Sunday, 10 April 2011
Night Visions Back To Basics 3011 - Night 2
Cold Fish (Tsumetai nettaigyo)
Director: Sion Sono
The story behind Sion Sono's latest film, Cold Fish, is based on actual facts. Only dog kennel keeping is switched to having an aquarium in this thriller about business brutality. Two aquarium keepers become friends after the friendly-seeming Mr. Murata (Denden) hires the thieving teenaged daughter of Mr. Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) in his shop. But it soon turns out that Murata is in fact a cruel psychopath, dealing with the yakuza and officials both with brutal ways. Shamoto is soon tangled to Murata's web of lies and nasty businesses, but is too much of a pushover to oppose his dominance. But like one can see from films like Straw Dogs, you can only push one so far, until he has to bite back. Yet on the line are not only his oppressor, but also his dysfunctional family, over which he wants to take on a new dominance.
The character of Murata is a fascinating and memorable villain. In the beginning he seems genuinely excited in seeing exotic fishes and joking around with people he barely knows. Yet he is a lot colder than would seem on the outside. He truly cares more for fish than people, as he has a talent of pulling people's strings to do his bidding. People are objects to him, and able to be disposed of when they outlive their usefulness. His aquarium shop is filled with teenaged girls in skimpy costumes and he can take any woman he wants with a mixture of lies of understanding them and taking what he wants with force. His sense of humour extends to the dirty part of his business and he derives great joy in chopping his victim's corpses and plays around with different organs. Veteran character actor Denden does great job in bringing this human monster to life and his character is one of the greatest criminal characters seen in recent years.
Sono's latest film takes a big leap into a darker territory. Unlike the preceding 4-hour Love Exposure, Cold Fish runs on a little bit too long, and feels repetitive. It deals with many of the same themes, such as the state of families, the unfairness of Japan's society which pushes people to do deperate things and one person's decision to fight for a more pleasant ending. One still can't claim that this tale filled with hopelessness, fear and pain isn't gripping. Cold Fish is also trencehed in black humour Sion handles very well. He also utilizes a lot of the familiar Christian imagery in the background of its violent atrocities. By delivering another corker, Sono is well on his way of becoming his native country's most interesting modern filmmaker.
The Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren)
Director: André Øvredal
As much as I'd like to think this kind of "lost footage", handheld camera fantasy film has seen its heyday, every once in a while comes along a truly fun one. This plays like the mixture of Cloverfield and Rare Exports, all the while staying decidedly Norwegian. I especially enjoy how straight-faced the director Øvredal depicts his really ridiculous fantasy story.
While looking to do a documentary film about bear pouchers, film students Finn, Kalle and Johanna stumble upon a fact hidden by the Norwegian government. The huge trolls from folk tales do exist! They begin to follow a troll ranger Hans (the kick-ass Otto Jespersen) around, doing his daily job. Hans has a problem at his hands as more and more trolls have broken their habitat and eaten cattle. The poor chap is in charge of all the trolls in the whole country and has to execute the most dangerous specimen. Tired of his dangerous and dreadful job, he plans to unveil the truth about how trolls are handled, and thus helps the students to finish their film by taking them along.
There's been so many re-imaginings about vampires and such common folk tale-creatures that one has to wonder why no one thought of doing the same for trolls before. In Øvredal's version, trolls can smell the blood of a Christian (not atheists or apparently muslims) and turn to stone or explode by sunlight (or the UV light equivelent). And they look as silly with their big noses and beady little eyes, as they would in an illustration in a children's book. The trolls do not, however talk, or have eating contests with people. A lot of time is to create the athmosphere of changing places, so there's a lot of shots of people sitting in cars, listening to a Norwegian easy listening radio and looking at the landscape. There's a lot of road movie in the film. The Troll Hunter is a little bit overlong and would need tightening up from here and there. But when it is funny, it is inventive and exciting and thus well worth a watch for all genre-fans.
Violent Naples (Napoli Violenta)
Director: Umberto Lenzi
The moustached inspector Betti (Maurizio Merli) arrives to Naples and seems to be pissed off about it. The crime boss Comandante welcomes him into town by attempting to kill him right from the start. Criminals are afraid of the tough, uncompromaising yet fair and untouchable one-man army. Betti wovs to bring down the town's mafia and starts to systematically bring down crime Poor petty riminals get to feel his wrath as he is a man who will smash their faces into car windows to get answers.
Like is usual for an European crime film of that era, the corruption goes to every branch of the society and it can be weeded out only by being tougher than the toughies and squarer than a mathemathician's window frame. There's also a fine chase scene or two through the picturesque streetviews of the city of Naples. This one ends on a Unibahn track. It's a pity I had just previously seen the brilliant Fear Over the City, after which almost anything would seem more boring. Violent Naples is a fine basic genre piece, yet there is very little to bring it forward among its peers. Of course, this view might also be because of my tiredness.
Love Camp 7
Director: Lee Frost
One can see Love Camp 7 comes from more innocent times. Sex scenes comprise of Nazis kissing and squeezing naked women above the waist with their pants on. The violence is not really any more harsh than in mainstream war movies of the time. Some nazi punishments would be cruel in real world, but the sets and actors all are so fake, I wouldn't think anyone would mistake this for being based on any reality. Indeed, most of the nazis were played by jews. And the women by unnaturally fit and big-boobed specimen who seem more comfrotable with their clothes off than with reciting dialogue. The film copy showed in NV seemed to be cut, as we never saw the camp's female doctor even though there was a lot of talk about her.
The story, in case it interests anyone is that two female commandoes are sent to infiltrate the Nazi Camp #7. It is set as a relaxation point for tired soldiers, and houses a bunch of well-built jewish women that Nazi officers and guards are free to rape. The women are in the camp to find a jewish scientist who has an invention that could change the course of the war. Funnily enough, this invention is soon forgotten amid all the sexing.
Night Of Bloody Horror
Director: Joy N. Houck Jr.
The Late Great Planet Earth
Director: Robert Amram
Orson Welles hosts this pseudo-documentary by weird cultists that tries to convince us that the End is Nigh. According to the film's logic, since many prophecies in the Bible came true in the early centuries, the Book of Revelations must come true, too. The film goes on to try to prove parts of Revealations to point to modern issues and news items of the 70's. Boy, how the maker's faces must have been red when the Soviet Union broke down before no one had the idea of rebuilding Solomon's castle in Israel. Conviniently the film passes some of the most unbelievable parts of the Book, such as extremely odd-looking angels blowing horns and bringing destruction and Death deciding to avoid the people seeking him.
Welles himself appears in person only in the beginning, picking up a prophet's skull. At the point of late 70's the bloated cinema genius had already sunken to new lows to pay for his whiskey habit. Yet he does bring dignity to this piece that seriously needs it. The filmed filler sequences in the beginning with silly prophets and their misadventures are like something out of Life of Brian. The overuse of similar stock footage, such as missiles getting send up in the air or bombs exploding in a desert, effectively destroy all the poignancy the film is seeking. Although the documentary's claimes are filled with holes, it is not that funny after all. But still a weird enough sign o' the times already passed to bring out a chuckle or two in the middle of the night.
Pieces (Mil gritos tiene la noche)
Director: Juan Piquer Simon
Pieces may be my favorite slasher film of all time, so it was a hoot to see it on big screen with an appreciative audience. The film's style and story owes a lot to Italian giallo films of the time, as well as the countless Halloween ripoffs with teens getting killed produced in the US. It's a nice exploitation cocktail, then. But with a lot weirder sequences than one would be used to.
In the 40's a devout Christian mother beats and belittles her child for solving a filthy pin-up jigsaw puzzle. The boy takes revenge by killing the mother with an axe and sawing up her body. 40 years later in a local college, someone is pretending to be a gardener so he has an excuse to run around with a chainsaw and cut teenage girls to bits. On the case are Det. Lt. Bracken (Christopher George), Det. Sgt. Holden (Frank Brana) and undercover setective Mary Riggs (Lynda Day George). For some reason they all seem really adamant of getting help from frat boy stud Kendall (Ian Sera). The school's real gardener (who looks exactly like Bud Spencer) is out of the question even though he happens to be on the crime scene and likes to brawl with arresting police men Incredible Hulk -style. The real murderer must be discovered before he can complete his ultimate goal – a human jigsaw puzzle made out of body parts of women!
Although I love Pieces to pieces, I must admit that it's not the most coherent film of all time. Characters come and go inexplainably and some scenes seem to have little to do with the film's plot, nevermind sense. In one of the best scenes the tennis teacher is attacked by a Bruce Lee clone for no reason. When Kendall arrives on the scene, the karateka shrugs the whole affair off saying he must've eaten bad chop suey. Instead of building a threatening athmosphere or shocking with brutality (of which there is a fine amount), the real strength of Pieces is its talent of really surprising viewers. When the whole film doesn't have to worry about making any sort of sense, it becomes pretty clear that anything can and will happen. This goes on until the final seconds with one of the most WTF endings the horror genre has ever seen.
I am tempted to give Pieces a ★★★★ for it is clearly one of the best slasher films I've ever seen. Yet, I think the Trash film rating does it more favours.
★ or ★★★★★
So this was heaps of fun this time around. Looking forward to the next time. In the words of a dick hungry bimbo in Pieces; I promise to control myself if we do it again.