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It's no secret that I love Asian cinema.
I remember when I was a kid I used to rent all kinds of Asian action movies, usually starring Jackie Chan, and since then I've seen all kinds of Asian films, ranging from thrillers to animated features to comedies to dramas to horror, and the list goes on. Whether it's Japanese films, Chinese films, Korean films, etc, I have rarely ever hated an Asian film I've seen. I have my least favorites like everybody else, of course, but compared to, say, American cinema, there are very few Asian films I truly despise. I usually find something to take away from even the more mindless ones.
Anyway, here are my favorites so far. Like all my other lists, I plan to update this one as frequently as I watch.......well, Asian films.
Check out my anime list as well: http://www.imdb.com/list/vwJ-rgJEp5E/
Ever wonder why you rarely hear about "iconic" or "classic" black films? Ever wonder why black cinema is so marginalized and rarely talked about? Ever wonder why most black films are so hard to find or lost forever? Well, I'll tell you why.....
Because very few people care about black films, unfortunately. Likely not you, not your mother, not your father, and most likely not your friends either. The majority of white films, on the other hand, have pretty much been preserved forever, and people usually go to extra lengths to ensure that many of the lost white films don't stay lost for long. Far too many black films, specifically classic black films, have been ignored altogether because the people of that time likely figured that future generations wouldn't care to see such films, and thus, most classic black films are lost for all eternity. You can read about them, but you can't touch them, feel them, see them, or even get close to them. Instead, the people who truly want to see everything black cinema has to offer have to search ten times as hard compared to if they were trying to find any other type of film. This can become incredibly frustrating for cinephiles who make it their goal to see nearly everything from everybody all around the world. But, it's most frustrating to black movie fans who want to get closer to their own culture through the films their own people have made. Even such filmmakers as Ousmane Sembene and Charles Burnett, who have a couple of films widely available to the public, also have a bunch of films they've made that aren't available anywhere to see unless you do some serious digging.
It's definitely the fault of society as a whole, and history's blatant marginalization of black film........well, let's be honest, anything black. A lot of people, whether in power or not in power, simply don't value black films much. It's not just black films made by black filmmakers either, it's black films, period. You can't even see 50 percent of them if you tried, really. Many of these films likely lacked support from their own people as well when they were released in theaters, so those same folks aren't safe from some of the blame either.
One question that often lingers in my mind is, "Why does Criterion only have less than a handful of black titles in their collection?" Why haven't they tried restoring Burnett's more obscure titles, or Souleymane Cissé's, or Bill Gunn's (Stop!)? They more than deserve it. I've actually enjoyed some of their films more than any of the ones Criterion has already released. Plus, I'm pretty sure cinephiles really want to see these films, as well as many others who are passionate about film. We're being neglected important pieces of film history.
With that said, I present to those of you who do care my personal list of black cinema gems; some of these are relatively well known and others are practically unknown, but my main intention was making a list of pretty much all the ones I consider at least good, so that includes favorites and non-favorites. I haven't seen everything, so this is just a reflection of what I have seen, which is more than the average person but still a lot less than I want to see.
The main criteria was, the film had to be at least decent and deal with some sort of black theme or have a black sensibility. But, here's the catch: Any film made by a black filmmaker that I felt was decent and worthy automatically went on the list even if the cast was white. The ones made by non-black filmmakers obviously had to fall in line with the first rule of my criteria.
Like I said above, most black films, specifically early black films, are impossible to find and not available anywhere to the public, and even many of the newer black independent films become incredibly difficult to see unless you go to black film festivals, which I highly recommend doing since they usually contain some real gems. The Pan African Film Festival in particular is wonderful. Every black person or person in general interested in black film should make it their duty to go to that festival whenever it's nearby. I was lucky enough to go recently since it was in my hometown of Los Angeles, and it was very refreshing and exciting seeing all the unique and diverse films from all kinds of new black talent, and participating in the Q&A sessions afterwards. Back to my first point: that's why there are only a few pre-60's entries on the list. I don't count on that changing anytime soon, but hey, miracles happen, don't they?
I included guilty pleasures as well, because films I consider to be guilty pleasure may be considered legitimately good by other folks. I found all of the films on this list to be semi-entertaining, at the very least. Then again, I'm very open-minded and choose not to criticize every film I watch to death. Watching movies shouldn't be a critical exercise, it should be effortlessly enjoyable, like listening to music.
To those who disagree with my selections, I say this. There's no such thing as a be-all-end-all list, so I didn't set out to make one. I mainly made this list for myself, so I can easily manage my favorite black films in a non-complicated way. You are always welcome to make your own.
Not on IMDb:
"Digitopia" by John Akomfrah
"The Drive-by" by The Hughes Brothers
"Colette Vignette" by Wendell B. Harris Jr.
"You Know Leadbelly" by Wendell B. Harris Jr.
"Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Don Letts
"First World Festival of Negro Arts" by William Greaves
"Kichwateli" by Muchiri Njenga
"Swirl In Bamako" by Dominique Philippe
I'm dying to see "Bless Their Little Hearts" by Billy Woodberry, so if anybody has access to that, please notify me by PM.
Not on IMDb:
AMV Hell AMV Hell 2 AMV Hell 3: The Motion Picture AMV Hell 4: The Last One AMV Hell 5: Dedicated to Dio AMV Hell: Championship Edition AMV Hell 6.66 - This Is (Not) The End
This is definitely NOT a ranked list, though. I very much dislike the whole idea of "ranked" lists because all they do is give you unneeded stress and force you to change your rankings around a million times until you think you got them right - which is obviously never. Some may find that fun, but I think it's a big waste of time and energy. And time is something I severely lack these days.
Anyway, cheers for the extra views, and I very much appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to look at my epic list. :)
The understated way that most Africans tell their stories on film appeals to me a lot, and a lot of the films themselves are very original and have a distinct mysticism that compells you to dig deeper, but not at the sacrifice of great character development and heartfelt emotion. If there's any form of cinema that feels almost completely devoid of pretentiousness, it's this one.
This is a list of my favorites, which includes films that weren't necessarily African productions or were made in Africa, but take place in Africa story-wise or happen to involve the continent. Most of them are purely African films from head to toe, though. I will continually update it like all my other lists.
I hate the idea of ranked lists, so this one is pretty loose in that regard.
Not on IMDb:
"Kichwateli" by Muchiri Njenga
"Swirl In Bamako" by Dominique Philippe
American Gangster (2007)
The Black Godfather
When I first saw the film, I didn't find it all that engaging, but by the time I got around to seeing the extended cut, I warmed up to it. It's a terrific crime film that accomplishes damn near everything it set out to do, and with an amazing cast of performers along with a stellar lead performance and riveting direction from director Ridley Scott (in top form here), it's one of the essential American crime movies of the past decade, drawing influence upon genre classics - such as Superfly, Goodfellas, and Black Caeser, while effortlessly carving its own identity. If you're not big on crime films, most of your enjoyment from this will be based on how much you like the cast and how familiar you are with their work, but one can't deny how well made and polished the film is.
Only God Forgives (2013)
Refn refuses to rehash himself.
Already appearing to be one of the most polarizing films of the year, Only God Forgives will likely trigger debate for a long period of time. Nicolas Winding Refn brought a lot more attention to himself as a director after making Drive, one of 2011's most memorable films. People who otherwise wouldn't have given a damn about him started to take notice and anticipate whatever project he became attached to next. Only God Forgives triggered excitement early after some photo stills from on set found their way onto the internet. Ryan Gosling reuniting with Refn after Drive only added to the anticipation.
The film has a plot, but it's not as important as the style and execution, which I automatically became attached to from the first frame to the last. You see, it's with this film where Refn seemed to be trolling his fans who fell in love with Drive. Instead of the straightforward approach that made Drive easy to follow, Only God Forgives gives a big "F YOU" to conventional ways of telling a story. I've heard some people describe the film's atmosphere as "nightmarish". Well, none of my nightmares have ever looked this good. "Hellish" is the term I would use to describe it, and even that isn't entirely doing justice to what Refn and cinematographer Larry Smith have accomplished here. The film's mood isn't entirely unlike that of another unusual film released this year - Spring Breakers - as they're both permeated by a quiet intensity that could make even the most fearless viewer squirm in their seats. The film has the look and feel of a frightening horror picture where evil lurks around the next corner and happiness is practically nonexistent.
Using a variety of colors, from dark red (the primary color) to light blue to gold and yellow, as well as an effective use of shadows, which contrast well with said colors, the film looks utterly fantastic, delivering a visual experience that is reason enough to watch the film more than once. Refn's choice of shots is smart and sophisticated as well, going so far as to remind me of Kubrick, as extended shots of characters looking into the distance and at each other can be found throughout, but without taking away from the details of the scenery. Refn fully realizes the effect of quietness and how to maintain a consistent atmosphere that keeps the viewer in a paralyzed effect. I can just imagine what it must be like to see one of his films in a darkened theater; that anticipation of violence erupting at any moment can be felt with assuring affirmation.
Ryan Gosling and the rest of the cast hold it all together like glue, with Gosling essentially playing a more mysterious version of his character in Drive, a drug smuggler by the name of Julian. Julian doesn't even react to the news of his brother's death, which draws attention from his mother Crystal (played splendidly by Kristin Scott Thomas) in one table scene that showcases Refn's eye for contrasting colors and flair for making the most out of an otherwise simple scene. Mai (Ratha Phongam), a prostitute involved with Julian, is merely a pawn in a nasty, cruel game of sadistic players looking to avenge the death of an immoral rapist/murderer. Chang (Thai police lieutenant), is a man that sees himself as immortal and without flaws. This God complex instills in him a level of confidence that helps fuel his inner rage. He's also the type of guy nobody would want to f-ck with, and Julian soon realizes this after he's beaten to a pulp in a one-on-one boxing match with Chang that damn near ends his life. It's almost as if Julian's mother has to convince Julian to continue his quest for vengeance since he's so emotionless and that fight seemed to take a lot out of him. Of course, him being told by his mother that Chang is out to get her after finding out that she ordered a hit on him also may have helped.
This makes one singular moment at the end all the more unusual, as Julian commits an act of redemption that displays his humanity before giving up what I can imagine would be very important to any human being. Like with Tony Montana, the thought of killing a kid proves too much for him, and in the process of killing his ally Charlie and seeing the dead body of his mother, killed by Chang, comes to terms with the guilt of his lifestyle, and in a sequence that may or may not be real, surrenders his hands to Chang. The ending is a real piece of gold, as Chang returns to his harmless hobby of singing karaoke after committing such cruel, violent acts, and in the process, all seems to dwindle down in peace, as our anti-hero is nowhere to be found.
Cliff Martinez's score further illuminates the despair and constant death that surrounds the environment the film takes place in. And it's kind of funny when you consider just how beautiful the whole thing looks. Dialogue isn't necessary in a film like this which has such a calculated and developed style. The feeling the style gave me is that of love, hate, confusion, warmth, coldness, fondness, intensity, and much, much more. When a film triggers so many different emotions in you over the course of less than two hours, you know it's done something right.
Many people will hate this film and toss it to the side as something pointless and boring, but understanding that there's so many different ways in utilizing the language of film, and that not everything needs to be straightforward or accessible, this is a film that I easily took a liking to. It helps that I didn't expect Drive 2.0 and it also helps that I got exactly what I was looking for, a film driven purely by great, sophisticated, and refined style.
Van Damme hits a home run.
Not your typical Van Damme star vehicle, nor your typical dumb action movie. Talented director Ringo Lam, who gave us the gritty crime film "City on Fire" and the spectacular tour de force known as "Full Contact" entered the 00's decade with a thoughtful and entertaining sci-fi action film that fared considerably better than the last Van Damme/Lam collaboration "Maximum Risk", a film that succeeded in mood, but little else.
"Replicant" poses some interesting questions: Who are we and where do we really come from? Can we overcome a horrifying past full of violence and become reborn anew? Ringo Lam and his team of writers managed to make a film that offers something for pretty much everybody; serious sci-fi fans and those who simply want a gritty, violent (but also polished) action flick that blurs the fine line between the old-school and the new-school.
Van Damme helps hold it all together, and in terms of acting, he's never been more engaging. As expected, he plays two roles here, that of vicious serial killer Edward Garrotte and the Replicant who is hired by a secret government agency to stop him, who just so happens to be a clone of Edward. They cloned Edward through DNA evidence found at a crime scene. Jake (Michael Rooker) is the one who has to work together with the Replicant to find Edward and put a stop to his vicious crimes. Jake despises the Replicant because he only sees Edward in him, and is smart enough to know that at any moment, the Replicant could snap and Edward's killer instinct might take over. This is because Edward's memories are stored in the Replicant's DNA. Jake is a no-nonsense agent, so he's constantly abusing and belittling the Replicant in the hopes of training him to find and take out Edward before it's too late.
There's a lot more going on under the surface, though, as the Replicant is trying to find himself along the way. Edward plays mind games with the Replicant in their confrontations, trying to convince him that they are one in the same. But whereas Edward is a cruel and psychotic killer who gets his kicks burning women alive, the Replicant is like a newborn baby by comparison; full of potential, but ultimately clueless. In one scene, a prostitute invites him up to her apartment for a little one-on-one time. The Replicant, confused and afraid, doesn't understand sexual activity, and in the process, winds up embarrassing himself. The prostitute pops the question, "Is this your first time?" right after calling on her pimp to come take care of this "weirdo". This sub-plot comes full-circle by the end, as the Replicant, finally a free man, goes and finds the prostitute again. Only this time, he's ready.
The relationship between Jake and the Replicant is the heart of the film. Jake is like the surrogate father of the Replicant; he's hard on him and gets constantly angry, but only means the best for him. There's a touching scene at the end after Jake kills Edward where, the Replicant and Jake, all bloodied up are essentially in each other's arms as Jake is trying to keep the Replicant conscious. The Replicant looks at Edward's dead body and says, "Jake....my family's gone." Jake then looks at Edward and back at the Replicant, and says, "Hey...hey, he's not your family.....I'm your family. I'm your family, now." It's at that moment where everything just clicks. Two polar opposites, one prejudiced against the other because of his look-a-like. The other, although deadly, brought into a cruel world where he had a choice, succumbs to confusion. If he can't trust someone who looks exactly like him, who can he trust? That's the question that was likely going through his head at the end, as his clone tried to take his life away from him. Throughout the film, he has various memories circling throughout his head, which only adds to his confusion. And we're confused, too, as one of the only things we know about the Replicant is that he likes the rain. An homage to "Blade Runner", perhaps.
Believing the Replicant to have died in the explosion at the end of the film, Jake further shows his human side by quitting the agency, which is tragic considering that during the moment before his death, the Replicant realized who his true family is. But Jake soon realizes that it takes a lot more than an explosion to kill a genetically engineered person. That is, unless the Replicant escaped right before the explosion went off in the hospital.
Ringo Lam nails the atmosphere of a dark, uncanny future full of death and violence. The film is more polished than his Hong Kong films, yet doesn't entirely lack the grit of them. The action scenes are well staged, not too showy, and still manage to feel very lively in the process. The framing of shots is also professional, never allowing us to miss an important detail, and the film overall looks quite good, especially on Blu-ray. Van Damme nails both characters to a tee, showing malicious intent, and pent-up rage, among other things, in the role of Edward, in a surprisingly subtle way. As the Replicant, he has a couple of campy moments, but is generally believable in such a vulnerable role, where he's essentially playing a child in a man's body, albeit one who is capable of kicking some major ass.
Van Damme made two singular films in his career that stand head and shoulders above the rest. One of them was "Knock-Off", a borderline brilliant satire/parody made by another talented Asian director by the name of Hark Tsui. "Replicant" is the other one; a film that could've easily fallen apart in the wrong hands, managed to rise above the limitations of the lead actor and become a poignant and entertaining piece of science fiction that contains just as much heart as it does thrills.
Van Damme and Sci-Fi
This is pretty run-of-the-mill as far as sci-fi goes, and Van-Damme's acting wasn't any better than it was in his other films - contrary to popular opinion - but Peter Hyams' competent direction keeps the thing moving forward at a brisk pace, and Ron Silver makes for a wicked baddie that rivals his work in Blue Steel. If only the action were more exciting. Most of it consists of Walker staying in one position shooting at another guy, and vice-versa until somebody goes down for good. The shootouts lack energy and a sense of life for the most part. The fight scenes are......okay, but nothing that can compete with what I've seen in other actioners from that era. Oh yeah, and what was up with the villain's death scene? That was some frighteningly terrible CGI. I guess they were trying to rival the liquid metal effects in T2 and failed miserably. In fact, the entire finale was way too dark, like pitch black. I remember catching the finale on TV back in the day and noticed it was excessively dark then, too, but Blu-ray doesn't seem to have corrected the problem. Well, flaws aside, this is still one of Van Damme's better films, with some amusing moments here and there.
Cold as Winter.
Dishonored is a bit of an odd bag because, although it's by far one of the most impressively shot films of the 30's - right down to the use of lighting and shadows - and had a daring ending for the time, it rings hollow in nearly every other aspect apart from maybe editing (mainly because of the fades). The plot, while sounding interesting on paper - to me at least - also fails to leave a lasting impression - and the wooden performance from lead actress Marlene Dietrich - who I may or may or may not have seen in other stuff - only serves to highlight just how big of a quality difference there is between the photography and everything else. Victor McLaglen fares a bit better than the rest of the cast despite some odd moments in his performance, but ultimately, even his portrayal left me cold by the end. In fact, the entire film has a very cold feel to it, which, normally appeals to me (hey, I love Kubrick's work), but this film just came off as obnoxiously insipid, almost completely vapid if it weren't for the visuals. The humor, which I can understand is very much of the time, fell flatter than a pancake. "MEOW!" (repeated) - That's not funny, that's just f-cking annoying.
Josef von Sternberg knew where to place his camera, as showcased well here, but I have no idea what he was going for in regards to mood and tone. It's just all over the place. During the midpoint, one character ends up being killed off, but the scene feels so insignificant that the only thing that came to mind was, "Oh, somebody died. Oh well." In the midst of a serious story, there also all these goofy moments that feel out of place as well. It may seem like I'm trashing the film, but I really didn't think it was that bad; I admired the look, didn't I? I just expected a lot more considering the story premise is one that greatly appealed to me before deciding to watch the film, and because I expect a lot more out of films than just some pretty images. I suppose my biggest disappointment was that this was my introduction to a supposedly great director. Well....maybe next time.
Kurosawa's last epic is an extraordinary achievement.
Saw this for the first time today, courtesy of the StudioCanal Blu-ray, which looked and sounded fantastic on my set-up.
Great, great film. I'm not entirely familiar with the story of King Lear, but I thought "Ran" had a wonderful story with all kinds of layers. It was almost overwhelming for me at times as I was trying to keep up with all the various character names and motivations. The photography was so lush and colorful as well, probably the best-looking Kurosawa film I've seen to date. Then again, this is the first one I've seen in color. The framing of shots, the scope and scale, all of it was just so.....magnificent. I love huge epics like this which have so much to them in regards to subject matter; this one deals with loyalty, family, and the bloodthirsty nature of war, among other things, and in the sort of poetic way that would make Shakespeare proud. The battle sequences are stunning and somehow manage to be beautiful and brutal at the same time because of the way they're filmed and the use of music. The score is very haunting; I thought it was used best in the big battle scene towards the middle of the film which causes Hidetora to go mad. I was even smiling during it because the execution was so breathtaking; the type that makes your eyes widen. And the opening set the mood extremely well; I knew from that point on I was watching a film that would instantly become a favorite. I'm glad I blind-bought it, because I will definitely be seeing it more than once.
Ms. 45 (1981)
I saw this last night and found it very interesting. But surprisingly, I wasn't very disturbed by it. I've pretty much become desensitized to these kinds of films since I've seen so many. So, looking at it from a filmmaking point of view, I found it visually bland for the most part, even for a low-budget film. Then again, I watched it on youtube. Now that I think about it, though, the sheer rawness of the whole thing actually suited the film better than if it were more visually imaginative, as this is primarily a rape and revenge film. How much more visually appealing can you make it?
One of the things I really admired about the film was how dark and perverse it was, and how it leads you through the dark underbelly of New York City. Thana gets harassed left and right and finally decides to fight back, but she goes too far by killing innocent people and even causing one to kill himself. After being sexually assaulted multiple times, it does permanent psychological damage to her, and she essentially kills because she fears she may be raped again. In a way, she reminded me of a female Travis Bickle, as Travis violently lashed out against society because of what he saw and experienced in his community. The ending is bitter irony, as Thana is killed by a female, and one of her personal friends at that. Throughout the film, she had been targeting only males, as they are the ones who harassed her. After she's stabbed in the back literally, she also talks for the very first time in the film, saying her friend's name as she falls to her death.
The final sequence where Thana is dressed in a nun costume and guns down several people at a club is one of the film's most haunting moments. But really, all the kills in the film are memorable, and unappealing at that. Thana isn't glorified and neither are her actions.
The picture on the film's IMDb page spoils a major plot point, so make of that what you will. Unfortunately, I saw it before I watched the film.
After loving nearly every minute of the previous Herzog-Kinski collaborations, I was excited to dig my teeth into this one since I had the DVD laying around.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a step down in nearly every category.
It's based on a stage play, so naturally, it feels more staged than its predecessors, and thus, it felt visually lacking for the most part. Don't get me wrong, though, I admired the use of lighting and shadows in certain shots, and thought the general framing was quite good. But there was rarely a shot that caught my attention and made me go, "Wow, that's great", like in Nosferatu, where there are several amazing images - I revisited that film for the first time last night. I almost feel bad for revisiting Nosferatu in such close approximation as watching Woyzeck for the first time, because it only served to illuminate just how much worse the latter is.
Kinski's presence in Aguirre and Nosferatu was extremely powerful; unforgettable, dare I say. I couldn't take my eyes off him in those films. Here, he plays a character who may have sounded interesting on paper, but turned out to be, I don't want to say bland, as Kinski did a very good job playing Woyzeck, but it's just not a character I cared to witness in action for nearly an hour and a half. He's the type of character who's psychologically damaged and gets driven insane by everything he's witnessed in society, and most likely when he was in war, which we don't get to witness. We just know he's a soldier with severe mental problems, and we get to see how he goes about his day and behaves, which is in a very unusual way. He also has to deal with getting abused at his job, by his superiors, and having to deal with his wife having apparent sexual relations with other men.
Back to the ending. Although I knew it was coming, I still found it to be an affecting sequence, as the terrific combination of Kinski's facial expressions, slow-mo, music, and the sheer brutality of the act made it a sequence I won't soon forget. Even more impressive is the fact it was all done in one take. Kinski was completely in the moment, not once seeming to be distracted. In the moments after that, he continues to be great, as he acknowledges that his wife was a necessary sacrifice for him to be free. And we notice in the dancing scene that his wife's death took a huge load off of him. That doesn't last for long, though, as people notice the blood on him and start to become suspicious that he killed someone. Woyzeck goes back to the murder scene to try and wash the blood of his wife off of him, but realizing that such a cruel act could never simply be "erased" from memory, and that murder is truly in his nature, he seemingly hallucinates and then drowns in the pond right by his wife's dead body. The final shot is of his dead wife covered up and about to be put into a coffin, with apparently some words from the play up on the screen.
This has went on for too long, so I'm going to end this by saying that although this has become my least favorite feature length Herzog film, it had enough strengths for me to consider it above average, which says a lot about how much I admire Herzog as a director. Since I own it, it'll be easy for me to revisit the film when I feel like giving it a second chance, too.
Pafekuto Buru (1997)
A landmark of Japanese animation and an unforgettable experience.
A visceral and mind-bending experience, "Perfect Blue" reminded me why I love anime in the first place. It constantly toys with the thin line between fantasy and reality in exciting and clever ways that later surrealist films such as "Black Swan" and "Inland Empire" would also attempt to emulate. Of course, nothing beats the original.
The protagonist, a singer-turned actress named Mima continually experiences illusions that essentially drive her crazy. Some of these illusions involve death, showcasing her killing people close to her, such as her co-stars and others involved in the film she's making. Mima also seems at first to be stalked by a deformed looking man, who is seen from the very beginning of the film when Mima and her singing group have their last concert performance. After that, he's seen everywhere. Mima can't get him out of her mind even when he's clearly not physically next to her.
Other illusions show her being harassed by what at first seems like her alter-ego, a ghostly figure who keeps taunting Mima and basically breaking down her spirit. This figure looks the same as Mima, except without the emotional baggage that Mima herself carries, and she shows up constantly throughout the film in Mima's head. One brilliant scene that really had my brain spinning for a second is when the male stalker is seen typing on a computer, I'm guessing a letter for Mima, and right alongside him is the ghostly Mima figure talking in his ear. The stalker had this voice in his head telling him that Mima wants him, basically, and that's what that scene seems to hint at. This goes hand-in-hand with real life incidents of celebrity stalking, specifically of actresses. A lot of actresses put themselves out there for everyone to see, and as they're objectified by the industry, most guys who otherwise wouldn't give a damn fawn all over them. The media has a powerful effect on the human mind.
Now, the scene that really gets me is when Mima supposedly kills the stalker, because throughout the middle portion of the film, she's shown having all these various dreams and illusions, all of which are at first presented as being real. Every time I thought one was real, I was brought back to reality by Mima waking up or something similar. Mima killing the stalker seemed to be just another vision, and the reason she was having all those visions of a deformed male stalking her is because she's always harbored negative feelings about males and is in reality insecure around most of them. This is further exemplified by the scene in which Mima is filming a rape scene for her movie that looks vividly real, and she begins panicking for real (or just acting really, REALLY well), and gets drowsy in the process to the point of nearly fainting. Her illusions and paranoia make her a more believable actress in the long run, to the point where the director and others around her start to get creeped out, or simply suspicious. Males are presented as killers in the media extremely often, and that combined with Mima's insecurities about males (something bad may have happened to her as a child, having to do with a male) is the primary why Mima imagines a creepy looking male going around doing all these various killings. She couldn't be more wrong when it's revealed at the end of the film that her stalker is in fact an obese female, which leads to one hell of an intense finale.
The way the entire film played with my head and had me constantly thinking of possible answers is something I haven't experienced viewing an anime since I sat down and watched "Paranoia Agent", coincidentally by the same director.
The way the story is told is superb, and I'm normally not even the biggest fan of surrealism, but there's something about the way it's used in this film that made me love it.
There are also some truly unforgettable images scattered throughout the film, such as the amusing opening shot which spoofs the Power Rangers, the shot of a dead man in an elevator with his eyes gouged out and blood all over him, a grotesque shot of a man getting stabbed literally in the balls with a screwdriver, and several others. It's just one hell of a film. The animation is very much apart of its time, yet has a timeless appeal and a distinct charm that a lot of the animation of today severely lacks. Helps that it was handrawn.
"Perfect Blue" is one of the defining classics of Japanese animation, and if you enjoyed it on even a basic level, I definitely recommend checking out some of the director's other work, as it's also great.
JeeJa Yanin is a talent to watch in this brutal martial arts drama.
JeeJa Yanin makes for one of the strongest and most believable heroines I've seen in an action film in a long, long time. On top of having screen presence and natural acting ability, she can kick some major ass without even breaking a sweat. Case in point.
"Chocolate" is full of dazzling fight sequences that are as brutal and hard-hitting as they are well choreographed and coherent. They get more and more creative as the film goes on before reaching a chaotic climax that takes full advantage of the actors' physical abilities.
The story is a dramatic one, dealing with Zen's (JeeJa Yanin) quest to get the money that is owed to her family by various gangs in order to pay for her dying mother's hospital bills. Zen has a problem of her own. She is autistic and emotionally unstable. She is able to use this to her advantage, though, as her reflexes are incredibly precise and more advanced than the average person's. She spends some of her time watching martial arts movies, and she's able to pick up on the various moves she sees in the film, which carries into her own move set.
I haven't read too deeply into the issue of autism, but the film seemed to treat it with care and respect; nothing came off as laughable.
The film's photography has a washed out look that I wasn't necessarily the biggest fan of, but I suppose it works in the long run, given the film's moody subject matter and melodrama.
Another thing I liked about the film was the severe lack of slapstick and goofy humor. I've seen to many martial arts films that are full of this sort of thing, and it usually comes off as more annoying than funny.
Director Prachya Pinkaew also made such martial arts flicks as Ong-bak and The Protector, which are somewhat modern classics in the Asian film community. I haven't seen them yet, but if they're as well put together as Chocolate, I see no reason why I would dislike them.
Despite the film's many strengths, it was hard for me to find it amazing. It's probably because I've already seen movies like this and was expecting something truly groundbreaking for the genre. Either way, it works.
JeeJa Yanin is undoubtedly the film's greatest assets, and it'll be interesting to see what future projects she takes on. Hopefully they take full advantage of her talents more often than not. Seeing her fight, I was reminded of past female martial arts experts such as Yukari Oshima (My personal favorite) and Moon Lee. She even has a similar look to these women. So it's great to see a somewhat younger version of them living up to their legacy.
Well, fans of the director's other work and martial arts films in general should give this a look, if only to witness a fresh new talent with a bright future ahead of her.