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Kokuhaku (2010)
9/10
A vicious cycle
1 October 2011
In a nutshell it is about emotional scars, frustration, anger, violence and revenge. All in all a dangerously vicious cycle. Well, I am simply amazed! I wouldn't go as far and celebrate it as the ultimate masterpiece, which this film is imho not. But it comes very close to it ;)

The presentation is flawless: the fantastic cast & the direction, great choice of music and the jaw-dropping cinematography. One thing that stings me a bit is that the plot maybe goes a bit too far. It's like the developments of the plot are being smacked on the wall with neon colors; risking it to become in parts nearly ridiculous. But still ... being so extreme (and quite surreal) serves the in bold letters written message quite well: Be nice to people, they are a very fragile bunch.

Great film! For me a masterpiece as well. I highly recommend it!

Additional thoughts: From the recent two decades there are many dark Japanese films and animes, which focus on egomania and psychopathy in context with society. Many of them fairly mainstream ones. It seems many people started to feel the downsides of a tightly organized and packed society only after the economy crashed in the 90's. Stress, anxiety and especially the inevitable need to keep silent helped brewing a state of panic and purposelessness in them.

The reason why all these novels, mangas, art exhibits, animes and films etc pop up is probably simply nature. Trying to reverse certain developments, pointing out large areas of society which needs healing. One thing "Confessions" certainly underlines is the need for reliable moral guidance when human beings are small, vulnerable and quite irritable. In a nutshell: the need for love.
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Drive (I) (2011)
10/10
"It's Bad Luck"
1 October 2011
Wow. I was pretty surprised. Drive is certainly not your average, fast cheap-shot action film. It takes its time and rightfully so! The pacing is refreshingly smooth and composed, building slowly up to the sporadic and short outbursts of violence or action. There isn't much violence but it is very direct; realistic would be the right word. Especially the use of it is (which is a big plus for me). There is a quite surreal, dreamlike quality to the film. Even though it has a lot of realistic elements, it still doesn't feel entirely real. There is something off, which isn't a bad thing! In that context "A History of Violence" somehow comes to my mind.

The trailers might give a wrong impression; the film is much quieter than they suggest. There is a clip from the opening on youtube, the getaway scene, which gives a much better feeling for the atmosphere.

Anyway, this is really a fantastic production! The cast is very good. They all made up a rock-solid ensemble, great performances! (If you want to see more of great acting by Ryan Gosling, "Blue Valentine" is highly recommended) The minimalistic and tense soundtrack is a perfect fit (maybe sometimes slightly on the overly-sentimental side), the cinematography is excellent(!) and the director; well, I certainly have to write down his name.

All in all it is truly refreshing to see a film which is simple and minimal but at the same time highly effective. That's the reason I give this film a 10; it doesn't need a much more complex story. For me it perfectly managed to reach what it aimed for. There is real focus and concentration, something you rarely come across these days. For me it's a masterpiece, for sure.
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10/10
quiet, meditative, sad .. and beautiful
17 November 2010
Really impressive! It might alienate those, who want constant action and dialog's but for those who like Kitano movies in general will also love this movie.

In each Kitano movie you can feel this quiet and meditative atmosphere; like in Dolls and Hanabi for example.

But i have to say that i am again quite astonished how different Kitano appears in television, as a comedy-punk, in contrast to his own directed and very contemplative movies.

Some adjectives might be able to describe my impression of this movie: quiet, meditative, sad .. and beautiful
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9/10
Overall a thrilling experience!! .. but the solution? not quite ;)
19 January 2008
This film was both a huge surprise and a slight disappointment at the very same time. I was stunned by the sustained suspense, the fascinating photography and some interesting elements of the editing, the ingenious sound/soundtrack, the solid acting, the art-style, characters and the story, which has kind of a B-movie vibe to it. I was simply amazed by this tense atmosphere! A perfect example how to stage such a thriller full of uncertainty, fear and suspicion.

So, why then disappointment? Well, the horrible thing is that within the storyline, at the very end, weakness is concealed.

Of course there are few other slight negatives, like some rare awkward moments when the acting felt kind of enforced. And also when the editing was really strange, when the plot jumped in an incomprehensible way to a total different place, so the story-flow felt kind of broken. But in contrary i have to say that there were sometimes ingenious moments of the editing when only few seconds were cut out; this had an interesting staccato effect.

I wouldn't say that the story itself is that bad because throughout the film the storyline makes perfectly sense and is, combined with the masterly crafted atmosphere, very compelling. The only problem is that the ending feels rushed and the explanation was to me way too incomplete. I was just a bit dissatisfied after the long yet amazing buildup. I don't want to spoil anything, so i will keep my mouth shut about the precise fact why this solution was so insipid to me. But maybe other people won't be that bothered by it; it is still only my opinion.

I just want to say that you should definitely watch this film if you already have an interest in it. Do not hesitate! You will definitely enjoy it! In many aspects i would even call it a masterpiece!! .. but .. it is just simply that .. damn solution!! ;)
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9/10
Definitely more than J-Horror parody/homage!
12 January 2008
I have to say that i had to laugh when i first read a brief summary, which only focused on the hair-horror part. "Killing hair?! what the .. ?!", i thought. But after seeing "Suicide Circle" and "Strange Circus" i knew that there has to be way more than this ridiculous story.

"Exte" is obviously a parody! But there seems to be an awful lot of people who expected something like the grudge or the ring and are now pretty disappointed. Well, the scenario is pretty cliché and the ending was pretty gruff; nothing has been really explained at that point. Well, there are a lot of indicators which show directly towards parody! ;) At the very beginning for example: all these ultra-cliché dialog which was narrated in an obscure way in third person; the hair-salon which was named after a french serial killer (had to look that up); etc ...

BUT!! This film is still pretty scary ... and i don't mean only the hair, which .. was also scary (yeah, i was kinda scared ;) Human were the most scary/pitiful part here: The girl who was abducted and then used as a source for organs; The mother who abuses her child incessantly; then the child itself, of course; the hair-otaku, a real pitiful psycho; the main character (kuriyama) who carries a heavy burden of the past; all these people who don't care at all where this hair is coming from; just focusing on their beauty .. and all these other side-characters who might also have some sort of a problem.

Well, why then the hair-horror-part? Isn't abuse horror enough? ... you might ask. Well, i was wondering myself a bit ;) I mean .. from my perspective it worked out pretty well! .. anxiety, fear, panic, anger, frustration and in the end some sort of relief. It was there! Maybe because the hair-horror part made it easier to grasp the part about abuse etc. In my opinion "Exte" is some sort of an homage and at the same time a critique, that most horror flicks tend to be very superficial and are not trying to imply more than pure scare; some thought-provoking stuff; for example abuse .. ? ;)

Anyway: Cast was great!! Especially Osugi was really amazing! Art/direction was also a real feat! The Soundtrack wasn't that impressive but however the sound-design was stunningly good!

All in all an amazing film! Especially for J-horror fans with a little bit of humor and for those who have an interest in social relevant topics.

Too bad that so many people have been irritated by it .. ;)
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10/10
A very moving time travel to post-war Taiwan
8 January 2008
This film is definitely one of the best historical film i have ever seen!

... putting aside all those clichés most filmmakers are tend to use: there is no such thing as heroic portrayal of martyrs or the use of extremely artificial dramatic art. That makes this film believable and, compared to others, very unique.

Normally you would have a narrator who is telling you the story from his point of view. Now, i don't want to say that i dismiss this way of narration but "A city of sadness" does not need such a narrator; in fact it would shatter the special specific atmosphere of this movie if that would be the case. Without definitive narrative elements, the staging normally involves (narration/music/DP etc), the viewer gets the feeling that he is able to see for himself what the lives of those people were like when WWII ended. It is fascinating to witness how this very sober staging is still able to evoke strong emotions within the viewer. This is due to the directors vision but also to the cast which did an amazing job.

It was also very clever to have the deaf Wen-Ch'ing as the main character so the viewer can sympathize with him very easily: like Wen-Ch'ing the viewer is kind of caught up within the political turbulence and is not to able react like he would want because he is mute ... and is therefore not able to speak up in a loud voice to stop the violence. He is forced to watch.

Even today the topic Taiwan/China isn't solved at all. After watching this film people will surely get a better understanding why the struggle between China and Taiwan is so filled with anger, sadness, fury ...

so ... that's definitely a must-see!! ;)
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10/10
"Le mystere of ... Marker redefining poetry!" ;)
25 November 2007
Once again i was struck by Marker's insightful poetic way of portraying.

Although i watched it on a very old and worn out VHS-Tape i still could feel the magic every Marker-film is holding. Watching a film like this makes you feel like you are accompanying Marker on a journey from a distant star to our blue planet observing every habit, gesture and thought of mankind. You could say that "Sans Soleil" and "Le Mystere Koumiko" are very alike but there are some significant differences between those two films.

"Mystere Koumiko" concentrates more on the individual. While the narrator in "Sans Soleil" keeps a certain distance this time Marker involves very intimate conversations focusing especially on one person's mind. But the interesting thing which fascinates me is the way how Marker still succeeds portraying a whole society (be it Japanese or mankind in general) just by focusing on one individual. The shown footage of everyday life are clearly not focused on one individual ;) but the entire narrative is structured by the individual thoughts of Koumiko and Marker himself which also reflect the thoughts of millions of people at the same time.

Being an huge admirer of Chris Marker's work it is very sad to witness that he is yet very unknown to most of the people. He definitely deserves a larger degree of popularity ... that's for sure! ;)
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Party 7 (2000)
10/10
A crazy Get-Together definitely worth joining! ;)
17 November 2007
Being my second Ishii movie after "Taste of Tea" "Party7" simply amazed me with its unique style, character-design and hilarious dialog. Now i am really looking forward to all the other films!! ;)

Some reviews criticized the fact that there is no actual story. Well, in my opinion there ARE actually multiple stories packed within the characters and in the way of directing. Simply the appearance of the cast is telling its own story; about the characters past, about their minds, even about humans in general; about their behavior etc. An interesting element of this film is that all these hilariously comedic elements are linked to tragedy. If you look closely at all these protagonists you won't overlook the fact that all of them are bearing a burden related to their past. The line between comedy and tragedy is often being crossed, but it is amazingly well executed; i would even say in a poetic way.

There isn't a need for typical ways of storytelling. Especially the lacking of such typical elements makes Ishii's films so unique, interesting and funny. It has even a little bit of an impressionistic vibe ;) But there is at least one story-related twist which brings this film niftily to an end.

Oh!! I mustn't forget to mention again that all these ideas and dialogs are simply ingenious!! Although some might not enjoy the "slightly" kinky Japanese humor ... well! In that case: My deepest condolences!! ;P
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Brother (I) (2000)
10/10
An interesting new flavour of American/Japanese cinema
2 November 2007
Many people treat this film as a total disaster; as an totally abortive experiment. But in my opinion this movie set a new standard for movies, which are trying to combine the very diverse film styles from Japan and the US; a real success, with small glitches; that i have to agree with ;)

But nonetheless i was stunt how well this collaboration worked out. (yeah, i know; many people won't agree with me here) Especially if you compare this film, which was again a showcase for Kitano's brilliant talent, to other attempts of Japanese filmmakers to include American culture in Japanese films. The results are often hilariously bad. They are either very racist or pretty tacky.

Now in this film the American actors are shining. They are believable living personalities. And the reason lies within the special Kitano film-making-technique, which totally differs from the well known Hollywood and Japanese "Dorama" construction kit-alike filmaking. And the other very important thing is, that the American part is neither colliding with the Japanese style nor is it being manipulated by the Japanese part. I was also amazed by the special way the American cast acted. It felt sometimes way more natural than in all these cliché Hollywood productions. A simply fascinating symbiosis of those two film-styles. Kitano stated that he doesn't plan to do another film like this one; well, that's OK with me. This makes "Brother" as an experiment and as a movie more unique anyway. ;)

Well this is one of many reasons, why this film has to be considered a masterpiece. So there is far more to praise: The beautiful and dramatic music by Joe Hisaishi, the very fitting/stylish costume design, the incessant stunning photography and the very censoriously storyline, which shows that building your own cartel might confront you with some bloodshed ... ;)

well, that's it! (should write more reviews in the future .. It's pretty fun! ;)

So if you are considering yourself a Kitano-fan: watch it and you will probably be pretty amazed ;) If you are a first-timer to Kitano .. be careful. If you don't like this one you probably won't like all the others ... except the less violent ones like Dolls or "A scene at the sea" for instance; those are also fascinating pieces of art and shouldn't be ignored!
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Vital (2004)
10/10
beautiful and very intoxicating
13 September 2006
This film really gave me an impression and was for myself a very memorable experience.

Like many others i was also quite surprised about the emotional and gentle character of this film. Before starting to watch i prepared myself for something extreme and uncompromising like i experienced in many Shinya Tsukamoto's films. But that is a good thing for this film; making it possible to reach a broader audience. And it definitely deserves it.

Technically this film is superb. Lighting and camera were excellent .. and the colors ... Sound design and music weren't that demonstrative but still played, in a subtle way, an important role. Acting was also impressive. Tadanobu Asano, one of my favorite actor since Ichi the killer, was a perfect fit. Nami Tsukamoto was very scary, in a good way ;). But she doesn't have a record at IMDb yet. I wonder why .. her acting was very promising. And letting Kiki perform modern dance was for the atmosphere and art-style a very good idea.

To sum the story up, by leaving all the artful details behind, you could say it is about the painful yearning for the loved one. This was extremely good implemented. Just everything, art, sound and acting supported the presentation of this yearning.

This is one of those films you don't simply watch. You have to experience them.
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10/10
Film Style 10+!
1 September 2006
Definitely one of my favorites!

There are so many creative and innovative ideas and genuine rip-off's of clichés. A real fun to watch. And the stunning art style ... never seen a so detailed and thought-out flick like this one. Even when you watching this film a second time you still might get lost in figuring out all these details.

Music was also perfectly used; a 100% match with the art style (something like Rock/Pop ...(?).. well, you'll get it when you see it) Even the slower and moderate background music (simple piano chords), which was used in the middle of the film for quite a long time, was also a consummate choice.

The highlight, alongside the art style, of this movie was definitely characters and acting. Every one of them really stand out. Some of the reviews complained about a cliché-kind of presentation of Vinnie Jones. You know, this was intentionally; hinting at the cliché image of Gaikokujin (foreigners) in japan. It is just an amazing performance of the entire cast.

If i happen to see this movie presented in an art exhibition, i wouldn't be surprised at all. A real masterpiece, though some might only like it, but not love it, as i do ... well, too bad! ;)
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Jumeogi unda (2005)
9/10
a very recommendable one!
30 August 2006
When i started watching this film i didn't have any expectations ... because i didn't have a clue what the film was about. So it could have been turned out pretty nasty; but luckily it did't! It was a really nice experience.

The first obvious thing i noticed was the professional work of the DP/director. This film is beautiful shot; lightning, camera etc. Sound and music were fine, but weren't very special but rather very solid. The second thing is the surprising good acting of the entire cast. There weren't any awkward moments. Everything felt very natural. And this is very important for the entire film because so much of the atmosphere depends on the performance of the lead protagonists. If they fail, the whole film might collapse.

A friend of mine said "crying fist" would be the Korean equivalent of Rocky. Well, i don't agree with this. The story of "crying fist" has much more content and value; discussing, for example, the issues and problems of people who lost their status in society is important and worthwhile. And, in this case, also very moving.

If you are interested don't hesitate! I really can recommend this one!
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Saedeu mubi (2005)
10/10
rarely seen a film with such a sad ending
24 August 2006
When i started watching this film i wondered to myself what part of it should be so sad. The atmosphere was very lighthearted; no problems in sight. But man, i was so extremely wrong.

The reason why i give this movie a 10/10 is because it accomplished to succeed in many aspects. First of all it was very well shot; lightning, camera ... really beautiful. And then there is the the smooth and touching music, which has very nice themes. The essential aspects are the story (or better stories) and characters. Especially the characters are really strong here. The cast did an amazing job in making you feel what they feel. And it was really elegant how this movie was directed. You will never feel a disruption or something similar; very fluent until the very, very sad ending.

I guess people, who like Korean dramas in general will love it. And if you are a first-timer watching Korean dramas: watch it! This is a very nice example here.
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9/10
quiet but very intense
21 August 2006
From the very start i was caught up in the pacing of this film. Everything felt so down-to-earth and therefore so natural.

But as it is often the case with those calm movies, there is, in truth, a lot of noise behind these curtains of silence. You can't see it directly but after looking at all these details, and there are a lot of them, frictions are just popping out everywhere. Every single spoken word has then a special meaning.

Technically the film is simply dull. No music, at least i don't remember, very simple camera angles etc. It felt more like a theater-play than a film. The only difference was having the real environment, but even that was not so important. There were only some "items", which played a key-role, like the turning gate, but they were also replaceable with a stage-backdrop.

So that is the risk that some might be bored to death when they happen to run into this film. For myself it was just fascinating. A 10/10 as a theater play ... but, because of the unused potential of "film-techniques", a 9/10 as a movie.
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9/10
love the swing!
19 June 2006
what a fun! I was totally surprised by this film; at first i had the prejudice that the whole thing could turn out like a hysterical teenage comedy but it didn't, luckily.

The light hearted feeling in this film was so comfortable. It is just like as someone already wrote in the comments. This film really does complement the, in movies or animes often seen, generalized or sometimes sexist image of Japanese school girls. The soundtrack, beside the jazz music, was also excellent, though it was the common "japanese-drama" background-music (accoustic guitar and stuff). The Jazz music covers solely standards and wasn't very artistically played but it was, combined with this movie, awesome! The acting was also very nice, however there were some awkward moments when the acting felt a little bit exaggerated. But that's fine with me, considering that many of the cast debuted with this film.

This could have been a reason to give this film a 8/10 but the funky finale made a 9/10 out of it. ;)
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Kizzu ritân (1996)
10/10
fluent and elegant storytelling ...
17 June 2006
So many things in this film are so well done. There is the nicely written and told story, the very suitable cast, the perfectly composed music and, of course, the excellent direction.

It was, from my point of view, a very good idea to have a variety of protagonists who are all, in some way, related to each other: all of them are just about to leave school and look for an adequate and fulfilling life. Some of them succeed, and some fail. Now the feat was to link all these single story lines together and make one film out of it. And Kitano really succeeded in this sector. And again this film has a lot of autobiographical elements in it. Kitano's own past as a delinquent or comedian for example.

The music was again a real pleasure. Joe Hisashi really knows his craft to compose very fitting melodies, which always remind me of old Japanese folk songs, and use them perfectly timed in Kitano's films.

If you've seen other Kitano movies and missed this one, you will definitely like it. For those who want to try out a Kitano film for the first time: watch it! It will be a very contemplative and rewarding experience.
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Gozu (2003)
10/10
a fascinating nightmare
17 June 2006
Gozu is my third miike movie and i have to say that i am again quite astonished. Sure, he didn't wrote the script but the staging of this movie is marvelous (camera angles/lightning/cut etc...). I've never seen a movie with so many scenes which are funny, grotesque and scary at the very same time. This is so fascinating! One moment you could really burst out laughing and then immediately freeze because of the instant turn of events;..and vice-versa. This is also based on the excellent performance of the cast and the very creepy but ingenious sound-design/soundtrack.

Well, it is unavoidable that some might think of gozu as a repugnant and f***ed up movie. But for all those, who would want to take an unique and psychedelic ride: i really recommend to check this one out.
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8/10
A good extension to the first one ... but only an extension
11 February 2006
i was really looking forward to watch this movie and i was definitely not disappointed. The story about the struggle between vampires and werewolves is a nice theme (creates a really fine atmosphere), though the focus in both movies is definitely on the action sequences. So there is no real depth in the story ... in 3 hours (first and second movie) you could tell a lot more about the whole "universe"... But the action scenes are really good; not stunning or breathtaking but fine.

So if you are looking for a good and stylish action movie you are on the right track.

NOTE: i really recommend to watch the first movie first; otherwise you could have some problems to follow the storyline. underworld:evolution is, in my opinion, not a standalone movie. Both, first and second one, belong together.
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