The Hole - Tsai Ming-liang, 1998
A fantastic, singular film. I've come to realize that I'm a sucker for a good sound design, and in this case the constant sound of rain and industrial buzzing is complete and total mañana-bait. Along with the constant sense of dampness, the sound design gives the film a unique bleak atmosphere. Combine all that with the grim apartment complex interiors, and the art direction here is totally my jam. Not too far into this, it started to remind me of Jarmusch. Not sure if that comparison is superficial or not, but the tone and odd humour kept bringing him back to mind. As a general rule, the social/spiritual alienation and loneliness of modern urban life tends to bore me (just go take a class or volunteer or something, geez), but the how is too good here for me to take issue with the what.
Kamikaze Taxi - Masato Harada, 1995
Did you know that starting in the late 19th century several waves of Japanese immigrants arrived in Peru looking for work? Well, I didn't. Did you also know that immigration policy changes in the 1980s and 90s allowed for ethnic-Japanese Peruvians to work in Japan to meet labour shortages? Stop pretending you read about this in The Economist. Apparently, though ethnically Japanese, culturally and socially those of Peruvian background were othered. Koji Yakusho plays Kantake, a Japanese Peruvian taxi driver who chauffeurs Tatsuo on his revenge mission (his kamikaze mission, that is), and he is definitely the standout to my mind. The film is rather sprawling and meandering, and though that was discouraging as a viewer initially, once I committed and got on its wavelength, I was rather engrossed. With such little knowledge of the context, I'm hesitant to offer an assessment of how smart its politics are. As commentary on social and political systems and Japanese insularity (xenophobia and brutal, powerful men are elements throughout) I don't know how nuanced it is, but I can say I was along for the wandering ride. Most importantly though, as you might expect, the dirty talk on the Blockbuster Video floor was probably my favourite part. But that would be true of almost any movie.
Verdict: The Hole moves on.