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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Glassworker
(Sheesha Gar,
شیشہ گ)

Director – Usman Riaz – 2024 – Pakistan, Spain – 98m

*****

The son of a pacifist glassblower learning his father’s trade falls for the violin-playing daughter of an army colonel in wartime – complex anti-war drama from the 2024 Annecy International Animation Festival in the Contrechamps section, released in Pakistan on Friday, 26th July 2024

If you knew nothing about this animated film beforehand, you’d assume it to be Japanese. Love it or hate it, most animation made in Japan falls within very distinctive, stylistic, visual parameters. According to the press blurb, director Riaz is an admirer of Studio Ghibli directors Miyazaki and Takahata as well as more recent directors Mamoru Hosoda and Satoshi Kon. Visually, the film feels more like a Miyazaki than anything else, and of comparable quality too. Yet it’s also highly original, and Riaz, here directing his first feature after a number of shorts, clearly has his own voice.

It opens with a frame story about youthful glassblower Vincent Oliver (voice: Sacha Dhawan) who, with the help of his father, is preparing for the opening of his debut glassware exhibition. He rereads a letter from a girl which his father (voice: Art Malik) had told him years ago to destroy in their workshop’s furnace.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Crazy Family
Gyakufunsha Kazoku,
逆噴射家族)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1984 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 105m

*****

After proudly moving into their first home as owner-occupiers, a family go berserk and destroy the building – out on Blu-ray on Monday, June 17th

This seemingly starts out as a conservative family drama. The family in question comprises father Katsukuni Kobayashi (Katsuya Kobayashi in his debut feature role), mother Saeko (Mitsuko Baisho who worked with directors Akira Kurosawa, Shohei Imamura and Kaneto Shindo), elder teenage son Masaki (Yoshiki Arizono from Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, both Takashi Miike; Electric Dragon, 80,000 V, Sogo Ishii, all 2001) and younger teenage daughter Erika (Youki Kudoh from Typhoon Club, Shinji Somai, 1985; Mystery Train, Jim Jarmusch, 1989; Heaven’s Burning, Craig Lahiff, 1997). The Kobayashis move in to their first home as owner-occupiers which, although it’s a little on the small side, promises an idyllic existence. Father is the breadwinner with a nondescript office job, mother waters the plants and does the cooking and housework, the daughter wants to be an idol singer and the son is spending all his time studying for school and university in his room upstairs.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Perfect Days

Director – Wim Wenders – 2023 – Germany, Japan – Cert. PG – 123m

*****

A cleaner for The Tokyo Toilet Company takes great pleasure in his everyday routineout on UK Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, June 10th

There is a pecking order in society. Right at the lowest level is anything to do with human waste. Nowhere is this more evident than towards the end of this film when his sister, who drives a large, impressive looking car and is making a rare visit to her sibling, asks, incredulously, “are you really cleaning toilets?”

In this remarkable film, Wenders turns this notion on its head. Welcome to the world of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), employee of The Tokyo Toilet Company, who has been doing the job for five or six years and takes great pride in it. He is part of a two-person detail, however his young co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto) doesn’t share his enthusiasm, often arriving late for his shift and looking at his mobile phone on the job.

Hirayama drives a small van and has invested in various tools to help him carry out the job; Takashi rides a motor scooter. Hirayama takes great pleasure in his audio cassette collection (The Animals, Lou Reed, Patti Smith) which he listens to on his van’s cassette player driving to and from work.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Matrix

Directors – Larry and Andy Wachowski – 1999 – US – Cert.15 – 136 mins

*****

The Matrix combines tropes of Japanese animation with live action Hong Kong stunt choreography and groundbreaking ‘bullet time’ special effects.

25th Anniversary UK rerelease (4k remaster): Friday, June 8th, 2024;

UK release: June 11th 1999;

Article originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999.

1999. The Matrix is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E.

Technically, a matrix is a multidimensional array of locations, with each cell uniquely addressable. Contents not specified. Back in late April, when Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix was first screened for UK press, Warners’ line beneath the film’s title on the publicity flier ran, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects. Perhaps it should have read, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action. Or even, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action reconceived in terms of anime. Okay, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s closer to the truth.

Ostensibly a megabudget Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon / Die Hard / Predator / Speed / Road House / Assassins) SF actioner well beyond the extremities of this magazine’s remit, directed by the Wachowski Brothers (writer‑directors of Bound, screenwriters for Assassins), The Matrix opens with an incredible sequence wherein Trinity (Carrie‑Anne Moss, who looks for all the world like a Westernised version of a Hong Kong starlet in cat burglar get up… Black Cat’s Jade Leung or Irma Vep’s Maggie Cheung, perhaps?)… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Godzilla Minus One
(Gojira -1.0,
ゴジラ -1.0)

Director – Takashi Yamazaki – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

Japan, defeated and demoralised after World War Two, must somehow defeat the seemingly unstoppable menace of Godzilla when it rises from the depths of the ocean – out on Netflix from Sunday, June 1st

World War Two, Pacific theatre. Unwilling Kamikaze pilot Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) feigns engine trouble and lands on an island for aircraft maintenance, where he is grounded. While there, he notices deep sea fish curiously floating on the surface of the surrounding ocean: they presage the arrival of a huge monster, named Godzilla by the locals. With Koichi failing to fire his 20mm aircraft guns at the creature to kill it, almost everyone else on the small island is killed. (Whether his guns would have had any effect in halting the creature’s advance is debatable. They probably wouldn’t have had any effect whatsoever.) The only other survivor, who had previously congratulated Koichi for a near impossible landing on a tiny runway, blames him for the multiple deaths because he didn’t pull the trigger.

In 1945, in the ruins of post-war Tokyo, Shikishima is accused by a survivor – a woman whose children have died – of being a disgrace.… Read the rest

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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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Animation Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Tsukamoto

Killing
(Zan, 斬、)

Haze
(ヘイズ)

The Adventures
of Denchu Kozo
(Denchu Kozou
no Boken,
電柱小僧の冒険)

Killing (Sawamura)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 79m

***

[Update: The Adventures of Denchu Kozo streams on the Arrow Channel from Friday, May 3rd 2024.]

The Adventures of Denchu Kozo (Denchu kozo no boken)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1987 – Japan – 45m

****

Haze

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2005 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 48m

*****

Shinya Tsukamoto’s latest feature, the samurai movie Killing comes to UK Blu-ray in a two-disc edition, along with two fascinating shorts: the Super-8 epic The Adventures of Denchu Kozo and the later masterpiece Haze. All three feature informative audio commentaries by Tom Mes, author of Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto (2005). The director is probably best known for cyberpunk epics Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and its sequel/reboot Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) which concern the fusion of flesh and metal into a new evolutionary human weapon form. His new film similarly explores the samurai and his metal blade becoming as one in a deadly human fighting machine. Read the rest…

Review published in All The Anime.

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Spy x Family
Code: White
(SPY x FAMILY
CODE: White)

Directors – Kazuhiro Fusuhashu, Takashi Karagiri – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12A – 111m

*****

A spy and an assassin are married to each other, each unaware of the other’s secret career, while neither of them are aware their adopted daughter is a telepath who therefore knows everything they don’t – bonkers anime deploying cookery to prevent Armageddon (!) is out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 26th

An opulent art deco ball. Couples dance. A man connives to be alone with a drunken woman so he can…photograph a file in an office desk. A woman driving a car rips off her face (in the manner of the characters in Mission: Impossible II, John Woo, 2000) to reveal… a man, the spy Loid (voice: Takuya Eguchi). Another woman, Yor (voice: Saori Hayama), is revealed as an assassin when she kills a man who sold industrial secrets. The spy and the assassin are married to one another in a pretend marriage which is a cover for their undercover operations, although neither knows the other is in the spy / assassination game. Their daughter Anya (voice: Atsumi Tanezaki) – adopted to make the bogus marriage look real – is a telepathic orphan who can read minds, so knows about the two secret identities of her ‘parents’.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Evil Does Not Exist
(Aku wa Sonzai Shinai,
悪は存在しない)

Director – Ryosuke Hamaguchi – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

**

A small, unspoiled village community is visited by two representatives of a company planning to set up a glamping facility – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 5th

This starts and ends with a journey on foot through a forest with a viewpoint looking up at the branches of trees as quiet, meditative and arresting music by Eiko Ishibashi plays on the soundtrack.

A young girl of about eight (was it her viewpoint?) wanders through the woods.

A man chainsaws chopped tree trunks into small logs, then takes them near to his house to chop them for firewood. He puts several big, plastic cans in his car boot and drives out to a stream to fill them with water. Kazuo drops by to help the man load the filled bottles into his car. They hear gunshots, which the first man remarks he heard they were hunting in Kunihara.

At this point the first man Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) realises he’s forgotten to pick up his daughter from daycare, and drives over there to discover she’s given up waiting and walked home along. He finds her in the forest and gives Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), for that is her name, a piggyback home.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Typhoon Club
(Taifu Kurabu,
台風クラブ)

Director – Shinji Somai – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

A group of teenagers is trapped inside their school by a typhoon – screenings around the UK and Ireland from Wednesday, April 3rd; also available on Blu-ray from Third Window Films

A film about teenagers which uses tropical weather conditions – in this instance, an approaching and then all-encompassing typhoon – as a catalyst for exploring character. Its bravura visual style engages from the get-go, with a shot looking across a swimming pool between two ropes of a lane with a child swimmer.

Thursday. A bunch of girls in bathing costumes including Yasuko (Tomoko Aizawa) lark about outside in what is obviously hot and humid weather – one runs through a shallow pool and turns on a water spray to catch the others as they follow, but soon their tomfoolery looks like it may have dire consequences as they all but drown the boy pool swimmer Akira (Toshiyuki Matsunaga). Fortunately, Kyoichi Mikami (Yuichi Mikami), who turns up with his friend Ken (Shigeru Benibayashi) in tow, is able to sort the situation out by administering artificial respiration.

Later, Akira and Mikami, with Ken smoking between the pair of them, hang out on a bamboo scaffolding structure discussing girls, including Yasuko’s lesbian activities with another girl.… Read the rest