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Koji Yakusho (#110 of 4)

Film Comment Selects 2015 The World of Kanako

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Film Comment Selects 2015: The World of Kanako
Film Comment Selects 2015: The World of Kanako

Tetsuya Nakashima’s The World of Kanako follows ex-cop Akikazu Fujishima (Kōji Yakusho) as he bludgeons and growls his way through the grade schools, shopping malls, drug dens, and criminal underworld of Tokyo in search of his estranged teenage daughter, Kanako (Nana Komatsu). Divorced and unemployed, his mind addled from abusing prescription drugs, Akikazu has zero investment in his world. When his ex-wife (Asuka Kurosawa) tells him of their daughter’s disappearance, Akikazu uses the event as a pretense to go on a violent rampage, insulting and assaulting everyone he comes across in a journey that quickly reveals itself to be less about finding his progeny than about getting revenge against the world for all of the perceived injustices that he’s ever suffered. Angry, sweaty, and disheveled from the start, he never bothers to change his one increasingly bloodstained suit, though this doesn’t prevent him from entering schools and shopping malls to physically and verbally abuse schoolgirls and their female teachers.

SXSW 2011: Super, 13 Assassins, Last Days Here, The Beaver, Scenes from the Suburbs, and Natural Selection

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SXSW 2011: <em>Super</em>, <em>13 Assassins</em>, <em>Last Days Here</em>, <em>The Beaver</em>, <em>Scenes from the Suburbs</em>, and <em>Natural Selection</em>
SXSW 2011: <em>Super</em>, <em>13 Assassins</em>, <em>Last Days Here</em>, <em>The Beaver</em>, <em>Scenes from the Suburbs</em>, and <em>Natural Selection</em>

Trying to fit in, like, four or five screenings a day at South by Southwest—a task at which I mostly failed until, maybe, my last two days in Austin, Texas—inevitably took away valuable time to write about everything I saw at the festival that I found of interest, for well and ill. So while I managed to squeeze in time to write about some of my favorites (The City Dark, American Animal, and Bellflower, especially), consider this last dispatch (from me, anyway) a run-down, with brief commentary, of a few others I saw that I either loved, liked, or didn’t like but at least found interesting enough to say something about. Oh, and yeah, Natural Selection, the big SXSW narrative feature award winner.

AFI Fest 2010: 13 Assassins

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AFI Fest 2010: <em>13 Assassins</em>
AFI Fest 2010: <em>13 Assassins</em>

Takeshi Miike’s unstoppable 13 Assassins offers one essential credo: The pen is not mightier than the sword. Written and spoken words offer refuge for treasonous personnel wishing to destroy long-gestating peace, and only honorable action can break through the façade of discourse and unmask the nefarious deeds bubbling underneath. So in the vein of The Dirty Dozen, Inglorious Basterds, and every other “men on a mission” film, the titular samurai of Miike’s action period piece take up arms and become a vengeful collective of impassioned professionals, using their skill, wisdom, and preciseness to formulate a daring assassination attempt on evil government official named Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki). The target will be guarded by a legion of skilled soldiers and the small but determined group whole-heartedly understands that theirs is a classic suicide mission. But you’d never know it from the men’s classic exchanges based on respect, moments that both align us with their singular goals but also deepen our empathy for their layers of human complexity.

J-Horror Mash-Up: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Retribution

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J-Horror Mash-Up: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Retribution
J-Horror Mash-Up: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Retribution

I just watched a couple of Japanese horror films back to back. One was the J-Horror standby Ju-On (The Grudge); the other was Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (Pulse). It would be very easy to cover the two together under one tent, but that would be to court madness. Whatever its genre trappings, Pulse is the work of a metaphysical artist working through issues of alienation and the social contract; The Grudge, meanwhile, is an extremely literal-minded scare film about some very angry blue people, and while some symptomatic resonances might be at work, its makers are blissfully unaware of anything other than mechanics and (weak) theatrics. Though they share a sort of Typhoid Mary approach to their horrors—Pulse uses the internet to collect souls, The Grudge creates a daisy-chain of victims connected to that funky house—they couldn’t be more separate in intent, sense of style, or level of consciousness. But this being the world we live in, it was inevitable that the two approaches would wind up merging. The mash-up is Retribution, an uneasy alliance between Kurosawa and super-producer Takashige Ichise, who’s had his fingers in a sizeable number of J-Horror pots (including The Grudge). Lest you think such a relationship would be strictly hands-off, Ichise didn’t merely produce, but also helped write the screenplay, despite the fact that in the past, Kurosawa has mostly done the writing himself. In Retribution, the literal-minded world of standard J-Horror and the metaphorical brilliance of Kurosawa prove to be largely incompatible; it’s a fight to the finish, and the winner is the square literality of the genre itself.