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as usual, Setsuko Hara lights up the screen in this drama, plays Takako, a student who lost her father. While at the graveside, she meets Ryukichi, played by Shin Saburi, who is a former student of Takako's father offers to have her live with him and his kids. Ryukichi's wife is ill and lives in a sanitarium. Takako becomes part of the family, caring for the kids and helping Ryukichi. The film's plot moves toward whether Takako and Ryukichi begin to have affection for each other, which of course complicates everything. While the film is a standard drama, Setsuko Hara is wonderful in it, displaying sadness, glee and other emotions extremely well. She at times looks beautiful in the film also, but it is the depths of her emotions that carry the film. This is not one of the best films she has been in (there are so many classics she was part of)but she was an extraordinary actress, always standing out in the films she has been in. She has been called the Katherine Hepburn of Japanese actresses, and that is a fairly accurate analogy, both of them were adept in different genres. Worth a look, but first check out her other amazing films first to get an immediate appreciation of her rare talent.
Aoi sanmyaku (1949)
Be True To Your School
This film was contemporary at the time, as it involves resistance to the changes in the post war period. A young schoolgirl is seen spending time with an older boy and some of her classmates try to trick her by writing a note telling her to meet after school. The teacher Miss Shimazaki (the always great Setsuko Hara)calls the girls on their behavior. Basically, she states that it is okay for them to be with boys. The girls protest. Others are drawn in with their own opinions, including the local doctor, whose opinion has become more progressive as the film goes on. This is an interesting character study about a time when tradition was beginning to be challenged, even as it pertains to relationships. What seems quaint now was at the time very much a tug of war between people. Playing ostensibly a feminist, Ms. Hara is trying to get the girls to not just settle for a life where they will marry and eventually be miserable, since they will more or less be subservient to their husbands . In this context, the film triumphs, but it is a film of its time. Still, this film was made just before Late Spring, one of Ms. Hara's greatest films, in which she ironically plays the daughter of the great Chishu Ryu and is, in effect, a very traditional lady. Late Spring is an excellent character study of mores. This film tackles it in a different way. It is not as compelling as Late Spring, but it is certainly worth watching.
This is not meant to be a great film, the storyline is not new and it is fairly predictable. However, it is still enjoyable due to the quick pace of the film and the general likability of the actors. Mili plays a physiotherapist who goes to Sambalgarh to help a Raja learn to walk again after he was in an accident 10 years before that killed his oldest son. However, he does not really want to try. Mili is a middle class doctor and is a "fish out of water" in such a prim, proper household. She speaks out of turn, acts way too familiar, but over time she becomes liked. She makes a difference in a family that finds it difficult to communicate with each other. The living soon is Vikram, and though engaged, he and Mili develop a liking for each other. So, its very enjoyable, and the pretty Sonam Kapoor makes for a very appealing title character. I'd also recommend it to anyone who wants to begin to try Bollywood films. It has appeal that transcends the setting of the film.
The Dirty Picture (2011)
Absorbing, Tense At Times and Essential
Before watching this, I only watched one Silk Smitha film but have read about her, how by ramping up sexuality in film she was both lusted and reviled. This film stars the immensely appealing and capable Vidya Balan as Silk, a young lady seeking fame as an actress. At first discouraged, her turns as a sexy item girl to actress make her both famous and infamous. Remember, this is India, not Hollywood, so in the film she constantly pushes the envelope of decency and sexuality in film. This works against her eventually, which gives the film its tension and best, though sad, scenes. The acting is all good, but Ms. Balan is a revelation. Whether loosely based on Silk Smitha or not, the story itself keeps your interest, with the direction being crisp and paced well. The bigger the screen, the better the film will feel. Enjoy.
Kibô no kuni (2012)
A Recent Memory
Anyone familiar with the work of Sion Sono knows he pushes the limits of things, whether they be taste or life. This film does the same but in an entirely different way from his more recent work. The film is about an earthquake in Nagashima and possible effects of radiation from a nuclear power plant not that far away. Yasuhiko Ono refuses to leave, staying with his wife Chieko, who has a form of dementia. He is asked to leave and refuses, but insists his son Yoichi and daughter in law Izumi (played by the star of Sono's Guilty Of Romance, Megumi Kagurazaka)evacuate, which they finally do. Izumi finds out she is pregnant and, though according to the government is in a safe area, is so cautious about radiation she makes everyone in town dislike her. If you have never lived through a natural disaster you would have no idea what to do. Despite this, the film is not depressing. There are moments that are poignant, but its also about a by now weary people and the choices they make. A particularly amazing scene is when Yasuhiko finds Chieko, who wandered away, and puts her on his back. That expression of love is simple but uplifting. While the subject matter can be emotionally jarring, it is a film with purpose and even some restraint. Mr. Sono continues to be a terrific writer/director and this somewhat departure from his latest films like Love Exposure, Cold Fish and Guilty Of Romance is just another example of his uncompromising, brilliant work.
Jikô keisatsu (2006)
After The Fact
This is a nine episode miniseries about police officers who seem to be underemployed, as they don't otherwise seem to be doing much about crime. Kiriyama decides as a hobby to solve expired cases, meaning there is a 15 year statute of limitations on catching a murderer. He confronts the persons that knew the victim and does some honest detective work. With him is Mikka, who helps him in his endeavors and seems to have a crush on the somewhat enigmatic Kiriyama. Every episode is stand alone and fun to watch. Its not a binge watching drama, it works best if you watch one per week. Its billed as a comedy, and it does have comedic overtones. Kiriyama confronts the killer and the episode is over. Not a great drama but worthy of your time.
Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy
This film is about entertainment manager Shep Gordon, who got his start by agreeing to manage (and, 43 years later, continues to manage) Alice Cooper. He also manages others, and this documentary goes through his life. You hear from people who you don't see commenting in films often, like Michael Douglas, Mike Myers (who also directed) Alice Cooper himself. It glosses over many things, there are no scandals, no moments of jaw dropping revelation, just the story of a man looking back at his career mostly with a smile. The most poignant part of the film are the parts involving the late Teddy Pendergrass, but there is also commentary from an ex's grandkids, whom Shep has all but adopted. Although now semi-retired and living in paradise in Maui, he still sees people all the time. Again, nothing scandalous, just a mostly straight forward telling of a man who mucked through the entertainment industry and still comes out of it well loved and admired. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the subject, but it really is refreshing to watch a documentary about someone who hasn't been anything but a good person and who is held in high esteem by his friends and colleagues.
Sunshine on Leith (2013)
At Times Wonderful, At Times Not
This film is a series of interconnected situations regarding relationships, all based in the same family. Davy and Ally come back from combat, to seemingly the delight of everyone. Ally looks to rekindle his relationship with Liz, who is Davy's sister. Davy meets Liz's best friend Yvonne and they begin a relationship. Liz and Davy's parents Rab and Jean appear very happy about this. There, however, are secrets and actions that threaten to undermine all of the relationships. When the film is set to songs by the Scottish group The Proclaimers (American audiences will know them from their big hit 500 Miles (I'm Gonna Be),sung by the characters and others joining in, the movie is wonderful, it is vibrant and fun, along with sad and even heartbreaking. When the stories are told without music the movie falters, since it becomes almost like a soap opera. However, look past those moments and bask in the great city of Edinburgh and sing along if you can. Its those moments that make this film really worthwhile.
Poignant But Good
This film is all the more poignant since Levon has recently passed, but the film itself is also about resolve, dreams and looking forward. Levon developed throat cancer, and the treatments caused him to lose his voice. The film is about the struggle and wish to regain his voice and make a comeback, which he did, releasing two great studio albums (Dirt Farmer and Electric Dirt) and a live recording, Live At The Ryman. The film visits the past of course, and it touches on his feud with former Band guitarist Robbie Robertson over song credits, but it is more about the then present. Deceased Band members Rick Danko and Richard Manuel are touched on, and it is obvious Levon misses them (we all do). The post-cancer career Levon had was a gift to his fans, and he will never be forgotten. Somewhere, he, Rick and Richard are harmonizing together. For now, any fan of Levon and The Band should watch this, along with The Last Waltz, the extraordinary final show of The Band. Levon is greatly missed by so many, but this film makes us love him just as much as we always did and in that way, it triumphs.
Interesting, Unusual Approach, But Not Essential
Depending on how much you like the Replacements will be how much you like this documentary. First off, two things you need to know: None of the Replacements are interviewed, and there is no footage of them. You have various people, most you've never seen before but do have credibility in telling this story, which is done chronologically. If you have seen them live (I have four times-twice riveting, twice not so), you just never knew what you were going to get. If they were sober and interested, they were one of the greatest bands that ever existed. If they were drunk and doing mostly covers, you'd hate to have brought someone to the show and told them beforehand they were amazing. This film embodies this, and some of the comments are very affecting. The people who speak that are known, including Grant Hart and Greg Norton of Husker Du (that would make an interesting documentary), manage to tell their stories and they are mostly articulate and wonderful. Think of the film this way: Lets say a documentary of your favorite band was being made and they asked you to comment. There is gushing, some dismissive anecdotes. If you're a casual fan, you won't get it. If you are a real fan, this will be very watchable. I would have liked to see Paul, Tommy or Chris speak, but you can't have everything. Last thought: Does this film make you want to buy or listen to them? The answer is yes. In that alone, this film succeeds.