3 December 2016

KIDS RETURN and LOWLIFE LOVE: A STUNNING DUO OF 'THIRD WINDOW' FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.




TAKESHI KITANO'S 'KIDS RETURN' AND EIJI UCHIDA'S 'LOWLIFE LOVE': A SUPERB DUO OF ASIAN FILMS ON RELEASE NOW FROM 'THIRD WINDOW' FILMS. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

KIDS RETURN. (1996) WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND EDITED BY TAKESHI KITANO. DISTRIBUTED BY OFFICE KITANO.
STARRING KEN KANEKO AND MASANOBU ANDO.

LOWLIFE LOVE. (2015). DIRECTED BY EIJI UCHIDA. STARRING KIYOHIKO SHIBUKAWA, DENDEN, KANJI TSUDA, KANJI FURUTACHI, SHUGO OSHINARI, CHIKA UCHIDA, YOSHIHIKO HOSODA AND YUUMI GOTO.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching both of these terrific Asian films back-to-back recently on a cold and rather miserable November evening. Just the job for warming the cockles of a frozen heart, in fact, and the heart can get pretty damn frozen in November, in case you guys hadn't noticed...!

I've always loved a nice bit of iconic Japanese director Takeshi Kitano anyway, and some of his films would already have been in my 'Favourite Movies Of All Time' list: HANA-BI, KIKUJIRO, DOLLS, etc. Beat Takeshi (his nickname from his comedy circuit origins) is always witty, edgy, dangerous, thoughtful and or/hilariously funny in everything he does and KIDS RETURN is no exception.

Added to this the rather unexpected pleasure of discovering the work of innovative and daring director Eiji Uchida in a savagely funny movie about the independent film-making business and I was able to proclaim myself well-satisfied indeed. Let's take a quick peep at the plots of both films, shall we, my lovely movie peeps...?

KIDS RETURN is the story of two very naughty schoolboys, Masaru and Shinji, who are the despair of their schoolmasters who dismiss them as 'morons' and positively encourage them to leave school and follow other pursuits. Or become someone else's problem, I think is more to the point.

Anyway, the lads do leave school, as there's obviously only so much satisfaction to be had from burning out teachers' cars and shaking down nerds for their lunch money. Masaru thinks he might have a go at being a boxer but then he quits, his pride in shreds, when the smaller and skinnier Shinji turns out to be miles better at taking and dishing out the punches than he is himself. This film, by the way, taught me the origins of that expression 'to throw in the towel.' I'm just saying...!

While Shinji pursues the boxing career that Masaru had in mind for himself, Masaru goes off then and joins the Yakuza. You know that old saying, fail in boxing and join the Yakuza? No, well, me neither, haha, but that's exactly what he goes and does, the little cuss. Guy's gotta do something, right?

Before you know it, he's all tattooed up and wearing snazzy togs and bossing people around and being driven around the place in fancy cars and, well, you know, just generally being a bigshot Mafioso type. I've always fancied those Yakuza types. They're so tough and mean and dominant and devastatingly sexy, haha. No wonder women are always falling over themselves to get with them. And you can't beat a good Yakuza movie, either.

Anyway, life's not without its ups-and-downs as we all know, so that by the time the two former best friends meet again for one more circuit of the school playground on a stolen bicycle, a lot of water will have passed under the bridge. Will the pals still feel the same about life, about where they're headed, about each other? You'd have to have a heart of stone not to sniffle a wee bit at the ending of this wonderful film. The soundtrack is fantastic too, as you might expect from a Beat Takeshi film.

LOWLIFE LOVE is a completely different kettle of fish, a horse of a different colour, etc. It's a blacker-than-black comedy about an aspiring Japanese film director called Tetsuo who is the lowlife' of the title. He's a loser who still lives with his mum and kid sister and spends a lot of time wanking to porn on his computer. Hey, it's in the film! If it's in the film, I can say it, heh-heh-heh.

He adores films and dreams of making his own independent feature one day, a film that will
sweep the boards at the Oscars and all the major film festivals. Cannes is mentioned a lot...! 

There's a lovely poignant scene where Tetsuo, in rare reflective mood, tells his friend and loyal producer how it was his no-good father who first got him into the cinema. Loser did a runner on his wife and kids, of course- the old, old story- but before he left he gave his son this one perfect legacy.  

Tetsuo's stony-broke, however, like most independent film-makers, and lacking all resources so, for now, he makes low-budget pornos and teaches acting really pretty badly to a bunch of people who are beginning to wonder why they're trusting this guy enough to give him money. Poor Tetsuo. Is this how he saw his life panning out...?

Anyway, there comes a time when the perfect script and the woman-slash-actress of his f***ing dreams come into his life more or less all at once. But he still doesn't have any money to make his big film, and how can he expect Minami, the girl of his dreams, to fall in with his plans when he treats her and every woman he's ever met as mere dirty sex objects to be used and pushed around, even physically, when it suits him? Tetsuo, it seems, has many harsh life-lessons to learn before we're through with him...

There are some screamingly funny scenes in this film, which is definitely not one for the feminists out there. Actresses are degrading themselves all over the shop, sleeping with everyone and anyone, no matter how old or disgusting or pathetic, who might be able to give them a role in a movie. Sure, every feckin' eejit who claims to be writing a screenplay can get free pussy that way...! It's sad.

There's even a conversation between Tetsuo and a more successful director at the end of the film about how the film-making business can be likened to banging a 'no-good slut' whom you know you shouldn't be touching with someone else's prick but you just can't help yourself.

It's not very flattering to women, is it, but hey, that's the film industry, apparently. Remember the casting couches of old? Nothing much has changed since those days, it seems. The women in the film are mostly just haggard-looking, very sad creatures who'll do whatever men tell them to do for a part. There's certainly a vein of devastating honesty running alongside the comedy here.

Scenes of note include 'Can I Lick Your Feet?' (eeuw...!) and 'Hey, Is That My Sister In That Titty Porn I've Just Been Blithely Jacking Off To...?' 

LOWLIFE LOVE, itself a hard-fought-for independent production (I love that about it!), is just brilliantly, darkly funny and is well worth a watch, whether or not you're normally a fan of Asian films. This one's a wee gem, and no fooling.

Both films are on release now (separately, not together) from THIRD WINDOW FILMS, a UK-based distributor of Asian movies founded in 2005. Both films come with extra features and I'd recommend the heck out of both of 'em. Honestly, when it comes to top-quality Asian films, they just don't come much better than these two. You heard it here first.

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







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