Archives for February 2010 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for February, 2010

VCinema Episode 3: Full Metal Tetsuo

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 27 - 2010
It’s finally here everybody! The third episode of everyone’s favorite podcast featuring a Louisiana guy named Josh and a Californian dude named Jon! Epic and pretentious discourse is sure to follow! Download/stream it and give us your thoughts!



Two weeks in the making and now yours for the taking!

In our third episode, we (Josh and Coffin Jon) ponder the technophobia of Shinya Tsukamoto’s seminal cyberpunk film Tetsuo – The Iron Man. Also included are our Netflix Instant recommendations, Twitter question about postmodern film, listener feedback, and more film talk then you might care to listen to but too bad because the show is free and really, what else are you doing on a Friday night anyway?

Links:

Tetsuo

Kabei: Our Mother

Chocolate

10k Bullets

Shutting Out the Sun

Show Girls, Teen Wolves, and Astro Zombies

VCinema contact info and links:

Contact: vcinema@variedcelluloid.net

Voicemail: (206) 338-3864

Facebook

Twitter: @vcinemashow (Coffin Jon) @variedcelluloid.net (Josh)

Directly download episode 3 here

A Snake of June Review

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 23 - 2010
Back again with a review for one of the best films to be covered on this site in a while! Easily jumping into my top fifteen (which is pretty high up there!), A Snake of June is a pretty mind blowing experience. It’s also now one of my favorites from director Shinya Tsukamoto! I hope you guys dig the review, as I went pretty in depth with this one! Check it out!

The Plot: Rinko Tatsumi (Asuka Kurosawa) is a phone operator at a mental health center, where she talks to those on the brink of suicide and persuades them to do the right thing. Her home life is extremely plain, her husband continually cleans around the house and seems disinterested in any kind of sexual relationship. Her life, as boring as it may be, seems content. Things are turned upside down though, when she receives a package in the mail that holds photographs of her. Photographs of her pleasuring herself in her apartment. The same man continues to send her packages in the mail with other lurid pictures before revealing himself to her as one of her callers from work. The man claims she has saved his life and now he wants her to have the sexual awakening she has always dreamed of. However, his methods are less than conscious of her feelings. He buys her an earbud and a cell phone so that he can direct her without the world catching on. He then has her visit the mall, wear an extremely short skirt that she made but never had the audacity to wear and then he has her visit an adult novelty shop to buy a vibrator. Driving her insane as she humiliates herself in public, her anger builds. However, who is this man really and what secret does he hide?






CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Snake of June, A

Posted by Josh Samford On February - 23 - 2010
The Plot: Rinko Tatsumi (Asuka Kurosawa) is a phone operator at a mental health center, where she talks to those on the brink of suicide and persuades them to do the right thing. Her home life is extremely plain, her husband continually cleans around the house and seems disinterested in any kind of sexual relationship. Her life, as boring as it may be, seems content. Things are turned upside down though, when she receives a package in the mail that holds photographs of her. Photographs of her pleasuring herself in her apartment. The same man continues to send her packages in the mail with other lurid pictures before revealing himself to her as one of her callers from work. The man claims she has saved his life and now he wants her to have the sexual awakening she has always dreamed of. However, his methods are less than conscious of her feelings. He buys her an earbud and a cell phone so that he can direct her without the world catching on. He then has her visit the mall, wear an extremely short skirt that she made but never had the audacity to wear and then he has her visit an adult novelty shop to buy a vibrator. Driving her insane as she humiliates herself in public, her anger builds. However, who is this man really and what secret does he hide?





The Review
Despite the fact that I count him as one of my favorite filmmakers, the films of Shinya Tsukamoto haven’t been thoroughly delved into here on Varied Celluloid. My original reviews for Tetsuo and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer were written seven years ago and are no longer available on the site. As you can guess, my writing ability (which isn’t exactly academic at this point) wasn’t at its finest point; so why embarrass a quality product with such an improper review? So, with my sleeves rolled up and my thinking cap on; I am ready to tackle at least one film from this man’s impressive oeuvre. A Snake of June is vintage Shinya Tsukamoto, which is to say it is a mind blowing and a fresh bold look at what filmmaking should be. Sound like some pretty high honors to be throwing out there? Not if you know Shinya Tsukamoto. Hiding somewhere in the midst of Tokyo, a city he once described as a place that part of him loves, but also a place that another part of him would love to see destroyed. He’s an artist with some quirks to him, but there’s one constant fact that never changes about a Shinya Tsukamoto picture and that is; his work looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Visually, he may be the most impressive and consistent filmmaker since Andrei Tarkovsky. The two filmmakers couldn’t be any more drastically different in their content; one filmmaker a Russian catholic with lots of Christian imagery and slow moving meditations on death and the human struggle. The other, a Japanese artist who makes chaotic and adrenaline filled films about the alienation of the human spirit in confrontation with the technological movement in modern society. Two very different filmmakers who both make films that couldn’t possibly have been made by anyone else and who deliver(ed) breathtaking and bold new ideas with every single film.

When you watch a film directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, there’s a guarantee that is so apparent it might as well come with a label on the front of the box. This guarantee is directly from Tsukamoto himself to you as the viewer. It says that when you watch one of his films, he will bombard you with new and amazing visual ideas that you probably never would have even thought were possible. With A Snake of June not only does Tsukamoto deliver a visually compelling film with innovative set-ups and uses of framing (as is his usual), but he essentially crafts his own color palette! Originally shot in black and white, the film is given a blue tint like that of the rain that consistently pours on our characters throughout the entire movie. The film is a mix of dark blues and light grays, crafting this concrete world where shadows mix with the dark and new horrors lay behind every corner. Although this film does deal with similar motifs as previous Tsukamoto works, such as Tetsuo, but it’s also an entirely different kind of beast. There’s that same fear of technology and industrialization but at the same time this is a Tsukamoto who wants to deliver a truly human story. Where Tetsuo was a shout out for all of humanity, in recent years Tsukamoto has tackled much more personal fair. A Snake of June is a film, like much of Tsukamoto’s work, that you can derive multiple ideas from but the one constant message seems to be: enjoy life. It’s a simple idea for a Tsukamoto film, but he does it in such a complex and grand way that it takes this simple principle and shows just how huge of an effect it can have on one persons life. Along the way he tackles things like Gender roles within marriage, sexual repression and societal guilt placed on sexual expressions within Japan. He takes on some very heavy issues in a film that has a very straight and linear structure. This may be Tsukamoto at his very best.

There are some really interesting character relationships throughout the film. Tsukamoto himself plays the role of the stalker character, who at the start of the film comes across as a monster due to the extreme trials that he puts our heroine through. However, and I won’t say that he becomes an angel or anything like that because I don’t think Tsukamoto ever comes out and says that what he does is the RIGHT way of doing things – but we learn that what he does do, is out of his own genuine love for the main character. Although he may not be expressing himself in a safe or constructive way, it is his way of showing that love – by allowing her to express her internal desires that she has kept locked away for so long. The relationship she has with her husband is tumultuous at best, with their home life being spent away from one another as much as physically possible. His character spends the majority of his time cleaning their house, a task that his wife takes offense to. The way in which he cleans as well, through the lens of Tsukamoto, is done so in what can only be described as a sexual fervor. The way that he scrubs their tub and other objects is highly frictional and you can’t help but see the sexual nature of it. Their love life however, is non-existent, with his energy and zest for life essentially being sucked dry from work. Then what little energy he reserves, is being used to satisfy his neat-freak mentality. So there’s this situation going on at home where the wife character is not being loved by her husband and she can’t even clean their apartment; so there comes a point in the movie where she will have to do something to her body that will result in her appearance seeming less feminine – but his character fights her on it! This husband character who essentially will not allow his wife to BE a woman within their home, is distraught to find that she might not actually bear the resemblance of one anymore. There’s so much going on with these characters and throughout the course of the film we get these games that are played over and over again.

A Snake of June is that perfect blend between artistic technical merit and literary depth. Although the script was apparently written originally by Tsukamoto some twenty years before ever being filmed, it remains an incredible breath of fresh air and remains current. Although knowing the perfectionist that Tsukamoto is, I’m sure there have been plenty of edits to the script over the years. You have the great script, which is a necessary ingredient for any great film but the visuals in Snake of June… I know I’ve already ranted on about them enough at this point, but I just want to make it abundantly clear: this is a visually arresting film. There’s a sequence, that is prominently featured in most artwork pertaining to the film, that revolves around the husband character being forced to be a voyeur of sorts. He’s kidnapped and placed in a room with several other men in suits, but all have their faces covered with a mask that resembles a cone. Through the end of it, everything appears in a blurred sphere but our character is able to see a young couple making love followed by their immediate deaths. An intense and nightmarish sequence that is made even more confounding by Tsukamoto’s assault on the senses. The music takes on this massive industrialized sounding orchestra of sounds, while Tsukamoto uses a wobbling camera that shakes and tilts as if it were at sea. He zooms in on his subjects quickly, without warning and uses his editing as a tool of violence, throwing us about left and right and damaging the audiences equilibrium. These scenes where the director takes us back to his hyper-kinetic past are all the more powerful because of the lull and conventionally shot (but still beautiful!) sequences that precede it. The technique is animalistic in its approach and that fits just fine alongside the intense performance of Asuka Kurosawa. A bold and incredibly brave project for the young actress, she reveals herself for the entire world to see. She exudes feminine charm when necessary, shows her weakness in times but is ferocious and sexual when unleashed. An amazing role that might just define her career. The sequence where Tsukamoto’s stalker character torments her inside of a mall is enthralling to sit through, because there’s so much to read into with her emotional rise and fall. An absolutely stunning performance to match a stunning film.

The Trivia
  • The snake penis apparatus is very similar to the one The Woman had in director Shinya Tsukamoto’s breakout film: Tetsuo.

  • To be a social worker in Japan, you must have a “home helper” license. Coincidentally, Asuka Kurosawa had recently acquired hers before filming. Part of the course to obtain the license is learning to communicate and talk with people in similar situations as those in the film, and so she was able to comfortably fit right into the role. So much so that Tsukamoto felt no need to direct her when she talked on the telephone within the film.

  • Yuji Kohtari, who plays Shigehiko the husband, says one of his onscreen influences is that of Marlon Brando. During the scene where Shigehiko is beaten upon, his character is seen faintly laughing/smiling – which he says was something he took from the climax to On the Waterfront.

  • In preperation to play his character, who is terminally ill, Shinya Tsukamoto lost eighteen pounds in order to look the part of an unhealthy man. Due to the weight loss and the immense physical demands of carrying around the camera on-set, Tsukamoto was actually taken away in an ambulance after filming one day.


  • The Conclusion
    Featuring some of the most amazing visuals of Shinya Tsukamoto’s career and a incredibly powerful script that delves heavily into themes and ideas that are both abstract and poignant at the same time, A Snake of June is the definition of cinematic power. Truthfully, I have a hard time discerning anything I may have disliked about the film or anything I would change. It’s certainly not a movie that is going to be for everyone. It deals with some taboo subjects and it’s still a bit on the abstract side at times – but an open minded film fan will be regaled with so many beautiful ideas that I’m sure most will find the incredible film that I did. Absolutely worth a look and deserving of my 5 out of 5 rating. Great cast, great direction and beautiful visuals. Hey, there’s even some famous actors appearing in cameos! See if you can spot Tsukamoto regular Tomorowo Taguchi and Takeshi Kitano regular Susumu Terrajima! Both are in there and were fun to spot. Now get out there and check it out!



    Get Mean Review

    Posted by Josh Samford On February - 16 - 2010
    Hey everybody, are you ready for some Spaghetti!? Tony Anthony and Ferdinando Baldi have a heap of delicious Italian awesomeness to throw your way – as the Western invades Europe in one particularly insane Spaghetti Western. Get Mean is the name and I had a pretty good time with this one. It may not be the “best” of the genre, but wow is it crazy! Check out the review!

    The Plot: Tony Anthony plays The Stranger, a drifting cowboy who finds himself wandering from one adventure to the next in this classic Spaghetti Western series. After literally being dragged into a town by his own horse, he stumbles into a saloon that is being looked over by a gypsy family. They beg The Stranger to help their daughter, who is a Princess, as she makes her journey across the ocean back home to Spain in order to claim her kingdom. The Stranger, ever the opportunist, asks for a lump sum of $50k dollars and they reluctantly agree. The Stranger and the princess make it across the ocean, but once on her old stomping grounds it becomes apparent that things have changed quite a bit. Their family’s enemy The Barbarians now control a great deal of the countryside, the two of them are ambushed and the princess is taken by the Barbarians and to top things off the princess’ father is dying. The Stranger, despite losing The Princess to the hands of her mortal enemy, still simply wants his money – but for him to get that he’ll have to help the Princess find an ancient stash of gold. So now The Stranger will have to sneak into Diego’s (the Barbarian King) palace, save the Princess and then have her lead him to the treasure. However, as you may can guess, things can never be so simple!



    CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

    Get Mean

    Posted by Josh Samford On February - 16 - 2010
    The Plot: Tony Anthony plays The Stranger, a drifting cowboy who finds himself wandering from one adventure to the next in this classic Spaghetti Western series. After literally being dragged into a town by his own horse, he stumbles into a saloon that is being looked over by a gypsy family. They beg The Stranger to help their daughter, who is a Princess, as she makes her journey across the ocean back home to Spain in order to claim her kingdom. The Stranger, ever the opportunist, asks for a lump sum of $50k dollars and they reluctantly agree. The Stranger and the princess make it across the ocean, but once on her old stomping grounds it becomes apparent that things have changed quite a bit. Their family’s enemy The Barbarians now control a great deal of the countryside, the two of them are ambushed and the princess is taken by the Barbarians and to top things off the princess’ father is dying. The Stranger, despite losing The Princess to the hands of her mortal enemy, still simply wants his money – but for him to get that he’ll have to help the Princess find an ancient stash of gold. So now The Stranger will have to sneak into Diego’s (the Barbarian King) palace, save the Princess and then have her lead him to the treasure. However, as you may can guess, things can never be so simple!


    The Review
    Ferdinando Baldi is a filmmaker I am fairly familiar with. Although he first made his name with sword & sandal movies in the early sixties, his best known works here in North America would probably be his Westerns. Films such as Viva Django! and Texas, Addio helped cement him in the minds of Eurocult fans the world over. However, his pairing with actor Tony Anthony also proved to be quite fruitful as he would go on to direct some popular movies, some written by Anthony himself, as well as help kickstart the popularity of 3D movies during the 1980s. Get Mean falls right between the most critically successful of the Anthony/Baldi partnership, a film called Blindman, and then what I have to assume would be their highest monetarily successful film, Comin’ At Ya which was a 3D western that helped reboot the dead technique in the 1980’s. Get Mean is actually the fourth film in Tony Anthony’s The Stranger series and it has to be the weirdest of the group. Setting the stage for the film in Europe, while actually shooting in Europe, tends to be an area of some controversy amongst Spaghetti Western purists. Although I am a Spaghetti Western fan, I suppose I’m not obsessed enough to be bothered by the issue because I actually think it’s a great idea and a novel concept amongst these films. However, I think what generally rubs most viewers the wrong way about this one, aside from it’s location and historical inaccuracies, is the general strangeness of the film. A cowboy taking on strange Barbarian clans, thinly drawn caricatures of them at that, you can get more than a little perplexed while delving into this one. It’s reminiscent of older martial arts film fare, because the foreign characters tend to be quite outlandish. Unfortunately, with this one we don’t get any Japanese ninjas. A mistake on the part of the filmmakers if ever there was one!

    Get Mean starts off in such a drastically different direction than which the film ultimately ends up going. Although it’s slightly humorous that The Stranger is actually dragged into town, by his own horse, the scene doesn’t really play out for laughs. After the horse eventually drops him off, he enters into the bar where he meets the gypsy family (as mentioned in the plot synopsis) – but everything seems so dark and foreboding. There is a really excellent shot in this first section that kind of initiates this mood, where it shows The Stranger reflected in silhouette as he opens the swinging doors to the saloon, but this shot in turn is revealed as simply a reflection from a Crystal Ball. The lighting and the idea both work to an incredible degree and sell you on the atmosphere of this possibly being a moody and artistic western. However, these illusions are soon shattered by the dialogue alone. Get Mean is a comedic western, not totally unlike the kind that Terrence Hill made famous with his Trinity series, but only slightly less broad. Where Terrence Hill often played the comedy up in his films to the point where it resembled the work of Benny Hill, Get Mean shows slightly more tact in my opinion. Granted, My Name is Trinity would undoubtedly be the better movie in comparison, I just think that the comedy here is slightly less in your face and in that regard it works better for me as a fan of more traditional Spaghetti Westerns. Do not get me wrong though, Get Mean is still pretty broad and low brow in its comedic fare but ultimately what I’m getting at is it is a lesser of two evils. It’s hard to say this isn’t broad, when you’ve got Tony Anthony tied to a spit and ready for barbecue with an apple in his mouth! I’d also be a hypocrite if I didn’t mention the slightly annoying banjo music that plays throughout, as I couldn’t help but get a rather Benny Hill vibe from it!

    Tony Anthony generally doesn’t seem to get the respect that other greats of the genre seem to receive, and the reason for this tends to allude me. It could be his distinctly American delivery, which doesn’t come from a gristle-bearing pair of clenched teeth like a Clint Eastwood nor a happy go lucky younger kid voice like the one that Hill was often saddled with. He delivers something completely different from the rest of the Spaghetti Western genre greats, but I’ve found that I like what he does. Nobody delivers a one-liner like this guy does and Get Mean really puts this quality on display. I think my favorite line of the movie really shows how good the man was. In the written form, “Listen. Business is business, and I happen to be a business man” comes across as completely redundant and more than a little silly, but Tony Anthony’s inflections on the words give it a slightly quizzical feel and it causes you to pause and re-evaluate the words. He takes something that should have seemed ridiculous, but instead makes it seem just a tad bit off. When you recognize this, you start to think about it and before long it’s stuck in your head. I like this about Anthony and he delivers through the whole movie, one liner after one liner. It gets ridiculous how many funny bits he throws out there. “Oh dear god they got some ugly lookin’ women in this country” and “Little sister, you are going to find out that I am the biggest god damn liar you have ever met!” are two other really amazing and star-creating lines thrown out there from Mr. Anthony and if you weren’t sold on the film by this point, then I don’t know what I can do for you.

    The cast aren’t universally great or anything like that. David Dryer’s henchman character is patently offensive as a blatant and effeminate homosexual. Lloyd Batista as Sambra/Richard is inspired, as his villain character might have the most going on for him dimensionally. Sambra is a Shakespeare junkie and often recites lines of dialogue from his plays and thus The Stranger takes to calling him Richard, after Richard III. The back and forth that these two have is one of the better pieces of character action that the film has going for it. The “main” villain Diego, played by Raf Baldassarre however is generally pretty plain. He makes up for this fact by screaming for the majority of the picture – or at least in every single scene he takes part in. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Diana Lorys as Princess Elizabeth Maria. Although she doesn’t do much, she is a stunning woman and is saucy onscreen. With all of that said, this isn’t a character study. It’s an action movie. So action, is what it delivers. There are a lot of gunfights throughout and the explosions are massive in the final act, to the point that you wonder just what kind of a budget this movie had. There’s a brilliant shot in the final minutes where The Stranger stands with seemingly an entire fort exploding behind him as he coolly walks toward the camera. It’s a make or break moment and Tony Anthony sells it to perfection without so much as a flinch. The movie is a mix of varying elements that seem like they should represent a disjointed and ridiculous movie, but for some reason it really works for me!

    The Trivia
  • David Dryer, who plays the homosexual right hand man of Diego’s – is actually writer/star Tony Anthony’s brother

  • The forth and only film in The Stranger series not directed by Luigi Vanzi.

  • The film’s historical context is illogical, as groups like The Moors (depicted in the film) were vanquished hundreds of years before America had been discovered.


  • The Conclusion
    It’s not a perfect movie by any chance. It is incredibly weird. There are so many odd elements throughout. There’s some strange supernatural things that happen in the final half, where for some reason or another The Stranger’s body is being taken over by spirits and they cause him to howl like a wolf! There’s a moment of black-face comedy like that of a minstrel show and it’s really hard for some people to get over the fact that we’re watching a cowboy duel with Barbarians. As much as I should probably take the high road and call Get Mean dumb and lacking in any intelligent thought – I can’t help but like this movie. I think for every “what the?” moment that there is in the movie, there’s an equally funny sequence that seems intentional and genuinely witty. The mix of elements worked for me as a viewer, but I suspect others might walk away puzzled. I give it a three out of five, but this one is dangerously close to a four. Check it out if you can get your hands on it!



    NAVIGATION

    VIDEO

    TAGS

    Sponsors

    About Me

    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.

    Twitter

      Photos