Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t/Shiko funjatta

September 7th, 2008

Genre: comedy
Year: 1992
Length: 105 min
Director: Masauki Suo
Cast: Masahiro Motoki, Misa Shimizu, Naoto Takenaka, Masaaki Takarai, George Smiley

I was lucky to see the movie right after its release in 1993, but I still find it one of the funniest (it’s really funny and can be quoted) and ‘understandable humour wise’ Japanese comedies. The plot can be outlined in the following way: western sports become more and more popular in Japanese universities: baseball, soccer, basketball, football, tennis among them… and professors have to blackmail backward students to staff a sumo section. As a result, they have a typical loser section consisting of two brothers, one of whom looks really gayish, a religious American, a fat grind and a neurotic idealist, and they have a plump girl deeply in love to serve them… the university sumo council consisting of old crazy men one of whom keeps on pinching bottoms of people of both sexes, issues the challenge before them which is to win the ‘enemy university’ which by the way has no problems with the team:) it all becomes a really funny story with a very touching ending:) not a masterpiece, of course, but a very kind and optimistic movie with a touch of an American comedy, the genre I really dislike. It should be mentioned, that this movie was a smashing hit in Japan.

Spirited Away

September 7th, 2008

Director-animator: Hayao Miyazaki
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Country: Japan (2001)
Length: 124 min
Favicon by Faviconer

Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, 2002
Best Animated Feature Oscar Award, 2003

It seems to me that this film has been discussed too often and too much. It certainly is a new masterpiece by the genius Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most highly praised feature animated films, one of the most, if not the most profit-winning – with the box office close to that of Titanic. Sure, these facts are not very eloquent, as it is hardly possible to speak about Miyazaki using the language of figures, statistics and movie awards!
The story begins quite simple: a whiny girl Chihiro is moving with her parents to a new house. On their way the family gets lost and decides to explore the suburbs. After passing through a mysterious tunnel they find themselves in the abandoned theme park – with no people, but with tables filled with festive food… Chihiro’s parents dig in greedily and get turned into pigs. Chihiro is willing to save them, so she begins to serve a witch. The witch Yubaba brings up a spoilt kid and provides local spirits and gods of rivers and mountains with a hotel and a luxurious bathhouse.
The main attraction of “Spirited Away” is that Miyazaki gives us an insider vision of the other world. Gods in his interpretation suffer from boredom, get terribly tired at work and relieve stress at week ends, lying in baths for hours. They are short of money and hate their co-workers, and if you are the god of sring waters, there is always a risk that one day you will end up with a rusty bicycle in your posterior. A mysterious werewolf begins to talk in the voices of those whom he has eaten. A boy turns out to be a dragon, the demon of mud – the god of river, and many-handed spider-looking old man proves to be a caring and good-natured friend. Everything is about to transform into anything, everything is different from what it seems to be. But there is always a tragedy underlying a good manga. Its protagonists are doomed to loneliness or death. Genius of Hayao Miyazaki lies in his ability to produce films with happy endings, still retaining the drama spirit. In the best traditions of quality children movies. The world of Miyazaki is unpredictable and full of real dangers.
what really remains unchanged is the intonation of the film, sad and wonderful. It doesn’t promise that the good will triumph. There is neither good nor evil, there are only changing forms, which means there is no one to defeat. This story is endless, because having the beginning it has no end, and we leave protagonists in the firm belief that we will see each other more than once.
Music for the film was written by Joe Hisaishi who is well-known for some much-talked-of anime projects. The soundtrack consists of serious orchestra works, only one theme is accompanied with words, it’s performed by Yumi Kimura during the last scenes.

ARAGAMI/ The Raging God of Battle

September 7th, 2008

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Composer: Nobuko Morino
Cast: Masao Kato (he also starred in some western movies playing a Japanese bad boy) and Takao Osawa

You’ve always thought that only Chinese can fly? By the way, Japanese don’t have any problems with gravitation as well: they also can fly when they really want it. They never cared about flying before (except ninjas), but now everything has changed and they’ve shoot a film which I had pleasure to watch yesterday.

The plot is quite simple: two wounded samurai friends who’ve survived just by a miracle knock at the doors of the temple to find shelter there. Two days later the character of Masao Kato wakes up to find himself dressed in new clothes, with neither wounds nor scars on his body, and the mysterious ‘host’ of the place comes out to greet him and says that he was unable to save his friend, then a silent beauty brings food and sake… when the samurai asks the host how he can return the favour, he asks to kill him. Then the real story begins, as the host turns out to be not a good Samaritan, but an evil tang or how he calls himself, the god Aragami…

The movie looks more like a theatrical play: the story unfolds in the same temple hall, there are only three characters, their movements remind dancing, and clothes look like a wild mixture of Galliano and kabuki (mainly clothes of Aragami), Add here hard techno as a soundtrack, cannibalism, invulnerability, alien intellect, and certainly flights both in dreams and reality:) for all its trash nature, I really liked the movie, which hardly ever happens, so you can ‘check’ my taste if you feel like…