Archive for hideo kanze

THE FACE OF ANOTHER (1966) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by goregirl

“Some masks come off some don’t.”

I am so pleased I invested in Criterion’s Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara set. In the set are Pitfall, The Face of Another and Woman in the Dunes. All three films are absolutely brilliant! I reviewed Woman in the Dunes for my Toho feature and since The Face of Another qualified decade-speaking I thought I would sneak it in. The Face of Another is not a horror film, so it will not qualify for the 1966 list. The Face of Another is based on a novel by Kôbô Abe who also wrote the screenplay. In fact all three of the films in the set are based on and have screenplays written by Kôbô Abe. The quote at the top of this review or even the title itself might have given you an inkling that The Face of Another is a story about identity; actually it is two intertwined stories about identity.

Mr. Okuyama a man whose face is badly scarred is seeing a psychiatrist to help him adapt to the life altering incident. The psychiatrist convinces Mr. Okuyama to give his consent to the creation of a mask that would allow him to integrate comfortably back into society. But his new identity begins to change him. A second story that runs parallel with Mr. Okuyama’s involves a young woman who suffers from a disfiguring scar on one side of her face. We are shown snippets of her daily existence and the hardships she is forced to endure.

The Face of Another is thought-provoking commentary on our identities; the way society treats us based on our appearances and the way we react based on that treatment. The young scarred woman of the story is actually a character in a film watched by our Mr. Okuyama. The young woman was scarred at Hiroshima; the nuclear radiation theme understandably worked its way into the plots of many Japanese films in the 1960s. The scarred young woman who remains nameless is a very empathetic character with a sad story that rather broke my heart. Mr. Okuyama is not a particularly sympathetic character. He is pretty bitter, angry and jealous. He isn’t a bad person he just makes himself difficult to be around. He is caustic towards his wife who he feels is intentionally avoiding him since the accident. He also suspects her of having an affair. She feels that it is he who has changed and alienated her. His occasional visits to his place of employment are awkward and uncomfortable. Although Mr. Okuyama’s The Invisible Man like bandages may make people uneasy; his salty observations don’t exactly make those around him feel any less anxious. Mr. Okuyama agrees to the making of the mask and it is decided that the face of another man will be used. Mr. Okuyama also agrees to be a guinea pig of sorts. The psychiatrist wants to document how the mask effects Mr. Okuyama. Unfortunately, Mr. Okuyama’s first instinct is to use his handsome new face to deceive and seduce his wife. All of the characters in The Face of Another are fascinating and the performances across the board are perfect.

The visuals in The Face of Another are incredible, unique and downright trippy! The psychiatrist’s office had the most ingenious set pieces I have ever laid eyes on! The medical diagrams on the glass walls, the rows of glass shelves full of synthetic body parts, giant body part sculptures that double as furniture. It is quite the mind blow man! Modern, cold and stark but also beautiful and alluring. I was particularly impressed with the finale where Mr. Okuyama and the psychiatrist meet and streams of faceless people walk between them. The Face of Another is full of visual symbolic references. A couple did mystify me slightly. What was the significance of the German-themed bar with the kitschy ceramic steins? Is it just an odd ball reference to World War II? What about the flying bed? Nonetheless you could not possibly have any complaints with the astounding visuals in The Face of Another.

Criterion’s Three Films by Hiroshi Teshigahara set is simply the cat’s ass! It is packed to the tits with bonuses (which I have not yet gotten around to) and more importantly all three films are freaking amazing. It was well worth the hearty investment! If you are interested in the Japanese new wave cinema of the sixties this trio is highly and enthusiastically recommended. The Face of Another is a slower-paced, symbolic, psychological, strange and highly visual journey with a gorgeous, amazing score and absolutely superb performances. The Face of Another gets my highest of recommendations…a perfect rating.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Mikijiro Hira, Kyôko Kishida, Miki Irie, Eiji Okada, Minoru Chiaki, Hideo Kanze, Kunie Tanaka, Etsuko Ichihara, Eiko Muramatsu, Yoshie Minami, Hisashi Igawa, Kakuya Saeki

KURONEKO (1968) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by goregirl

I do not know how or why it took me this long to see Kaneto Shindô’s Kuroneko. Shindo’s Onibaba is one of my favourite horror films of all time! During my Toho March feature I discovered the production company had many masterpieces that weren’t monster movies. I added Kuroneko to my library queue for the feature but alas, it only recently became available. Kuroneko can definitely be added to the list of Toho-produced masterpieces! Kuroneko is one of the most beautiful and haunting films I have ever seen! Like Onibaba, Kuroneko focuses on two female characters during war time. The two films are perfect companion pieces; each unique but sharing a similar pace and feel. I think I need to re-watch and review Onibaba soon! But today I review Kuroneko, which is a whole lot of awesomeness.

Yone and her daughter-in-law Shige are gang raped and murdered and their home is burned to the ground by a group of samurai. A black cat watches over the women’s corpses and cleans their wounds. The women become vengeful spirits whose sole purpose is to kill and drink the blood of every last samurai. The women live in a home near the Gates of Rajomon among a forest of bamboo trees. Each evening the beautiful Shige persuades a samurai to escort her home. The samurai are plied with sake, killed and left in the forest. Gintoki, a samurai whom has recently returned from battle is sent by the lord to rid the region of this samurai-killing menace. The daunting task is complicated by the fact that Gintoki is the son of Yone and husband of Shige.

Kuroneko takes place during wartime and its opening scene illustrates the brutality of the period. The way the samurai swarm the women’s home was like wild animals stalking their prey. Once inside they raid the home of food and than each one takes their turn raping the women. A pretty ugly and stark picture of the inhumanity we humans are capable of. The horrific scene is a strong argument for the women’s revenge. But when you are negotiating with the spirit underworld vengeance can have a high price. Kuroneko is also a love story. Gintoki was a farmer before he was taken by force to join the war. Some years have passed since Yone and Shige seen Gintoki who is now a samurai. I do not want to spoil this haunting tale so I will state only that its story is enthralling.

Kuroneko is filmed in beautiful black and white with a fantastic other-worldly atmosphere. Lighting is used to great effect; casting shadows and making inanimate objects appear as though they are moving. The eerie silence and the creative sound effects are also extremely well done. I loved the way the women were the focus of every shot. Their light ethereal appearance made everything around them appear darker. Kuroneko’s dream-like visuals are greatly enhanced by wonderful touches like Yone’s slow rhythmic death dances, Shige’s cat-like attacks and the way Shige floats over a puddle as she walks a samurai towards his doom. The close-ups of the black cat that lurks about the women’s bodies, licking their wounds, hint this is no ordinary cat. Even simple little things like a billowing curtain do not go unnoticed. Visually Kuroneko is flawless.

Kiwako Taichi is bewitching as Shige. Bound by her pact, Shige is a seductive and vicious spirit. But the woman shige once was lingers inside, making her incredibly empathetic. Nobuko Otowa is superb as Yone. Yone is a strong, serious spirit who methodically goes about her rituals. Her unusual eye makeup gave her an appropriately menacing appearance. Yone seems to have considerably less connection to who she was. Although she is not unaffected by the appearance of her son. Handsome Kichiemon Nakamura is excellent as the conflicted Gintoki; son, husband and samurai. In short, intriguing characters and perfectly cast.

Kuroneko is an absolute work of freaking art! I loved it! Kuroneko is stunning, haunting and hypnotic, and gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Kaneto Shindô

Starring: Kichiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, Kiwako Taichi, Kei Satô, Taiji Tonoyama, Rokko Toura, Hideo Kanze