Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bad Film and Hentai Kamen — Japan Cuts 2013 / New York Asian Film Festival 2013

A few quick words concerning last nights screenings at the Japan Society.

When I arrived I found Alec from Flixist at the head of the line. He had been waiting for an hour or so, not because he wanted to be first, rather because it was too damn humid to be sitting outside. We talked for a bit and then, when the line went in, I went to see if I could find Mondocurry outside. When I didn't see him near the Japan Society I went back in and grabbed a couple of seats by Alec.

When Mondo arrived I had the pleasure of listening to them comparing notes on some of the Korean Romantic Comedies at the the festival. It was proof that we really have to get the podcast up and running. I'll keep my mouth shut and just let people like Mondo and Alec talk for an hour or so.

The first film was Sion Sono's BAD FILM. Shot on Hi-8 video almost 20 years ago with a performance group called Tokyo Gagaga playing all the roles, the film sat unassembled waiting for money for the post production. When it finally came through Sono assembled the 150 hours into an 162 minute masterpiece.

Nominally the film is the futuristic story (it was set in 1997 and shot in 1995) of how Japan has fragmented into warring ethnic gangs. The interaction between a Chinese and Japanese gang (as well as gays and straights) forms the story which spins off to discuss racism,tolerance, gangs and romance.

There is no way to briefly do the film justice. A free form poem that is pretty much unlike anything you've ever seen. It does look like some of the weird films that come art collectives turned out in the 60's and 70's mixed with a cheap production, and infused with intelligence and life. Saying that is misleading, this is instead a film that transcends its origins and limitations to instead become something greater. Its a film, as the promo material says you don't rate you wrestle with/

Watching this film is like falling into a pit of too much: too much plot, too many characters, too many ideas. Its like talking to the smartest person you know and have them throw all sort of wonderful ideas and thoughts at you in rapid succession. You simply can't take it all in. Its a film that is impossible to predict or know what it is until its done(I dare Rex Reed to try and make sense of this from his usual twenty minute viewing).

I have to think some more on this film before I can really write on it but the short form expression of my feelings is that this is one of the cinematic highlights of the year and one of the best films. Alec said he felt sorry for anyone in the world who wasn't at the Japan Society last night, and while I wouldn't want to include the people who only want Hollywood crap (I wouldn't want to hear them whine and complain)I think I would agree when it targets any film fan worth their salt.

A must see because even if you hate it you'll know you've seen something.

The second film was HENTAI KAMEN a delirious adult comedy based on a comic book about a high school kid who turns into a super hero when he puts panties on his face. While I've posted some pictures from the introductory strip tease, I do want to say a few words on the film itself.

For 80 of the films 105 minutes this is a balls to the wall unashamed joy. Its a smutty, but never base or vulgar look at how perversion can be good for the soul. Nominally the story of how a high school kid, who's mother is a dominatrix and father was a cop, finds the strength to dispense justice when he uses a pair of panties as a mask to save the girl he loves. Running into a bad of guys who want to destroy his school to find a hidden treasure he's forced to balance crime fighting with getting a date with the love of his life.

I and the rest of the audience roared for the whole film. Personally I had been planning on ducking out after the intro to avoid a late night but instead I stayed to the end because I was having too good a time.

The film is a joy and if the film just misses going on my favorite of the year list it's only because somewhere in the last twenty minutes it goes off the rails with out hero's battle with an impostor going on much too long (as Hubert from Flixist said it's like the perfect comic mini-series that goes on one issue too many) Reservations aside it's a must see and a perfect example of the madness that only the Japanese ever mange to get right.

The movies done and my faith in films restored (Secretly Greatly the night before really did kill my desire to see more festival films) Mondo, Alec, Hubert and myself booked out into into the rain toward Grand Central and trains home.

More reports to come, with a longer piece on BAD FILM coming soon.

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