The Naked Heroes sound has been described as hard, southern-styled rock played in a lo-fi, garage-punk mode. With more and more bands throwing in their lot with the avant-garde, the Naked Heroes simply write memorable songs in an effortless pastiche of rock idioms.
Tatsuya Nakadais face is no doubt more familiar than his name. For years he was the third force in the samurai triumvirate led by Toshiro Mifune and director Akira Kurosawa.
Bollywood is built on spectacle: epic scope, song & dance, chop-socky action, farce, romance, and overripe melodramatics all meld into a mind-boggling pastiche. But a recent trend towards realistic crime films (reflecting the volatile high-crime rate of Mumbai) has ushered in a new wave of Indian cinematic hysteria.
Director Takashi Miike is hyperbole personified. The perversion and ultraviolence in his films is as extreme as Miike is prolificover seventy movies and television shows since he graduated from assistant to director in 1991.
Fifty-four Japanese schoolgirls leap en masse into the path of an oncoming subway train. This is just one of the indelible images from Sion Sonos 2001 film Suicide Club. Sono has since proved himself one of the most daring filmmakers today, exemplifying the Japanese concept of ero guro nansensu (erotic grotesque nonsense).
A few years ago Subway Cinema, the group behind the New York Asian Film Festival, considered expanding their role as New Yorks avatar of wondrous Asian cinema with a distribution arm. Realizing it would be impossible to stay afloat in what proved to be the most difficult time ever for foreign films, they nixed the plan.
Possibly the biggest achievement of Japan Societys former film programmer Ryo Nagasawa was the inception of JAPAN CUTS, New Yorks annual festival of Japanese cinema. JAPAN CUTS has become an anticipated summer event, featuring special guests, theme parties, and the best movies Japan has to offer, from mainstream hits to crazy cult epics.
In the view of first-time director Gela Babluani, a life is not worth much—it can be bought or sold on a whim. Sometimes that whim originates with the owner of said life, sometimes it arrives on the wings of market forces. Either way, when the bill comes due, it’s instant karma time.
Director Kazuo Hara is known for raw, transgressive documentaries that boldly attack the repressive mores of Japan.
Starting with Repo Man, Alex Cox has successfully subverted mainstream culture (and the studio system) with several definitive cult films. David Wilentz recently sat down with Cox for a conversation about filmmaking, imperialism, and Spaghetti Westerns.
Mavericks from the East and Last of the Independents: Against the Tide: Rebels and Mavericks in Contemporary Japanese FilmBy David Wilentz
About ten years ago Walter Reade hosted a series of new independent Japanese films. At the time Japanese cinema seemed to be in a lull. Kurosawas heyday was long over.
One of the more thrilling film experiences I had in the last ten years took place in my small apartment in Taiwan sometime during 1997.
Unlike most Japanese filmmakers more familiar in the West, Shohei Imamura was interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of the social structure. Imamura focuses on the seemingly animalistic, often criminal lower strata of Japanese society without passing judgment, meticulously observing human nature for its own primal sake.
Although she’s made just two feature films, director Miwa Nishikawa has proved a singular voice in contemporary Japanese cinema. Sway made its way to Cannes in 2006 and was one of the featured films at Japan Society’s Japan Cuts film festival this summer. Nishikawa attended the festival and spoke about the state of the Japanese film industry as well as the travails of independent filmmaking.
No discussion of contemporary Japanese cinema is complete without the mention of maverick movie star Tadanobu Asano. From his work with cyber-punk innovators Sogo Ishi (Burst City) and Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo) to the meditative master behind Sailor Suit and Machine Gun, Shinji Somai, Mr. Asano is a lens through which to view the bolder side of contemporary Asian cinema.
With only four films, Lee Chang Dong has proved himself on the vanguard of the most powerful works in contemporary Korean cinema. Alongside the shocking sublimity of director Kim Ki Duk (The Isle) or the extremely violent meditations on vengeance of Park Chan Wook (Old Boy), standing out would seem no easy feat.
Nobuhiko Obayashis Hausu (1977) is one of the most coveted cult films to emerge from the fantastic realm of Asian cinema.
A hodgepodge of themes coalesce in the third Japan Cuts, Japan Societys pioneering festival of the latest in Japanese cinema: corruption, dysfunction, alienation, synchronicity, fatalism, artistic expression, honesty, and perversion.
Scary movies arent dead theyre just underground. A muchmaligned genre shows signs of life at The 2006 NYC Horror Film Festival.
Tsai Ming Liang’s The Wayward Cloud, if not one of the best undistributed films from 2005, is arguably one of the most provocative. The quasi-fantastic premise, relayed to us by TV news reports, immediately sets an off-kilter tone: Taiwan is in the midst of a stultifying drought while the price of watermelons has dropped drastically.
Finally spaghetti westerns are getting a little respect. BAM Cinematek features the subgenre this month with their, “Spaghetti for Thanksgiving” series, the title reflecting the often tongue in cheek nature of these films. The Italians, who have a history of producing genre films if not with finesse, then at least an unbridled sense of showmanship, helped rid this American mythology of its cornball sentimentality, reestablishing the importance of cool.
So one can’t help wondering what prison in 1947 was really like. Surely it was no cakewalk, yet as grungy and low-life as the inmates might seem, they’re stand-up guys who stick their neck out for a buddy. I
To re-forged Hong Kong cinema, usurping John Woo’s place as the Asian genre film maestro supreme.
Japan Societys Dawn of Japanese Animation series offers an illuminating look at the innovative early days of animation from the land of Astro Boy. These are not the direct antecedents of anime or prototypes of Speed Racer. The series features films from the late 20s through the 40s that are more parallel to the early cartoons of the west.
Director Maurice Paliat, with his bear-like frame, passive-aggressive mumbly voice and glittery impassive eyes, makes for a convincing Bad Daddy. Few of those who work with him once come back for more.
An air of simmering perversion permeates the 1968 thriller-cum-social commentary Pretty Poison. Anthony Perkins’ patented ‘caught with his hands in the cookie jar’ expression was never more convincing than here, in a modern take on the spider and the fly. Tony, contrary to expectations, is not the spider.
The violent, trope-driven, macho-archetype-abundant gangster cinema of Japan is codified by criminal myth and the true-to-life brutality of the yakuza. A fascinating arc in both crime cinema and social consciousness emerges through the 5 films in Asia Societys upcoming series.
As if the best days of New York film repertory theatre never went away, the Film Forum will present a celebration of B-Noir, films even more nasty, brutish and short than the slightly higher end classic titles of Noir.
Subway Cinema will be bringing the best (and wackiest) of Asian pop cinema to our doorstep with their 5th annual New York Asian Film Festival.
In Shakespeare, devious plots take planning, but to win over the one you love a single scene will do—even if you don’t speak a word of her language (Henry V), or you’ve just had her husband murdered (Richard III). Plays can be schematic like that. Movies usually can’t. So it’s hard to make movies out of plays, especially Shakespeare. Criterion Collection’s new box set Olivier’s Shakespeare brings together the three films with which Laurence Olivier proved it could be done.
Screening five teenidol action flicks, The Japan Society reexamines the sex appealtrumping cuteness that characterized Japanese popicons in the 80s.
This box set of two horror Sci-Fi double features (from the producers of Fiend Without a Face) allows genre fans to wax nostalgic not only for bygone matinee and drive-in fare, but also for the days when afternoon and late night television airtime was ruled by old B-movies. Dont let the exquisitely illustrated packaging fool you, these are not animated features, theyre good old-fashioned exploitation pictures. The replications of the lurid press art in the info-packed booklets display graphics that scream: SEE! BODY SNATCHERS! CRUEL BEAUTIES! BLOODCURDLING EXPERIMENTS! And the two horror features, Corridors of Blood and The Haunted Strangler, both starring the magnetic Boris Karloff, totally revel in sordid elements. For all their comic book exposition, they both set a chilling tone and compelling pace through inspired mise en scene and interesting story ideas.
The Brooklyn Rails David Wilentz met with director Shusuke Kaneko, a seasoned veteran of the Japanese film industry, and spoke to him about Death Note, roman-porno (romantic porn: Nikkatsu Studios brand of soft-core films), art films, kaiju (rubber monster movies such as Godzilla and the like), Nietzsche and the state of the industry today.
Subway Cinema, the group that stages the annual New York Asian Film Festival, began when the last Chinatown movie house, the Music Palace, closed in 1998 (coincidentally, just a year after Hong Kong was handed back to China). With the loss of this outlet for over-the-top genre movies, Subway Cinema took up the mission of providing an antidote to an influx of Asian art films. Despite the charms of Hou Xioa Xian or Hirokazu Kore Eda, at times we still need to abandon the cerebral and return to the catharsis of flying kicks and rubber monster suits.
Ozu, who was a teacher before becoming a director, understood the purity of children through their carefree nature. That they are free of the (often unnecessary) complications of the adult world exonerates them from the seemingly selfish trappings of their uninhibited willfulness.
Action director Panna Rittikrai toiled away in the Thai film industry for over twenty years before scoring big with the martial arts opus Ong Bak: Thai Warrior. Rittikrai (who describes his previous cinematic efforts as low-grade B action films popular among taxi drivers and food vendors) formed his own stunt team, Muay Thai Stunt, in 1979, placing an emphasis on fight choreography.
The Japanese horror movie Jigoku, recently released on DVD by the Criterion Collection, blends Western and Eastern concepts of sin, justice and hell in a blisteringly cohesive nightmare vision.
Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and its follow-up Sanjuro have proved to be two of the most iconic and influential samurai films.
Is there anything left unsaid about the greatness of Two Lane Blacktop? Note to the uninitiated: Two Lane is the epitome of that modern American art form, the road movie. Easy Rider established the genre (For The Mainstream) with its counter-culture quest for the self unraveling along the American highway.