6.7/10
96
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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Credited cast:
Ken'ichi Endô ...
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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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Connections

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

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User Reviews

 
Miike takes on the theater, and for the most part is successful
13 August 2008 | by See all my reviews

I should confess at the start: I don't speak Japanese. This means that I likely missed many of the nuances and meanings beneath the words spoken by the characters in this play- not to mention the subtitles going by at times at a quick clip- and I may have missed a couple of the jokes that appeared to get big laughs or the significance of some of the Noh stylistics. But as an ardent fan of Takashi Miike, and his body of work that may not be the best of Japanese film (Kurosawa or Ozu or Kobayashi would be the one of three good choices), but certainly has the widest range of any director; picking out something of his to watch, however sometimes familiar and derivative, is like picking out something from a menu at a reputable restaurant. Not everything is perfect, but usually you get a very good meal.

Demon Pond is no exception, only now there's the distinction of it being live, video-taped theater, with Miike directing both the camera-work and editing as well as the actors on stage. The play is about a pond, of the title, and the principle character Yamazawa, Hagawara, and Yuri. There is a bell right next to where Yuri lives, and it must be rung three times or else there will be dire consequences. But there's also a drought going on in the nearby village from a lack of the river from the pond. There's also curses to be had, and an irate princess who can't stand that the bell is rung as it keeps here from her one true love and wants to cut it down. There are some other things that happen- one of which in the last act that would be a terrible spoiler- but suffice to say it's surrounded in fable and mythological lore, the likes of which will be more familiar to the students and fans of Japanese mythology and stories.

In fact, one of the joys of Demon Pond is storytelling, as sometimes a character will prove himself by telling a story, as one does for Yuri to possibly get a place to sleep for the night. It's also a plus that, for much of the time, the humor is genuine and I found myself laughing along with the audience at both the absurd little beats in the script and the exaggerated performances by the supporting players (while my least favorite section of the play, the mid-section with the men with their catch of fish, there are plenty of crazy laughs). Here and there the story might be a little tough to follow, as characters go on and on about things that don't have much to do with the central plot. When it does work, however, it's a splendid synthesis of superb 'stylized' acting (i.e. the princess), production design and flamboyant costume designs, and sweet and somber music. There are even one or two fairly quotable lines, like "Don't scream 'Tokyo' at me in anger", or "I like Veggie, but don't call me Mr. Veggie!"

So, congratulations to Mr. Miike, as he's somehow pulled off some very good and fascinating direction on a good fantasy play/video, even if, sad to say, I'd still much rather see how he'd do it as a real film: now *there* would be something incredible. And, as another note of interest for Americans, I happen to find the DVD as something of an anomaly at my local Blockbuster. 7.5/10


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