Category: Film

Japanese Film Festival Day Four: The Mamiya Brothers and La Maison de Himiko

Of the four movies offered on day four of the Japanese Film Festival, I attended only two. I am, after all, only human. Two of the films looked quite heavy. They were Face of Jizo (described by my comrade Oliver as “good, but more like a play than a movie”) and Castle of Sand (“excellent,” says Oliver). I would have liked to see Castle of Sand, but … until next time.

The two films that I did see were a combination of the distinctly strange and the powerful yet emotionally distant.

Japanese Film Festival Day One: Always – Sunset on Third Street

The tenth annual Japanese Film Festival is the fourth that I’ve attended, and it’s certainly grown since I first attended, one month out of high school. Featuring 19 films instead of the customary 8-10, this is the first time I’ve not been able to see all of them.

The opening night, at the Festival’s new Greater Union George Street location and open to the general public for the first time, was introduced by Japan’s Consulate General to Sydney. He spoke of the appeal of Japan’s films lying in that they are made specifically for Japanese people, as opposed to the determined worldwide demographics of Hollywood.
This is not solely the domain of Japan, of course; films where the characters truly belong to their surroundings have long been favourites of mine. That’s why a lot of independent films work: Little Miss Sunshine, despite featuring an Australian actress as one of its leads, had a quintessentially American feel. I’m a fan of the milieu film, and Japan has no shortage of those.

Always happens to exist in one of my favourite subgenres of Japanese film: nostalgic pieces about post-war Japan, presented in a fashion so romantic that it may never have even existed. This is a subject that I have managed to touch on with semi-frequency on Anime Pilgrimage.
Like many Japanese films, it’s extreme in its sentimentality. I don’t quite understand why “sentimental” became a negative adjective, because when the sentimentality isn’t false it can tug at your heart without making you feel manipulated (that manipulation of emotion was precisely why I couldn’t stand Finding Nemo).
It’s a film of broad characters, but of the variety that have become known and beloved all throughout Japan. Like so many of the films that they show at these festivals, I had the beginnings of tears in my eyes at the end. We call that a victory.

Possible Reasons A Good Year Failed

I saw A Good Year before it saw wide release, but things got the better of me and I didn’t get around to writing of it. Since then, it has been considered a major flop – by Rupert Murdoch himself. Let us consider why, in list form, this is:

  • Russell Crowe is no longer a marketable actor.
      Rather like Michael Jackson, people have found it hard to separate the “art” from the “artist”. Crowe isn’t a pedophile, but his temper is more famous than himself. This is why Cinderella Man failed at the box office, despite being quite good (it did the sort of business that The Da Vinci Code deserved).
  • Hating the French has become one of America’s favourite pastimes in recent years.
      Americans love hating the French; why an American would want to see Russell Crowe fall in love with France and a French woman boggles the mind. If you applied the mindset to the British, the movie is essentially about forsaking Queen and Country for Sunshine and Sand.
  • Young Australian film enthusiasts still hate Abbie Cornish for Somersault.
      Also she speaks with a Scarlett Johansson accent. It’s scary.
  • Rabid Gene Wilder fans blame Freddie Highmore for Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
      Hey, it could happen – just look at the point about hating the French.
  • A Good Year

    I’m not quite certain I get Ridley Scott. Why did he make A Good Year? Not once did the words “Deckard is a replicant” flash up subliminally for a fraction of a second in the background. Russell Crowe’s character did not dream of a unicorn, nor did Didier Bourdon’s character leave him an origami model of the same.

    To Scott’s credit, though, incest is briefly contemplated, if quickly despatched.

    In A Good Year, we have a seachange story that is identical to all other sea changes: a man consumed by work comes into contact with his old life, in the idyllic countryside, and realises that something’s lacking.

    It plays exactly as you would expect it to, but there are a couple of surprises simply because the trailer didn’t deem it necessary to give them away.

    Popcorn Taxi: Catch a Fire

    The Third and Final Act of Australia Week

    An excellent film presented by an excellent interviewer, and ably assisted by an excellent actor and director.

    To cement the legendariness of this occasion in the eyes of the audience, one member said to Tim Robbins “I’ve been reading about you, and you seem quite liberal and committed to egalitarian causes. Why then do you always play dark bastards?”
    Robbins, upon less than a moment’s reflection, responded: “The sanctimonious liberal isn’t a very interesting part.”

    There you have it.

    Boytown

    Part 2 of Australia Week!

    We’re Boytown: population five/ At the end of each show, we go home to our wives

    In September, I said that Boytown looked like a funny film that would be a success. In contrast to Kenny‘s $500,000 budget, Boytown boasted $5,000,000 in funding.

    Kenny, having made $6,000,000 is, budgetwise, a huge success. The Australian mark of a smash (international) movie is $10,000,000. Yet, given that it is not a very likely sale to foreign markets, Boytown has to be loved all across Australia to achieve even vague success.
    Boytown is not smash material. It’s funny and it’s sweet, but it hasn’t received good reviews. That can be attributed to its most sour ending that, while funny, left me feeling cheated.

    Muriel’s Wedding

    Part one of Australia Week!

    Muriel’s Wedding is the sort of movie that I watched when I was far too young to understand it. Last time I saw it I probably appreciated it more (I remember giving a good case for it in an English class), but that probably counts for nothing because I didn’t remember it.

    Muriel’s Wedding was the breakout role for Toni Collette, and it chronicles her escape from a suburban hellhole populated by shrill harpies led by Sophie Lee.

    It came out at around the same time as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and all foreigners who dared watch both of these films became convinced that Australia was obsessed with ABBA. What they may also have noticed is that while Muriel’s Wedding is promoted a comedy, and is quite funny, it’s also horribly depressing.

    We can still do that with works like Kath & Kim (more funny than depressing, but still too true for comfort), but our industry has become in recent years largely bland and formulaic. Or so one would have to assume; no one actually goes to seem them. When our films of the last decade have been good, though, they’ve been excellent.

    A Prairie Home Companion

    If you watched the Academy Awards this year, you may recall that Robert Altman was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. The best thing about all that I saw of the ceremonies was the presentation of the award: Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin came out onto the stage and wigged out and talked all over each other to create the illusion of an Altman film on the stage.

    I’d be lying if I said I knew a hell of a lot about Altman, but A Prairie Home Companion is so sublime that I want to know more about him. Even if that means watching Robin Williams in Popeye.