Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arthur Burns

Love. Love is the key. Love and family. For what are night and day, the sun, the moon, the stars without love, and those you love around you? What could be more hollow than to die alone, unloved?

Badi (1983)

This film is presented in original Turkish language and has no subtitles. There is not a copy of this film available with subtitles anywhere. This is the only way to get it. Besides, you hardly need subtitles to figure out what is going on. Badi (aka Turkish E.T.) Director: Zafer Par Starring: Cengiz Sayhan, Tolga Sonmez, Orhan Cagman, Tuncer Sevi, Ani Ippekkaya Language: Turkish/ No Subtitles Ratio: Full Screen Originally titled "Badi", this film pretty much follows the story of the American version of "E.T." The Turkish translation of the extra-terrestrial is very comical but loveable, (looking like at times a strange claymation creation from another planet and other scenes a grown person in brown pajamas with a potato sack head.) The kids aren't afraid of E.T., though. Instead of being hidden away at the house of the little boy that finds him for most of the movie where it can get loaded on beer and dress up in drag, this E.T. is rather quick to get out in public. In one scene, E.T. just strolls right into the little boy's classroom for all to see. Upon seeing it, the classroom teacher has a heart attack and slumps over at his desk. Using his alien detector, a nice old man finds E.T. out in the middle of nowhere, sick. He brings the creature back home to the little boy and they throw it in bed. Not long after, a crowd of people gather outside of the home, some offering their prayers to the creature while others are threatened by him. Healing rather quickly, E.T. levitates himself, the little boy and a select group of kids on a bike, basket contraption where they fly over Turkey, evading an impending hassling by the police and they touch down in a forest where a spaceship awaits to take the creature home. The little Turkish actors are very impressive, in fact, much more so than the former cast in terms of emotional levels of acting in the scenes. This is a heartwarming, funny and original take on a classic "American" alien.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Kanashimi no Belladonna also known as "The Tragedy of Belladonna" is an art house animation feature animated film produced in 1973 by Mushi Production. Directed and co-written by Eiichi Yamamoto and inspired by Jules Michelet's non-fiction book Satanism and Witchcraft, it is the third and final film in the Animerama trilogy and the only one to be neither written nor directed by Osamu Tezuka (he left Mushi Production during the film's early stages to concentrate on his comics and his conceptual-stage contribution is uncredited).

It was unusual on several counts: First off, it was an X-rated erotic Fantasia-esque feature length animation produced by by Mushi Production. Mushi Pro is the studio responsible for classic childrens fare like Astroboy and Kimba the White Lion. It’s easy to make the case that Osamu Tezuka, the company’s founder, should be regarded as the Walt Disney of Japan. In fact, it was Tezuka’s wide-eyed way of drawing characters that influenced Anime profoundly. Although Tezuka had already stepped down from the company three years earlier, it’s still not easy to imagine Disney producing soft porn cartoons just a few years after Uncle Walt’s passing…

Based kinda/sorta/somewhat on the Joan D’Arc story, Belladonna of Sadness also incorporates vampires and orgies into her tale (?!?!). Butterflies that take flight in the shape of a vagina and other things. As I have never seen a copy with English subtitles, it is rather difficult for me to say exactly what is going on in Belladonna of Sadness, although I can report that that Kuni Fukai’s stunning visuals (reminiscent of the work of Gustav Klimt and Aubrey Beardsley) are quite incredible eye candy and unlike anything else I’ve seen.

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The Proposition OST

The Proposition is a soundtrack recorded by Nick Cave in collaboration with Warren Ellis, and was produced for the film The Proposition, released in October 2005.

This album is instrumentally focused, and is a departure from Cave's band-oriented compositions. All tracks are directly reproduced from the musical interludes in the film, and feature little alteration from the film score. Many songs on the album are slow-tempo and ballad-like, and the violin work of Warren Ellis becomes the central voice of the album for much of the time. Cave's unusual vocal performances on the "Rider" trilogy of songs brings a particularly haunting and uneasy tone to the album.

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
Released: 13 Mar 2006

01. Happy Land
02. The The Proposition, Pt. 1
03. Road to Banyon
04. Down to the Valley
05. Moan Thing
06. The The Rider, Pt. 1
07. Martha's Dream
08. Gun Thing
09. Queenie's Suite
10. The The Rider, Pt. 2
11. The The Proposition, Pt. 2
12. Sad Violin Thing
13. The The Rider, Pt. 3
14. The The Proposition, Pt. 3
15. The The Rider Song
16. Clean Hands, Dirty Hands


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009)

The last few years Tsukamoto has been experiencing a slight decline towards (relatively) more commercial cinema. His latest (Nightmare Detective 2) is the ultimate proof of this change of style. Some might have you believe this new Tetsuo film is continuing the downward spiral, I clearly saw a completely different film. Tsukamoto returns back to his optima forma and delivers a film filled with more insanity than his age would ever betray.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a positive Tetsuo: The Bullet Man online. And while most negative feedback is definitely grounded, it seems to be missing the point entirely. This third Tetsuo film is in every way more of a sequel to the first film, somewhat ignoring the style and direction of the second one. It's in part an update of Tsuka's first Tetsuo film, but also somewhat of a rehash. I can only guess of course, but I'm not sure everyone was hoping to see the limitations of the first Tetsuo resurface after 20 years.

The Bullet Man was produced by an American company, somewhat explaining the switch to an American male lead (English dialogues included). Luckily these English dialogues makes sense within setting of the film (American boy living in Tokyo) and Tsukamoto is not pulling a Miike here. Still, I admit I too would've preferred an all-Japanese cast and native Japanese language track. The English feels awkward and static and even though it's probably how Tsuka wanted it to be, as someone who doesn't speak Japanese it would've been less of a hurdle if the film had been written in Japanese.

There's also a bit more background story to the Tetsuo saga. Many have faulted the additional story elements and complained the film is less vague and open than the first Tetsuo. This is definitely the case (though there really isn't that much extra plot to work through) but hardly something to worry about. Tetsuo was never about interpretation or a good story in the first place. The additional information here isn't really adding anything but it's not as if it's terribly in the way of the rest of the film either. Tetsuo is about dudes turning into metal and that's what you'll be getting.

Visually there's a big change between the gritty black and white of the first film and the moody, colored digital look of this third installment. It's a good thing Tsukamoto has had some prior experience with digital filming which is definitely paying off now. Everything looks lush, atmospheric yet gritty and smoky, only in a different way. The visual effects are spot on too, the same goes for Tetsuo's transformation designs. I really don't understand the bad press here. It's not as if the first Tetsuo didn't look as if he was made from anything other than paper mache. The third Tetsuo doesn't quite look like he's made from iron (which would make him quite expressionless by the way), but I didn't really see the rubber either. In the end, he just looked pretty bad-ass, which is all that mattered.

As for the editing, Tsukamoto still has it. Hyperactive, frantic, insane yet controlled and razor sharp. It masks some of the technical imperfections and heightens the atmosphere and pacing, making the action scenes all the more brutal. It also works wonderfully well with Chu Ichikawa (the man's back!) his soundtrack. Lovely metallic sounds, crunchy effects and pounding industrial tracks. A shame I couldn't see this film in theaters, I'm sure it would've sounded even better.

As for the acting, Tsukamoto's typical Kaijyu Theatre-style is back once again. It might clash a little with the American actors (we might be used to frantically screaming Japanese men by now, it still looks a little strange if an American does it) but overall the acting isn't even all that bad. Bossick does a pretty job, comparing him to Taguchi would be a little unfair though. The rest of the cast is not bad either, with the nice addition of Tsukamoto himself picking up the role of bad guy once again.

Tetsuo 3 is a pretty short film (80 minutes tops) but considering the frantic visual style and pounding soundtrack that's not necessarily a bad thing. There is no filler, no needless drama, any explaining that needed to be in here is short and to the point. In an ideal world another 10 minutes could've been cut to erase some of the obsolete story elements, but they never really interfere with the important parts: audiovisual transformation mayhem.

So while negative feedback on the dialogues and script is hard to contradict, it doesn't really differ all that much from the original Tetsuo. A film with a pretty long list of defects, all of them eclipsed by the uniqueness and positive points the film is bearing. Tsukamoto's third film is just like that. It's an audiovisual assault that knows little to no equal, staying close to the spirit of the original. As a fan of everything the first Tetsuo represents (still one of my top 10 films), I simply loved this sequel.

Usually negative feedback lowers people's expectations (which is a good thing), in this case many potential viewers seemed to dismiss this film completely without even giving it a fair chance. Don't be one of these people. Tetsuo: The Bullet Man is a worthy sequel to Tsukamoto's first feature film. It bears the same charm and defects as the first Tetsuo and some very minor extra glitches, but the core is still there. An assault to the senses in pretty much every way possible. So make sure to make up your own mind, just don't expect a true "upgrade" (ie a film influenced by 20 years of modern film making).