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Katakuri-ke no kôfuku (2001)
"In life anything can happen"
“In life anything can happen” -Grandfather Katakuri
And to the Katakuri family it does. Repeatedly.
Initially I had decided not to see this movie because it seemed too odd, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me - and I'm glad it did. Shifting tone liberally and playfully a number of times during the film Miike combines half a dozen genres (including of course genre clichés!) into a film that above all is a comedy – a surprisingly successful and enjoyable comedy for the openminded viewer.
The likable family are the focus of the movie and fortunately the actors portray them convincingly. The numerous musical numbers with dancing and sometimes special sets are diverse and great fun, and do have relevant messages about life and family. In the course of the film events get increasingly weird culminating in a truly hilarious finale.
Bullet Ballet (1998)
Not quite conventional revenge story
On returning home from work Goda learns from the police that his long-time girlfriend has just committed suicide with a gun obtained from yakuza she apparently befriended. Enraged, obsessed and increasingly desperate Goda tries to obtain a gun from black market and find the yakuza he holds responsible. Along the way he runs into a gang of middle class kids that had robbed him earlier and develops a companionship of sorts with the one female gang member Chisato who has similar selfdestructive tendencies as himself.
Sounds fairly conventional so far, doesn't it? But Bullet Ballet doesn't quite play out like a conventional revenge story. With a title like Bullet Ballet one might expect to see heroic gunplay, but there are only two guns in the movie and we learn Goda isn't terribly good at dancing the ballet. His efforts at trying to obtain a proper handgun are repeatedly rather comically frustrated and when he finally does get his hands on one, he still is no master killer. I was a bit puzzled by this aspect but then realized the director wanted him and his pursuit of revenge to look frustrating and pathetic. Goda is after all just a whitecollar worker and perhaps the director also wanted to question revenge. ***heavy spoilers*** Indeed in the end he doesn't get his revenge or even learn for certain why his girlfriend committed suicide. Goda and Chisato are forced to face their lives' emptiness and selfdestructiveness, but that also makes possible their redemption in another way. ***end heavy spoilers***
Tsukamoto's expressive and atmospheric visual style propels the kinetic movie. Frequently shaking and moving frantically his powerful black and white imagery hypnotizingly reflects Goda's despair and obsession, bleak urban Tokyo and the chaos and brutality of fights, but also a couple of rapturous moments of beauty such as Chisato playing in Goda's apartment. However some of the shots which cut briefly to the details of urban surroundings seem a bit unnecessary. The soundtrack consists mostly of industrial, metal and techno, but also two beautiful slow pieces towards the end, and it is good. The cast's performances are also good.
Chûgoku no chôjin (1998)
A mixture of adventure, fantasy and a bit of comedy with the signature Miike touch, The Bird People in China follows a junior salaryman and a yakuza send to a remote village in China to study a Jade discovery. In a major (and rare) departure from his usual violent and bizarre stories (though it does have a few scenes of violence), Miike depicts a fascinating journey of discovery of things both without and within.
The comic moments are truly hilarious and had me laughing out loud.
Miike's direction is confident and the cinematography beautiful, showing the beauty of the scenery of the remote China the film was shot in. The actors deliver good performances and the soundtrack is good too.
Tian qiao bu jian le (2002)
Tsai in short film format
The Skywalk Is Gone short film is the second part of a film series about Hsiao-kang and Shiang-chyi. Having returned from Paris she was visiting in What Time Is It There, she is looking for him, but can't find him because the overpass at which he used to sell watches is gone. The blue sky, clouds and bright light feature prominently in the film, symbolising Shiang-chyi's, who is appropriately enough dressed in earthy brown, elusive search.
The film features most Tsai trademarks such as urban life, water shortage, stationary camera and retro Chinese pop music. One marked difference from his other films is that there are no extremely long and slow shots. The mood of the film is also lighter than usually.
All in all an enjoyable snack for fans of Tsai's peculiar films.