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Features Live Action Movies

Luminous Woman
(Hikaru Onna,
光る女)

Director – Shinji Somai – 1987 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 118m

*****

A Hokkaido farmer comes to Tokyo in search of his vanished fiancée but finds a world he has not expected – on Blu-ray from Monday, Monday, May 20th

At a rubbish tip on the outskirts of Tokyo, a barefoot man (Takeiji Muto) in cheap trousers and top encounters a suave-looking sophisticate (Kei Suma) and a woman opera singer (Michiru Akiyoshi), the latter performing gracefully atop the rubbish heap. The woman is dependent on the sophisticate. The barefoot man has travelled from Hokkaido to find his fiancée Kuriko Sakura, who was supposed to return after studying accounting to help him run a farm.

The sophisticate knows someone of that name, and drives the barefoot man into the city. In his nightclub, he offers the outsider a deal – if he’ll fight the club’s pro-wrestler for ¥100 000, the other will tell him where to find Kuriko. However, she may not be the person he seeks. Out of her boss’ earshot, the woman warns the outsider that the wrestling may be to the death.

In the club she plays the piano while another woman sings opera and, on the circular dias bordered by a water pool, a challenger fights the incumbent wrestler and loses.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The End Of Sex

Director – Sean Garrity – 2022 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 87m

***1/2

A married couple’s attempts to rekindle their sex life while their kids are away for a week go horribly wrong – out on digital from Monday, July 3rd

Packing their two young daughters off in the school bus to Winter Camp, Josh (Jonas Chernick) and Emma (Emily Hampshire) suddenly realise they have a week free to do…what? Drive to gymnastics and sit in the parents’ waiting area? Then it dawns on her: we don’t have to close the door. We can be as loud as we want. But while their parenting is generally successful, their sex life is much less so, with an attempt at coitus leading both of them to fake orgasm.

Sex seems to be in the air. Emily takes the opportunity of having extra time available to visit an art gallery with her best friend Wendy (Melanie Scrofano) for an exhibition which turns out to include black and white photographic print enlargements of testicles, where she runs into old art college friend Marlon (Gray Powell) who she fancies and who, it transpires, is not only the gallery owner but also fantasized about her back in their student days.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Snake Of June
(Rokugatsu
No Hebi,
六月の蛇)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 77m

*****

Unlike any terrorised female narrative you’ve ever seen, at once bizarre and hugely rewarding – currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme

This review originally appeared in What’s On In London, June 2003.

In an unnamed (but suspiciously Tokyo-like) Japanese city where it’s constantly raining, a mysterious phone caller blackmails repressed housewife Rinko (Asuka Kurosawa). If that sounds clichéd, set your prejudices aside because Shinya Tsukamoto’s unique, new film is unlike any terrorised female narrative you’ve ever seen. The motives of the caller (director Tsukamoto himself) are scarcely what you might expect.

From the moment Rinko opens a postal package labelled “Your Husband’s Secrets” to find photographs of herself masturbating (which she flicks into life like a series of animated stills) via her subsequent following orders involving short skirts and vibrators through to the extraordinary finale, the piece walks a difficult path between humiliating and liberating women.

With the year’s most arresting opening – a stripping model reduced to orgasmic ecstasy in serial, rapid-fire static images to the flashing of a stills camera – it’s likely to engross some viewers while offending others.… Read the rest

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Dance Features Live Action Movies

Climax

Director – Gaspar Noé – 2018 – France – Cert. 18 – 97m

*****

Uppers and downers – either way blood flows. Arthouse enfant terrible Noé combines technical skill and singular focus with some of the most spectacular dancing ever put on film to produce a dark and challenging vision of hell on earth – now available on VoD

Cinema at its purest. Bright white on a screen. A woman starts crawling from the top of the screen. Extreme audience disorientation. We realise she’s crawling through snow. She appears to be in a bad way. Traces of blood. The camera follows her forward movement down the screen. Slowly a tree comes into shot from the bottom. We are watching the same overhead camera movement.

A series of vox pops on a television screen with shelves of books on one side and piles of DVDs on the other. Dancers answer questions on why dance is important to them. Would they do anything in order to make it big? What would they do if they weren’t able to dance?

Then the narrative proper begins. It’s 1996. We’re inside a building with a dance floor watching the most amazing dance routines we’ve ever seen.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Alien: Covenant

Director – Ridley Scott – 2017 – US – 15 – 122m

*** 1/2

The latest Alien franchise entry is an effective horror sci-fi, teeming with shocks, scares and twists, but it lacks the mythological depth of Prometheus and the twisted sexual connotations of Alien – in cinemas on 12th May 2017

This is Ridley Scott’s third Alien movie as director. His second Alien (1979) prequel or first Prometheus (2012) sequel – take your pick – is more like the former than the latter. On the one hand, its sci-fi ideas are more coherent and in line with other Alien franchise outings; on the other, unlike Prometheus it doesn’t periodically throw out lots of new ideas mining some of Alien‘s unexplained elements. Yet it does refer back to Prometheus.

A civilisation of charred or petrified bodies amidst otherworldly, ancient classical architecture suggests Scott is revisiting the Roman world of Gladiator (2000) or toying in his head with a film about Vesuvius erupting onto Pompeii. Again, take your pick. [Read more]

Alien: Covenant was out in UK cinemas on 12th May 2107, when this piece was originally written for DMovies.org.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Secretary

Secretary

Director – Steven Shainberg – 2002 – US – Cert. 18 – 106m

*****

A Snake Of June (Rokugatsu No Hebi, 六月の蛇)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 77m

*****

Double DVD review originally published in Third Way, February 2004.

The cover image (rear view of a female figure in tight, short skirt and stockinged legs, bent down, hands grasping ankles) suggests titillation, but the American production Secretary is actually a serious drama – albeit one laced with a healthy dose of black humour – about a sadomasochistic relationship. But beneath its fetishistic surface, it is something else – an exploration into why two specific people (and why they in particular rather than any others) make one flesh. And how that works for them if the two people are initially in some way damaged (as we all are).

Although from a very different culture, its Japanese counterpart A Snake Of June – made by the experimental cyberpunk auteur Tsukamoto (of Tetsuo: The Iron Man fame) – explores much the same territory. Being small, low budget productions frees both films from mass, multiplex mainstream audience demands, allowing their directors to instead tackle (inter)personal relationship issues in depth.… Read the rest