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Now in our sixth calendar year
PCR #277  (Vol. 6, No. 28)  This edition is for the week of July 11--17, 2005.

The Sanford Summit---Part 2
 by William Moriaty
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
 by Mike Smith
"Fantastic Four"  by Nolan B. Canova
The Business of Horror
 by Drew Reiber
Rock Star: INXS - Yet Another Major New Wave Disappointment...."Fantastic Four" Review...."Land of the Dead" Review
 by Andy Lalino
Latest Reviews and Shohei Imamura
 by Peter Card
"War of the Worlds"...."Fantastic Four"
 by John Lewis
King Kong 2005....MOH Meltdown
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Empty Nest .... Hypocrites .... Coming Soon....He Can Keep "O Bla Dee, O Bla Da"....Jaws: The Story, Part 25
 by Mike Smith
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Asian Film Update by Peter Card

Latest Reviews and Shohei Imamura

Hello again my long suffering readers, Iíve got some quick catching up to do about the few Asian movies I have seen since my "Howlís Moving Castle" encounter. After a quick run down of the films it will be Imamura time!

The Asian movies Iíve seen have been: (rating based on a four-star scale)

  • Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow)
  • Bullet in the Head (John Woo)
  • Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Shuji Terayama)
    Note: I watched both the 10 minute short and the 80 minute feature. Iíd recommend both since they are different movies with the same title.
  • The Lower Depths (Akira Kurosawa)
  • Dr. Akagi (Shohei Imamura)

    Iíll admit this list is short and a low point on the scale of Asian films watched per week. However, my luck picking which Asian films to see was good. "Kung Fu Hustle" was a cartoony flick that Iím sure any respectable popcorn-munching moviegoer would enjoy. "Bullet in the Head" was a great big slab of Woo magic. Although the last 40 minutes of the film does not quite match the pace of the main bulk of the film, itís a great experience and one that Iíll think of immediately when Wooís name is dropped.

    "Emperor Tomato Ketchup" marks my first step into true Japanese experimental film. Unfortunately, underground films from Asia are tough to come by unless they carry with them a certain notoriety. Ketchup became known in America after Stereolab released an album of the same name. Being an experimental film, there is no plot to summarize here but I will say that the experience is gripping and often times disturbing. Unlike the majority of todayís Asian Shock, Ketchup carries with itself a close relevance to reality thatís concerned in particular with dynastical power throughout Japanís history.

    "Lower Depths" is an excellent play adaptation as well as a cinematic masterwork by Kurosawa. This film comes with a high recommendation especially for those interested in Kurosawa and/or poverty plays. The last film I watched was my third Shohei Imamura experience. Let us begin then with Imamura..

    Shohei Imamura is a semi-popular Asian director now thanks to DVD and particularly to his film "The Pornographers" (Out in the USA from Criterion). "The Pornographers" was my first step into his filmmaking universe simply out of the mass availability of the film and its reputation. "The Pornographers" was a racy film at the time of its release and especially since it focused on an adult filmmaker. "The Pornographers" and indeed Imamuraís interest in story telling results in an exposure of true human nature and more importantly a revealing truth about the sweet and proper image the Japanese carried with them post-WWII. This was similar to Fukasakuís intent in making his yakuza films. However, Fukasaku concerned himself with meditating on our disposition to violence.

    Imamuraís films present themselves as wake-up calls to the audience. Fortunately he is never heavy-handed in presenting us with the truth, Imamura may intend to show us things realistically often spiked with dark humor, but his intentions are never on the surface. Imamuraís characters are always difficult and his presentation of them complicates our appraisal further.

    For example, in "Dr. Akagi", the titular character is a man who is fighting a hepatitis outbreak although he is presented as slightly crazy and is often the butt of the filmís comedy. The lighthearted comical feeling the film creates around Dr. Akagi makes the viewer work hard to discern what they think about the main character. Imamura has created difficult characters in each of the films I have seen by him but he used different tricks in each film to complicate his characters.

    The most philosophically and cinematically complex of his films that Iíve seen has most certainly been "Vengeance is Mine". I saw this film probably about 6 weeks ago and I had intended to do a write up on it. Well the whole business of actually writing about that film was instantly difficult when I tried to plan that weekís article. The film carried so much impact although my attempts to rationalize its message, the directorís technique or indeed the morality of its characters, I failed. Iíd give my highest recommendations to any of these films but if you can find "Vengeance is Mine" (only available on VHS) go with that first.

    Well thatís good enough for now.

    "Asian Film Update" is ©2005 by Peter Card.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.