Fantasia 2016 Review: Inerasable

A writer (Yuko Takeuchi) and a student (Ai Hashimoto) seek information from a Buddhist priest in the Japanese film Inerasable, directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. Inerasable is being shown at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
A writer (Yuko Takeuchi) and a student (Ai Hashimoto) seek information from a Buddhist priest in the Japanese film Inerasable, directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. Inerasable is being shown at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

A novelist (Yuko Takeuchi) has been writing short horror stories based on suggestions sent in by her readers. She gets a letter from Ms. Kubo (Ai Hashimoto), a student who has heard strange noises coming from her bedroom; swishing noises that sound like someone sweeping the tatami.

The nameless author remembers getting a similar letter a few years ago. . .when she finds it, she discovers that it was from a tenant in the same building. And that woman’s young daughter had acted as if she could see something. . . up near the ceiling. Then Kubo learns that another former resident of the building committed suicide shortly after moving somewhere else. (His landlady has a creepy story about the last time she saw him.)

Kubo and the writer start working together, trying to figure out what drove the man to kill himself. They look at old photos, land records and maps, and talk to old timers in the neighbourhood to learn about previous buildings where Kubo’s apartment block now stands, and the people who lived and sometimes died in them.

They go farther and farther back in time, and travel to other cities, too. They hear stories of apparent madness, fatal accidents, murder, and more suicides, all connected in some way. Restless spirits seem to be everywhere.

At one point, a young man who knows all about the ghost stories, rumours and gossip on Kyushu Island  casually mentions that the locals think just hearing those stories will leave you cursed. Oh, oh! “Ah, a classic ghost story rule!” (or words to that effect) says the writer’s husband, knowingly.

Director Yoshihiro Nakamura also made Fish Story (2009), Golden Slumber (2010) See You Tomorrow, Everyone (2013) and The Snow White Murder Case (2014), which were all shown at previous editions of Fantasia. See Inerasable at the Fantasia international Film Festival on Friday, July 22, 2016, at 5 pm in the Hall Theatre of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

Inerasable

Directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura,  written by Kenichi Suzuki, based on a book by Fuyumi Ono.

Cast: Yuko Takeuchi, Ai Hashimoto, Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kenichi Takito, Kuranosuke Sasaki,  107 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles.

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FNC 2015: Yakuza Apocalypse has tattoos, swords, knives, fists and fangs, a stinky kappa, a fighting frog and vampires!

This frog packs a mean punch, and mean kicks. too, in Takashi Miike's film Yakuza Apocalypse. It's part of the lineup at Montreal's Festival du nouveau cinema.
This frog packs a mean punch, and mean kicks. too, in Takashi Miike’s film Yakuza Apocalypse. It’s part of the lineup at Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinema.

Takashi Miike – that should be enough information for many of you. For others, how about yakuza vampires and Yahan Ruhian, one of the baddest bad guys from Indonesian film The Raid?

What about a fuzzy frog, adept at martial arts? That creature up there at the top of the page?

There’s a female mob boss, too, for some gender equality.

Plot, you want a plot? OK. Lily Franky plays Kamiura, one of those mythical gangsters who protects the townsfolk from harm, and only goes after other gangsters.

Recent recruit Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) admires him immensely, and hopes to be like him one day. Little does he know how soon that day will arrive.

In Yakuza Apocalypse, Yayan Ruhian's character looks like a geeky tourist at first glance, but he soon unleashes his lethal fists and feet.
In Yakuza Apocalypse, Yayan Ruhian’s character looks like a geeky tourist at first glance, but he soon unleashes his lethal fists and feet.

Kageyama doesn’t know it yet, but Kamiura is a vampire gangster. He seems indestructible until the arrival of two mysterious strangers, who demand that he rejoin some syndicate that he previously abandoned. After his death (!) Kamiura still manages to bite Kageyama, and thereby anoint him as his successor. Mayhem ensues. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s fun. Nothing like Audition, though!

Yakuza Apocalypse, in Japanese with English subtitles, 115 minutes long. Directed by Takashi Miike, with Hayato Ichihara, Lily Franky, Yayan Ruhian.
Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, 21:00
Program #178
Cineplex Odeon Quartier SALLE 10, 350 Emery St. (metro Berri-UQAM)

 

NYAFF and Fantasia 2015 Review: Battles Without Honor and Humanity

Bunta Sugawara as a gangster in the 1973 Japanese film Battles Without Honor and Humanity, which is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.
Bunta Sugawara as a gangster in the 1973 Japanese film Battles Without Honor and Humanity, which is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity! What an appropriate title! Many yakuza films would have us believe that there are rules to be obeyed, a code of conduct to be followed, that there is, in fact, honour among thieves. This film just laughs at such silly notions . . . beats them to a pulp, and throws them right out the window.

And the various rituals and ceremonies? When it’s time for someone to give up a finger, no one is quite sure how it’s supposed to be done. A woman says “I saw it in Osaka, once.”

Battles Without Honor and Humanity was made in 1973, though the story it tells begins just after World War II, in Hiroshima. Japan is under U.S. occupation, and U.S. soldiers are running wild and acting like animals. The local crooks almost look civilized in comparison, which is quite the feat.

The film mixes conventional scenes with parts that are like a vintage version of 60 Minutes, with a narrator describing feuds and alliances, and onscreen text telling us how and when certain people were killed.

Gangs struggle for supremacy within the city, and gangsters struggle for power within their gangs. A boss cries poor so he can get away with underpaying his underlings. There’s lots of yelling and arguing; fights are not elegantly choreographed. Not one of these guys seems like a criminal mastermind.

Frankly, I couldn’t keep track of all the lying, plotting and double crossing that was going on. I could have used a family tree and a score card. Maybe that’s because the film is based on the memoirs of a gangster and real life can be more complicated than fiction? Battles Without Honor and Humanity was also part of the lineup at the recent New York Asian Film Festival.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity

Crime / Thriller / Classic / Retro Japan 1973, 99 min., DCP, Japanese (with English subtitles)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Screenplay: Kazuo Kasahara, Koji Shundo, Koichi Iiboshi
Cast:Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Nobuo Kaneko, Kunie Tanaka, Goro Ibuki, Tatsuo Umemiya, Tsunehiko Watase, Seizo Fukumuto

Saturday, Aug 1, 2015, 2:50 p.m., Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 5, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com

 

Fantasia audience makes Sion Sono’s Love & Peace extra special

 

Page 248 of the Fantasia International Film Festival's catalogue is devoted to the Sion Sono film Love & Peace.
Page 248 of the Fantasia International Film Festival’s catalogue is devoted to the Sion Sono film Love & Peace.

Live blog post: I’m just recently home from watching Sion Sono’s film Love & Peace at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival. (North American premiere, BTW!) I want to write  a few words about it while it is still fresh in my memory. (I will admit, I got a bit distracted by hunger – had to make a snack. . . then I had to make a photo to go with this post. . . also had a quick peek at Facebook, sorry!)

The thing I wanted to say about Love & Peace, besides the fact that it’s very enjoyable, is that the enthusiasm of the Fantasia audience added a lot to the experience. Like. . . salt, ketchup, vinegar, mayonnaise, or whatever thing you like to add to your French fries (frites). Or butter, jam, peanut butter on your toast. . . .that extra ingredient that makes things better.

I appreciate the huge screen and a great sound system in the Hall Theatre of Concordia University, but it’s the cheers, laughter and enthusiastic applause of the people around me that make it feel like an EVENT. For sure I would have laughed a lot if I had watched it at home on my computer, but it was so much better at Fantasia!

People applauded as soon as the name of writer and director Sion Sono appeared onscreen. They also cheered and applauded at certain key points during the film.

Love & Peace is about hopes, dreams, music and the love that pets have for their people, no matter what. Whether they deserve it or not.

 

 

Fantasia 2015 Review: Princess Jellyfish is wonderfully cute and fluffy fun

Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.
Rena Nonen, left, and Masaki Suda are the main stars of Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime. Princess Jellyfish is being shown at the 2015 Fantasia Inernational Film Festival in Montreal.

NOTE: Princess Jellyfish will be shown at 4 p.m., Saturday, July 25, 2015, as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.

OMG!!! The plot of Princess Jellyfish is as unbelievable as your average fairy tale (or Japanese or Korean TV drama) but who cares? It’s so much fun! I was happy to make the old “leap of faith” and just go along for the ride. I can imagine the laughs and cheers in the Hall Cinema right now! Go see it if you can!

Princess Jellyfish is based on Kuragehime, a 15-volume manga that first appeared in November 2008. (An 11-episode anime was shown on Japanese TV in 2010.)

OK, that plot, as briefly as possible. Several nerdy women of assorted ages and interests live in Amamizukan, an old Tokyo apartment building. They call themelves The Sisterhood, though they could also be called otakus and NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training.)

Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.
Tsukimi (Rena Nonen, centre) with her fellow nerds in the Japanese film Princess Jellyfish. The film is based on the multiple-volume manga Kuragehime.

Our main character, Tsukimi (Rena Nonen) who wants to be an illustrator, is obsessed with jellyfish. The walls of her room are covered in sketches of them. Ms. Banba studies trains and their schedules. Chieko is interested in traditional Japanese culture and always wears kimono; Mayaya is into the epic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (and toys assocated with it). Lady Jiji likes “elderly dandies.” Mme. Juon Mejiro is the most important person in the building; she is a manga artist who is never seen. She’s like some kind of oracle – the residents slip questions under her door, and she answers the same way. She has banned men from the building. The others have no problem with that, because men make them so uncomfortable anyway. So do fashionistas. They turn to stone (petrify!) when in the presence of either.

Kuranosuke (Masaki Suda), the cross-dressing son of a politician, meets this gang after helping Tsukimi out of a jellyfish-related jam. She tells them that his name is Kurako; his clothes, makeup and wig are convincing enough that they accept him as a woman. Somewhat surprisingly, they don’t say anything about his deep voice until well into the film. Kuranosuke explains to Tsukimi that he wears women’s clothing because he cares about fashion and has no interest in going into politics. Under his wig he has fashionably blond hair; at school the girls flock around him, eager for his attention.

The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn't it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.
The nerds of Princess Jellyfish live here, in Amamizukan. Nice, isn’t it? They have to band together to keep the building from being demolished.

Developers want to tear down Amamizukan, and other nearby buildings, to improve the area, and make it all shiny and modern. (Some might wonder, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”)
Kuranosuke’s father assumes that supporting development will improve his political fortunes.

The Sisterhood is not happy about this at all, but they seem resigned to it; they have always felt powerless. Kuranosuke encourages them to make an effort to fight back, and not to just accept the decisions that others have made.

There are many themes in Princess Jellyfish. Among them: evil politicians and developers, which is connected to the old “you can’t fight City Hall” trope; feeling like an outcast, finding a place to fit in, the long-lasting scars of being bullied, longing for absent mothers. Some really old U.S. movies with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney had a “we’ll put the show on right here in the barn!” trope and Princess Jellyfish has a modern approximation of that.
Note for K-drama fans: Chieko is in charge of the building while her mother is in Korea. As Chieko puts it, “she went there to chase Lee.” That would be actor Lee Byung-hun. In the manga Chieko’s mother is chasing Bae Yong-joon (Yon-sama) who became a huge star in Japan and elsewhere, because of his role in the popular Korean TV drama Winter Sonata. The Korea Times has more information about the Yon-sama phenomenon.

BTW: Masaki Suda plays Karuma Akabane in Assassination Classroom, another film, based on manga and anime, that was shown at Fantasia this year.

PRINCESS JELLYFISH
Director: Taisuke Kawamura
Screenplay: Toshiya Oono, Akiko Higashimura
Cast: Rena Noonen, Masaki Suda, Hiroki Hasegawa, Chizuru Ikewaki
Company: Asmik Ace Entertainment

Saturday, July 25, 4 p.m., Concordia Hall Theatre, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

 

The Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 14-Aug. 4, 2015. Read more about the festival at fantasiafestival.com