. You probably shouldn't expect film screenings when you go there but at least, based on these two films, they're not screening DVDs or SD files.

Embraced by the Dark (left), Chikan to nozoki: Shitagi mania and a third film that I did not stay to see. I figured that 3rd film and Chikan to nozoki would both probably suck, but I wanted to give one of them a try, so I chose the one whose actress seemed more attractive
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I rather liked Embraced by the Dark, which plays out like a follow-up to A Woman's Trail: Wet Path (1980). Both are sedate stories about encountering people that have an influence on your life, and the passing of time, set against natural landscapes. A Woman's Trail was more lyrical, but this one isn't bad either. Chikan to nozoki on the other hand was a genuine, honest pink flick. It's about a pervert real estate agent who inserts cameras and peepholes into cribs he's renting out. Tons of sex and no artistic ambitions, but it does come with its own cultural appeal. I love that once upon a time films like this were shot in 35mm for theatrical distribution in pink joints where old men in raincoats would line up to see tits, ass and women fondling themselves.

Seeing Chikan to nozoki with an audience whose average age was around 65 also helped me better understand why films like many Hisayasu Sato flicks were sometimes hated by audiences and theatre owners alike. These folks are (lonely?) old men who come to the cinema to see some pretty girls getting naked, and maybe daydream about them for the rest of the week. They don't come there to see a shocking serial killer film; they might not even like violent movies.

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 10 Jun 2017, 08:43

HungFist wrote:Embraced by the Dark (left), Chikan to nozoki: Shitagi mania and a third film that I did not stay to see. I figured that 3rd film and Chikan to nozoki would both probably suck, but I wanted to give one of them a try, so I chose the one whose actress seemed more attractive
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Confusion time!

Anyone who can read even a little bit of Japanese probably noticed that the poster in the middle does not say Chikan to nozoki: Shitagi mania (痴漢と覗き 下着マニア). The title in the poster is actually reads Hitozuma no nozoki-kata: Yogoreta shitagi o nerae (人妻の覗き方 汚れた下着を狙え). They are, however, the one and same movie.

Re-titling movies upon their re-release is a standard practice in the pink film industry. This film was called Chikan to nozoki: Shitagi mania when it first came out in theaters in the 1990s. When it was re-released 20 years later the title was changed to Hitozuma no nozoki-kata: Yogoreta shitagi o nerae and it was given a totally new poster that would never have you guess it's the same movie. Mysterious are the ways of pink cinema.

I was referring to the film by its original title but the poster in the photo is the re-release poster.

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The titles translate roughly as "Molester and Peeper: Underwear Mania" (orig.) and "Housewife Peeper: Targeting Dirty Underwear".

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 02 Jul 2017, 11:21

I visited Laputa Asagaya and made what will most likely reman the biggest discovery of the year!

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Too Young to Die (死ぬにはまだ早い) (Japan, 1969) [35mm]
Kiyoshi Nishimura is one of the most exciting undiscovered Japanese directors. The opening for this film is cinema at its purest, and best! Nishimura uses very little dialogue as he first shows a man and a woman in bed, making love. We don't know exactly who they are and what their relationship is, but they're not married. Quick crosscuts reveal that he appears to be a former race driver. She makes references to her husband who is away, somewhere. Cut to the following night as they are in a car. They stop in a small bar by the highway. Minutes later a desperate gunman charges in and takes everyone as hostage. This is the premise for Nishimura's gritty and intelligent debut film which serves as a prime example of what is good filmmaking. The film drafts excellent characters without ever over-explaining them, which allows us to feel for them, yet we cannot anticipate their every move. Nishimura's attention for every detail, every drop of sweat, every painful breath, combined with sparse but clever use of music make this one hell of a thriller. Unfortunately, it has never been released on home video.

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Director Nishimura's other films include the existential car chase film Hairpin Circus (1972), often referred as the Japanese Vanishing Point, and the action film The Creature Called Man (1970) that anticipated the 80s and 90s John Woo classics to a stunning degree, featuring everything from slow motion gunplay to heroic bloodshed and a storyline about a detective chasing a professional killer who has fallen in love with a woman. Unfortunately many of his other films remain extremely difficult to see thanks to Toho's general lack of interest in releasing their own films other than Godzilla and Kurosawa on DVD and BD.

Anyway, back to Laputa. I also saw another good Toho action thriller, City of Beasts

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City of Beasts (野獣都市) (Japan, 1970) [35mm]
Director Jun Fukuda is probably best known for his Godzilla films. Those films gave little indication he could make films this good. This aptly titled film follows a university student (Toshio Kurosawa) who makes friends with a middle aged factory owner (Rentaro Mikuni). The men have a common interest: guns. When Mikuni takes the young apprentice to a shady business meeting, he cold bloodedly guns down the men who showed up with guns. The two click immediately and a father-son like relationship develops between them. Kurosawa's loyalty comes much in need when his mentor's sexy daughter is about to be married to a man with close family ties to the yakuza, who in turn are looking for the men Kurosawa shot dead and dumped in the bottom of a lake. Cold, gritty and fast paced while simultaneously offering a fascinating insights to the characters. Based on a book by Haruhiko Oyabu (Youth of the Beast).

The 2nd installment in Toho's Dracula trilogy, Lake of Dracula (1970), on the other hand was a real bore. The dull, bloodless film attempts to relocate European horror to Japan, but the characters are boring, style is lacking, and the storyline fails to spark any interest.

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Finally, I did not have a chance to see this film (on the right) but I love the title Saraba Moscow gurentai (Farewell, the gangs of Moscow)
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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 09 Jul 2017, 12:43

Shin bungeiza was having a Tsunehiko Watase memorial in May.

I visited there on a Friday at the end of May when they played Girl Boss: Escape from Reform School (1973) and Jeans Blues: No Tomorrow (1974) as a double feature. I was supposed to watch both but since I felt sleepy in the morning I decided to skip Jeans Blues, which isn't especially good and I had already seen it in 35mm a few years ago.

Girl Boss: Escape from Reform School on the other hand was a blast. It's been getting better little by little every time I've seen it, and now I'm finally ready to grant it a four star rating. Genuinely cool characters (especially after the nasty, misogynist Girl Boss Revenge), badass girl power, groovy soundtrack, and bits of good humour instead of dumb comedy. I also liked Kenji Imai, an actor I normally don't pay much attention to, and of course Watase, who is good at playing these kind of rough but somehow pitiable characters. Cool without being too flashy, except for the reform school's standard punishment method which is stripping teenage girls topless, tying their hands behind their back and leaving them in a cell alone. Hah! The best film in the series.

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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 11 Sep 2017, 10:51

I've been on a movie trip again

Days 1-4

This is not directly related to movies, but I finally went to check out Yakushima. The island is best known as the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. There are plenty of cool hiking paths in the centre of the island, including Shiratani unsuikyo which ascends from 600 metres to 1070 metres is it goes through the stunningly green mountain forests. You'll run across wildlife like monkeys and deer, have to keep your eyes open in order not to get lost or fall to your death, and you can drink water from the nature. Also keep the weather on an eye as the paths and crossing the mountain brooks becomes dangerous in heavy rain. It took me about 7 hours to hike all the paths.

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You'll see plenty of wildlife in the rest of the island as well, especially on the west side where the narrow seaside roads have dozens of monkeys lying on the roads balls towards the sun. Deer are common as well.

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Days 5-8: Part 1

My return trip went through Tokyo so I decided to jump out of the plane and go to the movies. And what a better way to start than by checking out a pink film theatre I had never visited before: Ueno Ookura.

Like most pink cinemas, Ueno Ookura play films in triple features, from around 10 am in the morning till 4:30 am next morning when trains start running again. You could spend all night at the cinema, though you'd be seeing the same films twice since most of them run only for about 60 minutes.

The days of 35mm film prints in pink cinemas are sadly long gone. Still, what I got in Ueno Ookura wasn't exactly what I was expecting. The files they screened looked like they had been transferred from VHS, or perhaps downloaded from DMM's streaming site. The resolution certainly looked like a 10 year old web stream. I guess that added a certain "charm" to the experience though I could've done without it.

The theatre itself is very clean and surprisingly big with a large screen. You can enter any time in the middle of a movie because there isn't always a break between films and customers are not even expected to wait till a film begins. I didn't get to witness any dubious behaviour (unfortunately?).

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Female Convict 101: Sexual Hell (1976)
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Dokyumento: Seijuku genchizuma (1995) + Female Convict 101: Sexual Hell (1976)
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I watched two films at Ueno Ookura. The fists one was Dokyumento: Seijuku genchizuma (ドキュメント 性熟現地妻)(1995), a sort of docudrama about a Shinjuku club hiring and exploiting Chinese women as sex workers. The film was surprisingly decent for a "sex flick" as I found myself somewhat caring for the characters towards the end. It also has a nice 90s atmosphere (think of Miike's Shinjuku Triad Society minus the violence and madness) and big breasted stars who are rather pleasing on the eye.

The second film I saw was the thoroughly uninspired and unsexy women in prison Roman Porno Female Convict 101: Sexual Hell (1976). Rumi Tama is a woman sent to prison for strangling a man who was trying to rape her; Naomi Oka is the bad girl calling the shots behind the bars. The rest of the film plays out exactly the way you'd expect it to.

I then headed to Cinema Vera who had a series celebrating Toei actresses who appeared in more feminine films than the usual masculine Toei action fare. The best film I saw was Two Bitches (二匹の牝犬) (1964), a superb, gripping tale of a hardened woman (Mayumi Ogawa) working as a prostitute in Tokyo. She's visited by her seemingly innocent and ultra-cute little sister (Mako Midori) who turns out to be a total sociopath as learns to manipulate people. Director Yusuke Watanabe is not know as one of the greats, but here manages strong drama, some fantastic framings and a long tracking shot, the kind Shinji Somai would do two decades later, and absolute powerhouse performances by Midori and Ogawa.

Less successful but nevertheless somewhat entertaining was Tenshi no yokubo (天使の欲望) (1979) ,an oddly misbalanced film pretending to be a serious drama while helmed by the exploitative hand of sexploitation director Ikuo Sekimoto. In the film a slutty older sister spends all her time sleeping with men or getting raped. Once the virginal younger sister discovers this, her disappointment initiates a psychological and eventually physical war that climaxes in an unintentionally silly scene where the two fight it out in the nude.

Another rarely seen film was Military Comfort Woman (従軍慰安婦) (1974), directed by Ryuichi Takamori and written by Teruo Ishii. Unfortunately we get the worst of both gentlemen here; Takamori's sloppy handling of drama and Ishii's dumb humour. Add bad acting, especially by Yutaka Nakajima, and it becomes impossible to tell if the film was supposed to be taken seriously or not. Also, a sexploitation flick it is not as nudity is sparse. There is some entertainment value, though. Highlight: a hooker saves the day at the battlefield by pissing on an overheated machine gun.

Though Cinema Vera screens movies as double features, Military Comfort Woman was a special screening that only played once a day on four different dates. The screening I attended was over-sold out with all 142 seats filled and the rest of the people standing.

I saw a few other films in Cinema Vera as well but I can't be bothered to write about them now.

Military Comfort Woman (1974) (top) / The Story of a Nymphomanic (1975) (right & bottom right) / Two Bitches (1964) (bottom middle)
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Tenshi no Yokubo (1979) (left) /Yojôhan monogatari: Shôfu shino (1966) (right)
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The Story of a Nymphomanic (1975) + Ooku maruhi monogatari (1967)
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Two Bitches (1964) (middle)
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Chirashi (click for bigger version)
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Re: Retro Cinemas and Cult Films in Japan

Unread postby HungFist » 12 Sep 2017, 05:23

Days 5-8: Part 2

My day in Tokyo had started with some less than impressive films and I needed a sure hit for the night, so I headed to National Film Center for the endlessly re-watchable Evil Dead Trap (1988). While the film makes little sense, it's such a fast paced mix of spectacular Fulci inspired kills, Argento esque camerawork and a fantastic "bootleg Goblin" score that I never get tired of it. This was my second time seeing it in 35mm. A bit of trivia: two of the three female leads are 80s AV stars (Hitomi Kobayashi and Eriko Nakagawa). The English title is faithful to the original (Shiriyo no wana = "Trap of Evil"), which is indeed a reference to the JP title of The Evil Dead (Shiryo no harawata = "Guts of the Evil"). Co-produced by Japan Home Video, which did the later Guinea Pig films and some Riki Takeuchi action, and Director's Company, a small arthouse firm formed by Ikeda, Shinji Somai, Sogo Ishii, Kichitaro Negishi and a few other young filmmakers to produce their own films.

I attended the screening with a friend who lives in Tokyo. Last time I saw him I gave him a Wolfguy BD as present. This time he had bought me a present: "Oppai zukan: The only existing full-scale oppai visual dictionary in the world". Hmmm, thanks, I guess.

Next day I headed to Laputa Asagaya, who had a series for Rentaro Mikuni. I caught two films, the pretty good 1959 Toei docudrama Seven Bullets (七つの弾丸) (about a bank robber in Osaka, documenting the daily lives of him and his victims prior to the incident) and Kon Ichikawa's The Burmese Harp (1956), which I had never seen before. Needless to say 35mm in cinema was the way to experience it, even if the print was rather damaged. Seven Bullets in turn looked absolutely pristine.

Top and bottom left: Rentaro Mikuni retro. Bottom right: Yukiko Todoroki retro and Shintoho Pink series
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I initially wasn't too happy to see Laputa Asagaya dedicate their Late Show to semi-recent Shintoho pink films. I wasn't even going to attend any screening but the curiosity got the better of me when I 1) realized I'd never seen a Shintoho pink film in 35mm and were curious about how it would look like in comparison to the worn out home video releases, and 2) I was already there since I had just finished Seven Bullets.

I was glad to have been proven wrong as, at least in the case of this film, someone had done fine programming job exposing one of those small semi-gems a casual viewer would otherwise never discover. Hidden beneath the fleshy premise and ridiculous title, Aching Wives: Continuous Adultery (うずく人妻たち 連続不倫) (2006) turned out to be a rather beautiful film set in two time periods. A young single man and middle aged woman with troubled marriage first meet and have a brief affair in 1995. In 2007 they meet again by chance in a small hot springs hotel where he, now married, has escaped his troubles, and she, who has managed to fix her marriage but not forget him, arrives with her husband. Effectively minimalist and sad film with surprisingly fine performances. Oh, and the 35mm print was just beautiful.

Aching Wives: Continuous Adultery
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Chirashi
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I also visited Shin Bungeiza's Nobuhiko Obayashi retro (held in advance of his upcoming film Hanagatami), despite my irritation over the fact that all the films I wanted to see played at inconvenient dates. This marked the 4th time I've missed House in 35mm in Tokyo (each time the screening was a few week before or after my stay, or sold out). What I saw was the rare 1983 TV film called Reibyo densetsu (麗猫伝説) (in 16mm) that no English language website has ever heard of. It's about an old actress who may be a ghost. I thought the film was pretty boring, but then again I often dislike the "standard Obayashi" films and only love the masterpieces (Futari, Tenkosei, House).

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On my last day I was supposed to go to Shin Bungeiza to see School in the Crosshairs, but after realizing it's a DCP and not 35mm I decided to sleep late in my capsule rather that waste my money on that screening. Once I got up, I headed to Cinema Vera who had just started a new retrospective for Tooru Abe. Toei fans know him best as the regular bad guy in ninkyo yakuza films. Cinema Vera did a cleaver move and omitted all of those films, and chose to screen movies that don't play in other retrospectives so often. I only had time to see one film before my flight, Wrath of Daimajin (1966), which I enjoyed a fair bit thanks to its fantastic special effects and a nice sense of adventure.

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