6.7/10
94
3 user 2 critic

Yasha-ga-ike (2005)

Captures the popular Kabukiesque play of the same name that Takashi Miike staged and directed for sold-out audiences in Japan.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Ken'ichi Endô ...
Giant Crab and Representative
Masato Hagiwara
Kitarô
Ryohei
Tomoko Tabata
Shinji Takeda
Gotaro Tsunashima
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Storyline

DEMON POND is the modern-day story of a man searching for a friend who has mysteriously disappeared, with a magical tale involving strange creatures, a heartbroken princess, and a pact that can't be broken. Conflicts between faith and skepticism, and between social obligation and personal desire drive the narrative toward a dramatic conclusion where the worlds of the real and the surreal inevitably collide. Written by Warren hong

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Fantasy

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25 May 2005 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Demon Pond  »

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1.78 : 1
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Version of Yasha-ga-ike (1979) See more »

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close to the bone after 3/11
15 May 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I wish more people in the U.S. could see the diversity of Miike's work. He's unfortunately lumbered with the reputation of his shocking "Audition." It seems to me after seeing almost a dozen of his movies, that his signature style is his ability to work in any style, now confirmed by this stage play peopled by film actors who are just as good in live theater as they are in his and other directors' films.

This play updates a traditional Japanese folktale about the consequences of not complying with the gods' wishes. It's eerily predictive of the 3/11 string of disasters, not so much in exact detail, but in the way some elements of society can't be bothered to respect the power that nature can bring to bear on human-created structures and institutions. In this story, nature is chiefly represented by a tantrum-prone, love-struck demon princess, and her minions. That's pretty telling. For millennia, the Japanese cosmology has sought to ease humanity's relationship with the capriciousness of nature. This is deeply ingrained in Japanese daily life, but as seen with the aftermath of the 3/11 Tôhoku earthquake and tsunami, putting a bunch of nuclear reactors on earthquake-prone stretches of coastline is modernism and human hubris gone amok. Nature just is what it is. The way it's written in kanji, 自然 (shizen), is telling. The kanji mean "self" and "as it is". People disregard it at their own peril, and to the detriment of others around them.

The leads are played with heart and skill by Tomoko Tabata, Shinji Takeda and Ryûhei Matsuda. Miike makes good use of a supporting cast of other well-known movie actors in multiple roles: some human; some animal; some shape-shifting demons, gods and other supernaturals--without major adjustments in their appearance (unlike all the technological, costume and makeup resources he availed himself of in his other big supernatural story, "Yôkai Dai Sensô"). Likewise, the stage set is simple and uses lighting and sound (not so much naturalistic in either case, as evocative) to indicate locale. Where there might be bloodshed, he doesn't even make use of stage blood, trusting the audience and his actors to make the experience real.

Although this is a stage play, the camera work is closer to that of a TV production, well coordinated to make the best use of small moments in close-up. However, it never tries to be anything other than a stage play, and the audience's response and participation are critical to appreciating it as a real-time work. It's the next best thing to being there.


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