I did make it out of South Korea for three films in Japan, but then was thrown back there. I feel like this is turning into MASH on me.
High Kick Angels (2014, dir. Kazuhiro Yokoyama) – Hmmm…can’t say I have. I unfortunately can say an elementary school girl tried to grab my genitals when I was in the 4th grade, but I don’t think that counts. Well, with a poster like that you might be thinking Sailor Moon.
Maybe Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981)?
Perhaps even Lollipop Chainsaw?
Nope, it’s Die Hard (1988).
Seriously, it’s Die Hard with schoolgirls in a school rather than a tower. It even recreates two scenes very obviously just to make sure you know this. And we have trailer this time!
If you are thinking you probably just saw all the fighting scenes in the movie, then you’re pretty much right. There are a few more, but not many.
The movie starts with some girls filming a zombie movie at a school when I guess no one is there. I really wasn’t sure if this school was abandoned or if everyone else was just on vacation. It doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that a girl they admire who knows martial arts shows up for some reason and bad guys show up looking for treasure or something.
The two scenes explicitly recreated are the safe lock bit and the body with writing on it dropped down to the bad guys. The body part is self-explanatory. The lock bit is done by having a little tower that requires several USB sticks which will allow the bad guys to see where this treasure is in the school. Of course the schoolgirls get one of the USB sticks and need to be tracked down. Basically it comes down to the big girl who knows martial arts working with these girls out of a safe room a la Die Hard. Really, what you see in the trailer is what you get besides conversations among the girls about not being very confident, but finding the strength to go kick some ass.
The only scene that really stuck with me is when the big martial arts girl convinces the girl who does ballet dancing that she can curl her toes and use them like a spear. I expect to read about Lisa doing this to someone who liked The Leisure Class any day now.
I really can’t recommend this one. It’s a bit of a letdown.
The Pinkie (2014, dir. Lisa Takeba) – Ever wanted to see a comedy by someone who wants to make a David Cronenberg movie from before his tragic accident when he lost the ability to make good movies while high on whatever Nobuhiko Ôbayashi was on when he made House (1977)? Too bad! Cause director Lisa Takeba essentially did just that with this weird slightly dark and bizarre romantic comedy with echoes of Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers (1988).
The movie is about guy who gets his pinkie cut off. It had something to do with the Yakuza. I learned back in the 90’s thanks to the TV Show The Pretender that they take your finger as punishment. What didn’t happen in The Pretender though is for that finger to wind up in the hands of a crazy stalker girl who then uses it to make a clone of a guy she is obsessed with. Having two of these guys going around made me think of Dead Ringers at the time, but in retrospect it also makes me think of Hirokazu Koreeda’s Air Doll (2009). That’s the one with Doona Bae from Cloud Atlas (2012) playing a blow up sex doll come to life.
The movie is as wacky as that trailer makes you think, but it also definitely has it’s more Cronenberg-ey dark moments. In particular, the clone finding out it’s a clone and the issues that raises. The real guy is there too and actually uses the clone as sort of slave labor. He even has him prostitute himself as, I hate to use the expression since I’m trans but, a chick with a dick.
Oh, and did you notice the lightning near the end of the trailer around the guy? Yeah, that’s cause the clone shows up like The Terminator in a ball with lightning around him.
The problems with the clone basically start when she makes the clone aware it’s a clone and of course when the real guy shows up. From then on the movie just gets more wacky.
I kind of recommend it. It’s not that great, but I like really bizarre things and Japan is great at them. Plus, the movie is only about an hour long. It’s not going to take up much of your time. Unlike the next movie and the one after that!
The Ravine of Goodbye (2013, dir. Tatsushi Ohmori) – I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I will again, and probably again and again. I used to watch a lot of the established film canon. Basically that’s all I watched from about 2005 to 2012. I mean it’s not normal for someone to just know right off the top their head that Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni was commissioned by 1970’s China to make a documentary about the country, they hated it with a vengeance, and so they basically got Dutch director Joris Ivens to make another one for them. That’s really not a good thing. However, I bring it up cause is this is that kind of movie.
Let me be straightforward cause the movie sure as hell isn’t. The film is about two cops looking into how exactly this couple got together. Turns out he raped her, and neither of them really got over it, so they got together as a couple. There’s also something about a dead kid as well. Honestly, despite what IMDb says, that’s not really important. In my opinion, what the film does is try to reflect the confusion created by trying to follow a story as the facts slowly trickle out in the way its story unravels. The jumping to conclusions before all the information has come in thing. It does this by basically backing it’s way into what I told you in a couple of sentences. However, for me, it felt like the narrative structure was reflecting the experience of being a small child forced to watch Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982), and then explain it. In other words, watching this was for me like how the children look in Godfrey Reggio’s anti-TV BS propaganda film Evidence (1995).
Actually, in that the kids were supposed to be watching Dumbo (1941). Yeah, right!
If you enjoy films like those of Michelangelo Antonioni, then you might enjoy this. The same probably goes for the next film as well. Amazon Prime doesn’t make these recommendations based on nothing. Just expect a lot of still shots on things that made me think of why I don’t enjoy a majority of Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s films.
Gyeongju (2014, dir. Lu Zhang) –
Wow! That may be the most deceptive trailer I’ve ever seen! It appears to be real, but it’s like a fake trailer that takes Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) and makes it look like a romantic comedy. That movie had someone mysteriously disappear. Then a man and a woman wander around drifting towards each other as the architecture/environment around them changes to reflect the state of their characters. It’s the first in his trilogy of alienation. Sound like a romantic comedy?
This movie is about a Korean professor on Asian relations living in China who goes back home for a funeral and basically wanders around with a woman from a tea shop. Sound like a romantic comedy? It isn’t!
That really is the movie. I have a feeling that just like Tarkovsky’s The Mirror (1975) is only fully understood by Russians, this movie is only fully understood by Koreans. I believe the movie is a long mediation on what it’s like for a Korean born person to return home to a place divided in two and in other ways pushes itself away from other parts of Asia as well. The movie reminds you of the conflict with Japan via a Japanese woman who wants to forgive the professor and the tea shop owner for the crimes committed against their country by Japan. Another time a man will ask the professor how long he thinks North Korea will stay in business and flips out when the professor says a century. North Korea potentially attacking is brought up too, but I’m not sure if it’s serious or not. It almost comes across as a joke. Of course technically to the best of my knowledge, South Korea is the only country I’m aware of that is in a constant state of war because I believe they never signed the treaty ending the Korean War. Perhaps that’s why this film seems to evoke Antonioni’s trilogy of alienation with it’s cinematography.
It likes to use still shots of the environment and a lot of pans. There’s at least one 360 degree pan in it. It also breaks the 180 degree rule. It just stops and freezes on a pole in the tea shop for no discernible reason. I think there’s a scene that’s out of order. Also, near the end it appears to flash black for a less than a second. I’m really not sure what to make of that last one.
I would say this film is for cinematic explorers. I won’t say it’s bad, nor recommend it. You know who you are if this is your kind of thing. I’m just telling you as somebody who’s seen quite a few of these sort of movies that you probably won’t be disappointed.