[For the month of July, Japanator's sister site Flixist will be covering the Japan Cuts film festival, which is running in New York City from the 12th until the 28th. For your convenience, we will be posting review roundups here, but you can find all of Flixist's coverage here, and their coverage of the New York Asian Film Festival here.]
Over the weekend, I was able to see The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX. It is one of the first English-language movies I have seen in over a month, and it's been far longer since I've seen an English-language movie in a theater. Despite some occasional problems with the audio mix, it was nice to be able to actually understand what characters were saying for once. Not that I have any problem with reading subtitles (if I did I couldn't be covering this festival), but it's still nice to not need to.
If you haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises, you should do that, but if you'd rather see something a bit more Japanese, perhaps Toshiaki Toyoda's 9 Souls is a bit more your style. Hard Romanticker might be as well, but only if you're a terrible person.
9 Souls (Nain Souruzu | ナイン・ソウルズ)
Synopsis: When a bomber, a patricide, a pornographer and a mad biker, together with various other forms of social detritus, break free from jail, it is not surprising that mayhem follows in their wake. What is surprising is the degree of sympathy that brilliant young director Toshiaki Toyoda (Blue Spring) elicits with elegant ease from the spectator, as the gang of misfits roams the land in a despair that is crueler for being comic. This is humanity on the run to nowhere. Although originally inspired by The Great Escape, the film has more of a feel of Les Miserables mixed with a hallucinogenic, cut with speed. A truly original addition to the jailbreak genre!
Thoughts: Watching Toshiaki Toyoda's 9 Souls made me rethink my review on his film Monsters Club. I wound up liking that film more because 9 Souls taught me how to read Toyoda, and I really liked 9 Souls. It's a jailbreak road movie that makes wild shifts in tone from slapstick comedy to deep human tragedy. This is the sort of movie where there's a joke about having sex with sheep and a brutal expression of self-loathing and hopelessness. Sure, it defies simple genre classification, but it functions as a moving whole. More than anything, 9 Souls is about how people chase their dreams and become disillusioned by the chase. The nine distinct personalities never get lost in the mix (though some characters stand out better than others), and I wound up feeling something for each of them. Maybe that's because like the guys on the lam, I'm also just a fuck-up at heart who needs something to believe in.
Verdict: See it. [Read the full review]
Hard Romanticker (Hadoromanchika | ハードロマンチッカー)
Synopsis: Writer-director Gu Su-yeon's new film draws on his own semiautobiographical account of growing up as a delinquent zainichiKorean (Japanese-born, but of Korean ancestry) in the seaside city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, a working-class hellhole overflowing with sex and fury. Day after day, (fictional) Gu finds fresh foes and makes the local hoodlums want to kick his ass. While working multiple dead-end part-time jobs, he cruises around town on his scooter in search of gangland trouble: leaping across rooftops with irate hordes of punks in hot pursuit, running off with a fetching belle in a sailor suit, rescuing a schoolgirl from being gang-raped at a glue-sniffing orgy…
Thoughts: Hard Romanticker is a throwback to a style of movie that, if it is any indication, should have remained dead. None of the characters are worth caring about (and most of them are rapists), the story is entirely irrelevant, and it really doesn't have a lot going for it. The only thing that sets it apart is its quality of violence. I'm pretty sure that at least a few of the actors went directly from the set to a hospital, because there's no way some of those hits didn't connect, even if most of them were minor things. But despite that, Hard Romanticker doesn't have a whole lot of redeeming value. There's really no reason to watch it. If you have fond memories about the movies it's trying to replicate, go watch those, whatever they are. I highly doubt that this film adds anything to their legacy.
Verdict: Skip it. [Read the full review]
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