Archives for May 2008 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for May, 2008

Update For May 22nd

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 22 - 2008

Wow, you mean this site ain’t completely dead yet? I know, I know, it has been like six months since the last update. Well, what has changed in my life? Not a whole lot. I write monthly for Rogue Cinema, I own my own business and unfortunately right now it is slow just like everyone is but that doesn’t mean that I get to lay up all day and do nothing. I wish. Anyway, just stay so busy and my personal computer became my work computer. However I’m not here to make all kinds of excuses, this is hard work and most realize this. Let’s just get to what I’ve been doing these past six months!



VC New Reviews

Election

Invisible Target

Running On Karma

Throwdown

 

VC Old Reviews

Bubba Ho-Tep by TheSwampFox

Entrails of a Beautiful Woman by TheSwampFox

Hatchet For the Honeymoon by Prof. Aglaophotis

Izo

JSA

Pornostar

 

RC Articles

Cinema: Art, Commerce and Entertainment

Cracker Crazy

Deadwood Park

Ice From the Sun

Interview With Justin D. Hilliard

My Big Fat Homeless Berkley Movie & Another Big Fat Homeless Berkley Movie

Nemesis

Savage Harvest

Savage Harvest II: October Blood

Scrapbook

She Was Asking For It

Silent Voyeur

Six Unheard of Flicks

Snuff Cinema: Perpetuating the Myth

The Severed Head Network

Trash Flicks For A Media Blitz

Wish I had enough time to sit there and write up manual summarys for all of that, but as you can tell that would take far more time than a lazy dork like myself can spare! Regardless, hope everybody digs the new treats, and find a couple of flicks that might surprise them. I’ll try and come back with those summaries later I promise!

Brainscan

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 22 - 2008
This review was originally written between 2003-2006 and has since been slightly edited. The opinion remains the same as the original posting, but slight errors have been revised or smoothed out.

Plot Outline: Michael Boyer (Edward Furlong) is your average disinterested teenager. He’s bored with the average, and has an obsession with the bizarre and occult. Especially anything having to do with horror. Spending his days watching horror films in his “horror club” at school, which as of recent is threatened to be disbanded by the principal, Michael is looking for something new. Something horrifying, fresh and something to push him over the edge. He finds just that in Brainscan. A CD-Rom based horror game that works through hypnosis. Putting the gamer in a trance that allows them the opportunity to get inside of a serial killer’s mind as he goes on a rampage and commits atrocity after atrocity. Once Michael wakes up, he is blown away. He’s never felt anything so realistic and overall he is terrified of the game… but what is even more terrifying, is the idea that it might not JUST be a game.




The Review
Hey there my fellow VC fans, I guess you guys thought you had seen the last of me – and for those of you reading this months down the line, this single review comes after nearly a year long hiatus from the site. Time has been short and my interests have kept me distracted, but writing has never left my mind and with my tiny “comeback” I decided to go with familiar territory to keep things interesting. Brainscan is a film that I have a little history with. It was the first ever horror film I saw in the theaters, and I think it might be the first rated R film I saw in a theater as well. As a viewer I could always let nostalgia get the better of me and totally neglect any faults that the film may have and call it a modern masterpiece for no reason other than the fact that I like it – but I won’t do that. I’ll tell you up-front that Brainscan isn’t going to be as great for every viewer out there, especially those not quite as forgiving as I am. The technology at the time it was made is a bit prehistoric to say the least. The concept of computers, what they were capable of and what would be affordable for a slightly wealthy teenager seem just a bit “off” to say the least. For a guy who has constantly had a problem with films such as “Hackers” and “The Net”, looking back on Brainscan I have to take things as they are and accept the film for what it is.

With that said, Brainscan might be one of the better horror flicks you’ve probably never seen. Released in the early nineties, around the time horror flicks were really taking a dive in quality and pretty soon in popularity – it was a vehicle for the still popular child actor Edward Furlong, who was still coming down from his successful turn in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and his not so successful turn as the lead in Pet Semetary II. I don’t know what the major deterrent was for viewers with the film and why we’re not all sitting around talking about it today, but I seriously do not believe it’s lack of popularity is due to a lack in quality. Hey, if Hackers can garner as rabid a fan-base as it has now and people actually like it for something more than just silly nineties gibberish – then it wouldn’t take much to spur interest in Brainscan. In a time when every “horror” flick hitting the market was basically just a weak-sauce version of a Friday the 13th flick – and today we really aren’t doing much better – Brainscan was a nice alternative to all the repetitive garbage being cycled around. There actually has been some talk about a possible sequel within the past few years, something I can’t take serious due to it’s lack in popularity and the fact that it has been so long – but I would highly endorse the idea if only to have the original film break back into the market. I truly think Brainscan is a film that deserves a wider audience. You could consider it to be a “cult” film right now, but as far as cult audiences go, Brainscan could have a larger name out there. A current DVD or a special edition would be a nice touch!

Brainscan has a lot going for it, but just never seemed to catch on with a massive fan base. I can’t really wrap my head around it. Considering Edward Furlong doesn’t even really cover it (amongst other flicks) in his bio sheet over at his official website or on the IMDB, I can assume that since it tanked some consider it to be garbage. Compared to Furlong’s work in Pet Semetary II however, I think it is far and away from being his worst film. Even after all the time being spent away from it, having just sat down and watched it the other night it still feels fresh after all these years. Even if the style just oozes with early 90’s grunge rock angst and the lack of knowledge about technology seems like a slap in the face to anyone raised in the technological age. Just what would it have taken to have a voice activated computer-based phone system in the early nineties that was pre-programmed with a voice/personality all it’s on like that of “Igor” within the film? Not to mention the actual possibility of something like Brainscan actually existing… or then again; how do you go about explaining the likes of Trickster!? The simple fact is, you’re going to have to take a step back and not question things too much. It’s a lot better than The Lawnmower Man, I promise.

For horror fans out there especially, I can’t see how this one gets passed up so often. It is not especially gruesome mind you, but to this day the violence (only one scene in particular, but it makes up for a lot) in Brainscan still shocks me. The brutal slaying of an older man in the film is shown in full graphic detail during the first game sequence, and adds to the sick demented feel of such a game. The violence isn’t just senseless, since it adds so much weight to the film. Fleshing out Brainscan as something horrible and graphic, frightening in its cruelty and totally without remorse. Then when it is time for Furlong’s character to continue entering into it – we know what to expect. We understand this horror and we know the character’s fear. As a kid I remember the idea of the game being repulsive to me, and that one sequence really nailed the idea home for me. There is a definite difference between reality and fiction and although that line may seem thin at times, crossing that line takes true willpower, just as much as it takes to deny crossing it. Although, Brainscan really isn’t much of a “message” type of film there’s definitely some intelligence lying in there if you’re willing to give it some credence.

The performances in the film are solid by all. Edward Furlong, who may come off a bit whiny as I have heard it put, is really great in his role. Whether or not you’re a fan of his is something totally different entirely, but I’ve always thought of him as a very talented actor and it’s just a shame to see what has happened to him in recent years. He really could have been a memorable performer over the years had he just stayed away from the temptations of stardom. Such a shame. T. Rider Smith, who outside of this one film roll (he apparently has a few television credits to his name) I am not familiar with, but is incredibly creepy and often times hilarious as Trickster. Although I haven’t seen, at least to my knowledge, anything else by the man I have to admire his work here. He could have been Drop Dead Fred or even a cheap version of Freddy Krueger (well, he almost is) but overall I think Trickster truly lives as his own character. Not a monster without some dignity or morality, and by the end of the film, it’s questionable just how evil he really is. There’s a very large moral debate going on within the film surrounding just about everything, but that’s a whole other paragraph of guesstimates I’m probably not equipped to tackle. I will go out and say that if you’re expecting a clear cut choice in the film about video game violence, on either side of the debate, you’re bound to be disappointed. Brainscan, believe it or not, isn’t really that simplistic of a film.

The Conclusion
So, with everything said, I’m giving the film a very high four rating. There are still some things about it that knock it down from the very top position. Like the slightly dream-like take on technology and what was available then versus what is actually available now some ten or so years later. It does take you a bit out of the things, no matter how much fun it is. So, regardless, I hope someone out there stumbles upon it one of these days due to my hype and they enjoy it as much as I do, because if there’s one American horror of the 90s still deserving some attention, I’d say Brainscan is it.

Pornostar

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 22 - 2008
Plot Outline: A young man steps off a subway into the middle of Tokyo from somewhere or another, we don’t know his name, we only know he carries a Maddison Square Garden bag, has a heavy coat and looks downright mean. This is reinforced as we watch him knock people over in the heavy human traffic of the metropolitan area. Also in this city is a local pimp, who made a promise to his mother that he would never join the Yakuza – but they are putting pressure on him at every moment. The young man with his bag accidentally runs into a couple of Yakuza henchman where we discover he doesn’t really take too kindly to the Japanese crime world as he calls them worthless. Being the henchmen that they are, they decide to rough him up a little but things don’t go their way and they both wind up dead. All the while leading the young man to the Yakuza head quarters. Once there, he meets up with this disgraced pimp who is ordered to kill him – but instead let’s him go and a strange rivalry/friendship develops between the two as this young man slowly loses grip with reality.




The Review: When Artsmagic sent me the DVD for Blue Spring, I remember thinking “this is huge” afterward. Monumental. It certainly was too, I think as of this moment Toshiaki Toyoda may be the most important filmmaker in my life. Takashi Miike has been my favorite for a long, long time and probably still is – but what Toyota is doing feels lively, fresh and somehow carries a heart and soul to go with it’s style. If ever there was a man who (and I realize how utterly lame this is to say) has his pulse on the strength of cinema, it would be him. I have seen three films from him now, and although I guess nothing could ever top the feelings that rushed through me after watching Blue Spring, I have been amazed with every path he has taken. I had actually heard of Pornostar nearly a year or two before ever having seen it or Blue Spring. It was just one of those occurrences where you stumble upon something, perhaps in an online forum or some obscure reference in a review some place, but I remember reading the plot summary and then glazing over a few screenshots and I knew it had to be something special. I wanted to see it desperately, but could never find it anywhere. Then, after Blue Spring, the hunt became too hard of a thing to ignore and after waiting for what seemed an eternity, a copy finally showed up on eBay and I purchased it immediately. It was worth the wait and effort because it quickly turned into one of my favorite films. Now, you may look at the score and wonder how I could say that when 9 Souls received a five and of course Blue Spring received the Stubbing Award; but that rating comes down to a factor of ‘importance’. Now, Pornostar is likely no less brilliant than those two films, but as far as it’s importance with the other two in Toyoda’s catalog, these first steps may not be the most interesting for some viewers. Yet, much like Tarantino and Reservoir Dogs, when it comes to a film by Toyoda that I will watch over and over again; Pornostar wins hands down. It is perhaps more entertaining, certainly less draining emotionally, but really it comes down to how much fun it is in it’s simplicity. This is just a cool film, a little social commentary thrown in, but in the end it’s something you can enjoy and not grow exponentially attached to during its short running time. That perhaps sounds like a criticism, but it’s not. Some films are just built differently than others, and Pornostar is like a candy rather than a full course meal; just because it may not be as filling does not mean it doesn’t serve an equal purpose. It’s fun without a lot of the hassle, it’s touching without the full out blitzkrieg on your emotions and it’s so effortlessly cool you won’t be able to help but love it.

Toyoda starts the film with his now well known slow motion shot set to a rocking soundtrack, and once again (like 9 Souls), this time it’s a simple instrumental. Watching as our leading man walks through crowds of people, sometimes knocking them down, sometimes walking between them but seemingly always going against the direction of traffic. It’s a simplistic way to show the audience how antagonistic and rebellious he is towards what society views as normal, and it works exceptionally well. There’s some self-criticism in the script for the tolerance society pays toward Yakuza, but a lot of it seems deeply enriched in the culture and is hard for an outsider like myself to fully pick up on. I figure if you’re enough of a Japanese obsessed fanboy who keeps up with national events, maybe you too can truly get a grasp of where Toyoda is coming from, but it’s really not something vital to truly understand the film, and it seems simple enough of a moral for most foreign members of the audience to pick up on. There’s a lot of mystery to the script, giving the lead character no backstory nor even the faintest clue as to what has made him the killing machine that he is, but it makes Koji Chihara’s character like an even more ambiguous Sergio Leone style lone-gunman. Not that Chihara’s character is as much of a hard boiled killer as someone like Blondie from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; we’re given more of the impression that this young man is severely deranged. One of the most brilliant moments in the film is when Chihara accompanies his companions along for a drug deal with some American’s who are… less than negotiable. Chihara’s character finds himself rambling on about some new moral discovery he has made to the uselessness of Yakuza and other gangsters, and then he begins to laugh uproariously in one long take before pulling out his pistol and laying waste to the two foreign delinquents. The scene even made it into the Japanese trailer, and is obviously one of the standout moments of the film, but really nails home the fact that this kid might not be all there. If his silence and murder habits had not lead you to that conclusion already, of course.

Koji Chihara, a young actor slowly making his mark in the Japanese film community (working with Takashi Miike and at least twice with Toyoda), puts in as impressive a performance as could possible be given for a character who rarely speaks nor divulges much of his motivation. Regardless of the confusion he may give the audience, it appears he at least knows what he is doing and even more important, the reasons. Not to mention he just puts off an aura of ‘cool’, which in a Toshiaki Toyoda film is as important as anything the ‘plot’ may have to offer. At least from a stylistic perspective. His moody attitude and consistent grimace makes the character all around memorable. The rest of the cast all put in as equally impressive debuts, including one or two Toyoda regulars along the way but what really takes center stage in the film is this simple story that is fleshed out for us. Black, white and grey all over; the point is to blue the line between good, bad and the all around crazy. In this world Toyoda creates, there literally are no answers. Vigilantism is more than just questioned, it is deliberately thought upon, and leaves the audience in the driver’s seat as far as questioning who is right and who is wrong in this situation. One has to think Toyoda has some courage to make the film he did, with a slight slant against the actual Yakuza crime world; that even the leading man opposite Koji Chihara actually comes from before becoming an actor. It seems as if it would take guts to even question their place in society, and although I’ve heard Toyoda say that he feels the film didn’t quite meet his expectations (as he says on the Blue Spring disc, he would actually like to remake it), I can’t imagine the film being much better. If there are any complaints, I guess it would be that it actually doesn’t reach the crest that his other films do, but I just couldn’t imagine one frame of Pornostar being changed; for better or worse.

So, with that behind me, Pornostar is just the sort of film I would blindly recommend to just about anyone into artistic cinema. Some will ‘get it’, some won’t, but in the end for those who find it as amazing as I do; their discovery will far overshadow those who just don’t feel the connection between characters. Toshiaki Toyoda is probably the most inspirational director I have been turned onto in years, and so far with me he is three and zero. Now if only I can score a copy of Unchained and his latest; I feel confident that no matter what it’s impossible for him to let me down. I almost feel like saying cheers to the man! Meh, maybe I’m taking it a bit over the top in my adoration, but you know, few filmmakers can get me so amped for the art form and I think that needs to be celebrated.

JSA

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 22 - 2008
Plot Outline: Our film takes place between the lines of the Korean DMZ. Two sets of soldiers, North and South, who by happenstance meet and become friends through a game where they toss notes to each other over the line that divides their countries. After this friendship is sealed, eventually the South Korean private asks to make a trip over the line – and he does. Defying everyone and breaking the rules to meet faceless strangers, the two groups come together and a bond is felt between them… yet, it all ends in a bloodbath. What brings about the death of innocence and friendship is what a Swiss investigator is sent in to find out. A young woman of Korean birth must unravel this mystery – and no one is revealing their full hand.


The Review: So everyone and their mother has been telling me about the films of Park Chan-Wook since… well, just about forever it seems. Especially now with his recent explosion in popularity generally due to Oldboy becoming so widespread. Really, Park Chan-Wook’s films have followed me for a long time now. I first read about Joint Security Area back when Shiri was first hitting “the scene”. It’s been a while since those days have come and pass, and I guess Shiri itself left me with a bad stigma, because I never really thought to give JSA much of a chance, because I never suspected it would be anything other than another Hollywood-esque Korean thriller with slightly more violence and a more interesting take on shoddy material. It wasn’t until I learned that the director was the same as the much talked about Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, which I had built up in my head for quite a while as being perhaps the greatest revenge thriller I had never seen (thanks to the endless hype such as on Aint It Cool News). Thankfully, to be honest, it’s best that I saw and reviewed this film originally before seeing Sympathy, because the expectations I had for that film helped me look at this one in a different light and helped me to see what IS actually great about it. Rather than the actual letdown I experience when finally seeing Mr. Vengeance, but that’s an entirely different review completely. So here I was, starting my way through the man’s film set and JSA was thankfully my starting point; since at this moment I would say I prefer it over the other (and the wind was completely taken out of my sails on seeing Oldboy). Now, getting back to the comparison between this film and Shiri is that JSA is much more involved in a descriptiv form of telling a political story. This isn’t an action film by any stretch of the imagination, and you’ll never hear me talk about any of that of course. JSA is far more focused on facts, intrigue and the relationship between characters than any tense, action oriented melodrama. Thankfully it’s quite the opposite in it’s deceptively quiet ways of clueing the audience into what is going on in our characters’ heads. For that, I definitely have to show Park Chan-Wook some respect, because he does do a well job at keeping the mainstream alongside the more thought provoking and craft oriented filmmaking decisions.

The story, which could just be as ordinary as Shiri’s, but with that whole “A Few Good Men” twist to it, takes the higher road and offers a realistic depiction of violence and the haute tension of the current political situation between the two Koreas. The pressure on the characters is palpable, and the story steadily builds throughout the runtime in some, well, intense ways. Although, I can’t lie, as I watched the film I did find myself hoping in those first thirty minutes of the film for it to somehow further distinguish itself from the growing number of films like this or other such classics from South Korea. I think possibly the mix of oddball humor in the midst of things might be what does just that. Not just ‘dark’ or ‘disturbed’ humor, but genuinely goofy comedic work. Slapstick, buddy comedy and even corny little gags between friends. It’s not something one expects from such a ‘serious’ script and even during all of this the tone never really changes and things always remain on track – but we as the audience are allowed to have fun along the way, and that along is enough of a change to have kept my interest during those formidable opening moments. With the political implications in the film, it makes me curious how the film must be viewed in its homeland. Since it was the highest grossing South Korean motion picture ever up until a few years ago when Shiri broke that record, one has to imagine it is looked upon favorably, but I wonder just what does it for them. I have to wonder whether the bonding between North and South, shown in the film, must be viewed as a hope for the future or perhaps even a treasonous idea. I giess it’s for the SK people to decide. As an outsider, I find the idea hopefully optimistic, though with the conclusion of the tale of kenship between disputed countrymen shows some serious underlining doubts. Still, one could only hope any of us could reach the sort of fellowship between the two groups of soldiers as represented in this film.

The drama of the film hits masterful highs during the last two acts of the film, and as the clock ticks along, things get even more and more drawn out. JSA is the equivelant of a cinematic page-turner, the longer you’re into it the more and more you both dread and hope for the story to cease. That’s probably the highest compliment it is going to get from me, as it’s certainly the type of film that sucks you into its’ world. I don’t know just how different JSAW really is from something like… I don’t know, The General’s Daughter, all I can say and this isn’t the most professional quote ever, but JSA, unlike that film, doesn’t suck. From its’ slow beginnings to the taut and intense finale, it doesn’t let its’ grip on you go. The film works as a look at the horrors of a friendship torn apart and the sad shape of a country divided, which is either bleak or hopeful all depending on you the viewer and I have no doubts that there’s a lot more working in this film than meets the eye. If after watching, you don’t feel at least a little down and out about the current political tension in Korean then, well, you just have no heart. It would be interesting to know the director’s political beliefs, and his exact statement about things, but his films make it clear that he is very in touch with the issue (having one of the lead females in Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance as a full blown communist who wants to unify the country show this). I can simply hope that with the way things turn out in the film that the director doesn’t actually place blame or choose sides in his definitive statement, as it wouldn’t seem very ethical, though I imagine it’s as much a possibility as anything. As far as the technical achievements of the film, everything is pulled off without a hitch. The cinematography isn’t really what I would call flashy, but it certainly has it’s moments. Particularly that famous scene where we peek through a bullet hole in the wall of the crime scene near the opening. Much of it is pretty standard, but this sort of story doesn’t really demand to be shown by a flurry of complex camera movements, as this is simply a story about people – and although you can say that isn’t much of an excuse; there’s no need to detract from the actors given this sort of project. The actors all commit to their jobs and deliver powerful performances as well, my personal favorite being from Kang-ho Song (also a lead in Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance) as the North Korean Seargent, who at all times must remain strong minded. It’s simply a great character, and he delivers in spades. I’d say, although the director hasn’t really impressed me abundantly yet, his bringing this actor to my eyes was a great deed.

What else can I say, between the amazing performances, brilliant script and genuinely horrifying look at the mindset of a people torn apart by politics – it is simply a great film. It follows many mainstream rules, but like much of Korean cinema, it breaks just as many and even moreso in this film than in most cases. So, as much as I dislike that, I have to congratulate these sorts of films for managing to sneak more and more of the obscure into their films. Something I wish we would do here at home. It’s a very nice start for the director’s career, and although Mr. Vengeance kind of derailed me, I still want to see more of his films in the future and won’t let myself get too hyped up; that is for certain.

Izo

Posted by Josh Samford On May - 22 - 2008

Plot Outline: Izo, a fearless and slightly off-kilter assassin of the samurai world is executed via crucifix sometime in the Japanese past. Being the vengeful and murderous spirit that he is, heading on toward the afterlife for peace and tranquility with no answers to the questions that rage in his mind is not something he wants to do. So he literally rages through the heavens killing anyone and anything that dares block the path between himself and the one who can answer his questions. This sends the heavens into an uproar, and as Izo draws closer, the ancients who stand around bickering back and forth about what to do with Izo count their very last hours.










The Review: Say what you will about Takashi Miike, he knows how to start a film. While watching Izo’s opening minutes, I found myself thinking back to that hyper music video style intro to Dead or Alive, or the equally outlandish, not to mention highly implausable, beginnings of City of Lost Souls. Hey, who could forget the title credit in Ichi the Killer literally arrising from semen? With Izo, Miike is back at it again, with a silent narrative though all the steps of child birth. From conception to flashes of an actual delivery, all by use of old stock footage I imagine he found while raiding some Japanese film vault. It only seems natural for Miike, being the director that he is, to take us straight to the death from all of these miracles of life. He gives us a man strapped to a crucifix, our leading man Izo in true Christ fashion, about to be pierced through the side by a spear – only this is a Miike film, and things have to be taken to extremes. So Izo is stabbed on either sides of his body with spears by two guards who literally jam their blades all the way through to the shoulder blades of our ‘hero’. Miike makes Izo into a pincushion as he is stabbed over and over, and over again. Things are pushed so well past the realm of the plausible that it becomes, dare I say, humorous, in a way only Miike could make. After this we’re thrown into a terrifying collage of images throughout history. A walk through the second world war, including bombs dropping, McCarthur stepping aboard a ship (I believe on the day Japan admitted defeat) and other various scenes of unpleasant thoughts. Scenes of carnage fly by in the blink of an eye, but are countered by children riding in teacup rides and girls hoolahooping. A regular Miike signature. This collage, packed with the opening moments of the film, deserves a mention among the best of Miike’s work – and I get the feeling I won’t be the last to have taken note of this keen editing. Now, all of this, had it been left to its own devices, could have lead to a monumental achievement for Miike. Sadly, that just isn’t the case.

Generally, you all know me, if Miike’s name is even on the credits as a cameo, I’ll be first in line (got fooled on “Isola”, and will be seeing Eli Roth’s newest “Hostel” just as soon as possible) and for the most part I have loved everything I have seen from him, but Izo… Izo I’m not so sure on. I have sided with Miike on just about everything, usually it’s like we’re two minds at work on the same issues, but Izo is just too much at times. If you know me, I often have a low tolerance for pretension. That doesn’t mean I have a dislike for big ideas or non-linear thought in my cinematic diet, I am a huge fan of David Lynch after all (and when it comes to Lynch, the weirder the better), but with Lynch I believe he does the right thing, at least right for me. He hides his ideas and lets his images talk for him. There is no need for him to get one thousand philosophers to work as his mouth piece in order to bogg his audience down with supposed “deep thoughts”. Lynch uses the cinematic medium to deliver a message of his own without the bells and whistles. Watching Izo for me was a lot like watching “Waking Life”, except with a lot more blood. That of course being a film I hated, I’m sure you can understand some of my antagonism. I might just be a simple man, and if I am I’ll accept it, but in matters of any level of pretension I just think that if the audience can’t understand what you are trying to say they should at least walk away entertained in some form or another. That isn’t to say I can’t understand what Izo has to say, I believe I understand it’s core levels and what the character of Izo represents in terms of society, religion and revolution – but I certainly don’t feel drawn to Miike’s conclusions or questions, nor do I think that for such a preachy-lead film that Miike really made his points clear or objective. The tennants of Izo’s philosophy are easily torn down, as all the characters do not seem independent in thought, including the character Izo himself. Everyone acts as puppets in an elaborate play, trying to deliver some monolithic final philosophical idea that never truly emerges.

I just don’t think that Izo delivers, and being that Miike wasn’t the original author it’s hard to tell who is to blame but knowing Miike’s work ethic, there’s no telling where these ideas came from. There are certain aspects to Izo that I might not have the first idea of how to approach and understand as an outsider to the culture, but I have had that handicap my whole time as a viewer of foreign films and have still been able to love films deeply rooted in such a culture. Izo’s religious terms definitely make it more complicated for someone like me to understand, something many reviewers seem to look over as they reach for political allegory’s as the main themes of the film, and I am left to believe that if many writers are correct and that Izo is about the inner beast locked inside of man that always has been and always will be there, then his resolution and ultimate form of suppressing or taming it is through a connection with man’s spiritual side of his higher power. The true meanings behind Izo could be debated until the cows come home, but ultimately only two men are probably sure of what it all means and they’re the writer and director.<br><br> So I imagine the real question must become: Was Izo worth it? Worth making and worth watching I mean, and surprisingly I’m going to answer that yes, yes it was. I don’t know anything on certain terms, maybe Miike was just given a massive budget for a film and in his rebellious ways made one major [expletive] of a film to throw in his audience’s face, something few would fully comprehend just for the sake of fulfilling some artistic need of his, but even still I respect what is at work in Izo and was still compelled to watch every minute of it. Because, regardless of whether I felt it might have taken things to the point of being overblown, Miike’s fingerprints are loaded throughout this film. Not merely just the familiar faces that pop up in the seemingly endless cameo spots, but everything about the film is genuinely “Miike”. From the use of old stock footage as a means to add to the current feature (Dead or Alive II, but particularly III come to mind), rebirth of man in his current form as a way of starting again (Gozu), that already mentioned comparison between children playing innocent games and the violence of the world around them (Dead or Alive II) and Izo himself is an absolute classic Miike character. If you’ve read Tom Mes’ “Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike”, he makes it very clear that the majority of Miike’s characters are always isolated outcasts desperately searching for a home of their own. Usually belonging to no side during a time of conflict, and Izo as defined is a complete dichtonomy with the world around him. He belongs to nothing but his eternal search for the answers to the mysteries of life, and ultimately; inner peace. Whether or not I can claim Izo to be an entertaining or easy film to watch (truth be told, at times it’s quite frustrating), but it is important and absorbing if you are a fan of this director. Besides, seeing Miike given a obviously more sizable budget than his usual and thrown together with a cast of… who knows how many stars – it’s just fun to watch him be afforded the opportunity to experiment even this late in his career. Where else will you see Ryuhei Matsuda, Takeshi Kitano, Mickey Curtis, Sussama Terrajima and K1/NFL star Bob Sapp (who is about as big of a star in Japan as they come, both figuratively and literally) all in the same, completely incoherent, film.

As much as I feel like I need to give the film it’s 3 rating, I know somewhere inside of me, I probably love this film. Perhaps over time it will grow on me and through repeat viewings it will all seem clearer to me – but for now, these are my thoughts and no matter how much it pains me as a fan of his work, I have to say Miike did dissapoint me on this one. It’s not quite “Silver”, as this film has a brain and then some, but it’s not leaps and bounds better than it. Just a good bit different.

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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