Friday, August 18, 2017

Tokyo Twilight




Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Kogo Noda, Tokyo Twilight is the story of two sisters who reunite with their mother after she had abandoned them when they were children as they both deal with their own lives. The film is a look into the life of a family as they cope with this sudden reunion as well as changes in their lives. Starring Setsuko Hara, Ineko Arima, Chishu Ryu, Isuzu Yamada, Kamatari Fujiwara, Nobuo Nakamura, and Haruko Sugimura. Tokyo Twilight is an evocative and touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film follows the life of a banker in Tokyo who has two adult daughters as the eldest had just moved in with him with her two-year-old daughter due to her unhappy marriage where she and her younger sister learn that their mother has returned to Tokyo having been presumed dead for years. It’s a family drama that explores a family life that goes into chaos though there are several things the two women in the family are both dealing with as the eldest sister in Takako (Setsuko Hara) is taking care of things at her father’s home while her father Shukichi (Chishu Ryu) continues to work at the bank as he is dealing with the death of a colleague. The script by Yasujiro Ozu and Kogo Noda also explores the private pain that Takako’s younger sister Akiko (Ineko Arima) is dealing with as she is pregnant as her college boyfriend Kenji (Masami Taura) wants nothing to do with her.

During a search to find Kenji, she goes to a mahjong parlor that is run by a woman name Kisako (Isuzu Yamada) where she claims to know Akiko as she doesn’t tell her that she’s her mother. When Shukichi and Takako invite Shukichi’s sister Shigeko (Haruko Sugimura) that she saw Kisako as Takako learned about what Akiko had been doing though she is unaware of Akiko’s pregnancy. The screenplay would show this meeting between Takako and Kisako as it is filled with tension with the former displaying some resentment over what Kisako had done. Yet, it would set the stage for the emotional journey that Akiko would endure not just her own pregnancy but also revelations about the woman at the mahjong parlor she met.

Ozu’s direction is understated as well as being simple in terms of the compositions he creates and the need to delve into anything stylistic. Shot on location in Tokyo, Ozu would devoid himself of camera movements for the film including no tracking shots or anything of movement. Instead, he just aims a simple static shot to play into the image that he presents where he would use some wide shots for some of the locations in and around Tokyo. Yet, much of what Ozu shoots is with medium shots for much of the film as there’s very little close-ups in order to capture the intimacy and interaction between the characters. Much of is to not dwell too much into the melodrama as it would increase by the film’s third act as it relates to the Takako, Akiko, and Kisako. Ozu would maintain his simple approach to visuals as well as know where to create some offbeat shifts in the story that would seem abrupt but also play into the drama. Especially into what would happen as Ozu is aware of the bleakness that is prevalent in the story but is also aware that life has to continue. Overall, Ozu crafts an intoxicating yet tender film about two women dealing with the re-emergence of their estranged mother.

Cinematographer Yuhara Atsuda does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to capture the beauty of some of the daytime exteriors in Tokyo as well as use some lighting for the interior/exterior scenes at night. Editor Yoshiyasu Hamamura does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with very little elements of style for something more direct. Art director Tatsuo Hamada does fantastic work with the look of the home of Shukichi as well as the mahjong parlor that Kisako runs. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo is terrific for being very simple and natural without the need to embellish as it very understated and to-the-point. The film’s music by Takanobu Saito is amazing for its orchestral-based score that feature some somber string arrangements to play into the drama while the music also feature some traditional Japanese music and contemporary music played on location.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Seiji Miyaguchi as a police officer, Kamatari Fujiwara as a noodle shop owner who lets Akiko drink at his restaurant during the third act, Kinzo Shin as Takako’s estranged husband who visits Shukichi early in the film, Nobuo Nakamura as Kisako’s new husband Sakae Soma, Masami Taura as Akiko’s cruel college boyfriend Kenji, and Haruko Sugimura in a wonderful performance as Shukichi’s sister Shigeko who would tell her brother and niece in her encounter with Kisako. Isuzu Yamada is fantastic as Kisako as Shukichi’s estranged ex-wife Kisako as a woman who has re-emerged in Tokyo with a new life as she recognizes Akiko though doesn’t tell her who she really is as it’s an understated performance that shows a woman trying to start over.

Chishu Ryu is excellent as Shukichi as a banker who is dealing with the death of his family as well as Akiko’s late arrivals at his home wondering what is happening with his family. Ineko Arima is brilliant as Akiko as a young woman trying to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and a troubled relationship with her boyfriend as well as the revelation about the woman she met at a mahjong parlor. Finally, there’s Setsuko Hara in a radiant performance as Takako as a woman who is separated from her husband as she’s trying to run her father’s house and take care of her two-year old daughter while learning about the re-appearance of her mother as she tries to make sure Akiko doesn’t get herself into any trouble as well as getting her mother to not see Akiko ever again.

Tokyo Twilight is an incredible film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, a compelling story, evocative visuals, and a somber music score, the film is definitely one of Ozu’s finest films in its exploration of family and middle-class life. Especially as it play into two women dealing with the unexpected return of their estranged mother whom they had believed had died. In the end, Tokyo Twilight is a sensational film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – (Passing Fancy) – (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman - (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) – (An Autumn Afternoon)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Rescue




For the third week of August 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We go into the theme of rescue as they’re often the kind of films that are always fun to watch as it follow a simple formula that involves the protagonist trying to save someone and do whatever he/she can to kill the fucking bad guys. Here are my picks:

1. Commando



It is one thing to kidnap a young girl from her commando father and force him to kill someone or else the young girl gets killed. Yet, if that commando is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and his daughter is Alyssa Milano. Jabroni, you’re going to need a shitload of body bags. This is an absolutely no-holds-barred, in-your-face action film that isn’t afraid to be cheesy nor provide anything other than just explosive action and some great one-liners that any immigrant coming to America can say and learn. After all, who better to show them the way to the American Dream than a man from Austria who says, “I eat Green Berets for breakfast and right now, I’m very hungry”.

2. The Missing



From Ron Howard is an underrated western in which Cate Blanchett teams up with her estranged father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, to retrieve her daughter who had been kidnapped by some evil Apache warriors. It has Blanchett and Jones along with Jenna Boyd travel on horseback to the Mexican border as it’s an adventurous film that features Evan Rachel Wood as Blanchett’s eldest daughter who is kidnapped along with Elisabeth Moss. Ron Howard is often known for making middling, middle-of-the-road Hollywood films but this is one of his better films.

3. Taken



The film that made Liam Neeson an unlikely action star in which he plays a former CIA operative whose daughter had been abducted by some human traffickers who would sell her to sex slavery. It’s a film that has Neeson telling his daughter’s kidnappers in a very quiet voice that he will hunt them down and kill them. The people who kidnap Neeson’s daughter don’t take his threat very seriously and what happens is that they really fucked up. After all, he’s got some very special skills and will use them.

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Against the Crowd Blog-a-thon 2017




It’s time once again for the Against the Crowd Blog-a-thon hosted by Wendell of Dell on Movies and KG of KG's Movie Rants. Having participated in 2015 and last year’s edition. It’s time once again to do another one as here are the rules:


1. Pick one movie that "everyone" loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of 75% or more on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that "everyone" hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of 35% or less on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

4. Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own.

5. Let us know what two movies you intend on writing about in one of the following ways:

Comment on this post Comment on KG's Movie Rants Tweet me @w_ott3 Tweet KG @KGsMovieRants1

6. Publish your post on any day from Monday August 14 through Friday August 20, 2017.


Here is what I’m offering:



I don’t understand the hoopla over Amy Schumer. I tried to watch some of her standup comedy shows and I don’t think she’s funny. Even in interviews or red carpets, she will say something that is funny and I’m baffled into thinking “was this supposed to be funny?” I have nothing against plus-sized women trying to show they’re sexy as there are some like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence but Schumer is not one of them. Yet, she isn’t the only reason why I’m not fond of Trainwreck which she co-wrote and starred in as some of the reasons it’s not very good is due to its director Judd Apatow. Though Apatow has made great comedies in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, it seems like he is trying to become something more important than other comedy filmmakers by having his films be timed at over two-hours as those two films as well as Funny People and This is 40 do the same in going over two hours which is too much to do for comedies.

Though Trainwreck is a bit shorter than his last two films, it is clear that Apatow crams too much into its 124-minute running time in order to get audiences to laugh where it just feels forced and not engaging enough to be invested into this story about this young woman who finds love but has trouble trying to stay monogamous. Despite the ensemble cast that include the likes of Bill Hader, Brie Larson, and Tilda Swinton, they’re not given much to do as it’s all about Amy Schumer and the appearances from LeBron James and John Cena as the latter isn’t funny in this film. Plus, it wants to be dramatic and it wants the audience to sympathize with Schumer’s lifestyle but her character is completely pathetic and her attempts to be funny are terrible. Part of it is due to Apatow who seriously needs to hire an editor who should tell him what to cut out and try to make something shorter and to the point. Jacques Tati may have gotten away with making a 124-minute comedy with Playtime but at least that film was funny and had a great commentary on the fallacies of modernism.



The 1990s admittedly was not a good decade to be Chevy Chase. Not just for the fact that he was in some bad and mediocre films but also had his career nearly killed when he was given his own late-night talk show that sank quickly after it aired. Yet, there is one film that he did that isn’t as bad as people think it is as it’s just this very funny comedy that is quite out there but all with good reason. Directed, co-written, and starring Dan Aykroyd as a reclusive yet offbeat judge who likes to the take the law in his own hands in this remote town in the middle of New Jersey. Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, the late great Taylor Negron, and Bertila Dimas take a wrong turn and is stopped by the late great John Candy and everything goes to hell in very funny ways. Add Candy in another role as his sister and Aykroyd as a twin, overgrown baby plus an insane rollercoaster that kills people, and an appearance from one of Aykroyd’s favorite hip-hop acts in the Digital Underground with 2Pac. The result is just an insane film though flawed film. It’s got some spotty moments as some of the moments involving Chase are a bit uninspired but Aykroyd, Moore, and Candy are the ones who keep the film fun to watch.

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

Julieta




Based on a collection of short stories entitled Runaway by Alice Munro, Julieta is the story of a woman who just found the whereabouts of her long-lost daughter as she reflects on her past and the events that would shape her life. Written for the screen and directed by Pedro Almodovar, the film is a drama where a woman is eager to reconnect with her estranged daughter as well as deal with the past as the titular character is played by Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte in their respective roles as the older and younger version of the character. Also starring Inma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Daniel Grao, Michelle Jenner, and Rossy de Palma. Julieta is a ravishing yet chilling film from Pedro Almodovar.

The film follows the life of a woman who has been disconnected from her daughter for 13 years as an encounter with a friend of her daughter gives her news about her daughter’s whereabouts. This revelation would prompt Julieta to look back at her life from the moment she would meet the man who would be the father of their child to the tragedy that would shape everything. Pedro Almodovar’s screenplay would base itself on three different stories Alice Munro as it is largely told in a reflective manner by the older Julieta as she writes her story dating back to the 1980s where she was just a literature substitute teacher where she met Xoan (Daniel Grao) on a train to Madrid where Julieta encountered something horrible that would bring her and Xoan together. It’s among these series of intense moments that would affect Julieta as she would spend much of the first act with Xoan at his seaside home where he’s a fisherman while they would have a daughter in Antia with the help of a friend of his late wife in Ava (Inma Cuesta) and a longtime family maid in Marian (Rossy de Palma).

The second act isn’t just about the dysfunction in Julieta’s family life but also the events that would cause this slow rift between her and Antia (Priscilla Delgado) which would be set in Madrid for the film’s second half as Antia becomes close with her friend Beatriz (Sara Jimenez) whom she met at a summer camp. When Antia (Blanca Pares) gets older, things get more troubling as it would lead to Antia disconnecting herself from Julieta causing all sorts of things for the film’s third act. Especially when Julieta would find a new love in Lorenzo (Dario Grandinetti) as she tries to not think about Antia until her encounter with Beatriz (Michelle Jenner) that changes everything. All of which would play into not just the sense of guilt that looms throughout Julieta but also grief as she would lose a lot in her life where she becomes unsure if she wants to re-establish contact with Antia.

Almodovar’s direction is definitely exquisite as it features images and compositions that are gorgeous as well as capture so much into the frame. Shot partially on Madrid with other locations in Rias Altas, La Sierra in Huelva, Pantcosa, Fanlo, and the Pyrenees Mountains, Almodovar creates a film that is quite rich in not just the different locations in Spain but also a film that showcases the different lifestyles that Julieta would endure for much of her life. While the older Julieta is seen mainly in Madrid living in somewhat-posh apartments and later returning to the more quaint apartment she had years earlier when she was living with Antia. Almodovar’s usage of the wide shots play into some of the locations as well as a few scenes at some of the homes that Julieta would go including her family country home during a visit to her parents. Yet, Almodovar would favor more intimate shots with the usage of close-ups and medium shots as he would go into great detail for the former in some shots.

There are moments in the film that do contain some element of surrealism such as the scenes on the train where Julieta and Xoan watch a stag chasing the train while Almodovar would employ some tracking shots and intricate compositions in where to place the actors in a shot. There is something masterful in the compositions that Almodovar creates as it captures so much detail into a shot as well as shooting different scenes on a particular location to play into this idea of the past and the guilt that Julieta carries as she reflects on the mistakes she made in her life as well as tragedy. Even as Almodovar is willing to do something simple as well as keep things in the open as it’s all about what is next step in Julieta’s life. Overall, Almodovar crafts an intoxicating yet haunting film about a woman looking back at the tragedies that would affect her life and relationship with her daughter.

Cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu does amazing work with the film’s very colorful and lush cinematography that feature a lot of natural images for the daytime exterior scenes with some low-key lighting for some of the interiors and scenes set at night. Editor Jose Salcedo does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts in some parts of the film as well as some straightforward cutting to play into the drama. Production designer Antxon Gomez, with set decorator Federico Garcia Cambero and art director Carlos Bodelon, does brilliant work with the look of the different homes that Julieta had lived in throughout her life to the posh look of the apartment she shares with Lorenzo to the quaint apartment she lived in with Antia as well as the home near the sea. Costume designer Sonia Grande does fantastic work with the costumes from the clothes that Julieta wore during the 80s and 90s to a more reserved look once she is in her 40s and 50s as it help play into the evolution of her character.

Makeup designer Ana Lopez-Puigcerver does nice work with the makeup from way Julieta looked like early on her young life with the different hairstyles and such as well as the look of Marian. The special effects work of Kings Abbots and Eduardo Diaz do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it is mostly set-dressing for a few shots revolving around the sea. The sound work of Sergio Burmann is superb for its natural approach to the sound as well as some of the sound effects that play into some of the key moments of the film. The film’s music by Alberto Iglesias is incredible as it features a mixture of piano-based music and heavy orchestral music that help broaden the drama as well as some of the film’s darker moments as it is a major highlight of the film.

The casting by Eva Leira and Yolanda Serrano is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Mariam Bachir as the maid for Julieta’s parents, Priscilla Delgado as the young Antia, Sara Jimenez as the young Beatriz, Pilar Castro as Beatriz’s mother Claudia, Ramon Agirre as a landlord of the apartment that Julieta used to live with Antia, Nathalie Poza as the head of a spiritual retreat compound that Antia went to before she disappeared, Joaquin Notario as Julieta’s father, Susi Sanchez as Julieta’s Alzheimer-stricken mother Sara, and Blanca Pares as the 18-year old Antia who would go on a spiritual retreat and never return without explaining to anyone including her own mother. Rossy de Palma is fantastic as Marian as Xoan’s longtime family maid who watches over everything as well as keep some very dark secrets relating to Xoan as well as some things she would tell Antia. Michelle Jenner is superb as Antia’s longtime childhood friend Beatriz who would have an encounter with Julieta as she would eventually tell her some things about Antia and why they became estranged.

Dario Grandinetti is excellent as Julieta’s current lover in Lorenzo whom Julieta would meet in life through mutual means as he wonders why Julieta has suddenly changed their plans to move to Portugal. Inma Cuesta is brilliant as Ava as a friend of Xoan who was close to Xoan’s late wife as she would befriend Julieta as well as provide some information about what Marian told Antia later in the film. Daniel Grao is amazing as Xoan as a fisherman who would meet Julieta at a train as they fall in love and have a family as he’s this quiet man that loves to fish as he also keeps some secrets from Julieta. Finally, there’s Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as the younger and older version of the titular character. Ugarte brings an anguish and melodrama to her approach as the young Julieta as a woman trying to find herself and be a working mother as well as cope with the tragedies in and around her life. Suarez’s performance as the older Julieta is more reserved as someone who has been through a lot yet there is a sequence that showcases the sense of hurt and anger as someone who felt betrayed and heartbroken.

Julieta is a spectacular film from Pedro Almodovar that features sensational performances from Emma Suarez and Adriana Ugarte in the titular role. Along with its gorgeous visuals, top-notch technical work, a sumptuous score by Alberto Iglesias, a great supporting cast, and an engaging take on grief and guilt. It’s a film that explores loss in a lot of ways as well as a woman dealing with the events in her life and wondering what she could’ve done to change them. In the end, Julieta is a tremendous film from Pedro Almodovar.

Pedro Almodovar Films: Pepi, Luci, Bom - Labyrinth of Passion - Dark Habits - What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Matador - Law of Desire - Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown - Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! - High Heels - Kika - The Flower of My Secret - Live Flesh - All About My Mother - Talk to Her - Bad Education - Volver - Broken Embraces - The Skin I Live In - I'm So Excited!

The Auteurs #37: Pedro Almodovar Pt. 1 - Pt. 2

© thevoid99 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films




Written, co-edited, and directed by Mark Hartley, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is about the film studio that was known for releasing low-budget to medium-budget films during the 1980s as it was run by the cousins of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who would make the studio successful but also notorious. The film is a documentary that explores the studio’s rise and eventual fall in the 1990s as it feature interviews with the many actors and filmmakers who were involved in the films made by the studio. The result is a fascinating and exciting film from Mark Hartley.

In the 1980s, the independent studio known as Cannon Films were creating films that catered to a demographic that just wanted loud, high-octane action, schlock-based films with cheesy special effects, movies with ladies with gorgeous breasts, and all sorts of crazy things all in the name of just wanting to be entertaining. Running this studio were Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus as they were about presenting any financier with money with ideas they believe would make money and the financiers would give it to them not knowing what they would get. Much of the output of the studio ranged from genre-based films as well as a few auteur-based films from such filmmakers as Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, John Cassavetes, Barbet Schroeder, Godfrey Reggio, and Nicholas Roeg.

Though the studio was founded in the late 1960s by Dennis Friedland and Christopher C. Dewey as a distributor to Swedish porn films re-dubbed in English and later getting success through the release of John G. Avildsen’s film Joe. It was when Golan and Globus that would buy the studio in 1979 for half-a-million dollars as they initially use it for the films that Golan had directed as well as other films. Much of the film feature interview with not just the people who worked at Cannon with Golan and Globus but also filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper, Franco Zeffirelli, John G. Avildsen, Albert Pyun, and Boaz Davidson who made films for the studio. Even actors such as Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Forster, Cassandra Petersen, Bo Derek, Olivia d’Abo, Michael Dudikoff, Sybil Danning, Franco Nero, and Molly Ringwald talk about their own experiences working on a film under the Cannon Films banner.

Director Mark Hartley would go for something straightforward with the interviews with the aid of cinematographer Garry Richards while he and co-editors Jamie Blanks and Sara Edwards would compile many films from the Cannon library to showcase its history. Notably in how it rose through a brief partnership with MGM in the early 80s before becoming completely independent where financial deals with foreign financiers by selling them posters and big billboards for films that were either made or not as they would use the Cannes Film Festival for these buys. Golan was the filmmaker who cared about his product as he would tell the filmmakers working for him what he wants while Globus was the man running the business as both of them would sell their products to international buyers and make a lot of money along the way. They would use the money to make films and whatever money is made from that film would go into another production. For a few years, it would work but they had a hard time gaining respectability from Hollywood due to the films that were made as well as being a serious competition to the studios.

Hartley would play into the downfall of the studio not just through the studio’s attempt for respectability and needing to compete with studios despite having a major advantage in the international market. It was through some big-budget flops as films like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Masters of the Universe, and Golan’s Over the Top starring Sylvester Stallone that would hurt the studio. The financial issues of Cannon would affect other films in the making until 1989 where a deal with the Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti would end up being the end due to Parretti’s financial schemes as Golan and Globus parted ways where the former formed a new studio as the two competed against with one another by producing a film each related to the Lambada dance craze in Golan’s The Forbidden Dance and Globus’ Lambada were released on the same day as both films flopped.

With the help of sound recordist Jock Healy, Hartley would use sound from other films as well as showcase things that help play into Cannon’s rise and fall but also the appreciation for the films by those who were involved and such. The film’s music by Jamie Blanks is terrific as it’s mostly a low-key electronic score that play into some of the over-the-top music of those films.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is an incredible film from Mark Hartley. Not only is it an entertaining documentary about one of the most creative studios in cinema but also the two men who were willing to stand out and give people something they could enjoy no matter how bad some of those films were. In the end, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a remarkable film from Mark Hartley.

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Record of a Tenement Gentleman




Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and written by Ozu and Tadao Ikeda, Record of a Tenement Gentleman is the story of a woman who reluctantly takes care of a boy who has been abandoned as she is helped by friends during the era of post-war Japan. The film is among one of the first post-war film in Japan that explains the struggle of daily life as a boy is lost as he copes with his abandonment and the care of a woman who initially wanted nothing to do with him. Starring Chishu Ryu, Chouko Iida, Reikichi Kawamura, and Hohi Aoki. Record of a Tenement Gentleman is an intimate yet touching film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film revolves around the postwar life as a man comes home with a homeless boy who had been abandoned as the woman living at the house reluctantly takes him in. It’s a film with a simple story as it play into a woman living with two men as they struggle to make ends meet in rural Tokyo as one of them finds a boy who is lost as they have no idea what to do. The film’s screenplay doesn’t go for anything dramatic except in its second half as it’s more about this woman in O-tane (Chouko Iida) trying to sell things with the help of a street fortune teller in Tashiro (Chishu Ryu) and a repairman in Tamekichi (Reikichi Kawamura). Tashiro would be the one to find this boy named Kohei (Hohi Aoki) whose father had presumably abandoned him to find work in Tokyo. Tashiro and Tamekichi want to help but they feel that the boy is better suited in the care of O-tane who isn’t so sure if she is able to take care of him as she is frustrated with his stubbornness and the fact that he wets the futon he sleeps on. Still, she would grow to care for the boy as well as wonder where his father is and did he abandon his son on purpose.

Yasujiro Ozu’s direction definitely maintains that air of intimacy throughout the film as well as the fact that he eschews any form of style to create something that is simple and direct. While there are a few camera movements for a scene set on the beach, Ozu’s direction is often placed with some wide and medium shots for much of the film with very few close-ups as it’s all about the simple static shot. Ozu’s approach to compositions in the way he puts an actor into a frame as well as creating that sense of drama as it relates to O-tane’s relationship with Kohei who doesn’t say much throughout the film. The direction also play into moments where O-tane, Tashiro, and Tamekichi are having dinner with neighbors who had won some money from a lottery as it promises a sense of hope during this time of rebuilding. Yet, it’s something O-tane would want but she is forced to contend with reality as it relates to Kohei and his lack of education and social skills as she would be forced to make some realizations about the boy. Especially as Kohei would fulfill something O-tane had lost years ago as Kohei is in need of someone to guide him. Overall, Ozu crafts a very tender yet evocative film about a woman taking in an abandoned boy in postwar Japan.

Cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it play into the gorgeous exteriors of the beaches in rural Tokyo with some lighting for some of the interior scenes at night. Editor Yoshi Sugihara does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward to play into the dramatic elements of the film as well as some of the dramatic tension between O-tane and Kohei. Art director Tatsuo Hamada, with set decorators Shotaro Hashimoto and Mototsugu Komaki, does fantastic work with the look of the home of O-tane as well as some of the places around the neighborhood that is in ruin.

Costume designer Taizo Saito does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly straightforward including the tattered clothes of Kohei. The sound work of Yoshisaburo Senoo does terrific work with the sound as it is play into the natural setting of the locations as well as create something that isn’t totally artificial with the sound effects. The film’s music by Ichiro Saito is superb for its somber yet enchanting score filled with string instruments and lush orchestration to play into the drama as it’s a highlight of the film.

The film’s amazing cast feature some notable small roles from Takeshi Sakamoto as a friendly neighbor, Eiko Takamatsu as the neighbor’s wife, Taiji Tonoyama as a photographer, Hideko Mimura as Tamekichi’s daughter Yukiko, and Eitaro Ozawa as Kohei’s father. Hohi Aoki is superb as Kohei as a seven-year old boy who is quite sensitive and very quiet as he struggles with being abandoned by his father. Chishu Ryu is excellent as Toshiro as the street fortune teller who would find Kohei as he laments over what would happen to the boy. Mitsuko Yoshikawa is fantastic as Kiku as a friend of O-tane who is intrigued about Kohei as well as showing some kindness for the boy. Reikichi Kawamura is brilliant as Tamekuchi as a pot/pans mender who would watch over Kohei as well as expressing concern over how he would be treated. Finally, there’s Chouko Iida in a remarkable performance as O-tane as a widowed woman who sells anything she has in a poor part of Tokyo as she copes with taking care of a boy she isn’t fond of initially only to see the sadness in the boy.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman is a marvelous film from Yasujiro Ozu. Featuring a great cast, a compelling story, and dazzling visuals, the film is definitely a low-key yet engrossing drama that explores postwar life and how a woman would watch over a young boy abandoned by his own father. In the end, Record of a Tenement Gentleman is a sensational film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – Tokyo Chorus - I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – (Passing Fancy) – (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight – (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) – (An Autumn Afternoon)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

Tokyo Chorus




Directed by Yasujiro Ozu and screenplay by Komatsu Kitamura and Kogo Noda, Tokyo Chorus is the story of a working man hoping to get his pay in the chance to give his family a moment of happiness as he deals with the reality of his life. The film is an exploration into the look of the working class in Tokyo as it revolves the story of a man and others dealing with day-to-day life during the Great Depression. Starring Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo, Hideo Sugawara, Hideko Takamine, Tatsuo Saito, and Chouko Iida. Tokyo Chorus is a touching and engaging film from Yasujiro Ozu.

The film follows a man who is fired from his job after turning down a bonus after learning that an older co-worker is fired prompting him to struggle in finding work and raise his family. It’s a film that explores life during the Great Depression in Tokyo as a man is trying to uphold some honor for those he work for as well as trying to do good for his family as he promises his son a bicycle. The film’s screenplay by Komatsu Kitamura and Kogo Noda doesn’t just explore a man dealing with unemployment but also the need to do what is right as he would wander around Tokyo trying to find work at a time when jobs were becoming scarce. The film does open in an unconventional manner as it revolves the protagonist Shinji Okajima (Tokihiko Okada) causing trouble as he is being disciplined by his teacher Omura (Tatsuo Saito). The narrative would fast-forward years later where Okajima is working for an insurance company as he is to receive his bonus but his actions would later lead to trouble as he puts the livelihood of his family at great risk.

Yasujiro Ozu’s direction is definitely simple in terms of the compositions he creates as there isn’t very much movement with the camera other than a few tracking shots and a zoom-out as much of it remains this simple static shot in either close-ups or medium shots. Ozu’s direction captures the life of middle-class Tokyo and nearby areas as it shows a world that is struggling with the Depression where a man in his prime tries to help a co-worker who is older than him. Ozu showcases these struggles with an air of realism and doesn’t go for any kind of visual style to play into this realism. Even in some of the interiors as he captures a family struggling to get by as one of the children is ill as Okajima’s wife Sugako (Emiko Yagumo) is forced to sell a cherished possession. It would all play into Okajima having to wander around Tokyo to find work as he would have to swallow his pride as he would finally get help from someone from his past who would show him the means to fight for what he wants. Overall, Ozu creates a compelling and heartfelt film about a man trying to find work during the Great Depression in Tokyo.

Cinematographer/editor Hideo Shigehara does excellent work with the film’s cinematography and editing as the photography is straightforward in its black-and-white look while the editing is also simple with straight cuts to play into the drama. Set decorators Minzo Kakuta, Tsunetaro Kawaski, Beijiro Tanaka, and Yonekazu Wakita do fantastic work with the look of the home that Okajima and his family live in as well as the office he worked at in the films’ first act. Costume designer Ko Saito does nice work with the costumes from the look of the kimonos as well as the clothes of Okajima as he tries to present himself to get a job. The film’s wonderful score by Donald Sosin from the 2008 release from the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse series is a jovial piano score that help play into some of the film’s humor but also provide the right tone for the dramatic moments.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Kanji Kawara as a doctor, Reiko Tani as Okajima’s boss who would fire him, Ken’ichi Miyajima as the boss’ secretary, Takeshi Samamoto as the elderly employee who would be fired, and Choko Iida as Omura’s wife. Hideo Sugawara and Hideko Takamine are terrific in their roles as Okajima’s children with the former as the son wanting a bike and the latter as the daughter who would get sick during the film’s second act. Emiko Yagumo is excellent as Okajima’s wife Sugako as a wife trying to understand what her husband is doing as well as cope with the severity of his unemployment. Tatsuo Saito is amazing as Omura as a teacher of Okajima in the film’s opening sequence who disciplines him in how to conduct oneself at the work place as well as be someone that would help Okajima regain his confidence. Finally, there’s Tokihiko Okada in a marvelous performance as Shinji Okajima as a man working for an insurance company who tries to defend the rights of a fired co-worker as well as do what he can to give his family a good life while finding a job during one of Japan’s most trying times in the Great Depression.

Tokyo Chorus is a remarkable film from Yasujiro Ozu. It’s a silent film that explore Japan during the Great Depression that is filled with bits of humor as well as drama that has a realness as well as something that is engaging to a wide audience about the struggles to provide for one’s family. In the end, Tokyo Chorus is an incredible film from Yasujiro Ozu.

Yasujiro Ozu Films: (Sword of Penitence) – (Days of Youth) – I Was Born, But... - (Dragnet Girl) – (Passing Fancy) – (A Mother Should Be Loved) – A Story of Floating Weeds - (An Inn in Tokyo) – (The Only Son) – (What Did the Lady Forget?) – (Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) – (There Was a Father) – Record of a Tenement Gentleman – (A Hen in the Wind) – Late Spring - Early Summer - (The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) – Tokyo Story - Early Spring - Tokyo Twilight – (Equinox Flower) – Good Morning - Floating Weeds - Late Autumn - (The End of Summer) – (An Autumn Afternoon)

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks: Summer Blockbusters




For the second week of August 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. We venture into world of summer blockbusters as it’s become a phenomenon since Jaws hit theaters in the summer of 1975 and changed the face of cinema forever as it would get bigger two years later with Star Wars. More than 40 years later, the summer blockbuster has offered all sorts of films whether it’s escapist and grand films or something different as this year so far has been a really good blockbuster season that has offered so many different kind of films. Here are my three picks:

1. Wonder Woman



Superhero films and franchises is often the norm of the summer blockbuster as they offer a sense of excitement to comic book fans and casual movie audiences. This year didn’t just offer a couple of entries from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming but also a film from the DC Extended Universe that is a real game-changer. Patty Jenkins’ film about the Amazonian princess who wants to save the world without any kind of compromise is the film comic book-adapted films and superhero films need. Most of all, it’s a film that gives women and young girls someone they can root for as it’s managed to exceed all sorts of expectations as well as give Gal Gadot a major step into superstardom.

2. Baby Driver



While the summer always offer movies from studios that are meant to be the big spectacles, there is always an alternative as this year did offer that from such noted auteurs as Sofia Coppola with The Beguiled and this film from Edgar Wright. A blend of the musical with comedy and high-octane action inspired by the car movies of the 1970s is really unlike anything out there as it features a kick-ass soundtrack that help drive the story as well as present something that is different. It’s got all sorts of things yet it remains something simple about a getaway driver who listens to music in his job.

3. Dunkirk



Christopher Nolan has been sort of synonymous with the summer blockbuster with such films as his Batman trilogy and 2010’s Inception as he offers audiences the real alternative to the blockbusters that are all flash and no substance. Yet, his newest film is totally different in not just being a war film but an unconventional war film that doesn’t play by the rules of traditional narratives. In this dramatic re-telling of the real-life Dunkirk evacuation, Nolan creates a war film that is directly into the action set in three different areas in different frames of time as it is pretty much a daunting task in the world of film.

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, August 07, 2017

Until the End of the World


(In Memory of Jeanne Moreau (1928-2017) & Sam Shepard (1943-2017))


Directed by Wim Wenders and screenplay by Wenders and Peter Carey from a story by Wenders and Solveig Dommartin with ideas from Michael Almereyda, Until the End of the World is the story of a road trip involving two people as they drive around the world before it’s to end in the new millennium as a nuclear satellite is about to enter Earth. The film is considered the ultimate road film as it involve two people traveling through four continents carrying something that could help the world just as time is running out. Starring William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Sam Neill, Chishu Ryu, Lois Chiles, David Gulipill, Max von Sydow, Rudiger Volger, Ernie Dingo, and Jeanne Moreau. Until the End of the World is a sprawling and evocative film from Wim Wenders.

A nuclear satellite from India is malfunctioning as it is set to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere setting panic across the planet where a woman’s encounter with bank robbers and later a man on the run would take her to a journey around the world. It’s a film that is this massive journey in which a woman with self-destructive tendencies falls for this mysterious man she has met in the South of France as he would steal a cut of the money she’s gained for helping a couple of bank robbers as she would follow this man all over the world who is in trouble with the law. Amidst all of this is the idea of a world coming to an end as the world’s leaders try to figure out how to deal with the satellite that is to crash down on Earth and destroy civilization as it’s in the backdrop of this story of two people traveling around the world as one of them is carrying a machine that could help humanity.

The film’s screenplay Wim Wenders and Peter Carey is largely told from the perspective of the novelist Eugene Fitzpatrick (Sam Neill) who narrates the film from time to time as he reflects on the journey he would participate in as it relates to the protagonist in his girlfriend Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) who is this aimless party girl that is indifferent to what is happening in the world. Through a detour from a traffic jam, Claire would drive from Venice to Paris where her encounters with bank robbers in Raymond (Eddy Mitchell) and Chico (Chick Ortega) lead to a car crash as she would help them hide and given a cut of the money they stole unaware that there’s a tracking device in the bag she’s carrying. Upon getting her car repaired, she would meet this mysterious man named Trevor McPhee (William Hurt) who gets a ride to Paris as he would later steal a bit of the money she had prompting her to find him all over Europe for much of the film’s first act. The second act isn’t just a continuation of Tourneur following McPhee with the help of a private investigator in Philip Winter (Rudiger Volger) with Fitzgerald joining in the search later on. It’s about Tourneur falling for McPhee where Winter and Fitzgerald learn about his true identity and why he’s on the run.

Traveling to cities such as Lisbon, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, San Francisco, and eventually ending in the Australian outback, the film’s narrative showcase the search that Tourneur would endure where it’s not just this existential journey but also a way into a world that she might see for the last time as time is a factor in the film. The sense of the unknown about this nuclear satellite looms throughout the film as the film’s third act set in the Australian outback isn’t just about McPhee and his mission but the people he’s reaching out to in a scientist named Henry Farber (Max von Sydow) and Farber’s blind wife Edith (Jeanne Moreau). Especially at a time when the unthinkable has happened leading to those wondering how the end of the world could be the beginning of something new.

Wenders’ direction is definitely grand in terms of not just the ambition he took to shooting the film in different locations across four continents around the world. It’s a film that is constantly moving whether it’s by land, by air, or by sea as it play into a world that is doing what it needed to do despite the fact that a nuclear satellite is about to crash to hit the Earth’s atmosphere and land somewhere. Wenders would show this sense of impending doom in the background whether it’s on a TV program or on a newspaper as Tourneur is too distracted to notice what is happening as she is eager to find McPhee. While there are a lot of wide shots to establish some of the locations and places these characters go into. Wenders doesn’t make sure the different locations would deter from the story as there is an intimacy whether it’s through a small video camera that Tourneur would carry from her home movie in China or some of the scenes during the third act on the Australian outback.

Wenders’ direction also has this sense of style in the close-ups and medium shots while giving each location its own mood and visual style as the scenes in Tokyo and rural Japan showcase something quiet and transcendence where Tourneur knows who McPhee really is and why he’s on the run as he is also dealing blindness due to the machine he’s carrying. The machine itself is something that would showcase what McPhee is trying to do for the Farbers as it is a very personal mission for McPhee as he hopes the machine would do some good for humanity. The third act in Australia which takes place just after the event that is described as the end of the world in terms of what happens to technology and all of the things that used to run the world. There is a moment where amidst this sense of the unknown about whether the world is gone after all or nothing has happened. There is a scene just before the end of the 20th Century is where this mixture of Aborigines and foreigners are just playing and listening to music as they don’t dwell into the loss of technology or the need to communicate with people from the outside world. It is a very brief moment of pure simplicity and community that showcases what humanity could be as all of the characters who were part of Tourneur’s journey interact as one.

Yet, it’s a very brief moment that is followed by humanity’s own flaw as it play into the need to start again with technology as it play into not just the sense of immorality but also loss. It’s where Fitzgerald becomes the protagonist of sorts where he goes through his own development from being a lover of Tourneur obsessed with going after her into finding himself. He would observe into what Farber has created that leave Tourneur and McPhee not just lost but also display something that Wenders sees is absolutely dead-on about what the world would become in the 21st Century. It’s where the protagonists are once again traveling but instead in reality, it’s through the mind where they become completely lost and they need to go into a journey of self-discovery. Overall, Wenders creates a majestic yet intoxicating film about a couple going on a worldwide journey just before the world is about to end.

Cinematographer Robby Muller does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the exteriors in the different locations with some lighting for some of the interior scenes including the party at Venice or the hotels in Lisbon, Berlin, and Moscow. Editor Peter Przygodda does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts in some places as well as montages to play into Fitzgerald’s narration and other elements to help play into the sense of movement of the film. Production designers Sally Campbell and Thierry Flamand, with set decorators Ze Branco and Tim Ferrier as well as a quartet of art directors in Steve Burns, Claudio Carrer, Ian Gracie, and Jan Schlubach, do fantastic work with the look of some of the places the characters go to such as the party in Venice, Fitzgerald’s Parisian apartment, the different hotel rooms through the different locations, and Farber’s lab inside the caves in Australia.

Costume designer Montserrat Casanova does superb work with the costumes from the array of dresses that Tourneur wears including the black wig as well as some of the stylish clothes the men wear throughout the film. The special effects work of Frank Schlegel is terrific for the look of the visuals from the machines that McPhee is carrying as well as what Farber is displaying from the big televisions to the computers at the lab. The sound work of Jean-Paul Mugel is amazing for the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sound of radios, televisions, and vehicles to create something natural and engaging. The film’s music by Graeme Revell is incredible for its mixture of jazz, ambient, and electronic music to play into this idea of a music of the future as it play into the sense of the unknown while the film’s music soundtrack features a diverse collection of acts and artists who all provide their own ideas of the music of the future. Among these acts and artists in the film’s soundtrack include music from Talking Heads, U2, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Neneh Cherry, Jane Sibbery and k.d. lang, Daniel Lanois, R.E.M., Can, T-Bone Burnett, Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith with Fred “Sonic” Smith, Crime & the City Solution, and Julee Cruise.

The film’s marvelous cast include an array of appearances and small roles from Adelle Lutz as a friend of Tourneur in Makiko, Ernie Dingo as a detective trying to find McPhee, Ernest Berk and Christine Oesterlein as relatives of Farber, Allen Garfield as a used car salesman in San Francisco, Lauren Graham (not the actress of Gilmore Girls fame) as Farber’s granddaughter, Jimmy Little as an Aboriginal assistant of Farber in Peter, Justine Saunders as Edith’s caretaker Maisie, Kylie Belling as an Aboriginal doctor who carries a radiation detector, Kuniko Miyake as a Japanese innkeeper, and Eddy Mitchell as a French bank robber who gets wounded during the escape as he thanks Tourneur for helping him. Chick Ortega is terrific as Chico as a French bank robber who befriends Tourneur as he would follow her around the world through his tracking device while aspires to be a drummer while Chishu Ryu is superb as a Japanese innkeeper who specializes in making herbs as he would help McPhee with his eye site.

Lois Chiles is wonderful as Farber’s daughter Elsa who would provide the images key to what Edith would see while David Gulipill is fantastic as an Aboriginal man named David who is a family friend that would help McPhee reach his destination. Rudiger Volger is excellent as the private detective Philip Winters as a man who specializes in finding missing children as he helps Tourneur find McPhee in the film’s first act only to discover his true identity where he and Fitzgerald would follow them. Max von Sydow is brilliant as Henry Farber as a scientist trying to create a machine that would allow the blind to see things based on memories only to go way over his head with his ambitions. Jeanne Moreau is radiant as Edith Farber as the scientist’s blind wife who laments over the experiment she is taking part of as well as wondering if what she’s participating will do any good for the world.

Sam Neill is amazing as Eugene Fitzgerald as the film’s narrator who is a lover of Tourneur that copes with the journey Tourneur is enduring as well as his own writer’s block as he tries to write a novel only to find something more in Australia as he would embrace the simplicity of life while watch Tourneur and McPhee descend toward their obsession with technology. William Hurt is incredible as Trevor McPhee as a mysterious man that is on the run from the law as he is carrying a machine from Farber where he would cope with blindness and the demands of his mission as it’s a very low-key yet engaging performance from Hurt. Finally, there’s Solveig Dommartin in a phenomenal performance as Claire Tourneur as an aimless party girl who embarks on a journey that would change her life as she copes with the things she is seeing as it’s this entrancing yet offbeat performance from Dommartin.

Until the End of the World is a tremendous film from Wim Wenders. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals set on many different locations, a riveting story on a world coming to an end, and an exhilarating music soundtrack. It’s a film, in its full-length near five-hour run time, truly lives up to the idea of the ultimate road movie in a lot of ways while also predicting what would happen during the end of the world as well as humanity becoming reliant on technology to find something that can’t be found. In the end, Until the End of the World is a magnificent film from Wim Wenders.

Wim Wenders Films: (Summer in the City) - (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty) - (The Scarlet Letter (1973 film)) - (Alice in the Cities) - (The Wrong Move) - (Kings of the Road) - (The American Friend) - (Lightning Over Water) - (Room 666) - (Hammett) - (The State of Things) – Paris, Texas - (Tokyo-Ga) – Wings of Desire - (Notebook on Cities and Clothes) - (Faraway, So Close!) - (Lisbon Story) - (Beyond the Clouds) - (A Trick of Light) - (The End of Violence) - (Buena Vista Social Club) - (The Million Dollar Hotel) - (The Soul of a Man) - (Land of Plenty) - (Don’t Come Knocking) - (The Palermo Shooting) - (Pina) - Salt of the Earth - (Every Thing Will Be Fine) – (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – (Submergence)

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, August 04, 2017

Game of Death




Directed by Robert Clouse with some action scenes by Sammo Hung and written by Clouse and Raymond Chow under the Jan Spears pseudonym, Game of Death is the story of a martial arts movie star who is targeted by a crime syndicate as he fakes his death to go after them and protect his girlfriend. Originally meant to be Bruce Lee’s directorial debut in the same name, the film incorporates some of the footage from the film Lee was making before his death into a new story that would include scenes with Lee and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with a lot of new footage from Clouse. Also starring Colleen Camp, Gig Young, Dean Jagger, and Hugh O’Brian. Game of Death is a riveting though messy film from Robert Clouse and Sammo Hung.

After refusing to do more work for a syndicate for a legitimate life as an action film star, the film revolves around this man who has been targeted by a Hong Kong crime syndicate who wants him dead as well as threatening the life of his singer girlfriend. After being shot on a film set where he was presumed death, the actor Billy Lo would survive as he fakes his death so he can deal with the syndicate head on. The screenplay that Clouse and Chow write would follow a simple storyline as it plays into this actor going after the crime boss Dr. Land (Dean Jagger) and his main henchman Steiner (Hugh O’Brian) while the few that knows he’s alive is the journalist Jim Marshall (Gig Young) who also watches over Lo’s girlfriend Anne (Colleen Camp).

Robert Clouse’s direction does have moments that are exciting as well as scenes and compositions that help tell the story. Yet, it’s messy due to the fact that he only uses very little of what Bruce Lee was doing with the original film with the exception of three scenes where Billy Lo was fighting Dr. Land’s three henchmen though it’s truncated in some spots. Shot on location in Hong Kong and parts of Macau, Clouse’s direction is quite straightforward though many of his shots involving the Lo character are often seen in wide and medium shots with Kim Tai-Jong and Chen Yao-po as doubles for Lee where they would often wear big sunglasses or seen from afar though there’s time you do see their faces where it’s obvious that it’s not Bruce Lee. Hung’s direction for the fight scenes is also similar in terms of trying not to have the close-ups of the doubles that include Yuen Baio for some of the acrobatic stunts of Lo.



Clouse would use footage from other films that Lee was in such as Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon for a few scenes of the film that Lo is making as the latter feature bits of Lee fighting Chuck Norris for the film’s opening sequence. There are moments in the film that do feel awkward at times where there’s Lee’s head superimposed on an actor’s head in one shot for a scene where Lo is being lectured by Steiner. It’s a moment that does take out some of drama and suspense while there are a few other parts of the film that would feature close-up of Lee from other films that don’t fit in with the footage that Clouse and Hung are creating in the action and suspense as it does create a sense of continuity errors that do become noticeable. Even as Clouse would use footage from Lee’s funeral for a scene is something that feels wrong and very unnecessary. Despite these flaws, Clouse and Hung do manage to create something that Lee would’ve made though the actual film by Lee in its in-completed form is more entrancing in its sense of fluidity and careful choreography through the fight scenes. Overall, Clouse and Hung create an engaging but flawed film about a movie star faking his death to fight a crime syndicate.

Cinematographer Godfrey A. Godar does nice work with the cinematography despite some of the visual continuities in matching the unfinished footage with the finished footage visually. Editor Alan Pattillo does some fine work with the editing although it does dwell into some fast-cutting to take out some of the things in the fight that does raises question into its continuity. Sound recordist Danny Daniels does superb work with the sound in capturing some of the action and sound effects despite some of the fake yells for the Lo character. The film’s music by John Barry does some excellent work with the usage of strings and bombastic percussions to play into the action and suspense as it’s one of the highlights of the final film.

The film’s cast does feature some notable small roles from Mel Novak as an assassin named Stick, Robert Wall as a brutish fighter/henchman of Dr. Land in Carl Miller, Sammo Hung as Miller’s opponent in a fight, Dan Inosanto and Ji Han-jae as a couple of men that Lo would fight, and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar as the tall henchman known as Hakim. Gig Young is excellent as Lo’s journalist friend Jim Marshall as one of the few that Lo can really trust while Colleen Camp is wonderful as Lo’s girlfriend Anne as this singer who is forced to see the actions of the syndicate up close. Dean Jagger’s performance as Dr. Land is weak as he’s just this old man that just orders people and feed his fish while Hugh O’Brien is terrific as his lead henchman Steiner as a guy with a blade inside his cane. The performances of the men playing Billy Lo can do cool stunts but they don’t really showcase the essence of Bruce Lee while Chris Kent’s dubbing as Lo is pretty lame.

The unfinished version of Game of Death that was written, directed, and starring Lee that was shot by cinematographer Tadashi Nishimoto and edited by Peter Cheung with music by Joseph Koo and Peter Thomas is a very different film from what Clouse and Hung created. Though Clouse and Hung used 11-minutes of what Lee had filmed, the thirty-eight minutes of material that Lee had filmed is way more compelling than the final product. It revolves around a retired martial arts champion named Hai Tien who is coerced out of retirement to enter a game of death at a South Korean pagoda where he is to face five masters as each level feature a master that is very difficult. Three of the five levels were filmed as it features a Dan Inosanto as the third-floor guardian, Ji Han-jae as the fourth-floor guardian, and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar as the fifth-floor guardian Mantis though he’s re-named as Hakim in the final version of the film. Tien is joined by two other men in this game in Mr. Tien (James Tien) and Mr. Yuan (Chieh Yuan) who would participate in fighting the fourth and fifth guardians.

Whereas Hung’s direction for the fights are messy due to the mixture of footage with Lee and the recreated footage with the doubles. The fight scenes by Lee is more engaging as Cheung’s editing offers so much in terms of what is happening as well as getting the sense of rhythm in the fighting to play into its suspense and drama. Even in the climatic showdown with Mantis where there’s so much attention to detail in the drama as well as the room where the fight is happening. The performances of Jabbar, Inosanto, and Han-jae are given more attention as they show not just their skills but also the sense of respect in the fight itself. Especially as Lee showcase what it at stake as an example of what he was aiming to do as he also gives this incredible performance as a fighter where Lee displays that air of charm and toughness.

The finished version of Game of Death is a stellar but flawed film from Robert Clouse and Sammo Hung. Despite its good intentions along with some nice action sequences, it’s a film that is bogged down by some continuity issues as well as the fact that the doubles playing Bruce Lee aren’t that good. Lee’s unfinished version of the film is far more interesting as it show what Lee was hoping to do as it has something much grander. In the end, the final version of Game of Death is a good film while the unfinished version of the film is spectacular all from the mind of the legendary Bruce Lee.

Related: The Big Boss - Fist of Fury - (The Way of the Dragon) – Enter the Dragon

© thevoid99 2017