Thursday, May 23, 2013
Looks like Minna! Esper Dayo! isn't the only good dorama this season. You can always count on WOWOW to not settle for the mediocre. Eiji from KDO plays the main character Sawano, a father suffering from depression who comes across 7 undelivered letters from 7 years ago and sets off to deliver the letters. Kuriyama Chiaki is Yu, the first person he delivers a letter and she involves herself in Sawano's affairs.
My first impression was that this was going to be a sappy Shinzanmono type series. However, there is something about the direction, music and story that gives me the impression this is not just a generic 7 sob stories dorama. That its not going through the motions and the dorama takes some interesting turns with the characters. They also don't really milk anything to the point of over-sentimentality.
I don't want to spoil anything. I really enjoyed going into Haitatsu Saretai Watashitachi with no knowledge whatsoever and from the opening scene with Kuriyama Chiaki holding a blade against her neck, this dorama had my attention. My opinion of Haitatsu Saretai Watashitachi went from not bad, to good to this good be a very good dorama. I really like Eiji's character though its probably his easiest acting job ever. He just needs to look disinterested in everything.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Unfortunately, no Minna! Esper dayo! this week. Not having my week tousatsu fix is worse than not having Game of Thrones. Anyway, decided to watch something that I've been meaning to watch for a long time which is the making Love Exposure. I love this Jmovie classic. Its the only movie that I've written two reviews for. One general review and one spoiler review discussing all the subtext. As Mitsushima Hikari says in the making of, its a simple story but its so complicated.
I don't really get to see much stuff about making of Japanese movies. Most of the time with American movies, its everyone kissing each other's asses saying how great they are. The making of Love Exposure starts out with Sono Sion saying to the effect that he's not 100% sure about the movie and he sometimes thinks he shouldn't be making it.
It is very interesting to watch Sono Sion direct. He keeps a figurative distance between him and Mitsushima Hikari and he is not hesitant to tell her that her acting was bad. There's this bit where Sono Sion says he can't feel anything from her acting and calls her baka. As the staff on the movie slink away for a break, you don't know whether Mitsushima Hikari is a mess because its a crying scene or because of the huge pressure the director is putting on her. I'd like to see Sono Sion direct Fukuda Kyoko and scold her for having only 1 facial expression.
I need to rewatch this 4 hour epic with some KFC hot and spicy. Can't believe Sono Sion shot this epic movie in only 1 month! One month to shoot 4 hours of one of the greatest jmovies of all time. Had a look for the Japanese blu-ray and apparently the one they are selling on HMV Japan is the international version cause it has English subtitles and the English name on the cover. Its such an unpopular movie in Japan that there's no blu-ray Japanese version.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Sono Sion's previous movie Himizu was altered and set against the backdrop of the Tohoku earthquake. Clearly the Fukushima disaster was something Sono Sion wanted to talk about and The Land of Hope is the story that he wanted to tell. The Land of hope is set in the fictional town of Nagashima where another nuclear disaster happens and residents are forced to evacuate.
Natsuyagi Isao (RIP) plays Ono, the old farmer who's house sits just outside of the border of the 20km evacuation zone. Everyone else is evacuated and Ono urges his son and daughter-in-law to leave while he stays behind with his mentally ill wife. The story is told through 3 viewpoints, Ono and his wife who refuses to leave, Ono's son and wife who move further away and a young couple who lived nearby.
There are no upskirt shots, no violence and no soliloquies with classical music. The Land of Hope is Sono Sion at his most serious and it is devoid of melodrama. Instead, it is an observation how people involved in disasters like Fukushima deal with those situations. We get some interesting commentary that's not preachy about the Japanese government keeping vital information from people and how the Japanese media propagates this as well by spreading false information that things are not that bad.
One of the interesting aspects of the movie is Japanese society's reaction to the dangers of radiation. People are made fun of being paranoid or bullied because they came from the danger areas. Its as if Japanese society puts on this face of everything will be all right and any behaviour that suggests otherwise is frowned upon.
There's this scene from a tv show where this housewife says that she stopped wearing masks because the other housewives disapprove her being the only one showing sensitivity to the radiation issue and she ends by saying that everyone wants to forget about radiation and be positive. I like that its not one-sided criticism with Ono's daughter-in-law developing radiation paranoia. I guess this is Sono Sion looking at both issues of turning a blind eye and overreaction to the radiation problem.
The heart of the movie is Ono, the old man. Jdorama fans will know him better as Abe Hiroshi's father in Going My Home. Unfortunately he passed away last week. In this movie, he moves very well, can still run and carry his wife on his back. Ono is the stubborn old man who refuses to move, dotes on his wife who has dementia and is concerned about the future of this son and daughter-in-law.
I can't really rate The Land of Hope as a must watch movie. The narrative is a bit lacking and slow but the acting is good and there a few beautiful moments in this movie. Its more of a social message movie instead of an exciting narrative about society. I'd still recommend it, its just good, not great.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Monday, May 13, 2013
Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo is one weird artistic movie. The title character Kirishima, captain of the volleyball team and most popular dude in the school never appears but what we get are all the other characters in the school trying to deal with Kirishimas absence. He permeates every conversation in this movie but only his absence is felt.
Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo is a high school movie about the various characters that we always see; the popular girls group, the athletes, the lone musician girl and the nerds. The story is also told from multiple point of views though there are not interesting revelations.
So I'm watching this movie thinking I've seen all the characters and nothing much is happening. Its cool it has multiple viewpoints but when is the payoff coming? There's a non-climatic scuffle in the end that confused the hell out of me. Have I been watching 1 1/2 hours of nothing?
Then the 'true climax' of the movie happens when the camera is pointed at the head nerd and he has an answer for why he does what he does and Kirishima's best friend runs off crying because he is living life of no meaning. He is near the top in the school hierachy yet he has no purpose. That's the only thing I got from this movie.
To summarise, there's no plot in Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo. Nothing really happens that we've not seen before and it doesn't lead anywhere interesting. I'm always complaining about jdoramas telling instead of showing but this movie isn't showing me anything new or interesting about Japanese high school life. I just don't get the praise for this movie.
Like the popular girl group. You've got the Queen-bitch, Kirishima's girlfriend with her best friend who is more like a slave and the two girls who don't really like her but hang around her because she's dating Kirishima and because they don't want to be hated by other girls. Ho-hum. I've seen this so many times in other doramas already and they actually lead somewhere.
Usually for movies that I don't get like No Country for Old Men, at least I can understand what they were trying to do. With Kirishima, Bukatsu Yamerutteyo, I have no idea what its trying to achieve. Nice to see Ohgo Suzuka again but she doesn't get to do anything with her character.