Adventures in Moviegoing

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag for the arthouse crowd. What a black, cynical, nihilist drink of darkness. What a shitty imitation of art.

RoboGeisha – Butt Swords Against the Dystopian March Toward a Right-Wing Future

There’s a new movie out from the director of the very, very good ‘Machine Girl’, Noboru Iguchi, and Yoshihiro Nishimura, the special effects guy from ‘Tokyo Gore Police.’

Boasting “Geisha missile, geisha dance, geisha army, geisha chainsaw, geisha harakiri, acid breast milk, fried shrimp, handicap gun (my favorite)” and so much more, this is incontrovertibly the must-see release of the year.

It shows Tuesday, May 18 at the Japan Society in New York.  Too bad that’s when I see PIL.  Tix at this link.

This week in cinema

Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story

First aired on VH1 in July, 2001, Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story hit all the plucky young working class blokes work hard and get it right success story buttons, taking care to offer an easy to digest gloss on how a bunch of good friends who just love good times and hard work can let a little success and excess go to their heads and perhaps even cause them to roll what appears to be a 1987 Chevrolet Corvette over in an English meadow at 88 glorious LED indicated miles per hour, severing one’s arm in the process.  Yea, this genre, whose special purpose was to assuage the guilt and mixed feelings of looking back on the narcissistic and blissfully unaware good times of the eighties, could well have been the poultice that hid and detoxified the psychic wounds of the liberal West long enough for us to charge ahead into the 2000s, unironically looking forward to a 180g vinyl triple gatefold Bobby McFerrin comeback LP.

Unfortunately, not 2 months later, certain events occurred in September of 2001 that would render it seemingly impossible for anyone but the baby boomers to continue to effectively rehabilitate their legacies through cinema.  The cheerful gloss put on such topics as a deadly case of alcoholism, the innocent and apolitical acceptance of a worldview that had no problem putting individuals firmly in the “have” column in the global tally of the “haves” and “have-nots” as a reward for public overindulgence in good times and conditioner, these things would soon take a backseat to a polarizing case of the terrors that would strip the paint right off society and take us, unfortunately, back to the right-wing primer coat while American culture went up on blocks in the world’s front yard.

This 2001 gem of a biopic was released at generally the same time as another frank, straight-talking coming to grips meditation on our collective insanity, the Mark “Marky-Mark” Walberg and Jennifer Aniston vehicle Rock StarRock Star (a movie I do enjoy thoroughly), was actually given an unfortunately timed release in the month of September, 2001.  Can you imagine?  Just as we were just beginning to connect the dots between our troubled ’90s inner Eddie Vedders and the crimped and blow-dryed blonde ’80s angels of our natures, we had to put the all the chuckling “those were crazy days” reminiscences aside to join the rest of America in being scared shitless.

Only now, almost 10 years on, do we have someone like Lady Ga-Ga—medicine woman, shaman— who can finally make us feel mindlessly good about ourselves again.  Thanks, Hope!  Thanks, socially splintering new media!  Let the Hair Metal Ideal Truth and Reconciliation Committee reconvene, with Lady Gaga shepherding the lost offenders of the ’80s into her folds to bear the standard that will unite us in all we have been meaning to recuse ourselves from for the past 30 years.  Let it begin here with your own private screening of Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story, starring Anthony Michael Hall.  You’ve suffered for it, motherfuckers.  Now take your reward.

Miniskirts, Fishnets, Sexy Mutants, and the Cleaving Swords of the Ronin Capitalist State

Shoko Nakahara stars in Yoshihiro Nishimura’s 2008 tour-de-abattoir Tokyo Gore Police (Tokyo Zankoku Keisatsu) as the hard-nosed avenger of decency without mercy Ruka.  Preternaturally calm, dangerously certain of her purpose and her use of the katana in the black and white battle between criminal indecency and the directives of the privatized Tokyo Police Corporation, Ruka is a little death fashionably decked out in a miniskirt and fishnet stockings, the call-girl of justice tossing the most hardened criminals into the icy salad of divine retribution.

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Japan’s police and self-defense forces were privatized during Ruka’s youth under the auspices of a single draconian for-profit agency whose shock troops resemble something between armored, war-ready samurai and Darth Vader, a change in course in society the initial contestation of which has been deliberately buried in the past by those powers who stood to profit most from it.

This proves to be a crucial detail in the development of Ruka’s life, for the Terry Gilliam-esque former tracheotomy patient wearing the horned helmet with the external car stereo speaker affixed to his badged armor is the man who, as chief of police, stood to gain the most power from disposing of the more socially-minded cop leading the privatization opposition- Ruka’s father.  That this was done before the impressionable eyes of this girl he then raised among the police as his daughter, that the assassin he hired to clear the field of his opposition and publicly executed was the father of a brilliant genetic engineer studying the heredity of criminality is key- it is the self-serving action that at once created a ronin state of arbitrarily unchecked police aggression in the service of order and the same moment forged that state’s arch-enemy, the Key Man.  It also birthed the one warrior who would be the undoing of the whole system.

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Key man is the creator of a parasitic virus culled from the DNA of the world’s most notorious serial killers, a key-shaped tumor that causes any wound inflicted on the infected to mutate into a deadly weapon.  During the movie’s course of corpse production from conflict to resolution, Penes, pudenda, breasts, bellybuttons, really all the best stuff is transformed into a high-pressure blood-hosing instrument of gore.  These augmented augerers hosting the mutation-inducing tumors of anti-humanity are dubbed “engineers.”

When the police declare an all-out war on the population in an attempt to eliminate the engineers, the truth, that the chief hired the man who killed her father, is revealed to a virus-infected Ruka.  She single-handedly wipes out the police force and takes her revenge on the man who raised her, even as he flies about the room enhanced by drugs that cause gravity-defying jets of blood to fire from the stumps of his legs.

I should mention that, marring the progress of the movie is a scene of anti-Chinese nationalism that really doesn’t add anything to the story, leaving me with a bad taste on the iron-coated walls of my mouth.

The film is intercut with bizarre and hilarious PSAs for the new privatized police force, the reduction of workplace hara-kiri, cute accessory box-knifes for high-school aged cutter gyaru, and swords advertised for the same purpose on a “Call Now!” basis, all while this vixen of an S/M Marilyn perfectly amputated from her Norma Jean, a cross between a DJ and a police dispatcher, broadcasts whilst dancing to an amazing Japanese rock soundtrack her frenzied bloodthirsty dispatches.

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For blood or for pizza, the axes swing when she sings.

Appearances Matter: Another ’68 Retrosective

I just read in the Times this morning that, in addition to the Godard’s ’60s series playing out this week and into the summer at Film Forum, there’s an international series of films being put on at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Entitled simply 1968 , it’s a film record of the sentiment, urgency, and power of that peculiar time, so alien 40 years on. It began yesterday, and carries on through May 14th.

2 Great Retrospectives Coming up at Film Forum

From June 20 to August 7, Film forum is going to be dishing out, by my count, 25 movies starring leading man Tatsuya Nakadai. Appallingly, I have seen all of none of these movies, but I have a chance to fix that now. I’m especially looking forward to seeing him play Natsume Soseki in “I Am a Cat.” As the Film Forum folks (FFF) have so elegantly put it,

With his starring roles in bona fide classics by Kurosawa and Kobayashi, and multiple leading parts for masters as disparate in style and subject matter as Naruse, Okamoto, Gosha, Teshigahara, Kinoshita, and the late Kon Ichikawa, Nakadai’s career provides a core sample right through the heart of the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema.

Details on this found here by clicking on Nakadai’s handsome mug:

Nakadai

If you were inclined to follow that link, then you would have noticed that the first page of the PDF was devoted to outlining the schedule of a retrospective of Godard’s ’60s. Having only seen Alphaville, I think, of all his films still out there circulating and churning with all those images, reproduced everywhere, of that particularly French mind-destroying femininity, I am excited to be able correct the deficit in my learning. Particularly motivating is La Chinoise, which Netflix doesn’t carry and my local, definitively non-yokel hipster video store also doesn’t have on its shelves. Starring a young future Mme. Godard, it follows a young group of ’60s hipsters who form a Maoist cell through the travails of being young and hot and boojie and forming a maoist cell, I would imagine. I’m imaging a French New-wave episode of Friends adapted for the big screen, a bunch of idealistic kids who wish they could have been Futurists but, for reasons of temporal nativity and philosophical fortitude in the end were just part of that whole exciting decade whose anticlimax paved the way for our awareness of virtuality.

W00T!11!111!

Culture! Man, we got a lot of it here. Summer is rolling out of its hibernatory grotto and the flowering mind raises its pistils.

Sadamitsu the Destroyer: Come in Space Pajamas, or Don’t Come at All.

Ride a bikemonster or don't ride at all.

A week or so ago I Netflixed an animated series I had started watching halfway through its original TV run when I was living in Japan, “Sadamitsu: The Destroyer“. You got your basic rowdy gang of lovable Japanese teen toughs, led by the quick-tempered, never-say-die, brawling Tsubaki Sadamitsu. You got your enabling bombshell high school teacher, Chieko-sensei, who patches up the gang after their fights (most of which lead to her personal possessions, hard come-by, being destroyed somehow). You got your enigmatic new girl in school, whose deep and unfathomable bond with Sadamitsu is expressed with your basic screaming, brash manliness and arm-punching for Sadamitsu’s part, and the big-eyed blinking and gasping for new girl Kamishiro Yayoi’s part, oddly typical of boys and girls in Japan who often never seem to learn to give articulate shape to their feelings for one another. You got your basic inscrutable woman who is also a world-destroying planetary hangman robot alien. It touches on the basic fabric of male/female relations and vast, fearful gulf that gapes in the understanding between the sexes!

Sadamitsu keeps it real in space pajamas and tabi socks with a bird that eats garbage.

Sadamitsu, as you can see above, keeps it real with the Yamato spirit, communing with nature and keeping the balance between fighting monsters from outer space and tradition and all that.

The story goes that an intergalactic police officer, chasing intergalactic criminals to earth, is distracted by Sadamitsu during a battle and is consequently destroyed. Sadamitsu puts the space-cop’s head on like a helmet, and he is suddenly covered in skin-tight body armor and knobs. Utilizing skin-tight body armor and knobs, and, if you will dig the picture below, occasional extra eyeballs, he spends the rest of the series sending space criminals to space prison. And he screams a lot. And he never backs down.

Comem with extra eyes or don't come at all.

I’m not really the otaku anime type, but this guy is just too badass. Flipping the stations in my mountain valley washitsu as I sat beneath the warm, testicle-baking kotatsu drinking a couple of dai-bins of Kirin Ichiban, I very dimly recall thrilling to the exploits of this teenager in a trenchcoat riding a bikemonster to glory. I lolled on the floor amid the kerosene fumes hoping Sadamitsu could reverse the roles and get around to being a real man who could protect Kamishiro for a change, instead of relying on her unnatural space robot habit of doing the man’s job and always protecting him. How relieved I was to see he was finally able to do it- but only with the aid of Yayoi’s enigmatic new girl in school style feminine wiles. She recharges his space pajamas halfway through the series. Oh, man, that is a spoiler, but it’s just such a beautiful example of how you gotta respect that all life springs from woman and that’s why you have to keep them safe with laser swordplay. Did I mention his bike was a monster? His bike was a monster. That is far more badass than anything you would find at Sturgis. If I had a bike that was a monster, you know what I would do? I’d ride straight to hero’s promontory and stand there in the lens-flare as the wind whipped my coat around. I would also tuck my parachute pants into my tabi socks. Damn, would my loneliness have a manly meaningfulness to it.

Take the lonely, windy path to the promontory of herodom.

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