Monday, October 15, 2007

A quick look at Japanese Cinema

Anime, Yakuza, Motorcycle gangs and Samurai:

Paprika (2006, Director Satoshi Kon): Rating 9/10

Paprika was a movie I had been eagerly awaiting since late last year when I came across it's web site. And it does not disappoint. The film is a visual feast of fascinating animation and striking images powered by an engaging story of dreams and reality. Watching the film made me think of David Lynch's Inland Empire. Both these movies blend dreams and reality to some extent. In order to understand the reality, one has to interpret the dreams. But if the dreams are based on reality, then one is caught in an endless loop. In the end, Paprika is a relatively easier (and more satisfying) trip compared to Inland Empire.

Note: The idea of entering the mind of a criminal via a dream machine seems similar to Tarsem Singh's The Cell. But The Cell came a few years after Yasutaka Tsutsui wrote the original Paprika manga in 1993.
Both Kamikaze Girls and The Twilight Samurai were screened as part of a 4 movie free Japan Film Festival sponsored by the Japanese Consulate in Calgary. Such free screenings were also shown in other North American cities, such as Vancouver.

Kamikaze Girls (2004, Director Tetsuya Nakashima): Rating 6.5/10

The film starts off with Momoko, a self-proclaimed ordinary girl living a simple dull life outside of Tokyo. Momoko's only joys are dressing up in old Lolita like clothing and dreaming she was born in 18th century France, as she believes that time period was more suited to her tastes. But her simple life is given a real jolt when she runs into Ichiko, a member of an all girl motorcycle gang. Despite their differences, the friendship between the two women gives them courage to face their fears.

The first hour of the film is packed with hilarious flash-backs and sub-plots revolving people around Momoko. However, after a while it becomes apparent that the numerous sub-plots are only being used to extend the movie's running time as the film is thin on material. Still, plenty of laughs to be found in this film.

The Twilight Samurai (2002, Director Yôji Yamada): Rating 8/10

A widower, Seibei, is content to live a quiet life looking after his mother and two young daughters. His colleagues repeatedly make fun of him and nickname him the Twilight Samurai as he does not stay out late and runs home immediately after work to look after his family. But an incident reveals his trained sword fighter past. After that, he is expected to save his village from the wrath of an unbeatable villain. A nice delicate movie that looks at the roles Samurai occupied in Japanese society. Like Kurosawa in Seven Samurai, the film shows how the people neglected the Samurai until a need arose and only then treated them with a measure of respect.


Kempton said...

Great to hear you love Paprika enough to give it 9/10. I hope I will have a chance to see it soon.


Sachin G. said...

Hey Kempton,

Thanks for dropping by. Actually I loved the visuals and music a lot more than the story. But I enjoyed watching it. Hopefully the movie stays at the theater longer than this week. I could only catch it on the weekend because it isn't playing at the regular evening spots -- I had no chance of making the daily 4:50 pm show.

take care...