Author Topic: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts  (Read 292438 times)

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2350 on: July 06, 2017, 12:53:19 AM »
Round Four Bonus Review



The Cherry Orchard  (Nakahara Shun, 1990)
Lost to Minbo - or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (verdict by Melvil)
Won over The Weald (verdict by Bondo)
Won over Musuko (verdict by BlueVoid)
Lost to Comrades, Almost a Love Story (verdict by 1SO)

I've been waiting to watch The Cherry Orchard since June 2012, when I resurrected it based just on its first ten minutes and the strength of Melvil's verdict. So I wasn't going to let the fact that it's ineligible for a second resurrection keep me from finally seeing it. And I'm very glad I did even though my five years' worth of anticipation (fueled greatly by Bondo's praiseful verdict in the second round, which seemed to validate the masterpiece I imagined the film to be) perhaps set the bar for the movie impossibly high. I agree with all the verdicts about the remarkable naturalism of the performances. The young ensemble cast is extremely impressive and well directed by Nakahara. Despite that naturalism, the camerawork almost implies at times the point of view of a ghost. Is Chekhov watching these Japanese girls perform his play? Probably not, but I did feel like there was an extra layer of meaning there that I was missing. I'd love to read the manga the film is based on, if only because I really can't imagine the story existing in that form. As filmed, it's all too subtle and nuanced, and dependent on the physical presence of the actors. I'd be fascinated see how that all plays out on the page. Where the film falls a bit short with me, at least on an initial viewing, is that it doesn't seem to dig into its narrative and character elements enough. Almost everything is interesting, but just in hints. I wanted more. I wanted to get beyond the tableau of this group of girls at this moment in their lives and explore them more as individuals to cut from long shot to close-up. I wonder if Nakahara's 2008 remake of this story makes that sort of adjustment.

Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: A Scene at the Sea.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2351 on: July 06, 2017, 01:46:16 AM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



A Scene at the Sea  (Kitano Takeshi, 1991)
Won over The Emperor's Shadow (verdict by Melvil)
Won over City of the Rising Sun (verdict by smirnoff)
Won over Festival (verdict by Sam the Cinema Snob)
Lost to Raise the Red Lantern (verdict by Teproc)

Just like with The Cherry Orchard, it's been a billion years since Melvil's great first-round verdict whetted my appetite for this film. But in this case, my enthusiasm was subsequently diminished, at least a little, by screenings of Kikujiro and Kids Return. The first twenty-minutes of A Scene at the Sea are marvelous, though. They would work as a self-contained short film. So very charming, brimming with the joy of watching someone persevere unfazed through repeated failure with mute determination. But after that first act, the film becomes a bit too haphazard for my tastes, teasing threads of storylines but then looking the other way before things get interesting. There's too much time spent away from Shigeru, who really demands to be the constant center of this story. The romanticization of his deafness is troubling, however, in a 'noble savage' kind of way. There's a helplessness to both him and Takako, his doggishly loyal girlfriend, who is also deaf, that suggests that the film isn't interested in them as real characters, just as ideals. They exist in almost pure silence, with very little communicated through hand gestures, let alone true sign language or writing. Shigeru has no evident coping mechanisms for his deafness and is often at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. But even the people who know him best are always shouting at him from behind, as if his deafness might be fake, just part of some long con. Joe Hishashi's score matches the relaxing rhythms of the ocean waves, adding to the soundtrack's value as a sleep aid.

Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: Moonlight Whispers.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

PeacefulAnarchy

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2352 on: July 06, 2017, 08:48:06 AM »
Sorry for the delay, at least I'm not the last one.

Woman Sesame Oil Maker
This is not a bad film at all, but it's not all that good either. The best way to describe it is to say that it's a victimization melodrama that consciously tries to avoid the trappings of the style by having the victimization mostly linger in the atmosphere and the downplaying the melodrama. That should be a plus for me, because this story done in an overbearing style would make me hate it, but the problem is that it downplays its central thrust but doesn't replace it with anything. Plot points come up seemingly only to raise or diminish the main character and never develop emotional or narrative resonance, overblown drama ensues but is quickly cleaned up so that it feels meaningless, and the film's central theme of the constraints of Chinese society on love, particularly for women, is pretty obvious rather early and never really develops. It just shows us something kind of bad, and we nod our head in agreement and that's that. The print was a bit faded but the cinematography still stands out as pretty good, and the lead actress is strong enough to carry a film, though neither of these things is special enough to make the film a must see. It's not my kind of movie, and while it's good enough to avoid turning me off it wasn't good enough to actively engage me.

Vive L'Amour
Typical for a Tsai film, this one is a slow burner. It grabbed me at the start, but then throughout the film kept letting me go before grabbing me again. The premise is interesting enough, as are the characters, and many of the individual scenes are quite effective at conveying the fleeting connection and alienation themes of the movie. In between those scenes there are others that just feel like padding. More than Woman Sesame Oil Maker, however, I felt something for these characters as real people, rather than simply stand ins for a theme, even with the minimal dialogue. There's a bubbling of life and emotion under the surface of the film that you can feel, and some very evocative shots to bring those feelings up close to the surface. It's not a perfect experience, I don't think Tsai's style is quite right for me, but it's something I can appreciate and if I found myself in the right mood I'd be interested in revisiting this.

Verdict: The favourite goes on, it's Vive L'Amour.

Jared

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2353 on: July 06, 2017, 12:39:25 PM »
I've advanced along both of those films at some point and I like this decision. Very nice reviews. I feel like I thought WSOM was a bit better but it hasn't really been all that sticky in my memory since. 

Teproc

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2354 on: July 06, 2017, 12:55:09 PM »
Nice reviews, pix and PA. We're getting so close ! Only 3 matches left right, plus a few resurrection verdicts ?

pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2355 on: July 06, 2017, 06:39:00 PM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



Moonlight Whispers  (Shiota Akihiko, 1999)
Won over Maborosi (verdict by smirnoff)
Won over Rhapsody in August (verdict by Bondo)
Won over Ju Dou (verdict by 1SO)
Lost to Spring in My Hometown (verdict by Jared)

I can only reiterate what all four bracket verdicts have said previously: Moonlight Whispers starts with so much promise but then goes off the rails. The decisions of the script make thematic sense and sound interesting on paper, but the problem is that the two leads are such appealingly real and cute characters in the first act, and what follows seems a betrayal of that, sacrificing their characters to thematic ideas. (It's funny that this movie faced Ju Dou, which I felt had similar issues.) I'd love to see a remake that stayed true to the characters and really explored the bravery and motivations of teens finding their way into pup play. Is "perverted" even an accusatory adjective in high school parlance these days, or is that usage one of the things that dates this film?

Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: Only Yesterday.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

BlueVoid

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2356 on: July 06, 2017, 10:14:03 PM »
Great writeups Pix and PA! Happy that another Tsai is in the next round.
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pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2357 on: July 07, 2017, 07:57:19 PM »
Round Four Resurrection Review



Only Yesterday  (Takahata Isao, 1991)
Won over Tokyo biyori (verdict by worm@work)
Won over The Geisha House (verdict by ProperCharlie)
Won over Dreams (verdict by Melvil)
Lost to Farewell My Concubine (verdict by oldkid)

Adult-at-internal-crossroads-haunted-by-childhood-self couldn't be more in my cinematic wheelhouse, and yet Only Yesterday underwhelmed me, at least a little. I'm actually not sure if it's because the move drags a bit (as ProperCharlie mentions) or because so many moments were catalysts for mental detours. (Protip: presenting a character in need of math tutoring is a sure-fire way to lose my attention, all but guaranteeing that I'll I daydream about the coolest way to demonstrate that mathematical concept.) So with all this, I'm not sure if the past and present stories of Taeko are as disconnected as they seem or if I was just too unfocused a viewer to pick up on the threads. There are certainly many nice moments, though surprisingly few of them really seem to take full advantage of animation as a medium (I seem to disagree with worm@work on this point). Like with The Ocean Waves, I often would have preferred seeing real faces (or even safflowers) to animated ones. Moments like the ascension into the sky make fantastic use of animation's possibilities, and I wish there were more inspirations like that. I like that some verdicts expressed greater engagement with the adult sections and some with the childhood sections, as if the film works as a kind of litmus test for the viewer. That speaks volume's about the film's appeal. Both sections felt familiar and relatable to me, but the younger Taeko had almost all the best moments: the thrill of first love, making the most of her one line in the play, feeling encouraged by cartoon theme songs. The twentysomething Taeko's attachment to the countryside always felt a bit more written which made sense, afterwards, when I learned that the childhood scenes come from the source manga, but Takahata added the adult frame story to give the film structure.

Resurrection Standings (the top three films will earn resurrection)

Up next: Sleeping Man.

pixote
« Last Edit: July 07, 2017, 08:01:41 PM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

BlueVoid

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2358 on: July 07, 2017, 10:15:52 PM »
Interesting see its high rank with your middling review. I'm a huge fan of 'Grave of the Fireflies', but found the rest of Isao's work underwhelming. That said I'd still be interesting in checking this one out if it does get resurrected.
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pixote

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Re: 1990s Far East Bracket: Verdicts
« Reply #2359 on: July 07, 2017, 10:47:24 PM »
Interesting see its high rank with your middling review. I'm a huge fan of 'Grave of the Fireflies', but found the rest of Isao's work underwhelming. That said I'd still be interesting in checking this one out if it does get resurrected.

Ha, I wondered if anyone would catch that. I wrote the first half of a review focusing on the negatives and meant to add another paragraph on the positives but I never got around to it, and now I'm too far removed from the viewing to do it. It's a good movie, though, just not as good as I had hoped.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.