Film Reviews (in English)

2011年7月27日 (水)

Toby Dammit (from "Histoires extraordinaires") (1968)

Terence Stamp is extremely attractive and enigmatic in "Toby Dammit". He is decadent as a character in the Oscar Wilde novel.

Among the three stories, I liked this Fellini one the best. Fellini has a magical power to invite the viewers to a "travel" in a dream of illusion. The airport scenes at the beginning of the story are extraordinary.

This segment (and other two ones by Vadim and Malle) features a story of Edgar Allan Poe and the blond/long haired Terence Stamp in "Toby Dammit" reminds of Poe. Toby Dammit is an alcoholic "formerly-known-well" actor. Stamp is too real. He IS like a real alcoholic.

In fact, Terence Stamp hasn't been changed at all. The way Toby Dammit rushed to Ferrari is exactly the same as that of Wilson who stood up immediately after having been beaten up and went to the warehouse to kill all in "The Limey".  I like the way he walks, with his shoulders angled. Stamp has been divine and he will be divine forever.

Fellini one is the scariest. It's a must-see.

Reviewed by Keiko SASAKI

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2011年4月14日 (木)

Summer Wars (2009)

This is a Japanese animation film. I really would like to recommend this film to the earthquake victims in Tohoku and also people abroad to introduce "quiet but strong" character of Japanese people. We are in the difficult situation, but we will never give in, nor will the characters of this film.

A high school student Kenji joins Natsuki, his female friend's (in fact his crush's) great grandmother's 90th birthday party in Nagano prefecture. There, he will be in a difficult situation sorting out the problems in the virtual reality world called "OZ".

"OZ" is not only just a virtual reality world but is heavily related to the real world in this film. People's car navigation system is controlled by OZ and people's utility payment is controlled by OZ. Nearly everything is controlled by OZ in fact.

When an evil hacker "Love Machine" started destroying peace and quiet OZ world, Kenji and Natsuki's (and her relatives who gathered in Nagano home to celebrate her great grandmother's birthday) war against Love Machine begins.

This film was made in 2009, but actually there is a great amount of similarities between the situations in the film and those in the real life caused by earthquake aftermath.

Similarity 1: donation from all over the world

Kenji (and his "fellow soldiers") was struggling of attacking Love Machine. Once Natsuki was fighting with Love Machine in Hanafuda (Japanese card game) , she didn't have enough accounts and at that moment, members of OZ around the world donated their own accounts to her to enable her to continue fighting with evil Love Machine. Incredible amount of accounts were exactly like the donations which were collected from all over the world and also within Japan in the earthquake situation.

Similarity 2: Love Machine's vice to try to let the artificial satellite to fall down to the nuclear power station

"Love Machine" was like  "Tsunami" of March 11... No one can stop the nature. Fortunately, in the film, Kenji and his colleagues were able to change the falling direction of satellite and it did not crash into the power station.

At the end of the story, Kenji and Natsuki's family were able to save the world. Each member of the "soldiers" seems so "ordinal". They are just ordinal people. However, quiet and ordinal don't mean "weak". A lot of journalists abroad have been continuously describing Tohoku people's (and Japanese people's) dignity. Yes, I think we are calm people, but at the same time, tough people.

By the way, Natsuki's great grandmother's voice is played by Sumiko Fuji. A great actress and at the same time, the mother of Shinobu Terajima, another great actress who won the Best Actress award for the film "Caterpillar" at the last year's Berlin International Film Festival.

Reviewed by Keiko SASAKI

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2011年1月29日 (土)

Tokyo Sonata (2008)

I know that music can actually save one's life. It at least keeps me living when I am struggling. On the "crowded like a hell" commuting train in the morning in the central Tokyo area, sometimes people can't survive without music from iPod. Like other people, I have been saved by music time to time. Listening to Chemical Brothers in the morning ebables me to go to work, even though in the situation when I feel like running away to nowhere.

One of the main characters "Kenji" plays "Claire de Lune" by Debussy at the entrance exam for entering into music school in the film. He plays the piano in front of audience, including his parents. His parents are saved by their son's music, after the painful experiences. It was ironic that, when Kenji and his parents are leaving the room, other parents were staring at the three and imagined that they were "perfect family". Nobody imagined the painful "journey" that Kenji and his parents have had. But in fact, at the Debussy moment, the three were the "perfect happy family".

The actress Kyoko Koizumi, A.K.A. "Kyon Kyon", who played the role of Kenji's mother Megumi, was the POP icon in the 80's in Japan and this is possibly not really known by the really young generation (even within Japan) and people from overseas. I have to mention that she was not only a super-duper pop singer, but also a person who had a huge commercial influence in the Japanese market. After she mentioned that it was her favourite book, Salinger "The Catcher in the Rye" suddenly became the bestselling title, so as "Momo" by Michael Ende. In a way, she was like Lady Gaga in 80's in Japan, in terms of influence on young people.

Now, our Kyon Kyon is playing a MOTHER. And the mother was played excellently. Kyon Kyon's ex husband is a Jarmusch star, Masatoshi Nagase.

This film describes a dysfunctional family, which was once destroyed, but later "comes back" and that's why it gives us a pleasant taste after watching it. A great (Kiyoshi) Kurosawa film.

Reviewed by Keiko SASAKI

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2011年1月24日 (月)

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh were too awesome and I have been haunted by this story for couple of days. Since I rented this DVD film for a week, I was able to see this film many times and this includes the viewing of the director's commentary. (Taylor Hackford's commentary was, actually, one of the best commentaries I've ever listened to. Very detailed and also, his voice is sooo good. His commentary included the information of "Fuji and Kodak differences" and that was extremely informative.)

In the first viewings, I was focused on "Men are enemies" issue. Dolores' husband was evil and so was Vera's (in a different way). Then, the more I watched this film repeatedly, I started to focus on "Mother and Daughter" issue. Then, I also thought about "getting old is kind of sad" issue from Vera's episode.

Selena St. George (acted by Leigh, who was simply magnificent) was grim nearly all through the film and looking at her was tough, but at the end of the story, we can see her smiling (although it was really subtle), and that was the reason why I didn't feel nasty at all even though the whole theme of the film was fairly dark.

As a wife, who was a victim of domestic violence, and also a mother, who has been away (physically as well as emotionally) from her loved daughter, looking at one's daughter smiling was the first gift Dolores could get finally. I think Selena will come back to see her mother more frequently from now on and finally they will have a warm mother and daughter relationship.

One of the unforgettable scenes was Vera, who became senile in the latter part of the film, asking "I want my china pig!" to Dolores. What she wanted to get was not only her favourite china pigs, but also her gorgeous appearance, good health, youth and good old party life, I think. It must have been a painful scene for any of us, because, soon or later many of us will have to have a similar experience to which Vera had.

Finally, I would say that it was a terrible mistake by the judges that Bates wasn't even "nominated" for an Oscar for this role! I wonder why!! I realized that Bates changed her tone of the voice in "young Dolores scenes" and "present (old) Dolores scenes" and that's why the acting of the two eras was natural. Not very many actors can do this, I suppose. A great actress.

Reviewed by Keiko SASAKI

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