A sports company trains a model to become a pro-golfer with unpredicted results.
Japanese auteur Seijun Suzuki’s unnerving thriller on the dark side of manufactured fame.
In the last decades of his life, director Seijun Suzuki received recognition outside Japan- firstly for his highly stylized action movies, such as Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967). These were among the last programme pictures he would make for Nikkatsu, before they fired him after Branded. Suzuki’s films had become too surreal and incomprehensible for the studio. Suzuki challenged his dismissal by suing Nikkatsu. However, his firing would mean that he made less than a handful of TV movies in the following decade. His only cinematic feature from this period is A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness, produced by Shochiku.
Perhaps as a consequence of this being Suzuki’s return to feature filmmaking, Sorrow is comparatively easy to follow and understand. Suzuki’s trademark use of colour and artistic shots serve the script, rather than the other way around. This results in an intense, unnerving depiction of crazed stalkers, grueling schedules, manipulative management and rampant media.
A spoiler-free review of an unusual, atmospheric and little-known Japanese thriller.
Death. It’s in the title. The official English name of this unusual Japanese suspense movie is ‘Deaths in Tokimeki’. Tokimeki refers to the heart pounding (for example with excitement) and is often left untranslated. In a similar vain to Et Mourir de Plaisir(1960), Tokimeki ni shisu is an intriguing title for an equally intriguing cult film. Who is going to die?
The idyllic countryside setting of Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, complimented by a calming musical score, makes it hard to imagine at first how violence and death will occur in this film. Kudo (Kenji Sawada, The Man Who Stole the Sun (1979)) arrives at a small local train station (the now defunct Oshima station), where a doctor (Naoki Sugiura) meets him.
Can an ex-yakuza just released from jail rebuild his life or will he be drawn back into underworld conflicts by a reckless and mysterious young woman?
New wave director Masahiro Shinoda’s breakout film is this crisp, black-and-white noirish adaption of Shintaro Ishihara’s novel. It begins with Murata (Ryo Ikebe), a yakuza who has just come out of prison for killing a man. He becomes attracted to the angelic, innocent looking Saeko (Mariko Kaga), who is hooked on gambling with hanafusa cards.
Yusaku Matsuda stars as Tetsuya Asakura, a seemingly mild mannered clerk at a large oil company. However, by night he is a tough, proficient gunman out to get back at his employers. The viewer follows Asakura’s increasingly wild and violent plans- from stealing the company’s money (and turning it into heroin!) to dramatic encounters with the yakuza. In many ways, Yomigaeru Kinrou (The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf) is a typical 70s violent anti-hero movie with a slightly convoluted plot. However, some particularly interestingly filmed scenes make it worth a look.
There is a dynamic scene midway through the film- in which Yusaku Matsuda’s character is sneaking through some ruins near the ocean in order to pick off some yakuza underlings before meeting the boss. It provides an excellent example of how a fusion of clever camera work, choreography and sound design can produce a gripping and gritty, yet slick and stylish action scene.
Flamboyant singer Kenji Sawada playing a reclusive atom bomb-building, junior high school teacher? Bunta Sugawara, famous for his tough Yakuza portrayals, playing a hardboiled cop? Kimiko Ikegami (the pretty one in cult horror classic Hausu(1977)) playing a vacuous radio DJ? A big budget Toho ‘action’ film with art-house elements directed by independent Kazuhiko Hasegawa? An original screenplay written by Leonard Schrader, the brother of Taxi Driver’s screenwriter? Just from its components, it is clear that you are in for no ordinary film with Taiyo wo nusunda otoko!
Main character Makoto Kido is a seemingly lazy, gum-chewing sleepy science teacher. Ridiculed by his students- he is somewhat socially awkward and lonely, living in a small apartment with only his ill-fated cat for company. The script and Sawada’s excellent portrayal gradually reveal snapshots of his true nature to the viewer.
Tales of the Unexpected was a series of short story dramatisations, each with an ‘unexpected’ twist in the end. Earlier episodes were introduced by the famous author Roald Dahl- some of which were penned by him.
Running for nine series over almost 10 years, the storylines range from sinister, comedic to downright bizarre. They star many well-known British TV and film actors, such as Joan Collins, John Mills, Peter Cushing and Derek Jacobi. Despite this, the quality varies a lot. Some of the episodes haven’t stood the test of time and others have terribly predictable twists.
There are some gems among the 112 Tales of the Unexpected episodes, however. Into the Retroscope has picked out six that will have you on the edge of your seats.
We now bring you a review of the second of two films released in the sixties entitled The Damned (read part 1 here.).
‘You must realise that today in Germany anything can happen, even the improbable…’
This line, spoken after about the first ten minutes, sets the scene for what you are about to see and hear – anything can and does happen.
The rich and respected Von Essenbeck family may have survived World War I and the subsequent depression, but now there is a new demand on their wealthy steel industry. As Hitler seeks to rebuild Germany’s infrastructure, munitions and its position in the world, the Von Essenbecks decide to do business with the Nazi party. However, the head of the family, Baron Essenbeck has no regard for national socialism. His murder early in the film is merely the start of this decadent, dysfunctional family’s scheming. Their plotting unfolds against the unmitigating political violence of 1930s Germany, such as the infamous ‘night of the long knives’.
Either end of the 1960s decade saw the release of films both entitled The Damned. The first was located in a contemporary England, the latter set in Nazi Germany. Into the Retroscope will provide you with a review of each film, with this initial article focusing on the earlier movie.
From the opening panoramic shots of the Southern England coastline to the closing sequences of a helicopter hovering over a doomed boat at sea, The Damned (aka These are the Damned) makes effective use of its Weymouth in Dorset seaside location.
When you have had a bad day, nothing beats Helen- dressed as a strawberry, dancing energetically and telling you not to worry about life.
Helen Richardson was born in Burma to a Franco-Indian father and a Burmese mother in the late 1930s. She fled the Japanese invasion with her mother and siblings, ending up in India. Helen’s film career began as a chorus girl in the early 50s, before she got her big break in the solo ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’ in Howrah Bridge (1957).
Known simply as Helen, she became one of the most well-known dancers in Indian Cinema- with an incredible dancing career spanning from the 50s to the 80s.