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With a talented and star-studded ensemble of some of Japan's most famous names, it's no surprise that Rage shines. Ken Watanabe needs no introductions, the male leads: Go Ayano, Matsuyama Kenichi, Tsumabuki Satoshi and Moriyama Mirai who all have already made names for themselves. Aoi Miyazaki, who's been in the industry since she was four. And the up and coming, Hirose Suzu. I also want to mention the relatively unknown Takara Sakumoto who makes his debut here as an actor to watch out for.
I'll tell you why Rage is a very raw film -- it depicts Japanese rigidity. I don't say that to provide a negative interpretation but there is a lot of suppressed emotions in the society. Hence, these suppressed emotions are bottled up, be it sadness, be it anger, be it loneliness—whichever. The need for catharsis is just too high and I think Rage perfectly depicted that need and gave these characters that chance.
As I watch this film, I too, want to scream, I too want to have a tantrum, I too, want to throw things—I want to release bottled-up feelings. Lee knows how to build-up these emotions that echoes the characters' as much as he builds up the narrative. He knows how to give you the "feels" combined with Ryuichi Sakamoto's score that's just filled with too much dramatic tension, you too, would want to explode.
There are two overlaying narratives in the film, all of which were very cleverly linked not only by the murder and that the three men emerge as potential suspects but are also connected through dialogue, through visuals and through sound. The sound is really the one, to me, pushes the plot. The sounds emit the emotions, emit the passion and emit everything. Lee connects visuals from Tokyo, from Chiba and from Okinawa together with the dialogues and the sound. I think it's a very refreshing way to do so and it makes the three narrative feel balanced.
These narratives, on their own are unique but still keeps the underlying theme of trust and connection. Go and Satoshi's narrative touches on their sexuality. It is very refreshing to see an aloof, almost-silent Go that contrasts with Satoshi's fearless and enthusiastic nature. Miyazaki, Watanabe and Kenichi's narrative touches on acceptance and of family. The lonely, almost weird Kenichi forms a connection with Miyazaki, who has just been rescued by Watanabe (her father) from an abusive sex work. Suzu, Mirai and Sakumoto brings us to Okinawa, of a simpler life, of youth and of curiosity but to me is really the one that resonated with me the most.
If you really want to know who the murderer is, I'd say look at the narrative that's filled with the most rage. Look at which narrative makes you feel the angriest, the one that filled you most with rage and you will have your answer. By the second hour of the film, where it's filled with tears and screaming and throwing, you'd know. The reveal isn't what matters, it's their stories that do. Lee knows how to juggle the three narratives that three of the suspects are all likely to be the killer.
The plot does, disintegrates into a cornucopia of crying, weeping, wailing and just a lot of those (all three narratives stitched together too) so it does overwhelm and to itself, an overexcess portrayal of the characters and their narratives. But nevertheless, very very very impressive performances from the cast.
All I have to critique is probably the lack of a backbone for the killer himself. There is an ongoing question of where the rage comes from. Is it simply from surpassed emotions? Is it simply from being laughed at his pitiful state? Or is it from being pitied? We are never given a straight answer so we can only interpret.
The visuals are stunning. The opening shot of a bird's eye view of Tokyo, to the clear waters of Okinawa to the colorful houses of Chiba—it's beautiful. The visuals are great transitions and there is never the lack of varying colors to depict the scene's mood.
Finally, I just want to say that I will never look at Hirose Suzu the same again. I'm only commenting on her the most because her films are the one I've seen the most. I used to say how Suzu knows how to act, she can cry but there is blankness in it (compared to the way Fumi Nikaido tries) but seeing her, in a very very very mature role, I'm taking back what I said—Suzu deserves all the spotlight she's getting. And with such roles, it's no doubt, she can do more.
Also, Takara Sakumoto making his debut here impresses.
Ultimately, the film is about trust and connection. No, it doesn't tell you who to trust and stuff but it does tell you how it feels when someone you trusts betrays you or someone you choose not to trust just decides to leave.
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Iwai explores loneliness, longing, companionship, destruction and construction of Japanese family, the rigid nature of Japanese society in the modern age. This makes Bride both a affirmation and subversion of Iwai's earlier films that I've watched like Love Letter, All About Lily Chou Chou and Hana and Alice. If those films reflects nostalgia, Bride seeks to redefine how the age of technology may bring people closer but also further and how this creates and define human connection.
Bride still incorporates Iwai signatures like sun flares, soulful montage, instrumental music and bringing in small scenes to bigger ones. Yet, Bride stands as its own. It's not as romantic as Love Letter of Hana and Alice nor as the coming-of-age of All About Lily Chou Chou. Despite a 12-year hiatus, Iwai doesn't lose his touch. He is still a very lyrical storytelling in a 3-hour emotional tale driven by an impressive cast, beautiful cinematography and heart whelming music.
When it comes to cinematography, Iwai's films are on the top of list. But of course, the credit goes to the film's cinematographer, Chiga Kanbe. What I love about Bride is how Iwai (and Kanbe) tells some much with its visuals and music that doesn't overpower each other even if sometimes, the dialogue is barely heard. The music by Mako Kuwabara embraces its stunning visuals. The overall tone is filled with sheer melancholy reflected with the littered cold colors, we too, are plunged in Kuroki's trauma paired with unstable camera angles showing a distorted vision.
Iwai knows how to tug at your heartstrings. He knows how to many silent shots mean so much more later. And finally, he knows how to build up drama and tension. It's 3 hours long (shorter in other countries) but the tension never subsides and the reveal particularly of Ayano Go and Cocco particularly laid down every detail shown prior to it. It makes the execution so satisfying. Yes, 3 hours is very long. Overly long and the film could've been shorter but very scene counts. Every scene matters. Though they seem random, they're not. That's how I felt watching this.
The cast, led by Hana Kuroki has amazing chemistry together and each of their characters contrast one another that brings out the personalities more. It's not a lopsided portrayal despite Mashiro (Cocco)'s later appearance in the second half. These characters aren't stock or just for display, they are there for a reason and their characters are explored.
Kuroki plays Nanami, a timid doe-eyed wallflower. Kuroki embodies a certain innocence that makes Nanami's somewhat bittersweet ending...worthwhile. She shines, in a subtle, very modest way but she shines. Though I would say Go is my favorite. He just has this charisma that pushes its way through. Playing a jack-of-all-trades, part Mephistopheles, he has done it with such clarity. Cocco is the light of the film (as ironic has that sounds given her character's fate) because of how vibrant and how lively she is compared to Kuroki's character.
Iwai doesn't sugarcoat these characters. He establishes them as such and moves on as much, making their emotions and experiences so much more connective with the viewer. He shows Nanami as awkward and docile by her experiences in school, having no relatives to invite at her wedding and eventually her own marriage.
Kuroki and Go stared in Flower of Shanidar (2013) which explains their good chemistry. But Kuroki and Cocco also share this same chemistry particularly because they're opposites of each other which really brings out their own respective personalities. Perhaps their bond is more than sisterly, maybe even erotic but I see it as more platonic bond of two lonely women, trying to find comfort in a directionless world.
Very much like Rip Van Winkle, these two women wake up in a world that breaks away from their past and try to make the most out of it...to be happy.
Bride also stands out because of how symbolic things are and how metaphorical it is. There is a scene where Kuroki approaches Go, some might see as romantic but Go's lines are metaphorical which relates back to the reveal of both his and Cocca's character. Seeing how Iwai reverts that and how Iwai chooses dialogue as a vital component in storytelling.
Finally, I want to say that there is so much suppressed emotions in this film which perhaps echoes the rigidity of Japanese social mores. Cocca's occupation is a very clever and important choice that relates to that. Not going to mention here explicitly but her job embodies the freedom and rejects this rigidity. Overall, it ties back to what the films show. Leaving yourself bare and exposed is a more intimate emotion where throughout the film, you suffocate by how much people are keeping and how fake they can be especially in this digital age.
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This film is about details. From small gestures, to quick looks, ringing of the telephone and shots of the clock to show the passing of time, it allows you to venture into a unrequited love story that's not painful but not overly dramatic. Kar-wai channels his use of details to move the story forward without too much effort just with simple rain, simple change of clothes or simple montage that exert such beauty it takes your breath away.
He knows how tell a story not through grand dialogues but through body language which is through cinematography. Not much head space here, much head space there, blurred wall here, never showing the face there, it leaves you guessing but also doesn't leave you in the dark. You know what's happening because it's being shown before it's being told. Repetition is also key here. Repetition blends well with time which blends well with setting and ultimately dances around the story.
If Chungking Express' aesthetic is filled with exotic colors, In the Mood for Love is vibrant and exhilarating with different colors even exhibiting some traces of noir style. Similar themes with Chungking, In the Mood for love portrays a more intimate type of longing, one that's filled with utmost desire that excites us through actions and not words spoken. We are plagued with a nostalgic 60s Hong Kong setting detail by detail and it entraps us into this alluring tale filled with cinematic beauty including slow motions and simple focus on blowing smoke; it is sexy without needing to be.
Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung exhibit such tension that we feel the love without needing to do anything passionate. Cheung's beauty transcends while Leung's restrained depiction is admired. There is delicateness present when they act together that just leaves you hungry for more. Of course this is all made possible by the soundtrack, handled by Shigeru Umebayashi. The music exerts feelings and flirts with Kar-wai's mastery of cinema together with the actors' vivid emotions makes everything a complete package.
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Instead, it is more for those who want to see a film and appreciate cinema as an art form. Hsiao-Hsein makes use of cinematic beauty to tell his story which is loosely based on the 9th century story, Nie Yinniang. It's a turtle's pace story that drags its viewer on. With long cuts to wide angles to old school panning, Hsiao-Hsein channels in traditional storytelling. There is a lot of ambiance shots, little dialogues and more expression to move the story forward. As a viewer, you focus on the cinematic beauty. It's a cinematic ballad of Asian context.
True enough, it might be difficult for people to follow the plot. The summary might even be misleading because I see no romance here. Instead, I see more of an exploration of one's identity but perhaps a little too less. The lack of dialogue is overshadowed by the overwhelming amount of wide setting shots that makes you, the viewer decide most of what happens. There is little close-up of characters so you are in total control when it comes to interpretation.
The Assassin's strongest feat is definitely it's visual allure that explores the power of stillness (through the cinematography) and silence (through the lack of dialogue and use of music) that brings an unease tension, excitement and anticipation. It's almost as if you're watching a poetic piece, embedded in mystery all the while embodying precise movements and careful gestures that speaks to the camera. The lack of dialogues amplifies the action creating literature-like atmosphere.
Shu Qi reminds me of Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, her movements are so graceful and full of clarity. Her stone-cold face and unstained expressions just captures the assassin role so well. Hsiao-Hsien won Best Director in Cannes for this film and also swept 8/9 awards in the Asian Film Awards among others. In the end, it's really the ice-pole pace and the uninteresting characters that'll make you keep it at arm's length.
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With a strong 20 minutes opening monologue, Confession quickly establishes itself. It sets up the scene, introduces characters and creates conflict within 20 minutes with elaborate control and pristine intrigue. It's not perfect. It's not as detailed or as convincing especially actions coming from mere junior high school students but it enters a new type of fascination as a viewer. While the immoral practices presented in the film will make you question, it delivers the shock factor it needs. Perhaps the reason why it chooses that age group as its major protagonist (or should I say, antiheroes).
Confessions is a revenge thriller that is cleverly wrapped into a psychological film. Yes, the actions will cause shock (perhaps not even for the lighthearted) but it's the mental manipulation, the monotone, the poker face and the polite words that Moriguchi (played by Takako Matsu) that makes everything a perfect blow, up until the end, almost pulling a perfect Chekhov's gun.
While the intertwining confessions benefit viewers in giving a different perspective and a two-side of the story narration, it suffers from inconsistency especially in terms of clarity and length. Given the context of the story though, it makes you question how plausible the writing is. You can applaud Moriguchi's clever plotting but you question just how much, especially having junior high school kids here, how of much of what happens makes sense...in reality (being vague to avoid spoilers).
A contrast in terms of style with Nakashima's The World of Kanako which incorporates fast cuts and heightened overtones, Confessions is slow, filled with slow motions that adds dramatic effect but renders the stab to the heart effect. Irony and contrast is a recurring theme. Lots of irony. Contrast in overall cinematography with dark colors against white background reflect the melo-dramatic feel, sometimes emo ballad curled in psychological mindfuck that the film tries to take. Lots of dark gray tones creating a gloomy ambiance. Contrast with English music with ironic lyrics and dramatic scenes make the scenes stand out.
Ai Hashimoto, often called as an acting prodigy because of the massive pool of films under her belt at the age of 20 puts on her signature smug look that shows a character filled with secrecy. Yukito Nishii executes his character well, playing an innocent genius with dark secrets. His actions surprised me and I least expected that. He has great chemistry onscreen with Hashimoto. It's probably mean to say but Kaoru Fujiwara fits the stereotypical wimpy loner look which makes his acting effective and his eventual collapse all the more heartbreaking.
Overall, Confessions is not a perfect film but the acclaim it gets is the way it handles the psychological factors it imposes on its viewers. It tries to ask you teach you a lesson about life, but actually you don't need that lesson. That's a red herring in the film. Everything it "tries" to tell you, you already know. And I think the film is just showing these underlying "lessons" out in the open using young teenagers for elaborated effect. It's not a film about evil per say but the little hidden dark side in all of us. But I'm just glad that it wasn't the least bit romanticized.
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It really is simple. Yet as you know with Korean dramas, the plot can never really just stayed simple. So as it progresses, it digs deeper. And effectively at that. I love how the series starts off smoothly, already presenting the plot and its backstory by Hye-song's storytelling during her public defender's interview. This to me, was a great way to introduce everything because we didn't have to go through a painful full-on flashback but rather telling it in a way that contributes both to the present happening and the establishment of what happened back then. It, in a way, also created suspense. And it also made me, as a viewer, connect the dots myself.
I really really do love how I Hear Your Voice made a great connection with all its character. One way or another, each character is affiliated with another. And even if it's just a little, it's central or it contributes to the plot. This connection is really cohesive, concise and very tight. Of course, it may not be perfect but it makes sense and upon discovery, it makes it much more exciting. Hye-song's past is connected to Soo-ha's and Joon-gook. Hye-song is also connected to Do-yeon, Do-yeon is connected to Dal-joong's. Lawyer Cha is connected to Lawyer Shin's in the past and that's only a minor detail yet it's great because it establishes the present relationship of the characters and the chemistry between all of them.
Now, I do love the flow of the story. The connection with the past to the present is strong and has always been reinforced. I liked the time span of the story as well. However, I wasn't really a fan of the time skip (the one year gap). I'm not a fan of time skips in general. To me, it always feel like there's something missing even if it does get mentioned or solved in the future, I want to see everything for myself. And that's exactly what I felt especially with what happened to Soo-ha. But I did like how the story played out. I think the drama's court and law elements is really a great treat for me, I've learnt a lot and my interest in law just intensified. But those elements itself really helped a lot with how the twists have turned out, it allows engagement with the audience to help in figuring out together with the lawyer. To some extent, it addresses what it means to be a lawyer and a public defender especially (even a prosecutor or a judge). There's a lot of value conflict and morals as well as surprising plot devices that you do not see coming. It's a mixture of comedy, romance, drama and even thriller and mystery.
But, I'm sad with how the series failed to really address its biggest plot device: Soo-ha's mind-reading. Given that everything in the plot is in touch with reality, his supernatural ability is in isolation. So it has to be addressed. Like, how? And why him? I'm sure it's not just some random decision to have that ability. It's true that it's very crucial and helpful to the plot and the characters, so for something so important to have no background at all really doesn't sit well with me.
This drama provides me with a deep set of characters that have their own individual characteristics which were explored. The thing is, every character that is in the drama had their roles and they needed to be there no matter how small that role is. Every character compliments one another, every interaction has chemistry even between the antagonist and the protagonist. You see, Min Joon Gook is not the meanest of the meanest but of course he, too is horrible. However, that cruelty is justified, not accepted but at least there are reasons for the way he is. This in a way, makes us as an audience understand his character despite being the villain.
His character compliments Park So Haa's and brings out the "beast" within him. There is great chemistry, I'm telling you. Even between Park So Haa and the two policemen. Every interaction feels like a crucial factor. You can basically come up with a ship for all these characters, they just have a great atmosphere together. One of my favorite is between Hye Song and Prosecutor Seo. It's such a bittersweet friendship. Like these two go way back and have such a long history together (an unpleasant one at that) and they're bickering towards each other is as much fun as how they try to hide their care for each other. It's such an interesting friendship. The subplot for Prosecutor Seo is also great, not only did it give her character depth and development but it also tied in the connections between the characters that no one is left out.
I get it. Lee Jong Suk has great chemistry with anyone. Be it a male or a female. (Okay, maybe I'm being a bit biased because I love Jong-suk but still) I know that age doesn't matter. I know that Park So Haa and Jang Hye Song are wonderful together and I ship them. Though, this tandem is not a romance for all. It has its audience. It appeals to some, it's weird to some. Some would not sit well with their almost 10 years gap. Some wouldn't care at all. That's just what I would say about it as a whole.
But as for me, this romance is not exactly 100% forbidden. There is a tendency to be. But it just depends on your own personal taste. I think that this romance is meant-to-be. It's much more fated than Cheon Song-Yi's and Do Min-Joon's in My Love From Another Star or at least it seemed much more like fate with how their story was presented. The connection, the history and all that are much more cohesive and united. Not to mention that yes, despite the fact that they can seem like brother-sister or pass on as a mere admiration, there is a stronger chemistry with these two. Of course, it is similar in some way to Song-Yi's and Min-Joon's, So Haa is more like the older and mature one of the two, the protector but that itself is great because it shows that differences can bring out the best and change in people. All I can say is, Lee Jong Suk is such a bae.
Do not live with hatred and revenge. Hate is heavy. Revenge can make you a monster. But you have the choice not to be a beast. You have the choice not to be slave to your past. As a whole, that's the drama's main focus. But to some extent, it also focuses on the value conflicts of lawyers. What is moral or immoral? Will you defend someone even if you think they commit a crime? Would you actually have to care about that or just do your job? It deals with a lot of themes regarding the past and regrets and it presents it well despite the tangled lives of its characters.
As much as I love the series, it doesn't shy away from the ever-so-cliche, alone and loneliness theme. Though it doesn't heavily focus on that, it does at some point become Min Jook Goon's driving force or at least contributed to it in some way.
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4 hours didn't feel like 4 hours at all. In fact, it made my 11 hours flight seem...so short. To summarize what Love Exposure is is difficult. But that's very Sion Sono-like anyway. He's an auter that way. I enjoyed Love Exposure because it was different, because it was refreshing. It's a combination of all these things that normally don't fit well together but Sono does just that -- very Sono-like again. You have religion in one area and then sexuality on the other. You have panty shots on one hand and blood on the other. You have sinning in one hand and confession on the other. They're not things that go hand in hand yet Sono makes a perfect combination out of them.
I don't know what Love Exposure wanted me to get out of it. But it doesn't matter. In fact, I think Sono doesn't even want to make you think too hard. You're not suppose to undergo some epiphany just because of it. It's just a mash-up of different things that keeps you entertained and also think but not to the point of overanalyzing -- much like Sono's other works anyway. Sono doesn't try to hard to insert things, he shows it to you.
The divisions of 4 chapters was cleverly done and balanced well enough. There are loads of characters but each of them are given their own screen time that it doesn't seem so lopsided. It's 4 hours alright, but I felt like everything mattered and needed to be there...no matter how bizarre and weird they seem.
Truly, it's a romantic comedy that isn't subtly one. Above all, I think it aims to reflect the whole parent vs. child conflict of how parents carve their children into their own ideals, ultimately abandoning who they truly are in the process. It's about bad parents raising "bad" kids. But mostly, it's about how love, above all, conquers. At the end of the day, you lose your memories, you fell out of the line...but love it could save you.
Great soundtrack, exciting, funny, amazing cast and acting and most of all entertaining without trying too hard. 4 hours? It'll pass by so fast you won't even notice it.
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As with other Kar-wai films, it's always the cinematography that lunges at you. Typical of his style. I'd say that Happy Together is probably much more daring than his other films. Often overshadowed by In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express, Happy Together is both a happy and sad portrayal of romance. Yes, it's a love between two men. But instead of focusing on that aspect like other films do, it focuses more on their time together. It's cynical as much as it is positive. Kar-wai won Best Director at Cannes for a reason.
The film also pays tribute to classic noir style. But with a purpose. The black-and-white colors reflect their time apart. And gradually...color emerges. There's color when they rekindle their relationship or as they say "start over" again. The visuals speak as much as the story, as much as the actors. The aesthetics are also reminiscent of other Kar-wai elements -- cramped apartments, sudden close-ups, intense DOFs. But the colors are all retro. They're vibrant and intense. Add some exotic music to that. The setting and scenery are all beautiful. It's so so so appealing to the eyes.
Of course, we have Tony Leung Chiu-wai again. Yes, he won Best Actor for In the Mood for Love but I'd say Happy Together is his opus. It's a much more dramatic, challenging and intense character, he delivered in with more passion characters. He wants Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) but he can't show that but we still know he does -- that part is delivered very well. On the other hand, we have a charismatic Leslie Cheung here. He's able to deliver Po-wing's character with such rawness and explosion of emotions. Conflicted but at the same time very powerful. The chemistry between the two is undeniable.
The film is about intimacy. And it shows that. Chiu-wai and Cheung's acting all delivers that. In the cinematography, in the sounds, it shows all that. Even if Chiu-wai's character speaks in Cantonese while Chen's character speaks in Mandarin, it doesn't create a distance because it shows the understanding between the two. Happy Together is so underrated compared to its counterparts but it's also one of the most beautiful.
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Written during the day and shot by night is impressive and makes the film an exciting one that adds to Kar-Wai's pool of Asian work. While not his opus, Chungking Express is fascinating on its own. It's a film that's not plot driven but rather pulled and told by jarring cinematography, takeaway-meals and serendipitous tales.
An exotic bright colors and cinematography that's a combination of cris-cross, fast-moving shots that seems like a huge powder of euphoria has been splashed all over the screen. It's not your-typical-romance. It's more about storytelling, dialogue and narrative that's shown through the visuals that allures you.
It's the shakey cameras, the close-ups and the movements that guide you as you want. It's cinematic freedom that speaks pure Kar-Wai style of emotionally resonating narrative, visual uniqueness and stylized touch.
This is a intertwining stories of two cops, both of which are getting over a heartbreak on their own ways yet are told in similar ways through the use of visuals and small references and even candid symbolism that reflect Kar-Wai's poetic storytelling. It's really the second story that shows more of Kar-Wai masterpiece with cinematic sequences, engaging dialogues and great contrast and after effects. It's the little details of slow-motions or Faye's dancing in no. 663's apartment that pulls the cinematographic storytelling forward.
As such Chungking Express just like Kar-Wai's films about love is showing that love-can't really be described. No words. Instead, he shows it through visuals and details and such. This makes the film pure, not romanticized and a alluring ode to Asian cinema.
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Not giving too much story-telling here so I'll just say that I grew up with Hana Yori Dango (Inoue's hit-TV series that shot her to fame).
The plot of The Snow White Murder Case is pretty straightforward. There's a crime. Of course what's next is to find the suspect. But what SWMC does differently is instead of trying to pinpoint who the suspect is, we already have one. Miki Shirono played by Inoue. What's left is to identify whether Shirono is really guilty or not. By all means, it seems that all clues lead back to her.
The film features several other characters, Noriko Miki, the one who was murdered, Yuji Akahosi, a reporter trying to solve the case for his 'big break' and at the same time, tweeting updates (which is not allowed in his job), Satoshi Shinoyama and Eimi Mitsushima, both Miki and Shirono's co-workers.
I think that Shirono's character is the one most explored and that's effective given that she is the suspect, in a way, it made her character richer and someone the viewer can sympathize with rather than hate. But that's not to say that the accounts of the other characters are not in vain because they are the pieces of the puzzle that make the story more structured and strong. The flashbacks are great additions to make everything tighter.
There is great storytelling here. The testimonials of the different characters, from co-workers, to the head, to Shirono's neighbour and primary/secondary classmates makes it all the more compelling. Why? Because as a viewer, you need to follow these testimonials to build and finally see the bigger picture. Then you judge. Are all the testimonials true? How can you judge if one is lying or not? That itself is enough to make you focused and think, it's not entertainment but it's also about you as a viewer being involved in the process.
Maybe I'm a little biased when it comes to Inoue but she is definitely one of the greatest actresses of her generation. I have seen her play a tomboy-ish, loud, fierce and strong character in Hana Yori Dango. I have seen her as a girl madly in love in I Give My First Love to You. And here, her performance is superb. The purity, innocence and plain Jane parts of her character here were delivered well. Everyone is full of angst and jealousy and such yet she is the only one full of pain and showing that as an actress makes her the central focus.
Nanao as Noriko Miki is also great. She is able to become flexible with her character, sometimes nice, sometimes not. And it's that type of acting where you just become annoy with the character and you know it's effective because the acting is good enough to make you annoyed. Go Ayano as the desperate Akahoshi is pretty sympathetic to watch and I think his performance also made them film compelling given his up-to-date tweets.
And those tweets made the film show another side of murder mystery. It's showing how the internet (or technology in general) can either help you or condemn you. There's those detective elements and aspects that reinforces the film's objective, making sure you stay focus on the goal as a viewer much like the character.
Cinematography's good. Perhaps there's a tendency for conversations to be long and making shots last longer. But beautiful setting. Not to mention the beautiful score especially by Serizawa Brothers. I love the connection with Anne of Green Gables and the timeline that the film chooses to go back to and tie the whole thing up.
All in all, it is a murder-mystery but it gives you a different side highlighting to what extent would you actually believe people just to get to the answer? In the end, I don't think it'll give you much of a surprise. But how things came to be perhaps might. You would eventually feel bad for the suspect and hate the victim. This film is all about questioning. But that's not to say it's all just about murder. It is the central focus but it's not too heavy on that, there are instances where scenes are light, funny and even dramatic (especially with regards to Shinora's past and I love that).
Maybe the downs of the film is there are times when it seems to good to be true. Sort of wishy-washy. Like you'd actually start to question if such things are possible in real life. Hypocrisy if you think about it since the film tries to establish the "questioning" part. The goal is there true. But the message the film wants to send needs to be stronger. To me in some way, the Curse aspect seems out of place and is not too in sync with the story line though I understand that some of Inoue's past are needed to make her character stronger. (like the reunion-ish with the childhood friend?) Still, some parts of it are questionable.
Overall, Snow White Murder Case is a compelling mystery-thriller. It gives a different side to the story and has great actors especially Inoue's acting.
"Good things are coming."
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See, I do play the guitar and the piano (and used to sing as well), but Linda Linda Linda is more of classic Japanese rock than my usual, or at least what I've grown up with. So I couldn't connect with that aspect. But I still absolutely love the simpleness of the film and the fact that it doesn't try too hard.
Nobuhiro Yamashita uses tracking shots as if to show the growth and progress of the characters. He also knows how to contrast them especially when all the four leads are in one frame. The cuts are long as if the camera just keeps rolling as they're all just acting naturally. That's Linda Linda Linda. Watching it just feel so...natural. So relaxing and at the same time, full of energy.
Bae Donna (who starred in many Hollywood films including Cloud Atlas) shows alienation well but not in the way that will make you pity her. She carries it in a simple natural yet. Aki Maeda, Yuu Kashii and Shiroki Sekine (bassist of Base Ball Bears, whose songs were part of the soundtrack) have such good chemistry on screen, each with their own unique personality that compliments each other.
Well, at least you have a lovely soundtrack to enjoy. Blue Heart's Linda Linda is going to give you Last Song Syndrome (just like it did for me).
Linda Linda Linda is a simple high school tale of friendship. (No drama, no heavy crying). So it doesn't need to be too much to be compelling. If you want something light and at the same time, fun, this is a good one.
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Shadows has an amazing line up: Sang Kang-ho (Memories of Murder, Thirst), Gong Yoo (Train to Busan, A Man and a Woman) and cameo appearance from Lee Byung-hun (A Bittersweet Life, Inside Men) whom Kim has worked previously and Um Tae-Goo (Coin Locker Girl, Veteran).
Pulled at the edge of your seat from start to finish, Kim doesn't disappoint tossing action sequences and twists that he carefully crafts and builds in suspense, only to laid them out with the greatest satisfaction, it leaves you hungry for more.
Just like "I Saw the Devil" and "A Bittersweet Life", Kim starts Shadows with little-to-nothing description of what's going out, only to follow it up with an action-filled chase scene, an amputated toe nail and blood splashed across the wall.
Shadows' 30 minutes train sequence is one of the best I've ever seen. This is the juice. It builds the plot as much as it shapes it and moves it, that includes the characters too. Accompanied by a more menacing version of Ravel's Bolero, the adrenaline just doesn't stop. I, for one, had to pause the film just so I could breathe. Kim brings us from compartment to compartment from character to character from discoveries to discoveries.
Cinematographer Kim Ji-Young does a fine job of transporting us to a 1920s setting of South Korea and Shanghai (the accuracy may be question but it looks beautiful nonetheless) with retro-like colors and saturated tones. Kim ravishes in extremism at times, with loud shoot outs, dialogues delivered in sinister whispers, loud slapping sounds, to torture scenes that likens to his other film, "I Saw the Devil".
Kim channels his narrative into powerful loyalty that seems like The Age of Shadows take a patriotic approach but ultimately, this thrill-filled film is entertaining as much as it is greatly crafted.
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Each with defining personalities of their own also come to find their own places.
Yoo Tae-Hee (Doona Bae) is the peacemaker, I'm-not-ready-for-reality so she works for free at her family's business. But she longs for companionship and for connection, which she tries to find with from a poet with cerebral palsy whom she volunteers as a typist for.
Shin Hae-Joo is working as an office lady but without a proper degree. She seems to be dating but isn't really. A little bit full of herself, Hae-Joo longs to climb the social ladder; thus, settles for what she's thrown at.
The outcast, Seo Ji-Young is an orphan, living in a squatter with her grandparents and studying textiles—she longs for escape, to study in another country.
The cat, like these three girls, are adapting to changes—from being passed from owner to owner. Once a stray cat, it in a way, shows how they too, want to find their place somewhere.
Ultimately, the one who ends up taking care of the cat are the ones who have already found their place long before.
Take Care of My Cat is a subtle coming-of-age. It doesn't try to exaggerate nor does it try to be overly dramatic at its subject matter. There are times when it does hit the heartstrings but at times, it stays true to what it chooses to portray. If any, it's straightforward without being overly sentimental.
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Like Father, Like Son is bittersweet tale that is jarred with the power and emotional bond of family. It takes into question: what makes a family? Is it blood or is it the bond? Is blood truly thicker than water? Swapped children is nothing new, it's a trope. But what Koreeda does is look into this issue in detail, explore it, strip its characters bare and allows the viewer to experience (and question) the responsibilities, the decisions and the identities made/done in the film.
It is a dramatic film but not one that drowns you in useless melodrama, not one that forces you to cry and not one that feeds you with cheesy lines as family. But instead, there is rawness, there is delicate emotions portrayed and more importantly, there is realness.
Again, Koreeda channels extraordinary young talents with the two boys -- Keita and Ryusei. Not only does the contrast between the two complement their differences but it also intensifies the differences of the two families. How will a carefree boy adapt to an independent, almost traditional life? How will an independent boy adapt to a non-traditional, carefree life? How will a work-oriented father bond with his energetic, non-traditional son? How will a fun-oriented father bond with his traditional, almost serious son?
These challenges show that the people who struggle in these circumstances are not adults alone, but also the children. Keita (his real life name) portrays Keita's cuteness with invisible strength and innocence. Shogen Hwang portrayed Ryusei's energy with utmost maturity and curiosity.
Masaharu Fukuyama portrays Ryota with a distant facade that eventually tears down while Jun Kunimura balances it out with her calm and honest personality. On the other side, Lily Franky portrayed the film's comic relief that wields undeniable wisdom of fatherhood to match Ryota's and is further complemented by Yoko Maki's gentleness and cheerfulness. Each and everyone of these actors portrayed their characters with unmatched performance.
It won Jury Prize in Cannes for a reason. And it has caught the eye of Spielberg for a reason.
Amazing cinematography with attention to details (e.g. Keita's hand made rose) that plays itself as something symbolic or important in the film. Not to mention the music pacing with the frames, such beautiful piano to listen to. And finally, the contrast of the close up from the adults' POV to the children and the long shots of the children's POV to the adults. These decisions, as a whole, make Koreeda truly a talented film maker.
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It's subtle but as with Koreeda, it's nothing new: it's about the little details and the little things. I say that Our Little Sister doesn't come as strong because it's less sentimental and it's less melodramatic. The conflict here is not as jarring as say, Nobody Knows or Like Father Like Son. That's one aspect that makes it seem directionless but if you look at it from another way, maybe that's the intention: not to have such a big conflict (the fact that the sister is another woman's is the central conflict) but to just tell a story. And one that's still touching. As someone who doesn't have a sister (I have two brothers and the middle child), I felt the bonds of sisterhood even just a little.
Koreeda trademarks are still present: music pacing (this time, not much piano), long shots showing the beauty of the setting hence, not much close-up and the little details (e.g. the umerashi). Though this time, we don't have young actors (save for Hirose Suzu who is around 17 years old when she filmed this), but the cast including Haruna Ayase, Kaho, Masami Nagasawa (who was also in I Wish) still delivers incredible performances. All three of them were nominated in Japan Academy Award for their performances.
I actually liked the contrast between the four sisters, Ayase plays the eldest, the mother figure, Nagasawa plays the carefree, stylish one, Kaho plays the oddball, happy-go-lucky and Suzu plays the quiet, simple one. It's such a treat to watch all these different personalities go together and interact. There is undeniable chemistry between the four.
Suzu (who won Breakthrough Star in Japan Academy Award), a current rising young star, whose two TV dramas I've seen, can act but sincerity lacks (like her eyes, it's shallow, it doesn't speak the emotions, you get what I mean? Some call her a deadeye actor but she can cry alright) although here because it's less melodramatic, her character fits her well, comparatively speaking. (But with more roles being given to her currently and working with talented actors, perhaps it's bound to change.)
As with Koreeda, lines are so natural and everything flows so well. The cinematography is so beautiful and the beauty of the countryside has been highlighted in the film. It also competed for Palme d'Or at Cannes 2015 (Suzu at Cannes at 17!!)
Our Little Sister isn't bad, I enjoyed it for its simplicity and beautiful visuals. But perhaps its unsentimental approach makes it a lackluster watch compared to other heavy Koreeda's dramas. Indeed, it doesn't have the feels but it has a calming effect as you watch: the setting helps, and the natural acting helps. It won't break your heart but it will touch your heart.
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