23 February 2017

THIRD WINDOW FILMS PRESENTS: TOSHIAKI TOYODA: THE EARLY YEARS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.



THIRD WINDOW FILMS PRESENTS: TOSHIAKI TOYODA: THE EARLY YEARS: PORNOSTAR (1998); UNCHAIN (2000); 9 SOULS (2003).
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a fantastic trilogy of Japanese films by the cute-as-a-button young long-haired director (he's still only forty-seven!) who started out as a chess champion before turning his attentions to film-making, and thank God for us movie fans that he did.

THIRD WINDOW FILMS has recently released a brilliant Limited Edition box-set containing Blu-Rays of the above three films. It would make a top-notch pressie for any lover of Japanese cinema. Let's take a closer look at the films, anyway, and see what we think.

PORNO STAR is also known as TOKYO RAMPAGE, a title which might seem to suit the film better but, as the director explains in the behind-the-scenes footage, he really just preferred the other title, so that's fair enough, right? It has a couple of lead characters in it, both male, both screwed-up or maybe just screw-ups generally.

Our most screwed-up lead male is a young, rather scruffily-dressed Japanese guy who gets off a train one morning, bag of knives (yes, knives!) firmly in hand, and just seems to wander around the city streets aimlessly looking for trouble.

He falls in with a gang who are not quite full yakuza, rather just pretenders, and joins them in a killing spree. No woman can reach him and he doesn't do male bonding. He's messed-up beyond belief, maybe from stuff that happened to him before we, the viewers, come into the picture.

The other lead male is a handsome, long-haired young male called Kamijo who dresses sharply. He's a petty thug in a dark-blue suit with a thin pinstripe who dreams of one day being a big-shot gangster. He's all about the hair, this fella. His long luxurious locks feature heavily in the film as he struts about cockily one minute and cowers shame-faced the next. He might just possibly appear tougher if he didn't have to keep taking calls from his old mum...!

The blood flows freely in this extremely violent movie about drugs, gangs and umbrella-beatings, the instances of which in Japan probably went through the roof the year this film was released, haha. It's not really a movie about the proper yakuza we know and love from the films of, say, Takashi Miike and Takeshi Kitano. Those yakuza guys are so cool, with their hookers and their drug deals and the magnificent tattoos that cover half their bodies and the inventive ways in which they torture their enemies.

It's more a film about losers, about embarrassingly pathetic yakuza wanna-bees and incompetents who somehow bungle everything they ever do. It's uncomfortable to watch at times, with the way the protagonists are so clearly deadbeats who are going nowhere, but I wouldn't have missed it for all the tea in, well, China...!

NINE SOULS is as much a marvellous tragi-comedy as it is a crime drama. It's about the titular nine guys, all of whom are wanted criminals who've just busted out of prison. They steal a very distinctive-looking red van and go on a chaotic road trip to the place where a crazy fellow inmate has intimated that a stash of counterfeit money might be hidden. Talk about a wild goose chase, huh?

They're a delightfully motley crew, this gang of mostly good-humoured, fast-talking fugitives. The lead characters seem to be an older man who killed his son by running over him in his car and a much younger and quieter man who murdered his father after years of being a mentally deranged shut-in. Sounds like they were made for each other, haha.

There's loads of other great characters in the mix too. There's the gigantic bald chap whose dream is to meet a nice girl and work in a café. Aw, how cute is that? Another guy is obsessed with phone sex and wants to have it one more time with his girlfriend, which is actually much sweeter and sadder than it sounds and not really sleazy at all, strangely enough.

There's a dwarf who once gave a kidney to a stripper, there's a bomber with epilepsy and there's a tough sexy biker with a yen to play one last game of baseball before he's re-captured, to mention but
a few of the more stand-out characters. Though they've all undoubtedly committed crimes, there are mitigating circumstances in some cases and we get to love all of the lads and empathise with them strongly by the time the credits roll.

Despite the approaching tragedies hanging over the men like black clouds pregnant with rain, there are some hilariously comic moments in the film. Check out the strip-club in the middle of the submerged paddy-fields (truly the original middle of nowhere) and the men's brilliantly ludicrous attempts at cross-dressing and disguises to get service in shops and restaurants.

Note that the lads only have one porno videotape between them to wank to but no video machine on which to play the tape, and note also the (thankfully botched) attempt on the part of the sex-starved convicts at relieving a sheep of its virginity. My favourite bit was the bit at the beginning where the lads all come running over the hill and, one-by-one, we find out what they were caged for.

The comedy and the tragedy blend seamlessly together to give us a film that'll make us blubber and snicker in equal measure. Sadly, however, we never did find out what the smell in the van was, or maybe it's just as well...

And now once more for the good news, which is that these two films, along with UNCHAIN, the true story of a boxer who retires on a low and tries to start a new life as a civilian, are now out in Limited Edition box-set form courtesy of THIRD WINDOW FILMS. 

In Blu-Ray format and with extra features, they represent the early works of the master director who thinks that 'Film has both reality and fantasy elements, and without these, you can't call it a film.' If you're digging what you hear, film buffs, go seek out that box-set.


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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