Trailer for Gaspar Noé's (I Stand Alone, Irreversible) Enter The Void. 

www.enter-the-void.jp


Kiru

New York inhabitants seeking to extend their filmic Japanorama need look no further than the Japan Society's upcoming screening of Kenji Misumi's 1962 breakthrough film, Destiny's Son (Kiru.)

Forming part of their Monthly Classic Series, The Double-Edged Sword: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu and Ichikawa Raizo, Destiny's Son sees Misumi (Zatoichi, Lone Wolf and Cub) set the formidable Raizo Ichikawa on a visually stylistic journey of revenge and redemption. 

Destiny's Son screens Friday Feb. 19th at 7.30pm.

See Japan Society for tickets and more info. on current and upcoming events.


Cult Epics

Nico B's Cult Epics DVD label specialises in Cult, horror, art House, world cinema and erotica. Releasing the likes of Fernando Arrabal's' I Will Walk Like A Crazy Horse, Walerian Borowczyk The Beast, Agustín Villaronga In A Glass Cage and the majority of Tinto Brass's directorial outings.

The label is also home to "The Bettie Page Collection" for fans of legendary 1950's pin-up icon and various collection of classic erotic short films.

Cult Epics at Amazon | www.cultepics.com


Korean Horror - Essential Collection From Palisades Tartan

Palisades Tartan brings together three Korean chillers as a three-disc collection that includes Kim Sung-ho's Into The Mirror, Park Ki-hyung's Acacia and Won Shin-yeon's The Wig.

Recently given the Hollywood remake treatment as ‘Mirrors', directed by Alexandre Aja (Switchblade Romance; The Hills Have Eyes) and starring Keifer Sutherland, Kim Sung-ho's Into The Mirror is a creepy and highly stylized horror tale involving Wu Young-min, a cop who has quit the police force after inadvertently killing his partner. Now working at a department store, Wu encounters his ex-rival, who is in charge of investigating a series of murders at the store, and finds himself being pulled into the sinister investigation.

Park Ki-hyung's Acacia tells of an obstetrician and his wife who, unable to have a child of their own, decide to adopt a 10-year-old boy, Jin-seung. When the wife later falls pregnant and has a baby, Jin-seung becomes so incensed by jealousy he runs away. During his absence a dead tree in the garden, where he used to play, mysteriously comes to life and fills the house with a heavy scent. Then a variety of strange events begin to occur, all of them seemingly related to the mysterious tree.

Creepy chills meet visceral horror in Won Shin-yeon's beautifully shot The Wig, the tale of Ji-hyeon, a young woman who buys her terminally ill sister a new wig to hide the hair loss resulting from her treatment. After her sister starts making an alarming comeback in mental health to the point of being hostilely aggressive and overbearingly sexual, Ji-hyeon soon discovers the disturbing truth about the history of the wig.


Trailer for Olivier Smolders Nuit Noire: Oscar, a conservator at the Natural Sciences Museum, passes the days exercising his passion for studying insects; if only there still were days. As long as people can remember, the sun only releases a few pathetic rays for fifteen seconds before noon. The rest of the time, the world is plunged into a night without end, a permanent eclipse. Coming home after work, Oscar finds an African woman in his bed. Suffering from a mysterious and incurable disease, she seems to have come to his place to die. Trapped between desire and repulsion, Oscar gradually abandons his life to terrifying phantoms.

The long awaited feature length debut film of talented short filmmaker Olivier Smolders (see also Spiritual Exercises DVD), Nuit Noire (Black Night) is mysterious, ghostly, technically impeccable, and continuously bathed in a magical, surreal light.


H

Someone is killing women, most of whom have the connection of unwanted pregnancies. The vicious nature of the crimes and the choice of victims matches the M.O. of notorious Korean serial killer, 26 year old Shin-Hyun. The problem is Shin-Hyun has already handed himself in and admitted to 6 killings prier to this recent spate. Hard-bitten female Detective Kim Mi Yun, played by Yum Jung-ah (A Tale of Two Sisters, Three... Extremes,) and her new partner Detective Kang Tae Hyun race against time to solve the murders and put a stop to the horrific killings.

Jong-hyuk Lee’s debut feature film H is one of those twisty serial killer flicks with an obvious nod to David Fincher’s ever popular Seven. A team of detectives follow a twisty trail as they track down what appears to be one or maybe more copycat serial killers that are using the exact modus operandi as deadly lady killer and all-round twisted young psychopath, Shin Hyun (Cho Seung-woo). New boy Kang Tae, teams up with the masculine Kim Mi Yan who worked on the Shin-Hyun case and easy going detective Park, played by Sung Ji-ru (Public Enemy, Memories of Murder) as the three try and piece the evidence together.

Jong-hyuk Lee obviously has a good eye behind the camera as H is a good looking film with some great shots and a sensible moody atmosphere, unfortunately, or fortunately depending how you look at it, this is really the only thing which saves this film from falling the wrong side of OK. The characters are by the numbers caricatures, serial killer Shin-Hyun is not convincing as a charismatic and mentally superior “puppet master” manipulating the cops emotions (unless the actors aim was to portray someone you would happily slap about for half an hour because he is the worlds least creepy serial killer.) Kang Tae is meant to be somewhat emotional and volatile, but his overacting and rediculous outbursts when he is supposedly being wound up by the Shin-Hyun don’t make much sense at all. Sung-ru is passable as the chubby and blase third wheel in the team but again his character is very cliched. Competing with Shin Hyun in the crap character stakes is cold and hardened (women in a mans world cliche) Kim Mi Yan, who is, dare I say it … just crap, nothing about this character works, she’s a walking talking stereotype with zero screen charisma. Her “I must make myself a man to work in a mans world” hair and clothing mean she would likely get taken less seriously and the ridiculous look she has on her face most of the time was about as convincing as one of those emails from the wife of Omar Ahmed's widow asking you to open a bank account and look after his oil fortune. Gore wise, there are a few nasty moments with the highlight (If you can call it that,) coming near the beginning, as a still living fetus kicks its leg out through the sliced stomach of its dead mother (nice.)

The twisty plot (essential in this kind of movie) is a passable one, though in no way as clever as it thinks it is and many viewers will see certain things coming a mile off, but it works to a point and certainly is serviceable. Really though it’s the way the movie looks and sounds that means you make it to the end and feel like you haven’t wasted your time. Hyuk frames his shots nicely and achieves the stylistic look he was obviously going for. With a better plot and a bit more attention given to his characters, there is a good chance he could create a fantastic film, H however is not it.

Style not content makes H a watchable if not particularly satisfying film.


Broken Embraces - Poster

Broken Embraces is a four–way tale of amour–fou, shot in the style of ‘50s American film noir at its most hard–boiled, and will mix references to works like Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place and Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful, with signature Almodóvar themes such as Fate, the mystery of creation, guilt, unscrupulous power, the eternal search of fathers for sons, and sons for fathers. Broken Embraces is an original screenplay written by tPedro Almodóvar which see's him once team up with Penelope Cruz following their successful collaboration on Volver, for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. The films also star Lluis Homar of Bad Education and Blanca Portilla of Volver. Regular Almodóvar contributors, such as Rossy de Palma, Kiti Manver, Chus Lampreave and Lola Dueñas have also joined the cast. Veteran actor Ángela Molina, who starred in Live Flesh, will play Cruz’s mother.

Official Site


La Grande Bouffe

Four upper middle class gents retreat to the suburban townhouse that belongs to one of their number. Their intention is to spend the weekend indulging in a gluttonous feast of epic proportions. Food of the highest class is ordered in copious amounts and with one of the friends being a master chef the culinary delights are sure to be first rate. However there is a twist to the debauchery in that they are going to take gastronomic consumption to the limit and beyond.

A judge, a television producer, a pilot and a master Chef have for whatever reason decided life has become bland. Their solution to shuffle off the mortal coil via a grand blow out. Their weapon of choice is not the rope, the blade or the bullet. For these seemingly successful men, their end is to come via the continuous consumption of food over a weekend. After arriving at their destination they make themselves comfortable and set about planning their meals with military precision. How ever it's not long before the Italian friend states that food and alcohol alone are not enough, he can't make it to the end without fornication. Three local prostitutes are summoned and soon the Bouffe descends into an orgy. Also invited by chance is a local schoolteacher who the men worry may not be able to take the pace. However it soon becomes clear her veracious appetites for food and sex far outstrip their own. As the Italian friend soon points out, they have chosen a disgusting way to die. By the second day the prostitutes have left sickened. The toilet has exploded spraying one of the men with copious amounts of shit and stinking out the house. One of the men is having a serious problem with flatulence, which leads to one of the most disgusting ways to go out ever put on film.

Marco Ferreri's La Grande Bouffe won the Fipresci award at the Cannes Film Festival. Italian director Ferreri's film is Art House, but it's of the boundary pushing type and not the bland and pretentious type that many recognise as Art House movies. While La Grande Bouffe does take a "swiftian" style poke at the French bourgeoisie, you can take of leave that as you wish. Where the film excels is in its study of stoic, sickening self indulgence. At first the characters indulge in the purely hedonistic pleasure of food, drink and sex. How ever as the film continues the consumption becomes far from pleasurable as they continue to cram food into their gullets with sickeningly grim determination. La Grande Bouffe is a lesson against excess with food in the way Scarface or The Boost are for Cocaine. At first the viewer revels in the way food is lovingly prepared and consumed, but as the film goes on its consumption becomes grueling. The diners have found an extreme sport that participants can do while seated. There’s no real story of narrative here, but the performances are all first rate and carry the film. A very strange mix of humor and the morose, enjoyment and disgust. At first all the food preparation made me hungry, but by the end of the film the last thing I felt like doing was eating. I love the way "Art House" can get away with a man led on his back being spoon fed as he eats himself to death while a fat semi naked woman masturbates him to climax ... but hey it's art!

A beautifully disgusting, very European look at bourgeoisie excess taken to the extreme, which may turn even the strongest stomach. 

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www.nouveauxpictures.co.uk


Kiyoshi Kurosawa – the hugely acclaimed Japanese director famous for his groundbreaking, existential horror films such as Cure and Kairo [Pulse] – set Cannes alight last year with a surprising change of pace to, that staple of Japanese cinema, the family drama.

When Ryuhei Sasaki (played by Teruyuki Kagawa) is unceremoniously dumped from his ‘safe’ company job, his family's happy, humdrum life is put at risk. Unwilling to accept the shame of unemployment, the loyal salaryman decides not to tell anyone, instead leaving home each morning in suit and tie with briefcase, spending his days searching for work and lining up for soup with the homeless. Outstanding performances; serene, elegant direction; and Kurosawa's trademark chills are evident as he ratchets up the unsettling atmosphere and the grim hopelessness of Sasaki's unemployment.

Tokyo Sonata is showing theatrically in selected cinemas nationwide (UK) until June 2009 and is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 22 June 2009.

www.tokyosonata.co.uk


Antibodies

In a dramatic and highly physical opener, a SWAT team swoops on wanted man Gabriel Engel. Captured after a reign of terror spanning more than six years and thirteen young male victims, it seems as though the cops finally have their man. Meanwhile, cop-cum-farmer, Michael Martens, is continuing to aggravate his townsfolk and further alienate himself by his obsession with the unsolved and brutal murder of a girl in his own village a year and a half ago. Will the capture of Engel bring closure for Martens, or will it in fact be just the beginning of a new and horrifying chapter? One thing’s for sure, Engel will shake Martens’ beliefs to their very foundations.

In one throwaway reference, Antibodies acknowledges the film to which it owes a considerable debt. Though Antibodies lacks the taught class of The Silence of the Lambs, and, indeed, much of the ‘horror,’ it does replicate the psychological mould of the interplay between killer and cop to good effect. Minus the charismatic charm of Hannibal Lecter, Gabriel Engel is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. And Martens, the Clarice to Engel’s Lecter, has a dour priggishness to replace her checked vulnerability. Like its better-known counterpart, though, writer-director Christian Alvart’s film pushes the psychological aspect of the serial killer sub-genre as well as the boundaries of our detecting protagonist.

Antibodies is more grit than gloss and following Engel’s goadings and revelations, along with Martens’ moral decline, is as grubby as it is expected. Alvart clearly seeks to implicate a link between sex and moral decay, which is fine but for the eve-increasing dominance of the religious overtones. His theologising descends from the sublime to the ridiculous and, whilst tackling such enormous subjects is undoubtedly admirable, his handling of them is not. You can’t help but feel that he has bitten off more that he can chew, that at only his second directorial feature, he has yet to develop the skills to engage his subjects with sensitivity and subtlety (if you’ve not picked this up by the heavy-handed channel-changing splice then there’s a good chance this will all slip by unnoticed anyway).

What he does have the skills to do, though, is create a decent if run-of-the-mill thriller. Following a tried-and-tested formula, Alvart does keep you guessing and works a twist well. Though you get the feeling that he has his head just above water with his ability to develop fully the magnitude of the issues he’s taken on, he does mesh nicely the opposition of small-town moral paranoia’s with seedy big-city strife. It’s hard to say if it’s Wotan Wilke Möhring’s performance as Michael Martens or his pious character that’s a trifle irritating, but again he works well in opposition to worldly-wise big-city cop, Seiler (Heinz Hoenig). It’s Hauke Diekemp’s rightly award-winning performance as Martens’ troubled son, Christan, though, which threatens to steal the show. Similarly show-stealing are the beautiful shots of rural Germany and the industrial score. It’s touches like these which flesh out the by-numbers plot.

Good, but not quite as good as it thinks it is. Fans of the serial killer genre will find the body-count low, but it’s well worth a watch for those partial to a psychological thriller


Pulp Movies

Pulpmovies features, reviews of independent film, trailers, film news and the blog Savage Popcorn.

You can also follow Pulpmovies Paul on Twitter


Another Lonely Hitman

Tachibana is a Yakuza henchman who has just served a ten year prison sentence for the very public execution of a rival gang’s boss. Back on the street he finds things have changed, the Yakuza members no longer adhere to the old codes of honour and he is now an atavism. He forms a relationship with the prostitute he is given as a “welcome back present” and a friendship with a young gang member who see’s him as a hero.

Director Rockuro Mochizuki 1995 movie is a Drama with Yakuza characters far more than it is a violent Yakuza crime movie. Tachibana played by Ryo Ishibashi is not really the hitman that the title conjures up, merely a disposable Yakuza pawn, who was convinced to get loaded up on heroin and kill a rival gangs’ leader. So high on smack Tachibana does this but in the process shoots a young waitress in the leg and then asks that the police are called thus landing himself with ten years inside.

Described by some reviewers as Ultra violent and ultra stylish, Mochizuki’s film is neither of these in my opinion. The films opening which follows Tachibana’s hit on the crime boss in a busy restaurant is indeed nicely done and realistically violent, but after that initial scene the film changes pace and settles down into being a slow paced character study. Not that the lack of stylish visuals and violence mean this is not an interesting movie, just I feel it has been some what over hyped and mislabelled. This is really a film about not belonging, about damaged relationships and to some degree redemption.

In many ways there is nothing new in terms of plot to be found in Another lonely Hitman, if you have seen a few films about ex-gangsters back on the street trying to fit in again, you will have a pretty good idea of the route the storyline will take. Where Another lonely hitman shines is in the interplay between the various characters, especially between Tachibana and Yuki, for whom he provides something more than just money barterd through sex and pimp slaps.

The interesting thing about Mozcizuki’s choice of character for his lead is that Tachibana is not cool and from the glimpse of him as a drug addled hitman a decade earlier never was. He’s not Carlito back on the street with great poolroom tricks and a swish leather jacket. This guy is damaged goods right down to the fact those ten years inside have left him psychosomatically impotent. Sure he can kick some ass, but he can’t fuck and I for one know which attribute I would prefer.

Back on the streets Tachibana finds himself paired up with a younger gang member, who see’s him as a hero, a representation of the old now forgotten days after all he is the man that wiped out a prominent rival in broad daylight. Problem is that gang came out on top anyway and now Tachiban’s old crew fall directly underneath it in the yakuza structure, meaning his actions really achieved nothing in the greater scheme of things. As Tachibana try’s to find a place for himself he guides the younger Yakuza and forces Yuki the prostitute to kick her heroin addiction as well as beating down her pimp, but can these actions bring some form of redemption to his life and can he make himself whole again? In director Mochizuki’s vision a man can run from everything except his past, something he would cover again in his 1997 film Oniba: The fire within.

Bleakly shot on grainy film stock and featuring fitting Jazz track which has brought the film some comparisons with the film noir style of film making. Another Lonely Hitman is an interesting film if a little slow and slightly generic in its plot. If you enjoyed Miikes Rainy dog and the general downbeat grim of the Black society trilogy then you will probably find a lot to like here. If you’re looking for stylised violence and hip characters this film may not be for you.

Fans of quality Japanese cinema and the Yakuza genres will want to seek this out and I suggest they do, but be prepared for a downbeat look at life at the bottom of the Yakuza food chain.

A bleak uncompromising look at a broken man as he struggles to come to terms with a world he no longer belongs to. 


Colour Of The Truth

A twisty tale of truth, honor and justice in which legendary Hong Kong actor, Anthony Wong (Infernal Affairs, Beast Cops, The Untold Story, Hard-Boiled) plays a cop who was forced to make a decision that will haunt him forever. In a bust gone bad he was forced to shoot not only the intended Triad boss target, but also a close friend and fellow cop. Ten years later his career is going well, but now the son of his dead friend is on his team and he wants the truth about his father’s death and maybe even revenge.

Twisty tales of HK police infiltrating and taking on the Triad organizations are enjoying a popular time at the moment with films such as Cop on a Mission and the very successful Infernal Affairs series proving hits at home and with genre fans around the world. Colour of the Truth ,directed by Marco Mak (Cop on a Mission) and Jing Wong (Naked Weapon) is a twisty tale of the shades of black and white (grey area) that Hong Kong police have to work in when dealing with these powerful organisations.

After the death of his dad whose nickname was '7-Up,' his son, who has taken on the moniker 'Cola,' wants nothing more than to follow his father into the Hong Kong Police force. As he grows up, Cola finds himself visited once or twice a year by a mysterious man who gives him money and helps him out of tight spots, including a football pitch beat down (an obvious homage to hit movie Young and Dangerous). After a drug bust he is working on becomes intertwined with a raid organized by the serious crime squad led by Huang (the man who is responsible for 7-UP's death,) Cola finds himself transferred to the serious crime squad and working under the man who shot his father. Cola finds himself torn between feelings of hatred and lust for revenge and begrudging admiration for the humble and very good at his job Huang. Huang, Cola finds, does not live the lavish lifestyle of a high level corrupt cop but instead in humble surroundings caring tenderly for his British father who has had a stroke and is unable to speak (Anthony Wong dropping in an out of a cockney-style accent while speaking English to his father is a great touch.)

As the two cops investigate a seemingly straightforward disagreement in gangland between supposedly retired crime figure Kwan and deadly Vietnamese gun runner Cyclops, things don’t seem to be adding up; how are these guys able to be one step ahead of them all the time and where does the man from the football pitch fit into it all? And just what did happen on the rooftop the night 7-UP and the crime lord were shot dead by Haung, are things really as black and white (Hak bak sam lam the original title literally translates as Black and White Forrest) as Cola grew up believing they were?

Now in his mid 40's, mixed race Hong Kong star Anthony Wong seems to be enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. While others from his generation have faded, moved away from genre film or are trying there luck abroad, he has been working away at a furious rate appearing in a staggering 40 plus films from the start of the new millennium. These days his name has become one of the main draws for foreign fans of Hong Kong cinema and with Colour of the Truth he does not disappoint. The film also stars Ho-Yin Wong (PTU, Koma) and the instantly recognisable from his performance as "Chicken" in the Young and Dangerous movies, Jordan Chan (Bio Zombie, Initial D.) The three stars and all the supporting cast give great performances with Yin Tse (Shaolin Soccer), looking and acting suitably sleazy as crime lord in retirement, Kwan.

If you liked Infernal Affairs and its sequels, Cop on a Mission and similar Hong Kong based cops and triads movies, and crave more, The Colour of Truth is going to be just what you’re looking for, this is a thoroughly enjoyable movie from start to finish. The film balances its twisty plot well with strong action sequences which, while very hyper at time, are a little more real and subdued than the late 80’s Bullet Ballet style that John Woo made so brilliantly before he left for America and mediocrity. They are still flamboyant enough, however, to get your heart beating and bring a smile to the face of any fan of gunplay sequences.

With some great action set pieces, a suitably twisty plot to keep you guessing and some top notch performances, The colour of the Truth is a must-see for fans of cops and triads cinema, Gangster movies, crime thrillers and just Hong Kong film in general.

Cops, robbers, honour, betrayal and revenge Hong Kong style … 8/10


Veteran Hong Kong director Tony Siu-Tung Ching (director of classic "A Chinese Ghost Story" and the "Swordsman" trilogy and the action choreographer for "Curse Of The Golden Flower", "Hero" and "House Of Flying Daggers") makes a dazzling return to vintage form with the epic, An Empress And The Warriors, starring Donnie Yen (Flashpoint; Dragon Tiger Gate; Seven Swords; Hero), Kelly Chen (the Infernal Affairs trilogy; Tokyo Raiders) and Leon Lai (Seven Swords; Infernal Affairs 3).

 


Angel Guts: High School Coed

Three young male Japanese friends live a life at the bottom of the food chain, working dirty jobs, living in lower class squalor and raping women as a hobby. The three disenfranchised friends form a micro biker gang of three, although they only have two bikes between them. In this film we follow these three different, yet equally despicable young men as they burn rubber around an unnamed Japanese city, causing chaos and assaulting anyone they come across at will.

So you may have heard us talking about our adventures into the world of Takashi Ishii's Mange to screen adaptations know as the Angel Guts series. The thread which links these movies as a series is in fact very thin, All based on Adult orientated manga comics from the pen of Takashi Ishii, all produced as "Roman Porno", by the Nikkatsu studio in Japan and finally all link by there theme of sexual assault on the female gender, in the main part a central character who is always called Nami. If vivid depictions of rape on screen are a blanket no in your opinion, then what ever I say next these movies are probably not for you (Leave the review now.) Ok for those of you still here, I am going to avoid talking to much about the set as a whole other than to say this movie is very different from the others in the series which follow more the route of visually stylized artistic expression. High School Co-ed although it certainly has visual merits of it's own it goes for a much rougher realistic feel. This is a down and dirty experience ruff and raw right from the get go.

Let me say from the start, no matter how controversial this film, no matter how misguided it may be at times in its presentation of despicable and brutally inhuman acts, I like this film. I have seen other reviews where they pussyfoot around the subject matter, talk about the arty ness and almost apologise for the movie. Well I didn't make it, I don't neccesarilally condone it and so I won't be apologizing for it. For a piece of nasty, raw, low budget cinema, this movie blew me away. Chusei Sone a director I previously knew nothing about and who directed this and the very visually different second movie in the series Red Classroom is a genius. Anyone that can achieve this kind of movie in a 6 week turn around (Including all post production) and within the seemingly limited confines of Nikkatsu's Roman Porno genre (Pinku films) is a powerful talent.

Great as I think this movie is let me make one thing very clear, women get raped in this movie, in extended scenes that run the gauntlet of being tastelessly designed to be erotic (Don't forget Roman Porno is an erotic genre). Pretty much the second scene of the movie is a brutal rape, and before you start thinking about all the western rape revenge movies you have seen, the women in this movie get rapped, they get beaten and that's it, there is no fantasy nonsense in which the character gets all tooled up and comes back to pick off her assailants one by one. She gets used, then she gets thrown away, end of story (Nearly). The three protagonists in this describe women as being just "A bag of guts" and that’s just how they treat them!

The interplay between three of the most despicable leads ever put on film is fantastic as they fight for position in their micro biker gang, basically all three are alpha male types,Kawashimi the fighter, Kajima the sexual master (I can't call him a lover, he is a nasty piece of work) and Sada the Psycho. Unlike the other films in the series which centre on the female character Nami and her coming to terms with sexual assault and its after effect in this film she is more just a catalyst, a schoolgirl whose planned rape, causes strains in the micro gang which are irreparable.

Most problematic for me, other than the obvious rape and its depiction within the confines of erotica, was the very young look of the schoolgirls who are assaulted partially the character Megu who could easily have been 14 years old (And may well have been as her rape scene appears not to be as vivid)

The rape of Nami in the middle of the film is one of the single most brutal and shocking scenes I have come across, ok it may not have lashings of gore, but that's what this is about, this is the total degradation and use of the female character, which she is powerless to do anything about. As her assailant tells her "You're going to get raped and there is not a dam thing you can do about it", he goes on to point out it's all her own fault anyway.

Chusei Sone gritty sty-lings, fantastic high contrast black and white inserts and use of the thumping punky title track make this a movie that for all its unpleasaness deserves to be seen.

27 years ago this must have been one of the most shocking films ever to grace a screen and 27 years later, this is still one them. Raw, noisy, dirty, artistic, offensive, amoral and beautiful all at the same time, a must see for those who like to walk out on the thinnest branches of acceptability and taste.

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Buy It: amazon.com (Only available as part of the 5 disc box set which is now OOP and rare)


Red Vertigo

In the final film in the Nikkatsu Angel Guts series (there was a sixth movie produced after the studio closed) the central character Nami is now a nurse. Nami is having a very bad day; her patients attempt to rape her, she finds her photographer boyfriend in bed with a glamour model and then she is hit by a car, the driver of which instead of taking her to hospital decides help would be best administered through a quick attempted raping (This is Angel Guts remember).

In this film the central character Nami is both naïve and yet streetwise at the same time. Her main naive is that caused by love, she comments on how much the model in the photo seems to trust her boyfriend and he tells her it's just part of his work. However, she is very trusting (naïve) as his studio doubles as the bedroom in the flat they share.
This film opens in classic Angel Guts style with a rape scene; some patients in the hospital ring the bell and when Nami goes to attend to them, they pounce on her in an attempt to rape her. However, their unhealthy state means they fail to totally subdue the feisty Nami and the main perpetrator becomes too excited and prematurely ejaculates before managing to penetrate her. After this harrowing event Nami flees the hospital and heads her to get some much needed comfort from her boyfriend. Unfortunately for Nami when she gets back so early from her shift she catches her man inflagranto with the model from the photo. Nami flees the house and runs blindly into the road were she is struck by the car of Muraki, a stock trader who has blown his clients money and whose life has gone into freefall. Murika believes he has killed Nami and instead of checking to make sure he drives around with her in the car finally stopping in a remote area and attempting to have sex with the unconscious passenger, Nami then wakes again and avoids being raped but for the second time that day is the victim of an attempted sexual assault. The now conscious Nami flees into an abandoned warehouse, pursued by Murika who again attempts to assault her, this time Nami is overpowered and it looks like she now has no way of escaping a full rape however, Murika can’t get it up and for the third time Nami escapes being raped. At this point Murika tells Nami he just wanted to have sex because he felt that would bring him luck, which seems to be TAKASHI ISHII's (finally directing one of his own Angel Guts stories) attempt at showing the audience that rape is more than about sex, it is Murika's attempt at regaining his masculinity by exercising power over another human being through sexual dominance. However, after this somewhat worthy look at rape Ishii's film takes what is maybe the dodgiest turn of all the Angel Guts films. Nami forms an emotional and sexual relationship with her would-be assailant Murika and quickly appears to fall in love with the failed stock broker. Murika is reinvirgured and can now “get hard” and Nami is happy to drift with him as they spend the remaining money on his credit card and drive aimlessly around towards the films tragic finale.

The Nikkatsu studio which was in financial freefall itself at this time appears to have let Ishii make this movie as a favor/thank you. Knowing he had always dreamed of directing they seem to have let him take what limited finances there were to realise his dream of getting behind the camera. Its low budget shows even compared with the limited budgets of the other movies in the series. For me this is the least interesting movie in the series. It does have some great ideas about the roles of masculinity and femininity within sex and sexual assault, but for the most part it drags a little too much and lacks the stylistic flair of some of the earlier movies. Towards the end of the movie there are some stand out moments both stylistically and plot related, but I can help but feel these are too little too late. The twisted relationship of the main characters is an difficult thing to stomach, not because of any visual extremes like the earlier movies, but just the message it conveys of the rapist being an “all right guy really”, it's not the most healthy. That’s not to say two people in the mind state of these beleaguered characters could not form a relationship, just that it’s certainly a questionable thing to present on screen, but then part of the strength of this series is that it makes you think about issues beyond that of normal exploitation movies.

To sum up this is certainly a movie that's worth seeing and its finale is a worthy goodbye to the Nikkatsu series, however it can’t match the power of its predecessors.

Buy it from amazon.com or buy 'The Angel Guts Box Set' from amazon.com


Angel Guts: Nami

Hot-shot reporter Nami (Eri Kanuma) employs some underhand tactics in order to get her scoop, which just so happens to be on rape and its consequences. Cold and ruthless, Nami will stop at nothing to badger her damaged victims into confessing all the gory details of their assaults so that she may turn them into exploitative media fodder and maintain her status as top office reporting lady. That is until the tables turn in quite spectacularly horrific style ...

Nami, the third edition to the Angel Guts box set, continues the exploration of rape and its personal, social and cultural implications this time through the film's namesake, Nami. This plucky young journalist has no qualms whatsoever about physically tackling her victims, literally wrestling their sad stories from them. This, of course, provides a wealth of engineered situations in which to depict the act of rape and director Noboro Tanaka certainly doesn't miss any opportunity to make this a most bizarre addition to the shocking series.

Though unconnected to the former Angel Guts entry, Red Classroom, but for the common theme of rape that links them all, Nami is, like its predecessor, hot-footing it down the media avenue. Whereas the former made a more subtle comment on the media's perpetration of ideas of sexualised women, the latter clearly sees the media as a predatory force in its own right. There are, however, still very fluid ideas about the media's role and certainly some interesting questions thrown up here, all of which you my like to ask yourselves if it weren't for the bizarre, convoluted and slightly comedic fashion in which they were petitioned which, it must be said, is quite distracting.

Nami is the first of the series to take the female as protagonist, which makes it all the more hard to stomach her merciless approach to her work. However, Nami gets a super-sized helping of just desserts when the film takes a decidedly horror-based turn with a fantastically nasty section which has a feel part Gothic and part Italian horror. From this point forwards the film starts to make less and less sense, feeling a little like it lost its way. It isn’t all bad, however, as it gives Tanaka a chance to turn his hand to further varied styles, and all to great effect. Nami's situation becomes more nightmarish as her comeuppance brings some great scenes of office surrealism, tinged ever so slightly with humour, or maybe that's just uncomfortable disbelief. Amongst this weird and wonderful final third, however, is a deadly serious montage of discarded rape victims which is certainly thought-provoking to say the least. It puts back into context the harsh reality of rape minus the fictional fluff and stylised direction.

Though interesting to watch from a directorial point of view, Nami isn't without genuinely horrific rape scenes. Though Muraki (Takeo Chii), Nami's partner in crime and almost-love interest throws up some pretty dubious and dangerous ideas about rape, Tanaka tips the balance with some difficult scenes of sexual violence. Nami's most hounded subject in particular, following a very violent rape, is left tied and bloodied amongst a grim horizon of rubbish on a disused wasteland howling like her very soul is bleeding. And so it is that the complexity of ideas surrounding rape come back to us, the viewer, as we have been as intrusive and probing as Nami’s lens, haven't we? Unless, of course, Tanaka's weird and wonderful style has convinced us we were only there for artistic merit.

Strange and horrific in its delivery but complex and manifold in its content, Nami is as questionable as it is questioning. A surprisingly testing film, Nami is probably the most stylistically and moralistically challenging of the series 8/10

Buy it: amazon.com | amazon.com (Box Set)


Angel Guts: Red Classroom

When a pornographic magazine worker becomes obsessed with the star of a rape film, he discovers the implications of the sex industry are wider reaching and much darker than he ever could have imagined.

The second edition in the Angel Guts box set sees director Chusei Sone, who also directed our initiation into this disturbing Pandora's Box, High School Co-ed, once more at the helm for the next, and equally uncompromising, glance down the dirty alley-way of sexual assault. Made a year later than its predecessor, Red Classroom is just as powerful in its portrayal of what is a notoriously problematic area for film. Taking the common Angel Guts theme of rape, Sone turns Takashi Ishii's manga to life once more with startlingly different effect to his previous work. Where High School Co-ed focused on the brutality of the act itself, Red Classroom looks at the horrific aftermath with frighteningly forceful results.

Red Classroom is not only, for me, the most stylistically competent of the series, but also the most compelling from its point of view. The only rape that actually takes place in this film is in its opening, where a group of middle-aged men gather for a seedy, smoky session around a 'blue' projection of a school girl rape. When one of these men, our pitiful protagonist Muraki (Keizo Kanie), becomes almost fetishistically obsessed with the female ‘star’ of this grainy and voyeuristic show, believing her to have a rare quality about her for a porn actress, he has no idea what a dangerous eye-opener this infatuation will become. You see Muraki works for amusingly titled porn magazine company Pornoc, where Carry On style joviality is all in a days work when your willing subject submits to gynecologically based titillation. Jaded with the sex industry, Muraki seeks out the object of his strange affections and finds her, Nami, not to be the lady he had imagined. You see Nami (Yuuki Mizuhara), far from the image of shattered innocence that once flickered on the screen before him, is now a prostitute with a voracious sexual appetite. In a hotel room rendezvous she tells him "Fuck me right now ... you'll see me vanish to some other place." But if Muraki isn't picking up the clues, he certainly latches on when he traces her after a missed encounter puts a three year separation between them. What he discovers in the distressing finale, as the film completes its full circle, is not only the devastating knock-on effect of sexual assault but of the dangerous blurring fluidity between the presentation of sex in the media and the actuality of its effect.

Intelligently and expertly directed, Sone presents a different view point of rape from a fittingly different style. Where High School Co-ed was rough and fast-paced as its biker gang subjects, Red Classroom is a slower, more deliberate study into a horrendous aftermath. Where the former took the voracity of the immediate situation, the latter is spiked with the elongated and bitter reality of mental and emotional turmoil. Replacing gritty realism with a sometimes surreal, sometimes Noir-ish tinge and an always ominous bass line, Sone shows the hulled shell of a former person is a very dark and disturbing thing indeed.

A striking, clever and stylish film, Red Classroom reaches far into the shadowy recesses of sexual assault and plucks out its dark, diseased heart 9/10 

Buy It: amazon.com | amazon.com


Acacia

An artist and her obstetrician husband live a comfortable suburban life, but have been unable to conceive a child and with the wife’s body clock ticking they decide to adopt. They settle upon a quiet, intelligent and artistically gifted young boy named Jin-seong who spends most of his time drawing quietly under an old tree at the local orphanage. Things appear to be going well although the 6 year old Jin-seong is a little odd and spends most of his time with the long dead acacia tree in the couple’s back yard. However, the couple manage to conceive a child of their own and things take a decidedly darker turn in the household.

Poor orphaned Jin-seong; a child with almost semi autistic ways is never quite able to fit in, his distant manner and quiet intelligence mean he is never going to be the couples dream child. They do, however, share some loving moments and life seems happy enough. His adopted Grandfather who lives with the couple seems to be closest to him while the wife’s Mother is very unkind talking as though he is not there and desperately voicing the opinion that there is still time for the couple to have a “real” child of their own. The sickly 8 year old girl from next door becomes Jin-seong’s close friend and together they while away their time riding Jin’s bike and sitting under the acacia. One night Jin overhears a phone conversation and, feeling spurned by his adopted mother, cycles off into the night. The days pass and Jin does not return and at the same time the seemingly dead acacia begins to grow leaves and finally blooms and as the smell of the blossom drifts through the family home life deteriorates for its' inhabitants

All the performances are strong, particularly the children with miniature lead Jin-seong (Mun Oh-bin), who was just 6 years old at the time the film was released in Korea, giving an astonishing performance for a child of that age. Quite probably the creepiest child since the Omen films, but at the same time Oh-bin and the director manage to play it just right so although he is odd and creepy in some way’s he is also very vulnerable, lost and tragic, there’s no “Mu Ha haa” cartoon evil here.

South Korean movie Acacia is one of those films that for the most part relies on giving very normal things a creepy spin; tree’s, paintings, wool, children and bicycles become objects of fear. The whole thing is shot in an aesthetically pleasing and clever way, with the carefully chosen shots adding to the films dark feeling. The film opts for a traditional score and some very well used sound effects, which is very effective and really helps set the tone of the piece. The film, however, loses it’s chance at being a work of genius for two main reasons; the first and maybe the lesser sin is the editing, which leaves the film feeling a bit choppy at times (scenes don’t seem to slide together well enough, which might not matter in a slasher-type horror but in a mood driven piece its very important,) the second problem with this film is in my opinion the script needed another rewrite, the basic premise is fantastic but it feels rough around the edges and as this is a story, mood driven piece the story needs to be a little more cohesive. The film, although a little surreal and certainly a touch weird, is not “out there” enough for the viewer to just dismiss the plot in a kind of “Oh well its another weird Asian flick” way. The couples change in behaviour to each other with the stress of the situation and the influence of the Acacia tree, whilst explainable, doesn’t have the right build up. I’m not sure if this is script, editing or cutting room floor related but its very noticeable and a great opportunity to add a powerful element to the film is lost, leaving you with the feeling of something which has been rushed.

Editing and script issues aside, Acacia has a great basic concept and still manages at times to be very effective in its creepy tone and style. The way the mostly inanimate objects are given such a sinister feel is fantastic, especially the dark and foreboding presence of the Acacia tree itself. Even when the tree has rejuvenated from it's dead form and goes into bloom something which should be a thing of beauty remains the stuff of nightmares. Although the movie has similarities in feel to many other Asian particularly new wave Japanese horror films (No need to mention them here, I am pretty sure you all know what I mean,) it avoids the use of cheap jump scenes and twisty ghosts for the most part, although it is guilty of giving the characters short dream sequences to spice up the fear levels. These, though, are for the most part pretty effective. Certainly some of the twisty plot elements are great and will leave many viewers guessing right to the end, although the various twists and plot revelations are part of the movie's charm and not the “one trick wonder” crap that has certain elements hailing the ridiculously overrated M. Night Shyamalan as a genius.

This movie has no doubt only seen the light of day in the west to ride the tsunami of Asian horror as more and more DVD labels dig deeper to find products to release, however while it has it’s failings, it is an effective little movie and should not be written off as just another cash-in on the genres current popularity. For those that rent it’s probably better to do so than buy with this one, as some people will hate it’s slow place, but for those with some patience and the ability to forgive its obvious flaws there's still some great touches to be found here.

Lackluster editing and a slightly ragged script mean this film fails to achieve creepy child genius, but it's still got to be the best "Boy and his tree", movie ever made 7/10


Ley Lines

Three childhood friends embark on a journey to escape their small town life in the finale of Takashi Miike’s tour-de-force of grim that is his Black Society Trilogy (Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, Ley Lines).

Following our introduction into the dark world of the “black society” by Shinjuku: Triad Society and the continuation through Rainy Dog, Ley Lines completes the trilogy by bringing to life another thematically related story. Continuing the shared subjects of seedy underworld existence and racial and cultural displacement, Ley Lines moves the focus to a younger generation as we see the disenchantment of modern urban life this time through the eyes of new generation of “half-breeds.”

As the culmination of the series, Takashi Miike returns to the more overt issues dealt with in the initial Shinjuku which Rainy Dog glided over in favour of gently absorbing character driven drama. Though still containing the harsh realities of the sexual and violent nature implicit in the criminal underworld, Ley Lines is the more comparatively upbeat of the loosely linked series. This is attributable to the shift towards a younger generation which, with their foregrounded heritage, Miike makes good use of by interspersing languid nostalgia with brutal reality. Following on from the worldly-weary Rainy Dog, Ley Lines seems relatively positive with the unshakable hope of youth.

Though the story of a small and tightly knit group of friends isn’t new or unique, Miike brings his own recognisable style to a scenario familiar the world over. With his trademark mix of styles he brings his familiar touches of humour and surrealism to an otherwise typically harsh slice of urban realism.

Much like its two predecessors, Ley Lines is similarly un-Hollywood in its portrayal of the criminal underbelly. Like Shinjuku and Rainy Dog, it provides an unpleasantly true-to-life glimpse of a veiled world which many would not choose to be faced with without the release of engineered plot conventions or manipulated characterisation. However, Ley Lines is occasionally considerably lighter in tone than the first two films, with coloured lenses, long takes and some very French sounding music adding an all-round lovely glow to the proceedings. As Miike isn’t one to shy away from the harsh realities of life, the warmingly lightweight lust-for-life scenes of random enjoyment only serve as a further height from which to plummet these doomed souls.

It is no accident that the trilogy should be completed by going socially full circle. From the gruelingly harsh Shinjuku to the numbingly sad Rainy Dog, Ley Lines, with all its shabby romanticism of delinquent youth, serves a more serious purpose. From its opening the scene is set for some unsettling and deep-seated cultural and racial problems that course through the film, just as in the others, forging an alliance with other issues bubbling under the surface of society.

In Ley Lines as in the Black Society Trilogy as a whole, Takashi Miike has produced films every bit as excellent as they are unsettling. Disturbingly raw but rewardingly honest, the trilogy is must-see for those who wish to look beyond the Western branding of Miike as purely a perveyor of the bizarre. A wonderfully gritty movie


Rainy Dog

A down on his luck Yakuza, shadowed by an unhinged cop and a vengeful gangster, finds solace in a make-shift family in this, the second installment of Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy (Shinjuku Triad Society, Raint Dog, Ley Lines)

Unrelated in all but theme and tone, Miike’s central work in his unapologetically downbeat trilogy sees criminal figure, Yuji (Sho Aikawa), play out his own story in a similarly gritty style to that of its predecessor, Shinjuku: Triad Society. Set this time in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei, Rainy Dog focuses once more on a harsh and de-glamourised criminal underworld existing uncomfortably but firmly in the tips and veins of modern society. Though less kinetic and more dramatically involving than the first film, Rainy Dog shares its hopelessly brutal melancholy in a typically candid portrait of an unsavoury, and frankly depressing, underworld existence.

It never rains but it pours for unlucky protagonist Yuji. Like a fish out of water, he survives by butchering and lives by killing in this dismal portrayal of urban realism. With the same relentlessly downbeat tone as Shinjuku, Miike rains almost constant tropical downpours on our ill-fated hero, adding yet more drab tones to his grim mix. Whilst, like Shinjuku, Rainy Dog looks at a sense of belonging, the focus on drama rather than action sees the theme of fulfillment come more to the fore. With a peculiar tone of something and nothing, Miike makes serious and troubling issues blend into the background of each characters lonely quest for almost attainable happiness derived from simple existence and interaction. In his typical bucking of generic trends, Miike makes a strange success of playing down the stronger issues of sex and violence and instead opts to use these as a way of drawing out the underlying emotional issues for these deeply unhappy individuals. Just as the violence is strong, quick and matter of fact, the sex is devoid of any emotion or even lust and is born from a deeper need for a fulfillment on an entirely different plane. In a film so bleak in its entirety it is this concern which is at its core; characters who are constantly striving to accomplish something so seemingly simple but without really knowing what that is or how to obtain it.

Where Shinjuku and Rainy Dog do share some similarities in theme and tone (the grim realism of a life you’d never wish for, the drab hues, the issues of cultural disengagement) Miike’s directorial style differs. Where the former contains his trademark frantic editing as a perfect showcase for the fast-paced violence and hectic chase sequences of a life on the run, the latter opts to let the unremitting rain form the structure for this human drama. With almost imperceptible emotional changes, the three leads form the gently touching bonds of lost souls in limbo, searching within each other for some crutch of stability on which to base a semblance of happiness. Drawn inexplicably to each others restless search, the dysfunctional trio of Yuji, his recently acquired mute son Ah Chen (played with brilliant proof that an understated performance can speak louder than words) and prostitute Lily (Xian-Mai Chen) make an ill-fated bid for their own version of happiness in Miike’s strangely rewarding if harrowing presentation of the innate misery in human nature.

Another gruelling installment in Takashi Miike's excellent but troubling and loosley linked trilogy. Powerful and drenched with the sadness of de-sensitisation, this is about as un-Hollywood as the crime genre gets. Another honestly accomplished


Shinjuku Triad Society

Tatsuhito (Kippei Shiina) a “dirty cop” is on the trail of gay Triad warlord Wang (Tomorowo Taguchi), who leaves a trail of sickening crime in his wake. In persuit of this particularly slippery gangster Tatsuhito comes to test his own limits and is forced to confront some painful familial and social issues.

In this first edition of Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy (Shinjuku Triad Society,Rainy Dog, Ley Lines), Shinjuku Triad Society makes for some very bleak and complex viewing. Delving into issues way below the surface of its subtitle Chinese Mafia Wars, this story of shadowy underworld dealings is a very raw and unforgiving look at the seedier side of Japan’s criminal underbelly. Filmed in a variation of styles including hand-held, Miike’s camera gives a relentlessly gruelling insight into a gritty and downbeat world where good and evil don’t exist, where there is only bad and worse.

Shinjuku opens with a typically kinetic sequence with some fast-paced crime and some dodgy sexual exploits interspersed with shots of Japan’s hectic club life as the DJ provides the tempo in a nod to Miike’s self-professed style of direction. The frantic pace slows however as we become engaged in our protagonist Tatsuhito and his persistent pursuit of warlord Wang. It soon becomes obvious that our hero Tatsuhito is more of an anti-hero in a scene of such sudden and unprovoked violence that for a moment you are stalled in total disbelief. Policemen of questionable morals are of course not unusual subject matter in film but where we are more used to a character composed of entirely immoral or amoral leanings, like Bad Lieutenant for example, Tatsuhito is less usual in the way we can still relate to him and empathise with his cause. This is of course aided by the absolutely reprehensible Wang, whose vile criminal deals and strange private life convey a character next to whom most people would compare favourably.

What unfolds from this cat and mouse tale of hunter and hunted is far more than a gritty police drama. Away from all the usual glamorising or stylising of the genre, Miike reveals with honesty an unsettlingly grim way of life which is both fascinating and repellent. Surrounding the abhorrent and multifaceted exploitation are some very sensitive and deep seated issues concerning race, identity and sexuality in a society so honour bound as to become a little neurotic about its repressions. This is absorbing from a Western-eye view and a brave move on Miike’s part to depict with unflinchingly brutal honesty such seldom portrayed concerns. Shinjuku is therefore pretty violent and sexually graphic in keeping with its realism and almost utterly bereft of any humour or similar cinematic tool to break up the unrelenting grim. Miike is clearly making no apology for this no-holds-barred representation of the reality of contemporary Japanese life and underworld associations. The screen remains as realistically shadowy as the unpleasant dealings and is a drab and bleak as the mood.

Shinjuku is a refreshingly raw if difficult piece of viewing. Ceaselessly demanding on the viewer, it rewards you with the realism gleaned from a rare view of a world stripped bare and sodomised like one of Miike’s unfortunate characters. This isn’t what you would necessarily describe as “entertainment” in a popcorn-munching beer with your mates on a Saturday night sort of a way, but it is thoroughly enthralling, thought provoking and directed with such bare-bones honesty that it is a must-see for anybody wishing to look past Hollywood and to a darker side of crime. You may want to have this one with a stiff drink though.

An excellent if harsh and difficult piece of cinema. Fascinating and distressing, it’s every bit as enthralling as it is reprehensible. An honest, brave and accomplished film from Miike once more proving he's no one-trick pony


Gomorrah

Based on the best selling book by Roberto Saviano Gomorrah is a story of power, money and blood. These are the “values” that the residents of the province of Naples and Caserta confront every day; they have practically no choice, and are forced to obey the rules of the “system”- the Gomorra. Only a lucky few can even think of leading a "normal" life.

Five stories are woven together in this violent scenario, set in a cruel and ostensibly fictional world, but one that is deeply rooted in reality.

Gomorrah won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.

www.gomorrahmovie.co.uk


Kamikaze Girls

Japanese director Tetsuya Nakashima (Memories Of Matsuko) has rapidly earned himself a reputation as a hugely talented and idiosyncratic auteur whose genre-busting films have been favourably compared to the work of directors such as Tim Burton (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; Big Fish), Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge; Romeo And Juliet) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (A Very Long Engagement; Amelie). Now, the pop culture phenomenon that has taken Japan by storm, Nakashima's Kamikaze Girls, comes to DVD courtesy of Third Window Films.

Based on the bestselling novel-turned-manga by cult author Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls concerns 17-year-old Momoko (Kyoko Fukada), a self-absorbed dreamer and ‘Lolita' fashion obsessive whose love of all things Rococo sees her fantasizing about fleeing her backcountry home and living life in 18th Century Versailles.

While selling off her father's supplies of bootleg designer fashion goods in order to fund her expensive obsession, Momoko unexpectedly meets the rebellious Ichigo (Anna Tsuchiya), a rough-and-tumble ‘Yanki' biker chick. The girls begin a tentative and unlikely relationship that soon sees the two seemingly incompatible misfits forming a unique friendship. Together, they embark on a vividly coloured, sugar sweet, hyper-stylized odyssey of female bonding all set to a pounding J-Pop beat.

Starring J-Pop idol Kyoko Fukada (The Ring 2; Dolls) and pop star turned actress Anna Tsuchiya (Dororo; Sakuran), Kamikaze Girls is delightfully exuberant trip through teenage alienation terrain in the company of two of the most fun and endearing girls ever to grace the screen.

www.thirdwindowfilms.com


Lyon, the late 1970s Police inspector François (Guillaume Canet) learns that his brother, Gabriel (François Cluzet), has been released from prison after serving ten years for murder. There’s no happy reunion for the cop and his older brother, but they share a desire to draw a line under the past. Gabriel tries to settle down and François bends over backwards to help him. But real life and the demons of the past catch up with them. For these two brothers divided by the lives they’ve chosen but bonded by blood, the paths they follow strangely seem to lead them to the same impasse.


Calvaire

Paul Bartel is the owner of a remote Inn, these days no guests stay there. Once though, the inn was a lively place, but that was when Gloria was still about. When Paul's wife Gloria left, all the enthusiasm for life he had left with her. Now she's back in his life, how ever is the person now known as Gloria the same "Woman" they once where?

Marc Stevens is a singer earning a meager living from performing at two bit gigs and living out of his van. Even though the only real adulation he receives, is from old ladies in retirement homes he sings for; he still dreams that one day he will hit the big-time. Surly it’s just around the corner. Maybe at his next engagement some distance south where he will perform at Christmas. Unfortunately for Marc, bad weather and car trouble combine to force him to make an unscheduled stop. Seemingly lost in the remote countryside he comes across a man named Boris who is looking for his lost dog in the woods. Boris directs Marc to the Inn of Paul Bartel where he can wait out the night until he can get his van fixed in the morning.

In the morning Paul tells him it will be some time before the mechanic will arrive so Marc decides to take a walk in the nearby countryside. Paul how ever begs him not to go near the village, although he will not give any solid reasons for this advice. Promising to heed Paul's advice and avoid the locals Marc sets off, however he does spy some locals in a barn and curiosity gets the better of him so he peeps inside. What he see' is a bunch of depraved country folk enjoying some of their animals in a way nature did not intend. On his return to the Inn things don’t seem quite right and it’s not long before things seem very wrong indeed. For In Marc, Paul has seen elements of Gloria or in fact he see' "Gloria" and has no wish to let "her" leave him again and so begins Marc’s Ordeal.

Calvaire is an adult horror movie, more than likely it will do nothing for passing fans of the genre who feed at the Hollywood trough and revel in it’s PG-13 slop. Its foreign, its subtitled, it moves at a slower pace taking time to develop and build. Its filled to the brim with genre homages and influences. Though this should not to be written off as a “Homage” movie, but if you’re a genre fan you will recognize many touches, from the obvious to the slightly more obscure. Not everything is clearly explained so those that want their movies spoon fed to them, instead of thinking and interpreting meanings for themselves may want to put this back on the shelf. For those of you that are still interested you however are in for a treat, because Calvaire is a modern genre movie par excellence. Straw dogs, Deliverance and Southern comfort echo in its themes as do Texas Chainsaw massacre, Don't look now and many others. For modern movies it reminded me at times very much of King of the ants and maybe it’s closest recent counterpart would be Wolf Creek. Make no mistake though this film makes Wolf Creek seem as mediocre as it really was. Calvaire is beautify shot, amongst stunning, yet foreboding countryside. While it is obviously a lower budget film, it looks very good. Its' well scripted, well thought out and powerful. like Irreversible, it once again proves not everything extreme on film originates in Asia.

Personally I never get bored of weird towns and unfriendly inbred locals in movies with the aforementioned Straw dogs, Deliverance and Southern comfort pretty much being the holy trinity of the sub genre in much the way Romero's dead cycle (The first 3, not the mediocre Land) are to the zombie sub genre. While its difficult to say how well a film will stand the test of time I would say Calvaire has a shot at joining them. Even though it is influenced by and to a point homages them, it would be difficult to make a movie like this and it not. Calvaire certainly has enough elements to make it it's own movie. Look out for the bar scene in which the all male inbred patrons of the local bar have a impromptu surrealist shindig to rival any ever put on film, a scene so good it makes the film worth seeing by itself. Everything you want from a city slicker trapped with crazy rednecks is in place, all that’s left to wonder is will it be a case of  squeal piggy squeel ... oh you know it will, its just a case of when!

Genre fans who have heard mute buzz on the internet or even walked past it a few time and thought "Should I?" yes you should Calvaire is insane country dweller class!

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City Of Men - image

City Of Men - image

City Of Men - image

City Of Men - image

In City Of Men, producer Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardner) returns to the Brazilian favelas of his Academy Award-nominated film, City of God. Growing up in a culture dictated by violence and run by street gangs, teenagers Acerola (Douglas Silva) and Laranjinha (Darlan Cunha) have become close as brothers. With their eighteenth birthdays fast approaching, Laranjinha sets out to find the father he never met, while Acerola struggles to raise his own young son. But when they suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of a gang war, the lifelong friends are forced to confront a shocking secret from their shared past.

City Of Men- Trailer


Hidden

Back in February, following The Seventh Continent I found myself vowing not to watch another Michael Haneke film for reasons that, though I found him to be a very talented director, I disagreed with his repetitious animal slaughter. (Not only slaughter, but seemingly dwelt-upon suffering for his arrogant self-serving ‘artistic’ purposes.) I was always keen to watch Hidden (Caché), and had heard nothing about animal slaughter so, believing him to be the aforementioned talented director, I thought it was worth a shot. How wrong I was on both counts. Know, reader, that this is a film which not only needlessly sacrifices life for art, but is also an awful film, and one which seriously causes me to question my previous statements on Haneke’s directorial ability.

Very much ‘borrowing’ from David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Hidden purports the premise of doorstep-delivered video’s of the home of cultured couple, Georges and Anne Laurent (the ubiquitous Daniel Auteuil and the classy Juliette Binoche.) Clearly disturbed, the married partners, parents to 12-year old Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky,) have no clue as to who would send such things or why. It becomes apparent, however, that Georges is harbouring secrets which could pertain to the mystery.

Barely in my life have I ever seen anything so pretentious and simultaneously so utterly devoid of substance. But who will say that this is a bad film? Certainly not the critics, for this is Michael Haneke, don’t you know, as they dish-out the awards and nominations for what they’ve all been blindsided into thinking is a quality piece of World Cinema. And who will argue? Lest we be tagged with the dunce-label of ‘not getting it’, appearing to be philistines for we cannot, for the life of us, figure out what on earth was the point of such a shamefully self-indulgent failure? Not only is this film fatuous, but far too long, dull, excruciatingly pointless and a criminal misuse of a potentially (and previously) potently explored premise.

So bad is this film, in fact, that it almost doesn’t even warrant extensive deconstruction. Any Haneke fan will know that he is often about touching the void  with his content, yet here is a case of all void with no pregnant vacancy, just empty pretentions, severlely misjudged opportunities, and guff of the highest order. Supposedly an exploration of guilt and morality, the only thing Haneke succeeded in exploring were the furthest reaches of my boredom, frustration, and point of view that World Cinema is so often capable of being overrated vacuousness.  The should-have-been classic performances were anything but with nothing to work from (almost meaningless plot and similar, dull dialogue (and no, I’m not mistaking well thought out minimal, intelligent script for poorly-written, boredom-inducing nonsense)), the plot is wafer-thin, the supposedly disturbing tone is nil, and the outcome, resolution and body of the film is nought from start to finish. Anybody who’s not fond of an open ending should steer clear. And that’s not open in a thinky, Lynchian way, it’s just frustrating, anger-enducing arrogance. Wholly disinteresting and overrated…and yes, I do get it.

An absolute exercise in futility and a waste of supposed ‘talent’, Hidden precisely encompasses everything I hate about the pretentions of the label of ‘World Cinema.’  I’m a fan of the wider genre of ‘World Cinema,’ but this is one of the most irritating and thoroughly terrible pieces of shit I’ve ever seen 3/10 (and I’m erring on the side of generosity here.) Go watch Lost Highway instead.


Creature Stills:

Ofelia and Pan

Doug Jones as the child-eating 'Pale Man'

Drawing Board:

 

Set Design - Totem

Set Design - sketch of tree/doorway to the Labyrinth

Character Stills:

Sergi López as Captain Vidal

Ivana Baquero as Ofelia


Em Emalming (Enbamingu)

Young female embalmer Miyako is called in to restore the body of a young man who has committed suicide, before the funeral. While performing the embalming process she finds herself pricks by a needle buried deep in the boy’s flesh where it should not be. During the night the head is removed from the body and stolen, Miyako begins a desperate search for it so she can finish her work. Miyako search finds her encountering organ harvesting, religious cults, incest, psychopathic schizophrenics as well as some very dark secrets from here own past.

EM Embalming, is one of those movies that does not really fit into any definable genre, art house with horror elements might be the best description, but it also dips in and out of many other genres at will, as is common with many movies from the east, having no respect for the rules Hollywood set in stone of the ability of stores and video libraries to put the film in an appropriate section. Directed by Cannes award winning director Shinja Aoyama and starring Reiko Takashima (Black Angel) as well as featuring a fabulous Dead Pan performance by Toshio Shiba as the mysterious man with a very dark past Dr Fuji.
Some people have been calling this a masterpiece and sure there is a lot to enjoy there, but I get many of these people have kind of gone oh well its foreign and glossy so it must be great. Actually what makes this film great for me is not the “art house” visuals and deep character study, but the fact that the plot is like some kind of warped “sunset beach” style soap opera on acid. With each new scene more and more ridiculous revelations are made about the various characters and there pasts as if the script is constantly trying to up the stakes and top itself for ridiculas revelations as the film moves forward. There where points where revelations that where meant to be dark and forbidding had me in stitches as fi (Who was also watching) and I waited for the director to through in kitchen sink wielding aliens.
 
So I guess your wondering about the notorious embalming scenes and if they are nasty (You freaks you), well yes while this is not a horror movie the subtle and cold embalming scenes are very nasty and very realistic as bits are hacked off, organs are scooped up and large needles are inserted …blood pours down the embalming table and things get nasty.
As with much art house it’s character study where this film really works (even though many of the character are ridiculous and there back story’s insane). Myko striving to “understand death” through her embalming. The crazy sect leader seeking to use needles to cure the insane, the worst cop in the world seeking to be constantly in Miyakos company, the twisted girl who seeks to revive her dead boyfriend, The fabulous Dr Fuji (he needs to return in his own film) and his dark past and the politician parents who seek only to preserve their honour.
I don’t want to give away much of the plot in the form of spoilers because it’s the insane plot which makes for the high point in this movie, but Dr Fugi and his specially equipped organ harvesting truck is certainly a high point to look out for.

This is the stuff cult movies are made of, there is no way it can appeal to the mainstream and even some cult movie fans will be put off by the art house sensibilities, but the art house style pretentiousness combined with a plot so ridiculous I am smiling as I think about it now makes this a movie many lovers of “Wierdsploitation” will see as a collection must.


The Quiet Family

The Quiet Family is the tale of an urban family who after an offer to buy a mountain hiking lodge move to the Korean countryside with dreams of a new peaceful life. How ever life never goes as you plan and in this very black farcical comedy by writer and director Kim Ji-woon (Foul King, Tale of two sisters) that’s certainly the case. The lodge attracts no guests at first and then when people do begin to stay things take a dark twist.

The quiet family is probably best known in the west for being the source material for Takashi Miikes “The Happiness of the Katakuris”, and while Miike has lifted scenes directly from this movie, the two films do differ enough even for hardcore fans of Miikes film to want to see this, for one thing this is not a musical which as a long time hater of the musical genre, no matter how hip or weird it is means I enjoyed this film much more. Anyway enough of Miike, this is Kim Ji-woon’s movie and with the recent success in the west of “A tale of two sisters” he is now a very respected genre director in his own right.

The quiet family is the Kang’s, a couple and there three children to teenage girls and a son of twenty one, also living with them is the fathers brother, together they hope to build a new life for themselves in the idyllic mountainous countryside which is popular with hikers. After getting the Lodge spick and span the family waits for there first guests to arrive un-fortunately the hikers seem to pass by without stopping and the only visit they get is from an insane old woman who rants widely about evil and spits a lot I can’t find the name of the actress who plays her as the titles of the film are in Korean (sadly not a language I can read), but the performance she gives is fantastic, delivering an insanely (Pun intended) good performance. The Kang's though don’t loose hart as there is a road due to be built near the lodge making it more accessible to tourists. The road is delayed but the kang’s receive there first guests and thing appear to be on the up, that is until at check out time when they turn up dead. Not wishing to have the reputation of the struggling lodge ruined the Kang’s decide the best course of action is to bury the unfortunate lodgers in the woods near the house, they have however forgotten there’s a road due for construction in that area soon.

Kim Ji-woon’s “the Quiet family” is an excellent farcical comedy, the humour is very black, but genuinely funny and translates well even to a western audience watching with subtitles (The Tai Seng DVD does contain an optional dubbed language track, if you really are bothered by subtitles). Each of the members of the Kang family are realized well and it’s easy to get a sense of each of their personalities, which really helps the film to hit target. Son Kang-ho who played the lead character in Park Chan-wook’s powerful movie “Sympathy for Mr Vengeance” is great here as the young son balancing his performance perfectly managing to be very funny while not becoming cartoonist. Choi Min-sik who played Oh Dae-su in “Oldboy” here plays the good hearted uncle who is constantly referred to by his brother as an idiot. All the cast however turn in a top notch performance that fits the tone and feel of the movie.

The soundtrack is great and each track fits the scene it accompanies very well, nice to see music chosen because it fits the movie and not the market for Soundtrack tie in CD’s which seems all to popular with films produced in the west these day’s. The Tai Seng (Region 2) DVD itself contains a featurette with the guy who put the soundtrack together and he explains the reasons for his choices.

Farcical and black comedy can often fall flat on it’s face (See the Coen Brothers recent remake of “The Lady Killers”), in fact comedy in general is often very hit and miss of course it’s partly down to an individual sense of humour to a point, but for me the quiet family hits the spot. I think it helps that Kim Ji-woon is not pushing to hard for laugh out loud comedy and signposted “Funny scenes”, rather he lets the film flow at it’s own pace and allows the viewer to decide what is funny and amusing.

Kim Ji-woon’s “The Quiet family is one of the finest black comedies in the last decade, cruelly funny and wickedly original

Buy It: amazon.co.uk


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