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|Index||24 reviews in total|
Made in one set, with three principal actors, and over seven days,
Aragami impresses far more than the more immature Versus. Setting
himself the task of shooting an action movie in one room (itself a
possible contradiction in terms) the constraints ultimately make for a
much more satisfying and engrossing experience than his previous,
overrated breakthrough film - which was too carelessly off the wall and
derivative to impress this viewer. As a project Aragami also contrasts
strongly with the much more opened out Azumi (another personal
favourite), which replaced the gloomy interiors and philosophising of
Aragami with something much more kinetic and light hearted.
At heart Aragami is a film about knowing who you are, and both Osawa (who has since appeared in the less concentrated Sky High) and Masaya Kato are excellent in roles which, like chamber music, leave every flaw in performance likely to be exposed. Obviously written at speed, the film's pay off could have been more enlightening (but perhaps a touch of obscurity in this sort of thing is a benefit, especially at a time when Hollywood genre efforts typically feel obliged to spell everything out), but fans won't argue too much and interpretations are easy to make. The wonder of the film is that the director was able to stage and direct two action scenes - one short, one more extended - with such gusto and convincing moves, given the tight shooting schedule and limitation of the set, while still allowing himself time for empathetic set ups during slower moments. It requires the ingenuity and confidence of a Roger Corman to bring this thing off, raising such stuff above straight-to-video fodder, and Kitamura succeeds magnificently.
Ignore those who claim the film is 'too talky', for none of the chat is wasted (there's none of the narrative indulgence seen in the recent Sky High, for instance), the actors have enough presence to carry it off, and time spent with them never palls. Over 79 minutes nothing drags, and the changing relationship between the samurai and the goblin provide constant interest. The developing duel between the two principals neatly reflects back to the friendly rivalry between Kitamura and his fellow director Tsutsumi which originally initiated the film. If you are tired of bloated Hollywood mega-buck productions and want to get back to the basics of purposeful dialogue, imaginative stageing and thought-through editing - in short, lean, popcorn pumping cinema - then this is a film you need to see.
The director of VERSUS is back, and this time he gives us an old-school samurai sword-fighting flick. ARAGAMI was apparently made in 7 days as a challenge with a fellow director. Its minimalistic to the extreme: 3 actors, one big room as the only location, a plot structure as simple as it gets: dialogue - fight - dialogue - fight - dialogue - fight. And what fights! They're as hyper-kinetic, exciting and fun as the dialogue is bizarre & funny. ARAGAMI is 100& crowd-pleasing action. This one deserves to be a big international hit.
When both Ryuhei Kitamura and Yukihiko Tsutsumi finished their short
films for the Jam anthology early, their producer gave them something
new to try. In the space of one week they were each to produce a film,
using only two man characters, one location and it had to be focused
around a fight. This was called the "Duel" project.
Kitamuras film was "Aragami". The title meaning "fierce deity", and the story revolving around a demon who seeks an opponent who can beat him in combat, taking a wounded samurai in and healing him so that they can face of in a climatic battle. The story, essentially being a simple good versus evil affair was very well done. At times it's hard to tell if one of them is evil, or if they both are in fact evil. And there are enough plot twists to keep your attention throughout this whole suspense filled feature.
Try as I might, I find it almost impossible to find anything to complain about with this film, it really is something amazing. It's a very atmospheric film. Kitamura makes excellent use of light to make the temple look suitably dark and mysterious. From flickering candle light, to eerie purple light flooding in from the night outside, to breath taking lighting that gleams from swords classing in the dark. "Aragami" is a very beautifully shot film, with excellent use of camera angles and not just during the fight scenes. But he made superb use of it to highlight both characters persona throughout.
The use of music was also really well done in this film. At times it heats up the action speeding your heartbeat, at other times it helps establish a more calm mood. During the final battle the use of sound makes it seem like we are almost on a roller coaster. The protagonists feelings of suspicion at the beginning is not only conveyed through acting, but through the music that accompanies his realisations. The use of music is possibly most notable when it helps reinforce the almost friendship that the two of them forge over their drinks and conversation.
Both of the main characters were very well acted, which for some reason I was surprised at. Perhaps it was the depth of the acting that did it for me. Or how quickly they were able to change the mood, and focus of the conversation. At one point the Aragami seems very evil and dark, but in a matter of a few words the focus is shifted onto the protagonist, making him appear as a cold and heartless monster. This was very well done, and very believable. You really get the feeling that the Aragami is bored, ancient and somewhat noble.
The only problems I can find with this film, is that it does have an incredibly slow pace up until the much anticipated climatic battle. Perhaps this was intentional, as to make us more desperate to see them tear into each other but I felt it wasn't very well done. For most of the film the two of them are just sitting there talking over drinks, and while this is well acted there isn't enough action to excite us until the finale.
Kitamura teases us with a little bit of a fight early one, but it's not until the end that we finally see one of his trademark epic battles. Which in itself could have been better, it wasn't as fast as his other films. Perhaps due to the "Anime" posing the characters did while the talked to each other during the fight. If they had just tore into each other in a brutal show of skill the film would have been so much better.
Some slight issues with the pace of the movie, but in all a very well made and entertaining film. And for anyone who has seen "Versus", you're bound to chuckle a little when you see the ending.
Yeah this movie is about the Aragami, who is immortal, and his quest for death. He tricks a warrior into becoming immortal as well, and they fight it out. 1 room, two actors, many fights. A very cool movie, maybe not quite up to par with this director's other work, but still fun to watch. The plot is surprisingly well developed, but some ideas in the fights are recycled from other films. While the movie starts out slow, it actually has a plot that you can understand, unlike many Japanese movies that deal with any type of mythology. I guess you could call the movie serious, but it has a sense of humor and is just made to be entertaining. If I had to compare it to an American movie I would say... Mortal Kombat without any stupid catch phrases or comic relief. I mean, its a barebones story as an excuse to have two sweet characters fight each other. And honestly, it was made in a week.
The greatest scene you can have in any movie is the final showdown.
That last moment, when all the events that have happened throughout the
entire film (or films) come together in one glorious climatic battle
between the hero and the villain. As a great lover of the final
showdown I am disappointed that so few films actually get it right.
Films like "Yojimbo", "Dark City", and "The Good, The Bad, and The
Ugly" are among those rare exceptions when the level of build-up is
more than matched by the moment of confrontation.
Then there's Aragami, which is essentially one long final showdown. And what an incredible showdown it is. I loved Kitamura's previous film, Versus, for it's none stop excitement and entertainingly over-the-top violence. But Aragami is simple, two characters in a room who must and will fight to the death. This
scenario may not seem compelling, but Kitamura somehow manages to keep
the energy buried just beneath the surface of all the character's actions. I felt tense throughout the entire film. I wanted to see the two men fight. But Kitamura kept me waiting for as long as possible, until it was almost to much to take. Then, he delivered on his promise and created one of the most exciting and
thoroughly satisfying showdowns I know of. Much like when I saw Versus, I left the theater energized, unlike most American action films, which just leave me feeling exhausted and worn-out.
Director Ryuhei Kitamura, now famous thanks to the big success of
"Versus" and "Azumi", was challenged to make this experimental film in
an odd bet with producer Shinya Kawai and fellow filmmaker Yukihiko
Tsutsumi. Named the "Duel" project, Kawai challenged the two filmmakers
to each create a feature length movie with only two actors, battling in
one setting and filmed entirely in one week. With those restrictions
limiting the development of a film, a challenge like that sounds
insane; but Kitamura succeeds and delivers a film of almost the same
caliber as "Versus".
In Kitamura's film, two wounded samurais arrive to a lost temple in the mountains looking for a place to rest. Later, one of them awakes fully healed and is welcomed by the only priest in the temple. He introduces himself as Aragami (Masaya Kato), the God of Battle, and informs the samurai (Takao Osawa) that he healed his wounds, but had to kill his companion to do it. His purpose: to have a duel to death with the samurai.
The movie moves around the showdown, not only physical, but also philosophical between these two warriors; with fluid camera-work that mimics the style of Manga comic books, Kitamura keeps the film moving despite being set entirely in the main room of the temple. This stylish use of the camera really is one of the film's strongest points, as it makes the set look different even when they never change of room.
The characters are very well defined and thanks to a very good developed script, they never let the movie fall. Just like the visuals, the writing is very similar to those of Manga, and one could say that this is exactly how a Manga would look if it were translated frame by frame to screen. While at times the movie drags, it is understandable that a lot of effort was put to make it entertaining even when it's only about two people talking and fighting.
Masaya Kato gives a powerful performance as Aragami, a being beyond man's understanding and with fighting skills perfected through centuries of practice. He really becomes his character and truly makes one belief that he has seen a lot in his life. At the same time, Osawa is very good as the samurai, confused by all what is happening and whose only desire is to get out of the temple alive. Both actors excel in their performances, specially considering the limited freedom they had to work with. In fact, it is thanks to their performances that the script makes the the movie work.
The visual beauty of the duel between the warriors is another one of the movie's strong points. Kitamura knows very well how to put action on films as fans of "Versus" will acknowledge. In "Aragami", he mixes the old with the modern in a stylish surrealist duel that mimics the fight between the two samurais. However, if a flaw is to be found, is that the use of modern music at times contrasts with the intentions of the film, nevertheless, it never becomes a real problem.
While "Aragami" is nowhere near what Kitamura accomplished with the outstanding "Azumi", it still is a very good and different movie that shows the creativity of this director; that he is not afraid of taking risks; and that in fact, like the raging God of Battle, he enjoys a good challenge. 7/10
Aragami is Ryuhei Kitamura's film which was shot with a few rules in
some sort of Japanese Director's Challenge (The other was Yukihiko
Tsutsumi's 2LDK). Some rules were that the films must be of feature
length and shot within one week (Aragami was filled in 8 days). The
movie must take place within one room with 2 competitors fighting to
Originally, I found out about this movie after watching 2LDK and found out about this challenge. I thought it was an interesting concept and would like to see how some of today's American directors could tackle such a project. Although I liked 2LDK, Aragami was simply the better movie. At times, the style and dialog (or lack of) reminded me of something from Quentin Tarantino.
The very basic plot is that Aragami (Masaya Kato), who, incidentally, is the God of Battle, challenges a samurai (Takao Osawa) to a fight to the death. Aragami is tired of living and can not commit suicide nor die of old age or other natural causes. He must be killed in battle, as he is the God of Battle. He immortalizes the samurai by feeding him his deceased friend's liver and the fight was on.
Surprisingly, this basic plot did not seem to drag on for too long and was just about the right length. The fight scenes, mostly involving swords, were pretty good and at times, the dialog was humorous. This is a good recommendation if you know what you are getting yourself into.
I Love this movie. The story was a bit confusing but either then that
the movie was near perfect.
The action was very well choreographed and was not Very over the top like MGSTTS but it was still Over the top action considering how Samurai Films are made nowadays.
There was this one part that amazed me were the Temple was all dark and all you can see of them was when the swords collide that was sooo coool. And i love the soundtrack. If you loved the soundtrack from all his other movies then you would love this soundtrack.
I saw this movie at the SF Indie Film fest which presented this & Yukihiko
Tsutsumi's 2LDK back-to-back and the audience got to vote on which was the
better of the 2. As has been noted, the directors of both of these films
stayed up late one night drinking @ Berlin Film fest & dared each other to
a duel. The terms of the duel: make a film about a duel involving 2
characters that takes place in one setting and shoot it in 7 days.
Unfortunately, TsuTsumi had back problems and was unable to attend, but Kitamura was present & introduced the film. He said Tsutsumi had called him a few months after the pact & asked him how his project was going & took him entirely off-guard as he was working on Ozumi & hadn't done anything. So he wrote Aragami very quickly & used it as a way to help prepare for Ozumi. The theme is very interesting, A samurai runs into an old temple in the mountains w/ his buddy & both are near death. One of the samurai's survives by the help of the temple's resident, who is somewhat of a mystery (is he a samurai? priest? doctor?).
Without revealing too much of the plot, the surviving samurai is led into a duel with him & it becomes clear that defeating the temple's mysterious resident is beyond his abilitites as a samurai. The plot (with the exception of the ending) was extremely good & there were some really good moments of rapport between the 2. The film's main theme of war & a warrior's duty/calling is not new, though the way it evolves in this film is quite interesting. Most notable is the way the film shows how homoerotic desire/affection underlies much hand-to-hand combat (i.e. sublimating a desire that is unspoken by attempting to kill the desired). However, this theme is not as well developed as the overall theme. As a result, the ending feels a bit like a cheap shot, a rather hurried attempt at a clever ending, than something that evolves well from the characters' sparring (both verbal & in actual action). Despite this, the ending does present an interesting take on the subject of war & those who are willing to fuel the fire. Those who really come to these films for the action sequences might be a bit disappointed, as the action sequences in this film are short & comprised of extremely quick takes, though there is an interesting sequence that uses flash images of the fighting giving it a strobe effect.
Other problems I had with the film were the setting, lighting & sound. The movie took place in a rather odd temple w/ cheesey buddha artifacts. It looked more like more like Disney Park room (if it were created in the 1980s) version of a Japanese Temple complete with dark colored lighting (heavy on red & blue). The light & sound affects in the film (rain, lightning, etc.) also gave the film an artificial feel, making it look almost like some of Fassbinder's films (i.e. Berlin Alexanderplatz), however the distancing affect it creates on the viewer, didn't really seem to add to the film's theme any. The director did state that he was more influenced by the Hollywood films of the 70s & 80s that he watched while growing up, than by martial arts films.
Most distracting, though, was the film's electronica background music, which became very repetitious & annoying at times, as it really detracted from the dialogue between the 2 characters. The heavy metal music at the end, perhaps wasn't as out of place as the electronica, given the ending, but was also pretty annoying & felt like overkill. Overall I'd give it a 7/10....with more time, attention & money this one could have been quite exceptional. But unfortunately the director has quite a lot going on (a re-issue of Versus with new scenes, Versus 2 & Godzilla) & so the rushed job that it was really did seem to affect its quality.
I did not get to stay to see who won the duel, but judging by how many people were going to the 2LDK ballot box, I think the votes mirror the imdb rating....2LDK is the winner (and that is my feeling too).
If truth be told (ooh I sound Welsh!) I didn't really want Aragami. Now
I don't want to offend the film, it's just that I'd never heard of it
and it came with the film that I was interested in called 2LDK (which
was knock-out by the way!) It turns out that Aragami was part of
something called the Duel Project where two Japanese directors decided
to have a battle, making a film using only two main characters, in one
set, shot over one week. It's an extremely interesting premise and one
that us Westerner's are used to, seeing that Hollywood often shoves
exotic locations and several big-billed names into a film! After
reading some hype for Aragami I was genuinely interested in seeing it
and seeing which one would win the duel for me.
Well, as you can gather from my score, Aragami was not a patch on 2LDK; however that isn't to say that it's a bad film. Aragami is an interesting one, but one that I feel is bloated. Aragami's characters weren't as great as 2LDK's. What made 2LDK so compelling was that the characters were interested and you care about the fight, despite that fact that neither of them are particularly likable. Even with a character to root for in Aragami I still didn't feel as interested in the characters or the fight. Perhaps this was due to the lengthy and slow dialogue scenes which held the film down, especially as we're expecting a fight to the death like the DVD promises. Now, 2LDK did also have a lot of dialogue for the first half hour, but it was brewing with tension and suspense, building up anticipation for the ultimate cat fight.
Aragami's dialogue scenes seemed long for the sake of trying to fill up a feature length film. The characters were also pretty stereotypical and aside for a few good moments (notably the reveal of Aragami and the picking of the weapons) you ultimately just want to jump straight into the duel! Now the duel itself is very enjoyable. The action is shot incredibly fast and is almost Tarantino-esque in Kill Bill. It also felt even more thrilling, as it juxtaposed the placid camera movement and few shots that were in the dialogue scenes. However, I did feel that the fight in 2LDK was even better, being that the weapons were innovative, and the characters more interesting.
Aragami is basically a sword fight. Although the fantasy element does make the battle more interesting, offering us something a little more unique. I also thought that the pitch-black sword fight with only the lightening outside and the clashes of the sword creating light was very creative and visually exciting. The ending was also quite interesting, but I did have the feeling of too little, too late when the duel did finally commence and I think that it should've made more creative use of its environment like 2LDK did. Additionally, I really did not like the music which sounded like the incidental music on TV's 'Gay Rabbit' which I have never looked at (shifty eyes).
2LDK wins for me, but I suppose it's just a matter of taste. If you're into your martial arts then Aragami will be a masterpiece for you. However, I think that the film would've made a much pacier short film, rather than being stretched to feature length and feeling belated. There simply isn't enough narrative drive or interesting characters to fill 1hr 15mins. However, I can think of worse ways to spend your evenings and it really is a master-class in directing and editing. It doesn't have the re-play value of 2LDK, but that's not to say that I won't be watching again over the course of my life.
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