Tag Archives: Japan

Reviews: SUICIDE CIRCLE -and- NORIKO’S DINNER TABLE

SYNOPSIS: In Tokyo, when fifty-four high-school students commit a collective suicide, jumping from a platform in Shinjuku Station, the police force leaded by Detective Kuroda has no clue to follow. Then he receives an e-mail from a young woman, The Bat, advising that there is a site where red dots mean the number of persons that died. [IMDb]

REVIEW: Conceptual, philosophical, and gruesome, writer/director Sion Sono‘s first of two films delving into… well, madness, delivers on it’s force and standing as a contemporary cult classic, but not without it’s share of hiccups and happy coincidences.  Jumping styles and breaking it’s own narratives for forays into pop-culture dissection and musical excursions, the film is held together not by it’s story, but the questions it has the viewer asking early on.  Incredibly ambitious and competently acted, the cast, helmed by Ryo Ishibashi, Rolly, Yôko Kamon, and Sayako Hagiwara, carried a heavy burden in creating relatable and sympathetic characters in a film highlighting the ugliest side of people possible.  Asking “Are you connected to yourself?”, the film traverses untrodden lands within people usually pushed to the limits with the question, “You sure you follow the plot?”, and whether this is a good or bad thing is up to the individual viewer.  Like a film in 3D, you’re either getting twice as much as you paid for with this askew yarn, or only half of what you bought, thinking you ordered up a mindless bit o’ gore, and getting something so far beyond the concept of bones that go crunch that you may feel lied to.  For me, the fib is in denying what a landmark film this is, not just for a dying breed of blood squirting flicks, but as a work of art the likes of which Andres Serrano would get off on.  If it sounds like my head is in the clouds with this one, you’re almost right, and it’s because my head can be there.  It shouldn’t, because the film should not work, on any level.  It shouldn’t be cogent, with every bizarre spectacle having a definite place in the miles thick text and subtext, but it does, almost miraculously.  This kind of absurdity cannot be planned out to this level of competency, making the sum of the parts not nearly as great as the finished result.  It’s magical.  Why would so many people kill themselves, and happily?  More like, why in the world wouldn’t they?

If you’re the type of cat who Frisbees discs from your couch to the open tray on the DVD player, the greatest service to yourself here is to avoid this film at all costs.  Watching it mindlessly will be a hollow, aggravating experience, highlighted by the fact that you’ll be rooting for everyone to die, something that may or may not actually occur.  If your sensibilities are tender, avoid this blood bath at all costs.  If you are expecting something heavily polished with incredible effects and sleek production, you will be left wanting much more, and that thing probably isn’t Japanese.  If you watch television and film for the story of a group of characters, this film will be a disappointment to you.  Wonderful they may be, but merely a means to an end here.  Extremely polarizing, yes, but like all similar things in life, it’s the mark of big risks and big rewards.  Really, there is almost too much that is wrong or a distraction here, but “almost” doesn’t take us the distance.  We’ll get to an occasionally kitschy, often campy place, but that’s okay.

THE SCORE: Perhaps rougher on it than I should be overall, and almost certainly a bit too forgiving, this film’s score dictates both that you pay it some attention, out of respect and wonder as a passionate viewer, all the while keeping your expectations non-existent, because even staring at it without so much as a blink won’t permit you to see what’s coming.  If you keep an open mind and an open heart, you may find the film’s dark charm causing you to cough up membership dues for the club.

DOUBLE FEATURE!

SYNOPSIS: A teenager called Noriko Shimabara runs away from her family in Tokoyama, to meet Kumiko, the leader of an Internet BBS, Haikyo.com. She becomes involved with Kumiko’s “family circle”, which grows darker after the mass suicide of 54 high school girls. [IMDb]

REVIEW: The latter of Sion Sono’s two films of a proposed trilogy (it’s highly unlikely the third will ever be made, sadly and bizarrely) surrounding his circle of suicide, NORIKO’S DINNER TABLE doesn’t just expand upon the strange world he created, clarifying it, and even perfecting it, but creates a film so sharp and brilliantly written that it joins BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY and others in the exclusive club of sequels that blow their predecessors out of the water (c’mon, I’m being serious here!).  A hypnotic, sobering, and massively touching tale and exploration through feelings of inadequacy and resentment told almost completely through narration, the words lining this film from beginning to conclusion are sublime poetry, the feelings behind them portrayed perfectly by the titular Noriko, actress Kazue Fukiishi, and joined in harmony by Tsugumi, Yuriko Yoshitaka, and Sanae Miyata.  Following each of the main characters at points, allowing their tales to be told from their own perspective, is expertly implemented, which is where the film, in the role of sequel, really shines.  Taking place before, during, and after the events of SUICIDE CIRCLE, motivations are learned, and these scenes, from the makeshift PR statement to the foundational brainstorm, are so simple that it’s almost deceptively contrived, and I mean this in the best way possible.  Simply said, as an aspiring storyteller myself, this is pornography to me, and anyone who claims to be a true fan of the visual and written arts should not have dissimilar feelings. Really, I cannot express enough just how brilliant and fully realized the motifs are, how painstakingly haunting and harrowing the beauty and ugly are, or how it is that this near flawless work of art isn’t mandatory viewing in every film class held since it’s release. That said, the flip side of the coin here is the same as the first entry in the series.

Again, what you’re asking for in watching this film is a mental challenge dripping in ruby red DNA that fans of contemporary horror may not be able to handle.  This is a lot more than a maniac killing teenagers, but arteries spray just the same, and the emotional subject matter here is heartbreaking.  Visually the film improves upon SUICIDE CIRCLE, but the effects are still on par with what you’d expect from even the higher budget films of Japan.  Not convincing in of itself, the theatrics of it provide a healthy balance and stark contrast to the abundance of non-grisly events that unfold, many of which are more horrific than mere death.  Other than these minor quips, this is a true gem in every sense. A blood diamond, if you will.

THE SCORE: Speechless from the moment the credits hit, I’m sure your reactions may be the same.  Shakespearean in nature, and uncompromising in execution, the table is set for a mental and emotional feast in Sion Sono’s thrilling, underrated masterpiece.  This is literally one of the three greatest films I’ve ever seen. Be you a lion or lamb, you can’t escape the jaws of this beast.

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Joseph’s Top 10 Concert Wishlist (Live!)

The Smashing Pumpkins

Let me start off by saying that I hate my life with a passion usually reserved for Shakespearean characters, and do you know why? Because I’ll never get to see all these acts. I may never see any of them (*), and why am I holding this loaded pistol? I try to be an optimist as often as I can and hold out hope that my dreams, from becoming physically capable of auto-fellatio to falling down a New York City manhole and meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will one day become reality. While both of those are fairly simple, modest requests from a modest and simple man, the prospect of ever being front row with a backstage pass for any these ridiculously talented musicians is the stuff of fiction. Or is it? Humanity has advanced so far that we can shoot video in a warehouse in Kansas and convince the world that a man had landed on the moon, so perhaps the words I’m now typing into this pornbox will reach my auditory idols and these demigods of music will lavish on me the kindness of allowing firsthand experience of what they do best- blowing eardrums and minds.

I will now, for your viewing and listening pleasure, list the ten musical acts I want to see in person, raw and uncut like your uncle’s meat whistle. Ready? I don’t care, I’m starting anyway.

(IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER!)

1. Dandi Wind

I don’t think it’s any secret that I have a soft spot (aka my asshole) for incredible music and artistic babes who may be craycray, and that’s what you get here in sharp, manic spades. Canada, despite it many obvious flaws, is a breeding ground for awesomiety and, as my second favorite musical act ever, getting to see Dandilion Wind Opaine and Szam Findlay tear the atmosphere into shreds would really fill me (again, my anus) with a joy unbridled. At the same time a bitter-sweetness would come over me as I’m incapable of wilding out as Dandi does, but getting the whole show on camcorder would help suffice as I would watch the footage over and over, bouncing on my couch until the springs give out. Party hard or don’t party at all!

2. Spangle call Lilli line

From the land of Hello Kitty and dirty panty vending machines comes what is easily one the the greatest post-rock bands of all time with what is clearly the silliest name possible. You got a problem with that, chump? If you do, just listen to the incredible sounds Kiyoaki Sasahara, Ken Fujieda, and vocalist Kana Otsubo squeeze from their instruments like drenched beach towels, and all that frustration will be washed away in a tsunami of elegance and mastery that comes not from practice but from soul, or so I imagine as a soulless beast.

3. The Shangri-Las

A real throwback that is obviously impossible to ever enjoy live at this juncture, but as deserving of a spot on this list as any other. A crucial band in the history of American music, the things the trio of Elizabeth Weiss and identical twins Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser did are as fresh and relevant now as they were on release, perhaps even more so. Listen to their album “Leader of the Pack” and see what I mean with their serious songs of abandonment and frolicking teenage rebellion so simultaneously salty and sweet that as soon as the motorcycle sounds kick in, you’ll wish you could hop on and ride into the sunset with these honeys. But say I were able to see them perform: I would crawl out of my phallic shaped time machine in the middle of the audience. Girls around me would be like, “Why is he squealing? Excuse us, sir, why are you squealing like a pig being raped?” I would explain what a big fan I am and that I come from the future. After the unbelievable, timeless music show performance I would crawl back into my spacetime-dong and thrust back to the present. On the news, a retrospect on how 96% of the women of that generation refrained from mating. I would be happy, the world would be significantly less populated, and we all live happily ever after. You’re welcome.

4. Mike Patton

My friends have all seen him perform with one of his many acts- Fantomas, Tomahawk, Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, Peeping Tom, so forth into infinity- but I haven’t, and for this (and a plethora of other reasons) I secretly (somewhat) hope they get shot to death in home invasions. Boohoo, I’m evil (I am), and so is the talent of this man (this dreamboat). His many works and vast natural skills are a pillar of my inscrutable tastes (and if you don’t share my tastes, you’re wrong). While it’s true that I would like to see bands he’s fronted perform certain albums, specifically, I would take anything I could get at anyjuncture and with any collection of backing musicians with nary a peep of displeasure from my lips (but there would be plenty of moans). Plus, he’s really beautiful for his age and just looking at him might crack at my natural sexual preferences. (Or something?)

5. Elvis Presley

If you are actually reading this and looking for a reason you should do all the world a favor and commit suicide. No, nicknames were given out back in the day with no regard for anything resembling accuracy or truth. Not like today, Shithead. Yes, “the king” is truly The King. Need more? Kill yourself twice. I’ll help! P.S. Fuck those hype-riding losers The Beatles. They sucked, for real. Deal with it.

6. Glissando

Do you like your ambient to be more than a slowed down audio recording of a metropolitan intersection during rush hour traffic? So do I, and that is why the duo of Richard Ian Knox and Elly May Irving is the cat’s knees and the bee’s meow of soft, atmospheric music that will transport you places like astral projection. The town of Leeds in the UK has no idea how lucky they are to boast this group as their top export. The song below is absolutely to die for and considering this live version is a whopping 10 minutes and 6 seconds shorter than the full song it’s probably for the best if ever fortunate enough to see them live, so I don’t drift away and lose all control of my bodily functions. And you may when you see how comfortable I am with my own juicy body-squalor.

7. school food punishment

Likely the most “typical” selection from this list, though the music is anything but, I assure you. This band may be described as “J-Rock” by the layman but when you open the holes on the sides of your head a discovery is made of jazz and funk so rich that your mind may start to rot if you don’t give it a good scrubbing with more of their awesome tunes. From Masayuki Hasuo’s work on the keys to Yumi Uchimura’s adorable faces while singing, only a madman wouldn’t want to bop around to such fresh, original jams. Oh, and to hear the song “Killer” live would be nothing short of killer. See what I did there? I’m very clever.

8. Dexter Gordon

Having just spoken to jazz, it seemed natural that the next selection be the most talented jazz man I’ve ever heard, which is an accomplished statement in itself. A world class saxophonist and Academy Award nominated actor, men of the arts don’t get any better than this. It’s that simple, and his discography makes even more famous jazz artists look lazy by comparison. You know that bebop? You should! His doctor father counted names like Duke Ellington among his patients and it would seem that young Gordon was a vampire, sucking their blood and becoming a beast bigger, badder, and better than any of those around him until being staked to death by Jon Bon Jovi at party thrown by Vincent Price at an establishment called the “Goth Cunt” (Ed note: These statements are possibly true and should not be discounted unless your were there). The example below is slightly off for being of his Quartet, but who cares? Pour a cocktail, light a cigar, and chill like a man, you woman.

9. Our Broken Garden

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this is one live show I’d perhaps sacrifice phalanges to see, yet all the same I would not enjoy having to walk off after every song to change my condom. I mean, how am I supposed to walk away if I’m missing toes, or constantly swap out rubbers when down three fingers and a thumb? It would be a complete mess. Seriously, anyone in need of my long lady fingers? Denmark’s Anna Brønsted has the magic touch as evidenced by the below example looking like a music video and sounding like a studio recording, but it’s actually a live performance. Pick your jaw off the ground; it’s very unbecoming of you. And I think a dog squatted there just before you walked over.

10. The Smashing Pumpkins

Confession time: I’ve seen them before, my favorite band of all time (*). It is a highlight of my already fulfilling and adventurous life. Adversely, I was originally supposed to see them in a sold out arena during the Mellon Collie tour but didn’t, a loss which will never be rectified no matter how many times I get to see Billy Corgan’s brilliant brainchild live and in person. True story: There was a class trip to Washington D.C., which I had been to before, but my parents made me go. The trip was horrible and I will remind dear mommy and daddy when pulling their mutual life support plugs that they wouldn’t have to die if they didn’t try to control me in 7th grade. In an ideal world, I would travel with SP, never missing a single performance and having safe, spectacular sex with hot chicks who think it’s cool that I have no life and have met Billy, which I haven’t but maybe would have in this ridiculous fantasy. If I did, I’d would tell him how important his art is to me and then he could be like, “Cool story, bro.” Man, that would be awesome!

Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

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