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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Kuroneko

I dislike cats.  I’m aware that many filmmakers have the same lack of appreciation for the beasts with 9 lives. Cat’s Eye, Pet Sematary, The Black Cat, The Cat People, even A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 all feature these ferocious felines.

It was with much trepidation (not really) that I sat to watch today’s film.  I knew that I would likely have an experience of shock simply from the subject matter alone.  I braved my fears, however, and happily accessed my Hulu+ account to view this classic of Japanese horror.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 29: Yabu No Naka No Kuroneko “Kuroneko”

Kuroneko posterDirector: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1968
Cast: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 99 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★ / C

After being brutally raped and murdered by a gang of wandering samurai, a woman and her daughter return from the grave to haunt and kill them.

What odd choices of filmmaking, such as random jump cuts, unmotivated images of a black cat, disjointed jumping of the plane, cuts of ghosts and fallen samurai bodies out of nowhere, and the continual bamboo forest immersed in a dense fog imagery.

Some of the visuals were haunting, however.  The women with their painted on eyebrows, floating in their white kimono, amidst the secluded cabin in the woods, certainly ought to be enough to hold the interest of many aficionado’s of horror.  Sadly, I found the aforementioned problems too problematic to be saved by the later interesting elements.

It simply didn’t rise above anything other than average.  Certainly not after watching the superior Onibaba.  Thankfully, however, it’s not as bewildering as House.

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Movies

 

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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba

I’ve long been a fan of Japanese cinema. Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Kon Ichikawa, and my favorite, Yasujiro Ozu, are masters of cinema few western audiences have seen. Amazingly, other than the run of horror movies that came from the land of the rising sun a few years back, such as Ringu and Ju On, I wasn’t familiar with any other in that genre.

Thankfully, a recent trip to the video store, and my viewing of their Criterion collection they have near the back of the store, I came across a few films considered to be classics in the J-horror genre.

With this new knowledge, I followed up my visit by searching both Hulu and Netflix for other films originating from the land famous for samurai, geisha, and ninja.

Happily, today’s film was one of the films featured on Hulu+ Criterion Collection. Without hesitation, I pressed play on my tiny appleTV remote, and took in the surprise that was today’s entry.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 28: Onibaba


Director: Kaneto Shindou
Year: 1965
Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satou
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 103 mins. / Black and White / OAR 2.35:1 / MPAA Rating: NR
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

I wasn’t sure how this film was considered a horror film for most of the film. I felt more like a revenge picture, and an excellently crafted one at that. However, [SPOILER]…

I was completely blown away by the twist near the end of the film that confirmed this to indeed be a horror film. The mastery that Shindou displayed on bringing together this morality tale was superb, and worthy of all the praise I’ve since read up on for this film.

It was shocking to see such graphic sensuality, given the year the film was made. Certainly not a film I’d be able to show in my film appreciation class without a major disclaimer.


The cinematography is simply amazing. The waves in the grass, the use of shadows, and the framing of each scene is a marvel to see. The acting is equally as impressive. This is not your over-the-top theatrics found in many other films of that same era. Instead we are witness to the depravity of war, and the loneliness of seclusion, in a manner that is completely engrossing.

I will never feel the same way when I am faced with the choice of the shortcut through the grassy field or the long dirt path around it. I certainly will be needing a proper foot cleansing after such a proposition presents itself.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Movies

 

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20 Films Remade by the Original Directors Pt.10

We are at the end of my 10 part blog on films remade by the same director as the original version.  To recap, the seeds for writing this article came about when news broke that director David Cronenberg was going to be remaking his 1986 film “The Fly”, which originally stared Jeff Goldblum in the starring role.  Days later it was announced that French director Géla Babluani was going to be remaking as a big budget Hollywood film his 2005 French film “13 Tzameti”, this time in color.  It was with this news that I set out to research if there ever had been a director who had done this before?  I was curious if any directors in the past 100+ of film making had learned from the mistakes (even if the original were an excellent film) of the original and redone a later version, with years of maturity, money, and experience behind them?

To my surprise, there were many.  I decided to narrow my field of research to 20 different films, thus giving me a total of 40 to watch (I actually watched 42, counting the two mentioned in the section above!)  Even further to my astonishment, I learned that it is indeed quite possible for a director to turn out a better film.  Not surprisingly, I also learned that it’s possible to turn in a turkey as well.

However, even more to my incredulity, and you’ll see after todays final films, the odds were IN FAVOR of the film turning out better!  A total of 12 were equal or better, in my opinion, and only 8 were worse!  Even then, only a few of those were grades lower in my ratings, with many them being only 1/2 – 1 grade lower!

You’ll be happy to know that todays films were my favorites out of the bunch.  Not favorite remakes, per say, but favorite pairs.  Meaning, I thought that the originals were excellent, and the remakes magical.  Surprisingly (or maybe not!), all 4 of todays films were directed by the same director.  A director that, hitherto, I did not know much about.  However, after watching these 4 films, I realized that I had stumbled upon a director of the highest caliber.  A director that I knew would soon garner a position in my favorite directors list (needless to say, I did view a handful more of his films subsequent to this review, solidifying his standing).

“Remaking the Tinsel in Tinseltown”

Or

“20 Films Remade by the Original Directors”

Part X

Remake #19

~Director: Yasujirō Ozu~

Original Film: A Story of Floating Weeds – “Ukikusa Monogatari”
Year: 1934
Cast: Takeshi Sakamoto, Chouko Iida, Koji Mitsui, Yoshiko Tsubouchi
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 86 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1

A wonderful little film that is unlike most others of that era.  The acting is subtle and not overacted, as is so common in other silent films.  The engrossing story of a traveling acting troupe that stops into a small Japanese farming town where the master has a former mistress and son whom he decides to visit, inciting a vengeful current mistress, is beautifully told.  It is evident moments into the film that Ozu was a master storyteller, relying on character mannerisms and subtleties to compel the viewer to stay seated.

The film is a testament to how one little sin can snowball and affect so many people, not just the one who committed the sin.  A truly wonderful piece of film from one of Japan’s most celebrated filmmakers.

My Rating: ***** / A

Remake Film: Floating Weeds – “Ukigusa”
Year: 1959
Cast: Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyō, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Haruko Sugimura, Ayako Wakao
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 119 mins / Color / OAR 1.37:1

An absolutely wonderful film.  Simply put, one of the best.  Wonderful musical score and spectacular script easily make this a huge improvement on an already excellent film (the 1934 original).  Director Ozu has flushed out the story, added some very witty humor, and cast the perfect actors to pull off this story of a traveling acting troupe that stops into a small Japanese farming town where the master has a former mistress and son whom he decides to visit, inciting a vengeful current mistress.  Most of the humorous scenes are part of the side story, which is about the other actors in the troupe seeking to find women to keep company with while in town.

The only question I had regarding Ozu’s direction was the choice to have the actors speak directly into the camera when addressing the offscreen character, instead of an over-the-shoulder or a two-shot framing.  I felt myself being pulled out of the film each time this occurred.

The cinematography is simply gorgeous, with colors popping off the screen in the most vibrant of ways.  The story itself is a simple one, yet powerful in that it shows how one man’s sin will affect so many around him.  A must own.

My Rating: ***** / A

Remake #20

~Director: Yasujirō Ozu~

Original Film: Late Spring – “Banshun”
Year: 1949
Cast: Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura, Yumeji Tsukioka, Yoshiko Tsubouchi
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 108 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1

A gratifying character driven story about a widowed man who desires to marry off his stubborn daughter, lying about his own engagement in order to do so.  This film was an entertaining film, but lacked any real drama.  It served more as a day-in-the-life-of genre  film than a dramatic film in the truest sense of the word.

Interestingly, Ozu chose to have the characters speak directly into the camera when addressing another character, instead of an Over-the-shoulder shot, or two shot.  The second or third time it happens, I no longer noticed it, which is an indication of the quality of filmmaking.

While a very slow moving film, one that likely would never get made today due to the current nature of the flash, bang, cut, music video style films, it was still a very well acted film, with wonderful music, and an interesting peek into middle class life in early postwar Japan.  The cinematography is superb, and truly shows that images can indeed tell a story.  Another case to show that editing isn’t cutting every 3 seconds, but letting a scene play out and breathe to tell a more effective story.

A very well made film.

My Rating: ***** / A-

Remake Film:  Late Autumn – “Akibiyori”
Year: 1960
Cast: Setsuko Hara, Yôko Tsukasa, Mariko Okada, Keiji Sada, Miyuki Kuwano, Chishu Ryu
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan
Specs: 128 mins / Color / OAR 1.37:1

A very amusing remake of “Late Spring” changes some things from the original version (strangely enough, the title, as you can see) that give it more drama and tension.  The change from the father widow to a mother widow made the desire for the girl to stay and help her parent instead of getting married all the more dramatic, as the two women go through similar situations with courting men.  Including the fathers friends as the men attempting to marry off his daughter has added delightful humor, as well as a dramatic element of the pressure of men to see their daughters married.

A wonderful jazz score, a script that could be made again today with it’s portrayal of adults and their views on “young kids today”, along with the beautiful cinematography all elevate this film above the previous in a minor way.

Again, as seems to be common with Ozu, there is one directorial decision I still don’t quite understand?  Why Ozu has his characters directly addressing the camera in CU’s instead of an over-the-shoulder two shot is unclear.  Happily, after seeing it for a few films now, I have an opinion on the matter.  I would surmise that Ozu feels it allows the viewer to see inside the soul of his characters, giving them more personality.

A wonderful film through and through.  A true classic.

My Rating: ***** / A

Hope you enjoyed this series.  I’m off now to catch some much needed sleep!!!…

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2010 in Movies

 

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