Monday, 21 November 2011

Arcane Japanese 'Horror'

I know I've not written for a week now.  This was semi-deliberate as I wanted my next post to be a review of "The Ghost Cat and the Mysterious Shamisen" (1938) for which we had tickets yesterday.  I suppose I shall forever be tempted by the screening of oddities, although too often the net result is not as wonderful as I had hoped in advance.  When I read that something called the Zipangu Festival at the ICA included this film which was described as a rare showing of an early Japanese horror movie, all of my buttons were pressed.  I tried looking it up on IMDb but nothing was listed under this title.  So I searched by the director's name (Kiyohiki Ushihara) and found a listing for "Kaibyo Nazo No Shamisen" but without any plot summary, ratings, or user reviews. Never mind, off we went, hoping for a film as exciting as the Japanese silent "Page of Madness" which we saw many moons ago.

It is not surprising that I could not locate the English title of this movie as I discovered that the film was subtitled for the first time for this showing.  So far so good.  However I am unable to tell you very much about this film.  Maybe it was the heavyish, wine-accompanied lunch that preceded it or maybe it was the persistent discordant drone of the ever-present shamisens (three-stringed lutes), but I found myself drifting in and out of the action.  As far as I could tell, a shamisen-player's dead sister appears to her in the form of a ghostly cat and it is incumbent upon her to avenge both that death and the death of her father.  How they died and who the culprit was escaped me.  Every time I surfaced she, having failed to 'lose' the tainted instrument, was playing at some sort of stylized performance involving a male dancer and another dancer in a monkey mask.  It seemed to go on forever as she continued to hallucinate, the monkey mask morphing into a cat morphing into her sister's ghost.  I expect these early special effects were indeed effective, but the film was hardly a 'horror' movie by even loose modern standards.  If anything I may be making the film sound more interesting than it actually was, but it left me feeling distinctly 'blah' -- and don't tell me that was the wine!!! 

So, since I have let the side down with the above review, let me think if there was anything more interesting amongst the other God-knows-how-many movies I have watched since I last wrote.
There were a couple of worthwhile documentaries "The Flaw" (2011) and "Cloud 9 - the Call Girl and the Governor" (2010), both very well done, but I tend to ignore docs in my reviews;  267- minutes' worth of Abel Gance's 1923 masterpiece "La Roue" (great creative filming of a very, very soppy story); re-viewings of previously reviewed films where I wanted to burn copies ("Monsters" and "Machete" -- still a guilty pleasure); the Indian movie "Hare Rama Hare Krishna" from 1971 (I am getting totally fed up watching these cheesy back entries in Dev Anand's filmography -- this time set amongst the hippies of Kathmandu!); a number of disposable TVMs and a selection of recent releases: "The Tourist", "Made in Dagenham", "Rabbit Hole" "The Resident", and "Never Let Me Go" (bad, well-done, boring, OTT, and very sad respectively); and three films unearthed from the cracks in the floorboards: Jarman's harrowing "War Requiem" (1999), Ben Affleck's 2006 "Man About Town" -- directed by the annoying hack Mike Binder, but not uninteresting -- , and a French flick also from 2006 "The Stone Council" with a very glammed-down Monica Bellucci and a brunette Catherine Deneuve (badly rated on IMDb, but I thought quite worthwhile).

And believe it or not, that's not all -- but it's all I'm going to go on about for today!
Post a Comment