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Recently in existential Category

Late Bloomer
[Osoi Hito]

Genre: Realistic Spiral into Despair and Violence

review in one breath

A cerebral palsied man gradually falls in love with one of his care takers, but the emotional elation it causes brings with it a deepening despair as the gap between his dreams and physical reality prove overwhelming. In the face of unrequited love and the dismal realization that fate has dealt him a terrible hand, his imaginations grow violent -- imaginations he soon acts upon. This is a truly unique film which is both uncompromising and unapologetic in its depiction of a fully functional heart and mind trapped in a physical cage.



Tokyo Sonata

Genre: Personal, Familial and Social Crises in Contemporary Japan

review in one breath

When a Tokyo salaryman loses his job, his personal identity and family stability are suddenly forced to the point of implosion. Hiding his shameful predicament from his family, he leaves the house daily as if going to the office, only to spend his hours in food lines and the unemployment agency. Despite his every effort to keep things intact, his family's cohesion slowly disintegrates as forces internal and external come to a head. This is the latest film by director Kiyoshi Kurosawa and marks an intentional break from his previous work in psycho-horror.



Takeshis'

Genre: Introspective Deconstruction

review in one breath

In his latest film, director/actor Kitano "Beat" Takeshi literally deconstructs himself in a simultaneously sad and bizarre spiral of reality, dream and dark possibility. Due to an almost chaotic dissonance, this film will certainly not appeal to everyone, but for those who are familiar with Kitano's history and willing to absorb his introspective imagination, this comes across quite powerfully.



Blind Beast
[Moju]

Genre: Philosophical Exploration into Absolute Hedonism

review in one breath

A blind sculptor convinced that a new era of tactile-centric art is necessary, abducts and holds captive a leading model in the hopes of convincing her to participate in his artistic dream. What ensues is a truly remarkable avalanche of human emotion, instinct and depravity. Here director Masamura leads audiences down seemingly harmless philosophical corridors until we too are convinced of his mind-breaking conclusion.



Woman in the Dunes
[Suna na Onna]

Genre: Existential Drama

review in one breath

Here is a visually fascinating tale providing commentary on the meaning and meaninglessness of the human condition. The imagery is realistic and tactile throughout, and leads to a sense of amazement at the bizarre trap our main character suddenly finds himself in. This trap becomes a metaphor for the often meaningless social rituals contemporary souls find themselves locked into.



Angel Guts: Red Porno
[Tenshi no Harawata: Akai Inga]

Genre: Libidinous Morality Tale

review in one breath

The Angel Guts series consists of five films based on the 1970's Japanese "horror" manga by Ishii Takashi. After an initial failure to successfully break into cinema, Ishii poured his creative energy into a manga series entitled Tenshi no Harawata (Angel Guts). Ishii's horrific manga was much more popular than his initial cinematic endeavor, and yet came full circle when its popularity resulted in the production of five films, the fifth of which Ishii himself directed. Most of the five films in the Angel Guts series is directed by a different director and each thematically involves the rape of a young woman named Nami.



Angel Guts: Red Classroom
[Tenshi no Harawata: Akai Kyoushitsu]

Genre: Morality Tale Exploring Irrevocable Demise and Depravity

review in one breath

The Angel Guts series consists of five films based on the 1970's Japanese "horror" manga by Ishii Takashi. After an initial failure to successfully break into cinema, Ishii poured his creative energy into a manga series entitled Tenshi no Harawata (Angel Guts). Ishii's horrific manga was much more popular than his initial cinematic endeavor, and yet came full circle when its popularity resulted in the production of five films, the fifth of which Ishii himself directed. Most of the five films in the Angel Guts series is directed by a different director and each thematically involves the rape of a young woman named Nami.



Rainy Dog
[Gokudo Kuro Shakai]

Genre: Yakuza Existentialism

review in one breath

"I heard a story once of a prisoner who was alone in his cell so long that he started to care for a fly. Then one day, he found that the fly had disappeared. From that day, he began to lose his mind."

Rainy Dog is the second film in director Miike Takashi's Black Society Trilogy. Each of the three tales in this trilogy is an independent story involving different characters and storylines. The commonality among the three (besides their all being yakuza stories) is that each of the main characters is of mixed Taiwanese/Japanese blood and is thoroughly bi-lingual and bi-cultural. By choosing such an mixed ethnicity for his protagonist, Miike immediately taps into an inevitable atmosphere of social isolation and ostracism. Miike's characters thus not only find themselves outside the mainstream of normal society (due to their criminal behavior) but also outside the mainstream of both cultures. Rainy Dog, as will the other films of the Black Society Trilogy, leads audiences, perhaps as never before, through the violence, desperation, and social isolation within this ethnically marginalized criminal group.



The Pornographers
[Jinruigaku nyumon / Introduction to Anthropology]

Genre: Existential Quest for Fulfillment

review in one breath

The Japanese title of this film is simply "Introduction to Anthropology". Only in the West was the prefix "The Pornographers" (or "The Amorists") added. The concise Japanese title is a much more accurate reflection of the content and message of this movie by Shohei Imamura. Although the story's three main characters are in the business of producing and selling underground pornography, their occupation merely sets the backdrop for an exploration of the larger human themes of love, money and fulfillment in life. This was actually a rather complex story which probably needs to be seen more than once to adequately unpack.



9 Souls
[Nine Souls]

Genre: Escaped Convict Coming Home Road Trip

review in one breath

In 2002 Sai Yoichi directed the well-received Keimusha no Naka ("Doing Time") focusing on the hopes and hopelessness of five prisoners all sharing the same cell. The backdrop of Sai's exploration is the thoroughly structured yet near-meaningless daily regimen imposed upon prisoners as a form of discipline and rehabilitation. Through this grueling yet mundane daily routine, each prisoner either gradually comes to terms with himself or mentally/physically collapses under the strain. Keimusha no Naka is drawn in thoroughly traditional strokes, focusing on a classic humanitarianism and casting the highly popular talent of Yamazaki Tsutomu in the lead role.



Inochi
[Life]

Genre: Existential Autobiography

review in one breath

This is an impressively deep story based on the autobiography of Japanese novelist Ryu Miri. Inochi was originally published as a short story and writer Ryu Miri has gone on to write several other novels, a number of which have been translated into English. This film is directed by Shinohara Tetsuo and was awarded Grand Prix at the 47th Asia-Pacific Film Festival.



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