2 May 2016

HANA-BI, KIKUJIRO AND DOLLS- A TRIPLE BILL OF TAKESHI KITANO FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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HANA-BI, KIKUJIRO AND DOLLS: A TRIPLE BILL OF TAKESHI KITANO FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS.

HANA-BI. (1997) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY TAKASHI KITANO. STARRING TAKESHI KITANO, KAYOKO KISHIMOTO AND REN OSUGI.

KIKUJIRO. (1999) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY TAKESHI KITANO. STARRING TAKESHI KITANO AND YUKUSE SEKIGUCHI.

DOLLS. (2002) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY TAKESHI KITANO. STARRING MIHO KANNO AND HIDETOSHI NISHIJIMA.

I had the best time of my life watching these three superb Japanese-language movies back-to-back over the May Bank Holiday this year. My first big summer Bank Holiday of 2016 was spent wholly immersed in flowers and butterflies and angels and the glorious colours, beautiful music and tender, heartfelt emotions of a Takeshi Kitano film and I absolutely loved it!

Okay, so half the guys who read my reviews have probably run away screaming by now, haha, but for those who've remained, don't worry. There's plenty of violence and blood and guts and even appearances from the Yakuza in the films too. The films are by no means sappy or soppy. They pack a powerful punch emotionally, visually and intellectually and they're all three of them the brainchild of Takeshi Kitano, an extremely interesting character indeed.

Takeshi Kitano was born in Tokyo in 1947. He's also known by his nickname 'Beat Takeshi,' a throwback to his background in stand-up comedy in the mid-1970's. He acts in both HANA-BI and KIKUJIRO and he's so super-cool in them both and so funny in a deadpan kind of way that I could well imagine him doing comedy and being feckin' brilliant at it...!

As well as being one of Japan's most respected movie directors (HANA-BI won the Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice Film Festival and it was named Best Non-European Film at the 1997 European Film Academy Awards), the quirkily handsome Takeshi Kitano is uber-talented at a bunch of other stuff too. He's also a writer, a cartoonist and a painter, and his paintings are absolutely stunning. How do I know this? Because some of his gorgeous artwork features in HANA-BI and KIKUJIRO, that's why...!

In HANA-BI, Beat Takeshi plays Nisho, a tough detective with a soft centre who quits his job when his best mate in the force is left a paraplegic after an horrendous shoot-out. Nishi devotes his retirement time to taking his dying wife on a wonderful holiday and helping Horibe, his friend in the wheelchair, to lead a life of at least some fulfilment and happiness by taking up painting.

Nishi is an unpredictable chap with a penchant for violence if he's crossed. He's borrowed money from the Yakuza to fund the holiday for his wife and, when the lads in the sharp suits show up looking for their dosh, the fur not unnaturally flies and things get a little heated.

Nishi is immensely likeable though. In fact, I was a little more than half in love with his character by the time the film ended. The strong silent type always does it for me...! HANA-BI, which incidentally means 'fireworks' in Japanese, has a shocking ending that will leave you... well, shocked, haha. I genuinely wasn't expecting it, anyway. It kind of took my breath away.

In KIKUJIRO, our man plays a sort of dysfunctional but ultimately kind-hearted rogue who takes a small lonely boy called Masao miles and miles out of town on a mission of mercy. Little Masao's Mum has been gone his whole life. When Kikujiro, the Takeshi Kitano character, is ordered by his hectoring wife to take the boy to Toyohashi to see this absentee Mum, the unlikely pair end up inadvertently having the adventure of a lifetime together.

This offbeat road-trip sees Kikujiro and little Masao hook up with a variety of oddball characters who each enrich Masao's journey in ways that he could never have previously imagined. They meet a
juggler, an impoversished poet, a couple of hairy bikers, crooked carnies and, of course, the omnipresent Yakuza.

 Kikujiro is rude beyond belief to everyone he meets, but in a funny kind of way, not in a nasty way. He never spares anyone the benefit of the- usually unflattering- thoughts he's having about them at any given moment...! It's just so, sooooo funny to watch.

The random encounters are all hilariously funny in a deadpan, played-down kind of a way. Check out the world's possibly least appealing offer on corn and the biker who seizes every opportunity to get stark nekkid. You'll most likely laugh till you cry, just like I did. I cried even more when I read that Beat Takeshi based the character of Kikujiro on his own Pa, a wee bit of a gambler and a scallywag by all accounts.

Takeshi Kitano doesn't feature in DOLLS as an actor but his directorial trademarks are all there: gorgeous cinematography, fabulous scenery and a riot of bright blazing colours. The film starts and ends with a performance of Bunraku theatre featuring a boy doll and a girl doll. These represent Sawako and Matsumoto, the two main characters in the film, which has three separate storylines running through it.

In the main storyline, Sawako is a young woman who attempts suicide when she hears that her beloved fiancé Matsumoto is being forced into a more profitable marriage by his parents. To his credit, Matsumoto comes rushing to her side when he hears about the suicide attempt. Sadly though, the beautiful Sawako has already lost her mind.

What Matsumoto decides to do then he does presumably out of love for Sawako and also an overwhelming guilt for the pain he's caused her. I'm not going to tell you what he does but their lives afterwards are so bleak and sad that I could barely keep from crying the whole way through the film. Crying, and shouting sensible advice at the screen in the hope that they might hear me...!

There are two other storylines in DOLLS. In the first of these, a young man desperate to meet his female pop idol reacts in a rather strange way when the popstar is disfigured in a car accident.

In the second of these, a woman who is rejected by her boyfriend nonetheless insists on waiting for the big jerk every week on 'their' park bench with a packed lunch full of the food he likes. This bit really annoyed me. How she could be so weak, so pathetic, I wondered, conveniently forgetting all the times I'd done similar stuff for guys who'd messed me around...!

Maybe that's why this particular vignette annoyed me so much. Maybe I don't like it when smarty-pants film-makers hold mirrors up to the faults and foibles of the human race and expertly reflect our own weirdnesses and weaknesses back to us, haha.

These three films all came out on Blu-Ray earlier this year, by the way, courtesy of the lovely people at THIRD WINDOW FILMS. They're all out there now, chock-full of delicious extra features, just waiting for you guys to go out and buy them. I would certainly advise it, and you know that I give top-notch advice, heh-heh-heh.

I was blown away by the breath-taking cinematography and the flawless acting in the three films, not to mention the offbeat good looks and gruff charm of the man himself, Takeshi Kitano. I have a massive crush on him now. He's sexy as hell in his own quirky style and he's still working away, doing stuff all the time. Wonder if he needs an unpaid intern...?

  AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com






30 April 2016

YAKUZA APOCALYPSE. (2015) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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YAKUZA APOCALYPSE. (2015) DIRECTED BY TAKASHI MIIKE. WRITTEN BY YOSHITAKA YAMAGUCHI. STARRING HAYATO ICHIHARA AND YAYAN RUIHAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Holy Mary Mother of God. This film is demented. Demented and utterly chaotic. By the time I'd finished watching it, I felt like I'd taken a course of hallucinogenic drugs. Honest to God. Drugs. That's not to say that it's not good or anything. Far from it. It's just so crazy. It's a wild ride from the cinematic king of wild rides, controversial movie director Takashi Miike. And if you want to watch it, you'd sure as hell better strap yourself in, baby...!

Here's what YAKUZA APOCALYPSE put me in mind of. It's like the guy took a giant mixing-pot and chucked a load of stuff in, then stirred it all up together good-style and premiered it at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The reviews were mostly positive, with ROTTEN TOMATOES even stating that: 'YAKUZA APOCALYPSE lives up to the oddball premise of its title with a cinematic whirlwind that represents director Takashi Miike at his most delightfully unhinged.' Yep. Unhinged is the word I'd use all right...!

The movie is billed as a 'yakuza action adventure fantasy martial arts vampire film,' which is how I came up with the notion of the big old cooking pot. There's everything in there but the kitchen sink itself. The plot is as follows, that's if I can manage to condense such a bizarre and fantastical sequence of events into a manageable dollop of readable prose for my movie homies...!

A fine, upstanding chap called Kageyama is the main character. He's an extremely handsome, sharply-suited young Yakuza. I love Yakuza films. I love the Yakuza. They're so tough that they make the Italian-American Mafia look like the Teletubbies, seriously. I hope I don't get 'whacked' by the Italian-American Mafia for saying that. I'm too young to swim with the fishes or wear a concrete overcoat...!

Kageyama is tough all right. Well, most of him is tough. Let me explain. His skin is too sensitive to be able to support his gang's signature tattoo. He gets a lot of stick for this from his fellow Yakuza. They think he's a proper Walter Softy, which is jolly unfair as he's as tough as the rest of 'em any day of the week. It's just his delicate ickle epidermis that's all girly-smooth and sissy-soft...!

However, when their beloved gang boss Kamiura gets offed by a rival gang, it's Kageyama to whom he passes on his vampire powers (yep, he's a vampire!), and it's also the Sharp-Dressed-Man with the sensitive skin whom he charges with the great responsibility of avenging his death. Now who's laughing, eh...? Well, not Kageyama, not really. He's more the strong silent type than the laughing type...

Imbued with supernatural powers and a raging desire to feast on human blood, oh, and with a kickass tattoo now magically covering his muscular back, Kageyama sets out (I think!) to bring down his enemies and those of Kamiura. When you put it like that, the plot sounds quite plausible, doesn't it? No nice neat synopsis could really do justice, however, to the surreal events that take place in a confusing maze of Japanese back-alleys and public houses and the bizarre cast of characters taking part in the action.

If you've ever had a burning desire to see someone in a giant furry green frog suit riding a bicycle, now's your chance. Ditto a man in just the head of the frog suit performing a complicated series of martial arts moves against his opponent. Ditto once more the oddest knitting class you'll ever see in your whole entire life, a man who gets his head twisted right off and a girl with bandages over her eyes whose purpose we never really discover. The girl's purpose, by the way, not the bandages'...!

Anyway, ditto again a strange garden in which civilians (ie, non-Yakuza!) will grow out of the soil if you 'water' them carefully with milk and, ditto again, a townful of civilians turning overnight into Yakuza vampires with deliciously zombie-esque tendencies to chow down on passing human flesh and travel in packs, unlike their more solitary vampire counterparts.

YAKUZA APOCALYPSE is a whopping two hours long and, if your attention strays for a minute and you think you've lost the plot, don't panic. You're guaranteed to lose the plot about five minutes into the movie anyway, but the film is so wildly entertaining that it doesn't really matter. Just have fun and enjoy the crazy rollercoaster ride.

Oh, and when the film comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray on May 2nd 2016 courtesy of MANGA ENTERTAINMENT, buy it. It's incredibly violent and it will totally take your mind off your crappy life. Well, it worked for me...!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com