Saturday, June 28, 2008

me! i disconnect from you...

So, the past few weeks have been pretty lame. I'm job hunting, which just sucks all around, and it's hot, humid, a typical New York summer. Gross. Muggy. Icky. And it makes people surly. Surlier than normal. It's a bad scene, man, all around around. And being broke and unemployed and depressed in the city is no good either. So, basically, aside from sending out resume after resume and keeping my fingers crossed that someone, anyone out there will throw me a few rubles to ply my trade, and aside from catching up on my napping and coming book reading, and moping and brooding and sitting vacantly in my apartment doing jigsaw puzzles and playing pinball online, I've been catching up on my movie watching, which has fortunately proved reasonably rewarding over the past couple of weeks.

The big thing going down right now is the New York Asian Film Festival, which hasn't been as spectacular as it was last year, but has provided a few cheap thrills at least. The first film I caught was "Chanbara Beauty," based on the Japanese video game Onechanbara. Unlike American video game adaptations, which tend to try and graft narratives onto video game scenarios, this flick plays almost exactly like a video game, with scenes of kinetic action interspersed in between long stretches of awkward dialogue and exposition. The result is about as uneven as it sounds. The action is good, the drama is bad, and the end result is goofy and slight but ultimately fairly entertaining. Though the performances throughout are fairly stilted, Eri Otoguro, as the bikini-clad, samurai sword wielding zombie killer Aya, is appropriately cute and fun to watch, exuding maximum pathos and attitude with minimal dialogue. What the hell, I've spent worse 86 minutes...

This year's winner so far is without a doubt "Tokyo Gore Police," which reminded me a bit of last year's "Never Belongs to Me," only more hyperactive, violent and gore soaked. I was admittedly a bit unenthusiastic about this one. The title and trailer gave me a real bottom-of-the-barrel shot-on-video Japanese gore porn kind of vibe. Thankfully, I was wrong, and from beginning to end "Tokyo Gore Police" is wall-to-wall violence, splatter, humor, perversity, absurdity, interesting and likable characters, creative ideas, social parody and witty references to other sci-flicks, particularly the ouvre of Paul Verhoeven, and up in there, particularly "Robocop" and "Starship Troopers," as well as cult sci-fi flicks like "Blade Runner" and "Videodrome." Like these great films, "Tokyo Gore Police" has a strong political element, not only in regards to the body politic (I'd say this is one of the most oddly anti-misogynistic sex and gore exploitation flicks you'll ever see, and one of the most coroporeally obsessed), but also a warning against the dangers of privatizing public services, and allowing control of everyday life to fall into the hands of capitalist interests. In this case, the alienation of late capitalism is personified but a mind-body disconnect, in which the flesh becomes a virtual playground for all variety of exploration and exploitation, and, more often than not, mutilation (be it in the form of combat, surgery, or self abuse)...

What this movie has going for it, both literally and figuratively, is guts. Both in terms of its' ballsiness, and in terms of the acres of viscera sprayed across the screen. "Tokyo Gore Police" is doubtless one of the most violent and gory films I've ever seen, with gallons upon gallons of blood sprayed across the frame and quite often directly into the camera, along with a multitude of other bodily fluids and organs, both real and imagined. Director and effects technician Yoshihiro Nishimura presents a menagerie of imaginative grotesqueries, among them a penis-gun (fleshier and less funny than the one from "Never Belongs to Me"), a set of vagina dentata that puts "Teeth" to shame, a snail woman replete with shell and extended orbitals, tv ads for self-mutilation and suicide implements, a handgun that actually shoots severed hands, a quadruple amputee dog woman, and perhaps most bizarrely a breathing flesh chair with a hyperactively urinating vagina. And yet, admidst all this, as well as a legion of samurai armor clad proto-facist police slaughtering citizens and mutants every which way but loose, "Tokyo Gore Police" charms rather than offends.


The key to the film's overall digability is no doubt largely due to the cleverness of Nishimura's script, written in collaboration with "Uzumaki" screenwriter Kenjo Kaji and actress Sayako Nakoshi, which lays to grue on thick but does so with a wit and intelligence that keeps the viewer from becoming detached from the explicit onscreen action. Also keeping things cool is lead actress Eihi Shiina, of Takashi Miike's "Audition," who strikes an excellent balance between cool-eyed super killer and vulnerable, identifiably human protagonist. No small feat for a leading lady almost constantly being splattered with, or drawing, copious quantities of plasma, and who spends a good third of the feature saddled with some reasonably ridiculous prosthetics. What else can I say? "Tokyo Gore Police" was an absolute treat, smart, enjoyable and engaging on every level...

I was hoping to catch "the Rebel," a serious historical epic from Vietnam, tonight but my compatriot Adele needed a ticket so I gave her mine- you can read her review here. I was also hoping to check out Kenta (son of Kinji "Battle Royale/Black Lizard/Green Slime/Tora Tora Tora/Yakuza Papers") Fukasaku's X-Cross at midnight tonight, but it just wasn't in the cards (my buddy Justin and I wound up watching "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" instead, a thoroughly nerdy but enjoyable alternative). Later this week I'll hopefully make it to "Satori," the remake of "Female Convict Scorpion," and who knows what else. Reviews to follow...

Meanwhile I've also watched a few non-festival things that I'll write about later, including the fascinating "House of Numbers," from Russell Rouse, director of "The Oscar." I'll also be posting more comics stuff (Deadshot, Dr. Fate, the Spectre, Madame Xanadu, Mr. Miracle etc.) soon. Just keeping posted, and stay negative...

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