Japan Cuts Roundup: The Devil's Path, The Pinkie, and Greatful Dead


No clever amalgamation this time...

It's been a little while since my last one of these, and I'm sorry about that. But I haven't actually died or anything, and there's still more to come! With just three days left in the festival (tonight included), some of the heaviest hitters have yet to play, like tomorrow's Neko Samurai, which I am extremely excited for. But that's tomorrow. This is today. And one of the films I'm looking at, Greatful Dead (not a typo), plays in just a few hours.

So if you don't already have plans this lovely Friday evening, maybe you will now.


[For the next couple of weeks, Japanator's sister site Flixist will be covering the 2014 Japan Cuts Film Festival. They will be rounding up their coverage here for your convenience. For their full coverage, click hereFor their coverage of the New York Asian Film Festival, which is a Japan Cuts partner, click here. Keep up with the Japanator roundups here.]

Greatful Dead (グレイトフルデッド)
Director: Eiji Uchida
Screening: July 18th at 10:45 PM

Official Synopsis: Wealthy young Nami has found herself a hobby to while away the time between ordering new appliances and fashion accessories--surveilling the lives of the crazed and lonely, or "Solitarians," as she calls them. Perched atop the city with powerful binoculars, she tracks the descent of the elderly and unemployed into madness and death, gleefully snapping a selfie beside their freshly decaying corpses. When one of her most prized Solitarians is snatched up by Christian volunteers and becomes hopeful once again, Nami is sent into a murderous rage, pitting young against old in an epic, bloody battle. Eiji Uchida's genre pleaser is also a cutting critique of Japan's post post-bubble insularity and consumerism. 

Thoughts: Greatful Dead is at its best when it's getting into the head of its completely insane protagonist. Kumi Takiuchi's performance as Nami is excellent, and she is forced to prop up everything else on her shoulders. Aside from her, everything about Greaful Dead is fine at best but more generally mediocre. The other performances are meh, the camerawork blah, and although the story has some pretty interesting moments, it gets bogged down in some unnecessary sideplots. At those times, I rolled my eyes and waited for the next time that I would be able to follow Nami down the rabbit hole. But I always perked up when that happened, because she gives a fascinating performance of a rather unique character. If only everything else matched up.

Verdict: Consider it. 

The Devil's Path (凶悪)
Director: Kazuya Shiraishi

Official Synopsis: The Devil's Path shows the hell of guilt and conscience as it chronicles the case of a condemned yakuza. A massive monster of a thug seeks revenge on his former accomplice and hopes to achieve his goal by telling his story to a journalist, revealing three unknown killings. The film is a sullen journey that hardens its emotions, anxieties and energies into a shell of obsession. For the death-row gangster, who's now found God, killing was just part of the cost of doing business. For his accomplice, killing is just fun. A modest, quiet man, Yamada stands in for the viewer as Taki's mesmerizing, murderous presence absorbs the space around him, inviting him in to encounter a possibly even more evil man, his former partner in crime. As it tells their deeds, the movie becomes an expression of philosophical despair.

Thoughts: The Devil's Path is a revenge story in the vaguest sense of the word. When you think of Japanese revenge films, you think about intense thrillers where one person is hunting down another person (or group of people) and there are shootouts and knife fights and all sorts of action. The Devil's Path doesn't have that. The man who wants vengeance is behind bars and the man he wants to take down is a psychopath but also not really that dangerous on his own. But as a study in the psychology of killers, The Devil's Path is generally successful. The two main players are both compelling in their own right, and seeing them both past and present paints an interesting picture. Unfortunately, the journalist character who is pulled in to act out the former Yakuza's vengeful desires is far less interesting, and the decision to make him the film's protagonist was a mistake. Even so, if you go in with the right frame of mind, you'll find it worthwhile.

Verdict: Consider it.

The Pinkie (さまよう小指)
Director: Lisa Takeba 

Official Synopsis: The winner of the Grand Prix at the 24th Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Lisa Takeba's debut feature is a hyper-imaginative sci-fi(ish) drama about a slacker and his clone. Devil-may-care Ryosuke is taking it easy, nice and easy, particularly with the girls. Unfortunately, the latest beauty he seduces turns out to be a yakuza's moll. Reckoning comes when gangsters beat him up and chop off his pinkie, which falls in the hands of Momoko, a naughty girl who has been stalking him. She gets herself a cloning kit and grows her own Ryosuke-clone. It performs beyond expectations and proves to be a remarkable lover. Frantically paced, The Pinkie is chock-full of Western and Japanese pop culture references and jokes, as if Gen Sekiguchi's Survive Style 5+ had been directed by the minds behind Sushi Typhoon splatter films, mixing Weird ScienceBattles Without Honor and Humanity and The Terminator into 65 minutes of concentrated weirdness. 

Thoughts: There's a Korean film called Invasion of Alien Bikini that I couldn't comparing The Pinkie too. They're both bizarre films with interesting premises made on ridiculously low budgets. And while they look as cheap as they clearly were, they revel in it. And you have to appreciate a film that accepts its circumstances and even celebrates it. The Pinkie is extraordinarily stupid, in a way that few films can be, but it flies in the face of the ever-longer Japanese films with a runtime that's barely over an hour. When it's so short, it's easy to forgive a lot of failings, and while The Pinkie has plenty, it's got just enough charm to get you through 65 minutes. 

Verdict: Consider seeing it.

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Alec Kubas-Meyer
Alec Kubas-MeyerContributor   gamer profile

Alec is Reviews & Features Editor over at Japanator's film-centric sister site, Flixist. He primarily covers indie and foreign films, especially ones from Asia. He's not madly in love with Japane... more + disclosures


Filed under... #flixist #Japan Cuts #TV and Film



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