TIFF 2014 Review: The World of Kanako

 


The first two minutes of Tetsuya Nakashima’s violent and unrelenting assault on the senses are a litmus test on whether one should proceed. A frenetic orgy of editing non-sequitors, both assaulting and attention grabbing, occurs right before slamming into a stylized split-screen opening credits sequence right out of 1960s Nikkatsu cop movies but painted over with expletives and animated blood spatters. What follows is 120 minutes of uncomfortable, aggressive, and rigourously crafted filmmaking. Even up against the most extreme offerings from Takashi Miike and Sion Sono this film feels like it is pushing the visual envelope to an endgame where this branch of cinema is ready to be pruned from the tree lest it grow any further and kill the organism. I jest, but only a little

The film features the sweatiest and angriest performance from Kôji Yakusho in his prolific career. As disgraced detective Akikazu, he is channelling the same unhinged brutishness as Michael Caine’s Get Carter and Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutenant. He starts the film off in a ratty white suit with a rats nest of hair and a glaze of perspiration on everything. As the film proceeds at bullet train velocity, a derailment ever 4 minutes or so, the suit gets soaked in blood, his face a punching bag of bruises and tense angry expression.

Divorced from his wife after an she had affair, and he pummelled the other man into the hospital, Akikazu has been cut off from his daughter and left to stew in his own rage for months. The doctors have him on some powerful brain medications which ostensibly are the reason for the temporal obliteration in the editing structure. He is unstuck in time from his state of mind and chemistry such that he barely knows what is happening at any given moment, blinded rage at the universe for his lot in life. He is given purpose when his daughter is kidnapped and his ex-wife pleas with him for help. Tangentially akin to Christopher Nolan’s far more sedate Memento or Erik Van Looy’s underrated The Alzheimer Case, in terms of anti-heroes in no shape for any kind of procedural investigation, this is just the framework for the gonzo editing tapestry which unfolds.

Azikazu’s bull in a china shop investigation of the private life of his daughter, Kanako, reveals her to be as big a monster as her father, only with the whims and desires of a hormonal teenager. She is Laura Palmer in Fire Walk With Me, raised to the power of Ichi The Killer. Flashbacks of school bullying, suicide, Spring Breakers inspired drug orgies, and other extracurricular prostitutions are as far as possible from the quiet, controlled simmering of Nakashima’s previous school set trauma-drama Confessions.

The quest might be noble, but Azikazu goes about it in the most monstrous fashion. Women are slapped, sexually assaulted, men are stabbed, shot and curb stomped. Did I mention this movie is not for the faint of heart? Where things become irresponsible is that many sequences, even people being run over by vehicles, are playfully whimsical. The score consists foot tapping, classic tunes including House of the Rising Sun and Across 110th Street only with newly written english lyrics substituted in. The tonal shifts on display here boggle the mind. There is some kind of mad genius at work here. The craft is impeccible.

Along with so many other 21st century Japanese films, what the creative set has has to say about the nation’s educational institutions, is that it is they are place of abject, unrelenting terror. Blame is placed as much on the culture and the establishment as it is on distant, neglectful parenting. But the film doesn’t point fingers, it breaks them or chops them off. When reality penetrates Akikazu’s anger and drug fuelled haze to realize his quest is more to kill his daughter with his own hands rather than any quaint notion of saving her from the cruel world. Everyone is drowning in a river of shit (us included) so wide that the embankments are not visible and the current is unyielding. This is not hyperbole, this is what it is.

The filmmakers and actors have no interest in proceeding with caution in The World of Kanako, but my suggestion is that anyone taking this trip to cinematic hell be aware of just how far down the rabbit hole goes.

Film on TV: November 8-14

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The Mark of Zorro, playing late Wednesday/early Thursday on TCM

Not a lot in the way of newly featured stuff this week – most of the new ones are part of TCM’s Moguls & Movie Stars History of Hollywood series, which moves into the dawn of the studio era this week, with 1910s films from Thomas Ince, D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. There’s plenty of fine repeats, though, if the early silent era isn’t your thing.

Monday, November 8

7:00pm – TCM – Moguls & Movie Stars: The Birth of Hollywood
Part Two of TCM’s History of Hollywood series, moving on from the so-called primitive film of the early 1900s and into the beginnings of the studio era in the 1910s. This is still Hollywood finding its feet, moving into features as well as shorts, studios beginning to develop brand identities. Programmed alongside are representative films from the era, including a western by Thomas Ince, D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking and controversial Birth of a Nation, and Within Our Gates from pioneering black director Oscar Micheaux (almost certainly programmed as a counter to Birth of a Nation‘s inherent racism, but also an important film on its own – there are precious few black directors in Hollywood even today, so Micheaux is a pretty amazing guy).

Tuesday, November 9

7:35am – IFC – Che
Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious two-part epic about South American revolutionary Che Guevara. IFC is playing both parts back to back.
2008 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Julia Ormond, Rodrigo Santoro.

12:25pm – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative ñ this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didnít know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Qíorianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See
(repeats at 9:45am on the 10th)

6:20pm – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria, one of the films Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase, casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen.
1957 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
Must See
(repeats at 8:45am on the 10th)

8:00pm – TCM – Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Trust Stanley Kubrick to find the funny side of the Cold War. Peter Sellers plays multiple parts, including the President, an insane general who wants to nuke Russia, and the limb-control-impaired doctor of the title. It’s zany, it’s over-the-top, it’s bitingly satirical, and it remains one of Kubrick’s best films in a career full of amazing work.
1964 USA/UK. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott.
Must See

2:00am (10th) – TCM – Kind Hearts and Coronets
In one of the zaniest of the zany comedies that Alec Guinness was best known for in his early career, he plays eight, count ’em, eight characters – all relatives in line to receive a duke’s massive fortune upon his death. The last in line plots to murder all the others to make himself the sole heir.
1949 UK. Director: Robert Hamer. Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price.

Would you like to know more…?

Film on TV: July 5-11

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Little Children, playing on Sunday on Sundance

As I started doing last week, I’ve included a number of films this week that I haven’t personally seen, but that I thought were worth highlighting. If anyone wants to speak up for them in the comments or send me a blurb about them to include in future columns, please feel free. Among those are This is England, Get Shorty, Wendy & Lucy, Fort Apache, American Psycho, and Cool Hand Luke. Other newly featured stuff to look out for: Marie Antoinette, which solidified Sofia Coppola among my favorite directors, hidden gem of a B-movie film noir The Narrow Margin, incredible modern melodrama Little Children, and D.W. Griffith silent epic Orphans of the Storm.

Monday, July 5

9:00pm – IFC – Barton Fink
One of the Coen Brothers’ most brilliant dark comedies (heh, I think I say that about all of their dark comedies, though), Barton Fink follows its title character, a New York playwright whose hit play brings him to the attention of Hollywood, where he goes to work for the movies. And it all goes downhill from there. Surreal, quirky, and offbeat, even among the Coens work. It’s based loosely on the experiences of Clifford Odets, whose heightened poetic style of writing has clearly been influential on the Coens throughout their career.
1991 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, Tony Shalhoub.

10:00pm – TCM – To Kill a Mockingbird
Widely regarded as one of the best adaptations of a great novel ever, To Kill a Mockingbird captures the themes and mood of the novel perfectly, following the racial and social tensions of a murder trial in the South.
1962 USA. Director: Robert Mulligan. Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Robert Duvall.
Must See

Tuesday, July 6

7:00am – Sundance – This is England
One I’ve been meaning to see but haven’t gotten to yet, about a young English boy being drawn into a group of skinheads in the early 1980s. Has anyone here seen it? Recommend it?
2006 UK. Director: Shane Meadows. Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Jo Hartley, Stephen Graham, Andrew Shim.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 12:45pm, and at 6:20am and 1:15pm on the 10th)

11:30am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See

6:45am – IFC – Sleeper
One of Woody Allen’s early films, and a rare attempt at science fiction on his part, has meek Miles Monroe cryogenically frozen only to wake in a totalitarian future as part of a radical movement to overthrow the government. A rather different film for Woody, but still with his signature anxious wit and awkwardness.
1973 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory.
(repeats at 8:20am and 1:35pm on the 7th)

Would you like to know more…?

Bookmarks for December 9-10

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  • Bad Lieutenant (1992) – Ed Howard, Only the Cinema
    A thoughtful and visceral review of the original Bad Lieutenant: “Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant is a film entirely built around its central performance, Harvey Keitel’s fearless, unfettered turn as a corrupt, unnamed New York City police lieutenant. Keitel delivers a performance of unrelenting power and intensity, a nasty, ugly portrayal of a man on a mission of self-destruction. He staggers through a filthy, dimly lit vision of New York, doing drugs in grimy apartments and even grimier hallways, pulling out his gun at a moment’s provocation, engaging in sordid sexual exploits even though he actually seems barely interested, and must have so many drugs in his system that real sexuality is impossible anyway. It’s a sloppy, crazy performance, and Keitel pours himself into it, breathing life into this bottom-dwelling man, this guy who, for no discernible reason, seems bent on bringing himself to the lowest possible place.”
  • façade: Forgotten ’50s Femmes
    An appreciation and call to remember 1950s B-movie actresses like Barbara Rush, Julie Adams, Delores Michaels, Dana Wynter, Patricia Owens, and Martha Hyers.
  • Top 10 Comedies of 2009
    The comedy tide turned a bit in 2009. Titans dropped while underdogs soared. Alpha males were KO’d while beta males throw punishing right hooks — in quality, at least. Box office is another story.
  • TIFF Announces Canada’s Top Ten 2009
    Alphabetically: Cairo Time; Carcasses; Crackie; Defendor; La Donation; J’ai tué ma mère; Passenger Side; Polytechnique; The Trotsky; The Wild Hunt
  • Meet the ‘Shock Jocks’ of movie criticism: Armond White and Fiore Mastracci
    Two film reviewers who attract gallons of bile from those who consider themselves discerning fans are Fiore Mastracci and Armond White. Mastracci is a film teacher from Pittsburgh with a blog and a cable television show, who writes reviews for (in his own words), “those who remember when films had and expounded on American and family values” [..] Armond White, meanwhile, is no idiot. He writes for the Manhattan freesheet New York Press, and is currently the chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. When he gave a bad review to the otherwise-acclaimed South African sci-fi thriller District 9 this summer, the web erupted in outrage.

Bookmarks for November 20th

What we’ve been reading over the past week or so.

  • For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
    As hard as it is for those prone to bitching about the Academy to admit, they don’t always get it wrong. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to find twenty-five examples of where they most certainly got it right (though mind you, it was even easier finding fifty things they got wrong). So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in descending order for your anticipatory pleasure. Unlike the 50 snubs, I opened to up to all categories, since, again, there wasn’t quite the plethora of options.
  • REEL TRUTH: Why Women Should Stay Away from Twilight
    Twilight was never supposed to get this big. It looked like it was simply meant to be a high brow straight to DVD film. Instead it turned the media world into complete chaos and because of that, females of many different ages fell into the beautiful lies Twilight created to make us believe about Bella and Edward’s intense karmic connection. Funny how so many women avoid or are completely unaware of the many flaws and bullsh*t they eat up from the series, but today is the day I am going to attempt to open their eyes to see how using Twilight as a guide book/film to dating will only bring disappointment to your love life.
  • David Lynch on Going to India to Shoot His Next Movie
    During his downtime, Lynch is working to bring meditation into schools worldwide. Vulture caught up with Lynch at the Russian Tea Room on Sunday, before his scheduled speaking engagement with the Hudson Union Society, to discuss his favorite directors, the importance of final cut, and how his next film project will take him to India.
  • Film features: The Story Behind Fight Club
    Reese Witherspoon, Sean Penn and Courtney Love might’ve starred in Fight Club? I think we’re all glad that it ended up the way it did. Here is how David Fincher brought this iconic film to realization.
  • Fantastic Planet (La planète sauvage, 1973)/De Profundis (2007) (Ferdy on Films, etc.)
    Marilyn Ferdinand looks at two unusually artistic (in the sense of looking like paintings) animated films, arguing for the continuation of this art form and its peculiar emotional pull in the face of modern computer animation.
  • Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2010 New Frontier Lineup
    In the first of its announcements for its upcoming 2010 program, Sundance Institute revealed Wednesday the selection of 13 artists from six countries whose works will be presented as part of the New Frontier sidebar at Sundance Film Festival. A collection of digital art, film screenings, multimedia performances, site-specific installations and video presentations will take part in what organizers promise to be “a fully immersive media lounge” for festival goers to experience throughout the event.
  • Up and Up!
    Last week, Disney/Pixar released to the home-viewing market Up, their CGI-animated colorfest that just happens to share a name with a 1976 fuckfest by Russ Meyer (the latter adds an exclamation mark just to convey how excited it is to exist). It would seem that an animated film about a man who saves his life from the shadows of the twilight years by attaching thousands of balloons to his house, sailing to a far-off land and saving a rare bird species from exploitation has little in common with a who-killed-Hitler murder mystery that’s a thinly veiled excuse to showcase people having (softcore but graphic) simulated sex while Kitten Natividad narrates it all as the one-woman Greek chorus. However, there are more similarities than you might think.
  • Only Eight of This Decade’s Best Picture Nominees Are Original
    You would think that there would be a huge divide between the most profitable and the most critically acclaimed films of this decade, right? You would think that while mainstream America flocks to established properties, the Academy of Motion Pictures would lean more towards rewarding originality. Not So… /Film commenter Keith points out that only 8 of the 45 Academy Award Best Picture nominees of this decade (so far) are originals.
  • ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans’ Producers Want It To Spawn A Franchise
    Producers Alan and Gabe Polsky hope to continue the “Bad Lieutenant” name as an ongoing franchise. Given the successful collaboration of Herzog and Cage, and before them Ferrara and Keitel, the Polskys admit they’d like to go further with other “interesting combos” for more stand-alone “Bad Lieutenant” installments. They specifically propose the director/actor team-ups of Darren Aronofsky and Brad Pitt and Michel Gondry and Bill Murray, which both sound like great ideas.
  • Top 10 Bad Messages From Good Movies
    Sometimes it can be hard to see the messages a movie teaches, especially if they’re unintentional. The best way to see a movie’s messages, and bad ones in particular, is to be a parent watching the movie with your kids. Suddenly you find yourself talking to your kids after you leave the theater or after the video finishes playing at home, just to see if they picked up on the bad messages. Then, if they did, you can try to do some damage control.
  • Bad Boys Grow Up
    Tarantino and Almodóvar finally make films equal to the ones they’ve always claimed as inspirations. Tarantino came to be regarded as a hyped-up pop culture junkie spritzing bloodshed and movie references in equal measure. And Almodóvar was thought of as something like the post-Franco John Waters, mixing ’50s Hollywood-style melodrama with cheerful hedonism awash in sex and drugs. At this year’s New York Film Festival, it was Almodóvar’s latest, “Broken Embraces,” that was chosen for the closing night slot. And about a month before the festival, Tarantino’s latest film, “Inglourious Basterds,” became the unlikeliest hit of the year. What links both of these films is that, for each filmmaker, they represent a point at which they demonstrate a mastery of craft equal to the Hollywood films that inspired them.

Werner Herzog Interview

With the awesomeness of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (our review) opening in many theaters this week and expanding steadily over the next few weeks, I wanted to share this great interview from Collider with the great Werner Herzog.

The film itself is fantastic and absurd bad-assery. Herzog takes Cage and harnesses his outlandish energy to the most positive. This is one of the better films of the year and I love hearing this unique director talk about this work.

Here are the cliffs:

  • I tell him how much I loved the movie and ask when did he come up with the movie. Talks about how fast this project came together.
  • I tell him thank you for bringing the great Nic Cage back and we talk about his performance.
  • Talks about how most of the movie was done on just a few takes. Also how he didn’t shoot a lot of coverage..
  • Did he delete a lot of footage and does he like extended cuts on DVD.
  • What did it mean to have 2 films in Toronto. He says it meant more to have 2 films in Venice.
  • What’s up with My Son, My Son, What Have You Done.
  • 8:15 – What is he going to do next. Gives a great answer.
  • Says he has 5 or 6 feature film projects and 2 or 3 documentary projects he wants to do.
  • Does he want to do doc than feature and back again. How does he pick.
  • What does he think of digital filmmaking and 3D.
  • I try and find out what he is going to do next and he says he is about to leave for Jordan to see if a film he is planning is doable but doesn’t want to talk specifics until he knows if it is.

“There is no ‘OK’ Nic Cage.”
“3D…would distract from quality of storytelling” – YES!

 

How to Undersell. Werner Herzog: Bad Lieutenant Trailer

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After the sales reel for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans set the internet aflame with anticipation, talk about anticlimatic with the presentation of the first official trailer. Sure elements of craziness are showcased here, but they are done in such a low key way, that the marketing is really not playing to the films (or its nascent cult) strengths. The final film is a very solid guilty pleasure (Kurt’s Tiff review here). One would think that the powers that be would sell what they have; and that is many moments of unrestrained Nicholas Cage behaving badly. Here, they want austere inter-titles and slow mellow grooves. Wrong. Wrong!

Trailer is tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?

Bookmarks for September 4th

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What we’ve been reading – September 4th:

  • Early Reactions to John Hillcoat’s adaptation of THE ROAD
    "What a haunting, harrowing, powerful film this is," writes the Guardian's Xan Brooks. "Admittedly, in dramatising McCarthy's bare-bones prose, Hillcoat sometimes runs the risk of over-dramatising (I could have done without the plaintive music and the unnecessary slabs of explanatory voice-over). But no amount of window-dressing can distract from the tale's pure, all-consuming horror."
  • Bad Lieutenant 2: Reaction in Venice
    "Did you hear the one about the German maverick who signed on to remake a notorious existential American policier and turned it into a stuffy, if pleasingly ridiculous b-picture?" asks Time Out London's David Jenkins. "Werner Herzog's curious take on Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant received its premiere at the Venice Film Festival this morning, and as the curtains came down, there was the faint sound of booing to be heard amid the polite, cricket match-style applause. It's certainly not a terrible film, but you get the sense that were Herzog's (currently invulnerable) name not attached, it would have been prime grist for the straight-to-DVD mill."
  • District 9 Gets its own Slumdog Millionaire social story
    "The convoy of trailers is now long gone and there are mixed feelings about the experience. Some residents were grateful for the diversion and the money they received as extras. They hope the film will raise awareness of their plight and force the government to help them. Others, such as Sydney Mofokeng, 32, say they are bitter and feel exploited. Mofokeng, a sangoma – traditional healer – lives in a tiny one-room shack amid heaps of discarded shoes, toilet pipes and shredded mattresses. He is unlikely to ever see the film."

Bookmarks for August 31st through September 1st

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What we’ve been reading – August 31st through September 1st:

  • Paul Solet on Grace
    Serena Whitney has a few words on pregnancy horror film Grace, storytelling in general, and the double-X chromosome in horror films.
  • Stormtrooper vs. Star Trek Redshirt
    A geeky look at the classic conundrum of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
  • BAD LIEUTENANT: AESTHETIC INTERRUPTED
    “…I’m not doing the prequel to Aguirre: the Wrath of God, OK? Let me put it that way!”
    "These were the kindest words Abel Ferrara had to say about Werner Herzog’s upcoming Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans when asked in a 2008 Filmmaker interview about that unapproved reimagining of Ferrara's 1992 cult classic, released in a special edition DVD late last month….The only way we will ever get some closure on the matter is if someone makes a prequel to Aguirre: The Wrath of God. My vote for best helmer goes to Ferrara."

Bookmarks for August 17th through August 18th

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What we’ve been reading – August 17th through August 18th:

TRAILER: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

So I’m big time looking forward to Wernor Herzog’s remake of Bad Lieutenant when it debuts at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival in September. But up until a few days ago, I didn’t realize he had another film being released the same week: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.

Inspired by true events, the story is of ancient myth and modern madness. Brad Macallam, an aspiring actor performing in a Greek tragedy, commits the crime he is to enact in the play by killing his mother. The mystery unfolds in a series of flashbacks displaying the psychological destruction of the killer set off by an ill-fated white-water kayaking trip in a distant land.

So we got a trailer today and boy oh boy does this look awesome. If the name Herzog doesn’t do it for you, maybe the name David Lynch as producer will? Or to be honest, better yet is another Michael Shannon role who absolutely kills in everything he’s done as of recent (Bug, Shotgun Stories, Revolutionary Road). It’s not out of bounds to say he’s likely the most underrated actor working today.

Looks like I’ll be using up two of my festival passes for Herzog films come September. No complaints.

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