Tag Archives: japan

Link Dump: #81

This week’s spooooky kitty is from Michele Soavi’s Cemetery Man, which also blessed us with this image of Rupert Everett. And now, some links for early October…

Some spooooky search terms: “10 kid pussy,” “man and women rectum,” and the wonderful Yahoo! Answers fodder (or maybe rejected Macbeth dialogue?) “does wanking make a black spot under nipple appear.”

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Link Dump: #34

Kitties are generally cute—but since this kitty is from Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max, it’s cute in a depressing, oddball way. While I’m mentioning it, kudos to Elliot for making a black-and-white animated movie! That takes chutzpah. Especially when that movie is tragic and bizarre. And now I give you: links.

Not too many amusing search terms lately, but I did like “ζωο σεξ,” which is Greek for “animal sex.” I didn’t like “i got robbed and fuckin raped hard and i enjoyed it” because, um, NO. Somewhere between the two was “lesbiansim curiostiy killed the cat,” which combines non sequiturs and misspellings. Finally, I really like this pair of phrases, searched for simultaneously: “of course i do” “it was fucking awesome.” Of course I do! It was fucking awesome.

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Gross horror and pleasant anime: two great tastes that taste…odd together.

[This post is written by both of us in support of the Japanese Cinema Blogathon for Japan earthquake and tsunami relief, hosted by Cinema-Fanatic and Japan Cinema. Check them out and please donate if you can.]


Andreas:

This may be a colossal understatement, but here goes: Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a really fucking weird movie. It’s short, cheap, and to the point, communicating through gory, rapid-fire sequences that blaze past in the blink of an eye. This makes the film as a whole pretty difficult to follow, since it often comes across as a particularly hazy, frenetic nightmare. Add in the fact that none of the characters have names, and that the dialogue is minimal, and you can see why I’m not even sure if I saw a film. Maybe I just imagined it. Could a string of images and sounds as intensely, off-puttingly gruesome as Tetsuo really exist?

Well… yes. I guess. The impression I got of the film’s plot was, roughly, this: a panting madman (played by the director) impales his leg with a metal rod. It gets infected. He runs in front of a car and gets run over. Later, the driver of the car notices a gross chunk of metal sticking out of his cheek. He tries to remove it, and (naturally) it sprays pus all over the place. After that, I’m lost. The man tries to go to work, and gets chased by a fellow commuter who’s turning into a cyborg—or maybe not? He goes home, where he has fatal drill-penis sex with his horny, wild-eyed girlfriend after some surreal foreplay—or, again, maybe not?

The rest of the movie involves yet more sped-up chase scenes, violently phallic imagery, and stop-motion transformations. Just imagine the movie Videodrome on amphetamines, with an even more inscrutable storyline. That’s Tetsuo in a nutshell. Overwhelming and gratuitous as the film may be, there’s still a dizzying, demented genius in how earnestly and resourcefully Tsukamoto executes his vision. At heart, it’s a nonstop, nonverbal battle between metal and flesh, with each one ferociously preying on the other; the audience is left to say “Eww!” or “WTF?” Or both.

Ashley:

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: PONYO!

Let’s take the edge off a bit, shall we? I’ve written about Ponyo before; it’s one of my favorite feel-good movies, right up there with Harvey. It is the ultimate example of what a kid’s movie can be: sweet and pleasant without all the pandering, condescending bullshit. You don’t have to have a “kid’s” movie full of double entendres, coded language, hidden imagery, or obscure parallelism (although I ain’t knocking that kind of animated film; I need more of it in my life) for it to be clever, cute, and appealing to a broad audience. Miyazaki’s effortlessly beautiful hand-drawn underwater worlds and his impish little Ponyo are totally irresistible. Sadly, I’m very short on time so I can’t get too in depth about the film but I will leave you with a number of lovely images.

Thanks to Cinema-Fanatic and Japan Cinema for hosting this great blogathon! Please donate if you can!


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Selling Out on the Street of Shame

Over at Shadowplay, David Cairns’ The Late Show – a blogathon devoted to directors’ late and last movies – rages on. Since I contributed to it on Sunday with a post about Eric Rohmer’s The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007), I’d like to travel back half a century and halfway around to the world, to postwar Japan. While the legislature debates banning their trade, a group of prostitutes working side by side must fight both poverty and the stigma attached to their profession in Kenji Mizoguchi’s final film, Street of Shame (1956) or Akasen chitai – more accurately translated, according to the Eclipse DVD case, as the nonjudgmental “Red Light District.”

Released just months before Mizoguchi’s tragically early death from leukemia, Street of Shame is a fitting capstone to a career spent chronicling the abuses suffered and sacrifices made by Japanese women. Although it might not reach the aesthetic heights of such incomparable masterpieces as Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) and Sansho the Bailiff (1954), it still contains all the marks of Mizoguchi at his prime: deep focus photography (by Kazuo Miyagawa) used for visually dense storytelling; the evocation of extreme pathos coupled with a flickering hope for future happiness; and richly drawn female characters, both good and evil.

In less than 90 minutes, Mizoguchi juxtaposes the stories of five women working at Dreamland, a brothel in Tokyo’s Yoshiwara pleasure district. Each has her own attitudes toward her job, and motivations for taking it, but they all have one thing in common: an uphill battle. They’re oppressed enough as women, but as sex workers, they’re directly told, “You’re merchandise.” Socially marginalized beyond the point of visibility, and with the government threatening to cut off their only source of income, they have to take desperate measures just to survive. Poor Yorie (Hiroko Machida) gets married, thinking of it as an escape, but returns when her husband turns out to be as dictatorial as any pimp.

Yume (Ayako Wakao), meanwhile, tries to keep her son from seeing her at work; his shame later leads to a confrontation where he renounces her as a mother. Mizoguchi doesn’t sugar-coat anything, nor does he exaggerate the extent of his characters’ miseries. He just honestly shows every one of the pressures converging on these women as they’re simultaneously exploited by their managers and customers, and rejected by their families in their hours of need. But, in the midst of all of this grim realism, he finds a possible silver lining – the tight-knit community formed by the women, for better or worse.

When their ties with the outside world are cut and the future promises nothing but self-commodification and inescapable debt, at the very least the women still have each other. Like the cast of Pedro Almodóvar’s comparable Volver (2004), the women don’t always support or even like each other, but the basis of their relationships are shared experiences; they each have the same understanding of what it’s like to be coerced into selling yourself. This works both ways, though, as the sly, enterprising Yasumi (Aiko Mimasu) lends out money to her impoverished sisters and makes a killing in interest, earning herself the nickname “Lady Shylock.”

Yasumi’s story is the most telling of the five, since at the end of the film, she’s the only one who successfully leaves the black hole that is the brothel. Her escape, however, comes only through her readiness to play the femme fatale, extorting and betraying those around her when necessary. She knows better than anyone the value of a yen, and she’s bitterly justified in her callous actions. She’s no more “evil” than Ugetsu‘s Lady Wakasa, willing to sacrifice those around her for the sake of self-preservation. Yasumi’s story arc reveals the cruel flip side to Mizoguchi’s vision of female camaraderie.

And speaking of Lady Wakasa, Machiko Kyo reappears here as the brassy young Michiko, who takes on the Americanized name “Mickey” (like the mouse). She’s introduced wearing a flashy, low-cut dress, dancing around in a giant shell à la The Birth of Venus. If Street of Shame‘s women were the seven samurai, Mickey would be Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune): the spunky, frivolous newcomer who doesn’t yet understand the group’s complex dynamics. She initially showcases her sexual allure and seduces away the other women’s customers, but over the course of the film, the routine grinds her down and her vulnerabilities start to show. By the final minutes of the film, she’s an old hand who readily shows the ropes to a shy teenage neophyte.

Thus, Street of Shame (and Mizoguchi’s career) concludes with a disturbing reminder that all this sacrifice and oppression is cyclical. Not only that, but unsolvable, unless economic opportunities and the treatment of women improve. It’s a far cry from the grand, all-for-love melodrama that ended his pre-war masterpiece Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939). The new prostitute hesitantly tries to attract potential customers wandering through Yoshiwara, calling out quietly as she retreats behind a wall. With that lingering image, Mizoguchi’s thirty-plus years of filmmaking fade into open-ended darkness.

What do you think of Mizoguchi, or his representations of women’s suffering? Any and all comments welcome.

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Link Dump: #10

Let me just get this out there: I love the movie Cat People. I love it so much that I’d be OK with it if, every time I was aroused, I turned into the movie Cat People. Don’t question how that’d work. The point is that I really, really love that movie. I love its brevity, its odd visual poetry, its confusing but wonderful morals; I love Tom Conway’s sleaziness and, most of all, Simone Simon’s fractured innocence. Cat People is complex, poignant, perverse, and really sexy. I fucking love Cat People. Anyway, I just wanted to talk about that because I haven’t touched on that movie at all this month. Oh, and I have some links! Read them at your leisure.

  • Have you bought issue 10 of Paracinema magazine yet? If not, look at this. Now are you convinced?
  • Wow, even Fangoria hated the I Spit on Your Grave remake! Then you know it’s bad.
  • THIS is an incredible video and I love it. It’s just so in-your-face and totally refuses to bullshit. Fuck hate! Fuck yeah! (Share it with everyone you know who can take the word “fuck”!) [Via Four of Them]
  • Here’s another great video, this one being an ultra-NSFW song by MC Sex about period sex, accompanied by clips from dozens of gory horror movies. [Via Hold onto yr genre]
  • This is a really, really stupid NYT article that just wastes space. Oh no! We don’t have lines like “Stupid is as stupid does” in movies anymore! How can we endure?
  • Christopher Nolan is finally disclosing some Batman 3 – excuse me, “The Dark Knight Rises” – details. I’ve been back and forth about Nolan lately, but I have to admit a measure of excitement for this movie. And I, for one, thought it was obvious that he wasn’t going to use the Riddler, since 1) how would lime green fit into the Nolanverse color scheme, and 2) wouldn’t another joke-cracking villain be redundant??
  • Neil Gaiman on Arthur. This makes every fiber of my being happy; while watching it, I was literally giggling with joy.
  • And speaking of Gaiman, want to be one of his most iconic characters, Death from The Sandman, for Halloween? Well, The Powder Room’s Locus Ceruleus Media will tell you how with this awesome makeup tutorial.
  • Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, here’s a listing of some great Japanese horror movies, including a few we’ve talked about on this blog. Any list that includes Jigoku is good enough for me!
  • A few sites have pointed out this video of a Texas NBC station asking the leading question, “Will acceptance of gays lead to the downfall of America?” Jesus. Fucking. Christ. It’s pretty abhorrent and unbearable, and it just gets worse toward the end. People like this make me fucking sick.
  • There comes a time in every boy’s life when he has to explain the Internet to a 19th century Cockney street urchin. This flowchart should help.
  • To tie it back to Paracinema, their blog has been doing a Halloween Countdown of their own! It’s got snuff films, Japanese wackiness, Vincent Price, and more. And on a related note, Stacie Ponder of Final Girl is rounding down her list-tastic Shocktober lists. Read both of these for some great movie suggestions as Halloween arrives! (Just two days.)

On the search terms front, we had some weird shit this past week. One searcher complained that “women never have sex with men”; another creepily wrote, “my daughter in law has good pussy.” I saw the perfectly unpleasant instruction (?) to “pull my pussy n hurt it grrr,” as well as the more reasonable injunction of “don’t piss off your plastic surgeon.” I’m sorry to say that I don’t know what “professor & the sexy girl japanese movie” refers to.

My mention of Ava Gardner’s performance as a real estate agent in The Sentinel earned us such anomalies as “real estate agent rape scene” and “simulated ava gardner naked fucking” (??!). Finally, my favorite two of the week: “licentiously yours,” which I think should replace “sincerely” or any similar sign-off in correspondence, and “recorded in bathroom, guitar, died, fall,” which is just… I don’t even know. What does that mean? I think it means “Happy Halloween.” So yes. Happy Halloween.

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