Categories
Animation Features Movies

Inu-Oh (Inu-Oh, 犬王)

Director – Masaaki Yuasa – 2021 – Japan – Cert. – 98m

***1/2

In fourteenth century Japan, a blind musician and a deformed, masked dancer shake up the culturally staid world of Noh theatre by forming a hugely popular rock band – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28th

You never quite know what you’re going to get with an animated feature by Masaaki Yuasa (Ride Your Wave,2019; Lu Over the Wall, 2017; Mind Game, 2004) as he has a tendency to break with tradition. Here, he takes on periods of Japanese history but rather than go with power struggles as to who rules Japan, he focuses on two outcasts, an orphaned musician and a deformed dancer, who join together to form a rock band with an emphasis on theatrical showmanship to upend the artistic conventions of the day and become an overnight sensation until the ascendant ruler, determined to control the historical narrative, has the musician killed, and the dancer emasculated, forbidden to perform anything but state-approved material, and that only in the Imperial court.

It’s a triptych, one long story split into three sections. In the first section, after a prologue detailing the decisive Battle of Dan-No-Ura towards the end of the twelfth century, in which the Heiji clan were defeated by the Genji and the formers warriors threw themselves into the sea and perished, two centuries later in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, Northern would be Kyoto-based, shogunate emperor Ashitaka decides that the power to rule demands he acquire three sacred treasures, one of which is a sword buried in the lake at Dan-No-Ura.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Bullet Train

Director – David Leitch – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 126m

***

A man boards a bullet train in Tokyo to steal a suitcase only to be prevented from leaving the train every time he tries to get off it – lightweight action thriller is out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, August 3rd

This adaptation of mystery writer Kotoro Isaka’s 2010 novel, for which the Japanese title literally translates as Maria Beetle, concerns five assassins, each with their separate agenda, who board a bullet train. The film casts Westerners in many of these roles, repopulating the film with an international cast of Americans, Brits and Japanese. Brad Pitt as the lead obviously has box office clout, and is as watchable as ever in this film, however the film has inevitably been accused of whitewashing (even though ‘white’ here would seem to include Puerto Rican and African-American).

The producers here seem to think Japanese high speed rail journeys will draw international audiences but entirely Japanese characters will not. Whether or not they’re correct, casting the film the way they have reinforces this notion. Who else could have done it, you ask? Off the top of my head, I can think of three Hong Kong Chinese, any of whom would work: Chow Yun-fat, Jackie Chan or Tony Leung Chiu-wai.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Hello World (ハロー・ワールド)

Director – Tomohiko Ito – 2019 – Japan – 97m

****

A social misfit schoolboy must rescue a girl classmate from the rogue software underpinning a virtual, future version of Kyoto with the help of his time travelling, ten years older self who is in love with her – plays online in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2021 in the UK, 48 hour rental window from 6pm, Monday, March 1st

Kyoto, 2027. Bookwormish Naomi Katagaki (voice: Takumi Kitamura) doesn’t really fit in at his Kyoto school. When he walks there in the morning, the fact of his head being buried in a self-improvement book seems the perfect metaphor for his complete lack of social skills. Asked by a bright, pretty classmate if he’d like to join her and a bunch of others for karaoke after school, he doesn’t really know how to respond and before we know it, she and the group have gone.

He doesn’t really pay attention to those around him, so he gets ignored. While he’s working out what food to select in the canteen lunch queue, everyone has dived in and taken everything but the one option no-one wants. Only when the subject of who is to volunteer for the library duty comes up do his fellow students take any interest in him – by recommending him for the post to which he agrees more out of an inability to say no than from any real desire to take it on.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Mad Fox a.k.a. Love, Thy Name Be Sorrow (Koiya Koi Nasuna Koi)

Director – Tomu Uchida – 1962 – Japan – Cert. PG – 109m

*****

I review The Mad Fox for All The Anime.

The second Tomu Uchida film to receive a Blu-ray release after the black and white Bloody Spear At Mount Fuji (1955) is the colour The Mad Fox a.k.a. Love, Thy Name Be Sorrow (1962). This extraordinary and arresting Heian period (794-1185) fantasy drama involves an astrologer, his adopted daughter, her wicked stepmother, the two women’s lovers, the daughter’s identical twin sister and a family of shape-shifting fox spirits. Contrasting heavily with the earlier samurai road movie using Mount Fuji as an excuse to block a road for a picnic, The Mad Fox again invokes the iconic volcano in a far more active role as it threatens to erupt, presaging a time of great chaos. The film, meanwhile, makes judicious use of Toei’s animation wing, lending out staff to provide integrated effects.

The opening five minutes sets the tone, via a lengthy voice-over detailing the plot’s setup to a calm, tranquil music score, while a scroll is unrolled and the camera pans steadily along its portrayed landscape.

I review The Mad Fox for All The Anime.

Trailer: