What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 15 Aug 2019, 14:26

Inujini seshi mono (犬死にせしもの) (Japan, 1986) [VoD] - 1/5
Fisherman Hiroyuki Sanada and two pals go pirate in 1947 Japan. A rather miserable drama with awful quirky direction and performances, including a couple of Japanese Richard Nortons. Sanada is the only one who comes off at least half-tolerable. I gave up after 40 minutes and fast-forwarded the rest, which seemed to be even worse.

Lover’s Time (Koibitotachi no jikoku) (恋人たちの時刻) (Japan, 1987) [VoD] – 3.5/5
Kadokawa discoveries, part deux. Great opening scene with cute, disturbed girl (Michiko Kawai from Somai’s P.P. Rider) silently watching the sea. She sees a lonely surfer boy swallowed by the waves. The next moment two biker guys emerge and try to rape her. The surfer boy manages to drive the goons away, but gets knocked out in the process. The girl, who seems more irritated than shocked by the incident, comes out from hiding, still minus the clothes which she doesn't seem to mind. As the story continues, he develops an obsession to get her to go out with him. The girl (she lives with an old sculptor as his nude model) then asks him to track down a missing person.

There's an odd quality to the film from the very beginning that I kept wondering about till Japan-best screenwriter Haruhiko Arai's (Rape Ceremony, Distant Thunder, Vibrator) name popped up in the OP credits, followed by Shinichiro Sawai's directorial credit. Sawai did Tragedy of W with Hiroko Yakushimaru, and this movie has the same kind of grip and relative grit. Not Arai at his most steady handed, yet endlessly interesting with plenty of unusual character details and melancholy, often captured by Sawai with ultra-long takes against gray Hokkaido fall backdrop. And the score is a by a certain Joe Hisaishi, who plagiarized his own work for A Scene at the Sea. Almost like a film from an alternative universe where idols do nudity and have traded bubblegum pop for dark psychological movies.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 21 Aug 2019, 18:00

New Battles without Honor and Humanity (新仁義なき戦い) (Japan, 1974) [BD] - 3.5/5
The somewhat over-rated Battles w/o Honor and Humanity series has never been most exciting Fukasaku in my books, and the New series even less so. But this first one, while a rehash of the original films, features very enjoyable performances by all supporting actors (Watase, Matsukata, Ike, Tanaka et. al) and some magnificent character play between Sugawara and Wakayama. Even the humour works better than in most Fukasaku films.

The Miracle of Joe Petrel (海燕ジョーの奇跡) (Japan, 1984) [VoD] – 3.5/5
Toshiya Fujita's gangster film loosely based on the 4th Okinawa Yakuza Conflict (also the base for Okinawa Yakuza War, 1976) where a Kyokuryu-kai president was shot dead by a hitman. The film starts out a bit dull, but gains momentum when the titular killer flees to Manila (fully fiction from here on) where he hooks up with Japanese small time gangster (Yoshio Harada) who deals anything from women to VCRs. Fujita uses the foreign location expertly, capturing the corruption, dirt, sleaze and beautiful nature, while steering away from the travel show / tourist filmmaker approach that plagues many similar Japanese productions. Leading man Saburo Tokito could be more charismatic and there are a couple of misfire clichés in the action, but overall the film is impressive.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 25 Aug 2019, 14:47

Time and Tide (時代屋の女房) (Japan, 1983) [VoD] – 2/5
Nice guy antique store owner Tsunehiko Watase meets idiosyncratic girl Masako Natsume, then later another odd girl (also Natsume). A rather dull and very Shochiku-like drama co-scripted by Haruhiko Arai, whose usually identifiable touch is barely visible here, save for the normal guy / strange girl premise. Watase is very good (he's hugely under-rated, with solid performances one after another in both action pictures and dramas), the score is alright and there's some good use of cat-cam, but the film lacks bite.

Love for an Idiot (痴人の愛) (Japan, 1967) [VoD] – 3/5
A couple goes domestic World War III in Masumura's exceedingly 60s gender satire. A pre-otaku era salaryman (excellent Shoichi Ozawa) gets a young wildcat (Michiyo Yasuda) as his pet, a role she goes along with for a while till she gets bored with the old geezer trying to fit her into his idea of what a woman should be like. There are some crazy outfits and amazing still photos, wickedly funny observations about desperate men, and fine performances too, but the lack plot can make all the rage a bit numbing at times. Michiyo Yasuda, who is better known as Daiei’s late 60s action Duracell Bunny (Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword, Bamboo Leaf Omon) does a surprisingly daring role, however, there is doubt whether it’s really her or a body double in the numerous nude photos. Oh, and the English title is a bit different from the Japanese “An Idiot’s Love”, the idiot being the salaryman. Based on a 1924 novel by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki - bit ironic considering how unmistakably 60s Masumura's film is. There had been at least 2 earlier film adaptations as well, in 1949 and 1960.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by Ivan Drago » 26 Aug 2019, 11:16

The Shaolin Avengers (1976)

Entertaining semi-remake of Men from the Monastery, with an unhealthy fixation on Fu Sheng's bum!

7/10
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but I guess you're more intelligence than me.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 02 Sep 2019, 16:35

A Man's Showdown (男の勝負) (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 1.5/5
Hideo Murata was a pretty big ninkyo star in the 60s despite lacking anything resembling charisma. His enka singing career ensured his popularity. This is a co-starring vehicle for Murata and Shigeru Amachi, an actor who did better when portraying suffering, morally compromised tough guys (e.g. Yellow Line, The Tale of Zatoichi). They make a rather dull heroic duo against crooked Bin Amatsu. Young Sadao Nakajima directed this under Masahiro Makino’s supervision. The film feels more Makino than the Nakajima. Not so much a terrible film as just a boring one. The only energetic scenes are in the mid third: a duel between Murata and Amachi, and a stylishly executed sakazuki scene.

The X from Outer Space (宇宙大怪獣ギララ) (Japan, 1967) [VoD] - 3/5
A pleasant surprise for a non kaiju fan. The opening half is dull as they tend to be, but then you get Guilala, the Nicolas Cage of giant space monsters! From there on it’s non-stop destruction with a wonderfully monotonic score, an exciting car vs. giant monster chase, and the infinitely charismatic antenna-headed space-bird on drugs, Guilala.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 04 Sep 2019, 17:35

Mosquito on the 10th Floor (十階のモスキート) (Japan, 1983) [35mm] – 2/5
Yoichi Sai's debut, a depressing life-is-shit picture with Yuya Uchida as a cop in debt (to the bank, not the yakuza, unfortunately). He proceeds to do... very little. I first saw this on DVD and found it largely a bore; a 35mm screening a decade later did not change my mind. Flat filmmaking and a non-eventful story that Uchida's convincing performance can't save.

Failed Youth (青春の蹉跌) (Japan, 1974) [35mm] – 4.5/5
Tatsumi Kumashiro's legendary youth film. This was his first movie for Toho, a departure from Roman Porno. The politically conscious script by Kazuhiko Hasegawa (The Youth Killer, The Man Who Stole the Sun) follows indecisive university student Ken'ichi Hagiwara and hopelessly in love younger girlfriend Kaori Momoi in the midst of young confusion, violent student radicalism and an era where modern and traditional clashed. It's a slow-burner, but excellently acted by Hagiwara and Momoi (also look out for Meika Seri as a street beggar) and filmed with loads of meaningful long takes, including an amazing love scene in the snowy mountains near the end. And the score is just beautiful! Kumashiro's masterpiece, no doubt! The film's obscurity shows just how little Toho cares for their own catalogue titles: chosen by the nation's best known film journal Kinema Junpo as the 21st best Japanese film ever made, Toho has not even bothered putting the film out on DVD (though it’s finally coming in December 2019).

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 08 Sep 2019, 16:23

The War of the Sixteen Year Olds (十六歳の戦争) (Japan, 1973/1976) [35mm] – 4/5
Funeral Parade of Roses director Toshio Matsuda's bloody excellent youth film set in rural Japan. This has one of the best opening scenes I've seen since Kiyoshi Nishimura's Too Young to Die (1969), with a young man arriving a town, and falling in love with a 16 year old girl as they watch the police pull two dead bodies from a river, all against a great rock song (the film's soundtrack is absolutely stunning!). Pure cinema! The film then follows their relationship as WWII traumas begin to surface in the town and lead the film down a far darker - and ambiguous - path. There are some jarring cuts and imperfections that make the film no less fascinating, and an amusingly gratuitous topless scene for Akiyoshi who looked pretty stunning at 19. Filmed independently in 1973, but not released until 1976. This became instantly of one my favourite 70s youth films!

Gambler - Counterattack (博徒斬り込み隊) (Japan, 1971) [DVD] - 3.5/5
Part 10 in the Gambler series (not to be confused with the Gambling Den series) which begun as ninkyo films, but got hijacked into the jitsuroku territory by Kinji Fukasaku and Junya Sato. This one is an impressively cold depiction of lone wolf Koji Tsuruta (in a more cynical role than usual) becoming a gangster clan's consultant. Director Sato focuses on the underworld politics and power struggle that involves the yakuza and a cold blooded, calculating police commander Tetsuro Tamba who would love to the clans slaughter each other off. It's a talkative film with some superb, atmospheric scenes, but not as intense as some of Sato's later movies, or as comprehensive as in Organized Crime 2 (1967), Sato's best gangster film.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 10 Sep 2019, 16:08

Sting of Death (死の棘) (Japan, 1990) [VoD] – 2.5/5
An unfaithful family man and a ‘jealous to the point of mental illness’ wife face each other in a series of heated but unnaturally formal dialogues only interrupted by occasional surreal visions and scenes of almost horror film like dark atmosphere. Not an easy watch at 114 min, nor am I sure if this is good cinema, or just pretentious art. But it is, at least partly, oddly captivating and somewhat memorable, and that's something. 1990 Cannes Grand Prize of the Jury winner. Director Kohei Oguri releases films very sparsely: he has directed only six movies in 34 years, from 1981 to 2015.

+ Sonny Chiba Special: Part 73 (2/2)

The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (蘇る金狼) (Japan, 1979) [35mm] – 4/5
A toxic, overly contrived and positively astonishing anti-hero spectacle with badass Yusaku Matsuda an office worker at day and a villain climbing the underworld ladders at night. Haruhiko Oyabu’s source novel delivered 2½ films worth of gangster plotting and action crammed into 131 minutes, filmed by Toru Murakawa with his trademark one-shot action bravuras and mindboggling sexism. Matsuda is 6'0" of toxic masculinity, groping women, dealing drugs, blasting inferior men (“got kids? They’ll be happier without you!”) and going bananas over the sense of power after he has turned villainous corporate bosses into his slaves. And who could forget the strange ending. Sonny Chiba ventures into the film as nerdy, glass-wearing extortionist about an hour in and stays on board for 30 minutes – he’s one of the big names in the incredibly packed cast alongside Mikio Narita, Asao Koike, Koichi Iwaki, Toru Abe, Shin Kishida, Kenji Imai, Yutaka Nakajima, Kyosuke Machida and others. Frankly, a bit of an epic mess, but a tremendously entertaining one with style to spare. And the ultra-funky score is superb. Matsuda’s best action film.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » 15 Sep 2019, 15:34

Play it, Boogie-Woogie (スローなブギにしとくれ) (Japan, 1981) [VoD] - 3/5
A slice of life picture with a bar / semi-drifter girl, an angry youngster with a bike, a divorced asshole, and a middle aged woman living with him. There's no plot, just one year of gritty life. And it works. Yoshio Harada (the asshole's friend), Hideo Murota (bar owner) and Kahori Takeda (teenage mom) have supporting roles, Kenji Sawada, Akira Takahashi and several others cameos. Toshiya Fujita directs.

Crazed Beast (狂った野獣) (Japan, 1976) [35mm] – 3.5/5
Sadao Nakajima's outrageous action farce that is essentially one 78 min action sequence. Punks Takuzo Kawatani and Ruyji Katagiri highjack a bus which, unbeknownst to them, is already carrying a bigger bad guy Tsunehiko Watase. This is an obvious production follow-up to Kinji Fukasaku's car chase film Violent Panic: The Big Crash (1976), with largely the same cast but more hysterical approach. The bus is loaded with quite some characters and the cops chasing the bus are the most self-destructive bunch I've ever seen. Watase, who had already starred in Violent Panic, got a bus driver’s license and proceeded to do his own stunts, including flipping the bus on its side (the other actors who remained inside the bus were the expendable Piranha Corps. Kawatani, Katagiri and Takashi Noguchi, the rest of the passengers were replaced with dolls) despite Nakajima trying to stop him! I hated this film upon my first viewing about 10 years ago when I expected a serious action drama à la Violent Panic, but found it quite amusing this time. The funniest scene: an old woman consoles children who are scared of Kawatani’s character: "don't worry, that uncle will be caught and get death penalty".

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Unread post by HungFist » Yesterday, 17:15

Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman (新座頭市・破れ!唐人剣) (Japan, 1971) [35mm] – 3/5
This is the only film in the series where Zatoichi farts! On someone's face, even! The reason I bring this up is that that fart in descriptive of the film: funny and functional, but rather unambitious, which is a shame for this being Zatoichi vs. the One-Armed Swordsman, Katsu vs. Wang Yu. Pitting the two giants against each other is only right, but doing it on the excuse of cultural and linguistic misunderstandings is just lazy writing. There was potential for more. Also, you’ve got to wonder how smoothly the filming went? Neither one of the two stars are known as the easiest people to work with, and this has them playing their most beloved characters in a Japan vs. China death match. Reportedly an alternative cut was released to HK audiences with additional and altered footage.

South to the Horizon (南へ走れ、海の道を!) (Japan, 1986) [VoD] – 3/5
Three Okinawa punks fuck with the yakuza and pay the price. Fast forward one month and shift gear to revenge film as combat vet older brother Koichi Iwaki comes out of the jungle for vengeance. The main target is yakuza boss Hideo Murota. Delightfully violent b-action film disguised as Shochiku studio production, by former porn director Seiji Izumi who splatters the walls with blood and can't even resist wielding some chainsaw. Plenty of bad writing, several gaijin supporting actors (mostly good, not bad guys) and music cues so bad they shouldn't suffice even for b-cinema. And it's all rather enjoyable; the kind of action cinema Japan wasn't producing anymore in the 80s. You just need to get past the deceivingly dull opening act. Director Izumi’s 80s mainstream work has been a discovery: he also did the renegade biker cop film On the Road (1982) and the gritty delinquent girl rock picture Majoran (1984), both minor cult classics.

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