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Everything Everywhere All At Once

Director – Daniels (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert) – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 139m

*****

Do you know kung fu? A launderette owner in trouble with the IRS is sucked into serial, parallel worlds to defeat the being who threatens to annihilate the multiverse – available on demand in the UK from Monday, June 13th

You could describe it as a Cubist take on The Matrix. Or a mother-daughter relationship drama. Or a multiverse movie. Or a film about filing taxes with the IRS. Or a (multiple set of) romance(s). Or a Michelle Yeoh action movie. Or a Chinese American movie. Or a film put together unlike any other you’ve ever seen. All these descriptions would be accurate.

Chinese American Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) runs her own business. A launderette (or laundromat in American parlance). She sits at the table in her apartment which is covered with piles of receipts. She is sorting through them in preparation for an upcoming interview with the IRS. She isn’t sure she’s ready.

This pressing issue aside, her life is not without its challenges. Her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, formerly the kid from Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Steven Spielberg, 1983; The Goonies, Richard Donner, 1985) is attempting to file for divorce and wants her to sign the papers.… Read the rest

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Crazy Thunder Road (Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo, 狂い咲きサンダーロード)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1980 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

Following on from Arrow’s superb BD of Sogo Ishii’s Burst City (1982) comes Third Window’s equally impressive BD release of its predecessor in the Ishii canon Crazy Thunder Road (1980) – on Blu-ray from Monday, February 21st

This was Ishii’s Nihon University student graduation project, his first to be shot on 16mm rather than Super 8, which somehow got picked up for distribution by major Japanese Studio Toei which led to their giving him a budget for Burst City. Tom Mes, who as with Burst City supplies a commentary for the film, describes Crazy Thunder Road as “one of the Holy Grails of Japanese film releases if not the Holy Grail.”

When Toei presented Ishii with what seemed like astronomical funding for Burst City, it led him to overreach himself. In retrospect, he considers Burst City unfinished… [Read the full review at All The Anime]

Crazy Thunder Road was out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, February 21st.

Opening scene:

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Burst City (Bakuretsu Toshi Burst City, 爆裂都市 BURST CITY)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1982 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

Film ****

Cultural significance *****

Arguably the lynchpin film that brought Japanese cinema back from the brink of extinction in the early 1980s and paved the way for much of what was to follow – on Blu-ray from Monday, November 20th 2020

Looked at today through Western eyes, the opening with its breakneck, speeded up race through (presumably) Tokyo cutting between nighttime and daytime POV shots, with motorbike noises, anticipates the more demented pixillated chase scenes of Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989), shots of bikers recall the anti-establishment feel of Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969) and patterns caused by moving lights burning into film emulsion recall Norman McClaren and Len Lye’s early animation experiments drawing and painting direct onto film. Then it seems to turn into Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) by way of a gangster film elements (two men in a car wearing a suit and a leather jacket respectively) who avoid a near collision with two punks on a motorcycle and sidecar.

How many of these precedents Ishii had in mind (or even had seen) when he made this is impossible to say.… Read the rest

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Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Tetsuo)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

Now on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest

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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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Tsukamoto – Killing (斬、) – Haze (ヘイズ) – The Adventures of Denchu Kozo

Killing (Sawamura)

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

***

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.

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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

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Crash

Director – David Cronenberg – 1996 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 100m

*****

This review was originally published in the Arts Centre Group‘s member’s newsletter. See also my review for What DVD.

All stills from Crash apart from the one from Videodrome.

Canadian film director David Cronenberg has a reputation for filming the unfilmable. Formerly dubbed The King Of Venereal Horror (“a small kingdom but I’m happy with it”), his debut (commercial) feature Shivers / The Parasite Murders / They Came From Within (1977) is a low budget horror outing in which high rise tenants are invaded/possessed by little slug-like creatures resembling a bloody cross between phallus and faeces.

For renowned British producer Jeremy Thomas (Bad Timing, The Last Emperor, First Love) he has adapted and directed books considered impossible to turn into movies, notably William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (in 1991) and J.G.Ballard’s Crash.

I was first drawn to Cronenberg’s work from the special effects angle, specifically an article on prosthetics expert Rick Baker which contained some amazing production stills (the shape of a hand-held gun pushing through the unbroken membrane of a television screen) from Videodrome (1983). An image suggesting television can kill?… Read the rest

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Tetsuo II: Body Hammer

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1992 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 83m

*****

The Iron Man Tetsuo is back… and this time, he’s got a wife and child – sequel to the cyberpunk classic was first released November 10th 1992, when this review appeared in Manga Mania.

Where Tetsuo: The Iron Man is shot in raw black and white, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer‘s bigger budget enables a thematic reworking with not only colour film stock but also vast improvements in special effects technique (although these retain the no-budget, hands-on quality that renders them so compelling). The sleazy sexual imagery is jettisoned, the terrorized salaryman (Tomoroh Taguchi again) paired with more respectable wife Kana (played by Nobu Kanaoka, Iron Man’s subway attacker) replacing the terminally randy girlfriend. The couple now have a young child.

Tetsuo II thus launches its attack on nuclear family rather than single salaryman, with the infant kidnapped (and subsequently rent asunder) before his eyes early on in the proceedings by muscle-bound heavies hailing from the local smelting factory (occasioning much imagery of both high fetishist body building and equally high temperature molten metal varieties). Once again, Tsukamoto himself plays one of the salaryman’s opponents, on both occasions wearing a vest marked with an “X”.… Read the rest