Sunday, July 10, 2011

NYAFF Meets Japan Cuts: DB does the Gantz double feature and feels the power of Yakuza Weapon

It's well after 2AM as I finish this. I left the house today around 930 this morning and I got in just before one. It's been a long day of wandering the city around the Japan Society where the NYAFF has taken up residence for day three of it's cross over with Japan Cuts.

I'll save you the sorid details of my getting over the the screenings and I'll pick up the tale with my arrival.

Large signs on the door proclaimed that the screenings of Gantz were sold out and that if you wanted to go you had to get on a wait list. I spoke with the woman at the counter and she pointed out two guys looking for tickets for the two films and since I had an extra set I went over to them. I sold them to the guy who hadn't wandered off for a smoke. Not only will smoking kill you it will prevent you from getting Gantz tickets.

It was an odd audience, it was made up almost entirely of teenage girls. It was the youngest crowd that I had seen, and Marc from NYAFF as well since he commented on it being a young and good looking crowd.

The Gantz films tell one story. The first movie kind of ends but a segment in the middle of the end credits suggests more and a teaser at the end of the film promised a second part. The second film picks up five months later.

The plot of the film has a group of people snatched to mysterious room at the moment of death. They are told that the large black orb called Gantz that is in the room with them now has control of their lives. They are to be sent out on missions to kill some invading aliens. If they score 100 points they can either go on their way or they can revive one of the dead fighters. The first film deals with them fighting aliens for Gantz and the second film has complications as the aliens try to locate the god-like Gantz to destroy it.

Yes, I know I'm being vague, but part of it is you need to have things revealed to you as the are in the film and part is the lateness of the hour. Actually it's something I can't explain it simply, in large part because the film doesn't explain a great deal. Yes we (barely) have enough to follow whats going on, but at the same time there is a great deal left out. I have a several questions I'd live answers to but which I don't really expect to get.(Like why are they fighting the aliens anyway).

I like the films. I think they are full of great action set pieces that will blow your mind. There is a twenty minute subway fight in part 2 (called Gantz Perfect Answer) that is a real knock out. Unfortunately because of problems with the plotting the film kind of feels like watching someone play a video game, on the other hand it's a really good video game. I also dare you not to see steals from the films of Ray Harryhausen in the climatic battles that end the first half.

And you will need to see the two films. The second film has several moments that brought cheers and tears to the audience but they only work if you know what they are referencing in the first film.

Ultimately my assessment is that had they spent say 15 more minutes on the plot the films would have been truly classics of science fiction.

ONE HUGE WARNING- whom ever released the first film in the US did so only with an English Dub. It's beyond bad and I consider it one of the 5 worst dubs I've ever seen. Don't see it that way. The films were screened at the Japan society with English subtitles and that's really the way to go.

When Gantz ended I wandered off to get food. I did not get food at any of Mondocurry recommendations rather I got some not very good chicken and noodle soup on Second or Third Ave.

Back at the Japan Society for Yakuza Weapon.

I waited on line and ended up talking to the very lovely and very nice Lee. She is a hardcore Asian film fan who was a font of knowledge as well as good company. I had a great time talking with her but because of a difference in seating choices, I needed the aisle because the Gantz screening did a number on my back, and she wanted to sit in the middle of the row, we did not sit together. We were supposed to chat at the party but it was crowded and because it all ran late (they screened an extra movie) I needed to fly because of trains so I missed saying good bye. I hope she won't hold it against me and will speak to me when next we attend screenings. (and please send me the name of that wacked out western).

As for Yakuza Weapon...

Twitch was right, this is a film best seen while drunk...and with friends. If I wasn't in a theater full of crazed Sushi Typhoon fans this would have been a tough haul, especially early on. Its a movie you'd make with you buddies...though this is based on a comic by the creator of Devil Man.

The plot has the tough guy son of a yakuza king pin fighting in Viet Nam. He's sent home by a secret Japanese organization who reveal his father has died. The rest of the film has him battling the yakuza boss who betrayed his dad, and ultimately being turned into cyborg with a machine gun for a hand and the ability to shoot rockets out his leg.

Its a wild bloody violent trip with blood sprayed every where and bloody body parts flying into pools of blood. (you sense a theme here?) Its for adults with a high tolerance for gore and people turned into weapons (I'll leave where the guns are in the naked girl to your imagination).

I have mixed feelings about the film but I cheered and I clapped and I laughed. (I think it did everything right that Foxy Festival did wrong).

I do have to mention the five minute single take fight scene that they worked out only an hour before they shot it. It will blow you away.

After the film the star/director/ writer Tak Sakagushi and actor Arata Yamanaka had a sword fight on stage. It was a great deal of fun.

The Q&A revealed a couple of interesting bits.

First Tak smoked for the role, and as a result is hooked.

The moves made by the female weapon were based on Mexican wrestling.

Changes from the Manga were basically making the Tetsu character more important and making the hand gun something that morphs instead of being clicked on.

(Spoiler)The film was finished before the recent earthquake in Japan and had the film had not been finished they would have changed the ending. However they now see it as a reflection of the countries survival.

There was only a few other minor points however Marc said that all of the Sushi Typhoon films now have a US distributor and that all of them will be coming out starting in the fall with Hell Driver. Details are coming next week.

As a bonus they then ran the 16 minute tribute to the final fight in Jackie Chan'sWheels on Meals called Sakigake!! Micchan (Fist Fighter, Micchan). This is a segment from Hijoshi zukan(2009) which is a film about unconventional women. It was a blast as Tak fights a freeloader at his noodle stand.

And with that I headed home. LIRR trains are spotty after 11 so I left when I had a chance.

I'm off tomorrow before I go back to the NYAFF on Monday and then several days bouncing between Japan Cuts and the NYAFF.

Keep reading for more details.

(One question, is it me or if the new screen at the Japan Society off center? I sat all the way to the left for Gantz and it all seemed good. When I sat in the same row to the right for Yakuza Weapon the screen seemed farther to my left.)

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