Archive for shion sono

DUNGEON DIRECTOR PROJECT: My 50 Favourite Directors #40 – #36

Posted in movies with tags , , , , on July 10, 2012 by goregirl

Two From Japan, One From France, One from the U.S.A. and One from Canada!! The Dungeon Director Project continues…

My 50 Favourite Directors #40 – #36

*NOTE: I did not include any made for TV movies in the numbers I used for each director’s full-length feature films.*


#40. Guy Maddin

What I’ve Seen: Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1989), Archangel (1991), Careful (1992), Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002), Cowards Bend the Knee or The Blue Hands (2003), The Saddest Music in the World (2003), Brand Upon the Brain! (2006), My Winnipeg (2007),

Canadian director Guy Maddin has made 10 full length feature films and a ton of short films! I’ve seen 8 of 10 of his features and every last one has been a unique treat. I enthusiastically await seeing Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997) and Keyhole (2011)! Maddin is definitely a strange cat. His black and white masterpieces of weirdness are quite unlike anything you are likely to see. Tales from Gimli Hospital, Cowards Bend the Knee and Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary are pure gold! The early film making techniques borrowed from silent cinema and early talkies make an oddly effective partner for his bizarre stories. Like arsenic and old lace! Often set in his home province of Winnipeg, Manitoba (which we Canadians affectionately call Winter Pig) his films are funny, surreal, disturbing and psychosexual. Maddin is one of our finest exports!


#39. Shion Sono

What I’ve Seen: Suicide Club (2001), Noriko’s Dinner Table (2005), Strange Circus (2005), Hazard (2005), Love Exposure (2008), Cold Fish (2010), Guilty of Romance (2011)

Yesterday I posted a link to the Shion Sono Appreciation Society Podcast, where I chat with fellow film fanatic Jason about the director’s work. Sono is one of the most interesting and talented of the new wave of Japanese filmmakers in this gals humble opinion. Just a few days ago I re-watched Cold Fish which I had not seen since the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2010. What a fantastic film! I found even more to love about Cold Fish the second time and I think I would have to give the film a perfect score. Suicide Club also garnered a perfect score from me. I also had a chance to see Guilty of Romance recently and despite mixed reviews I thought it was fantastic! Shion Sono has yet to make a film I didn’t like! Sono has made 23 full length feature films and I have seen seven. I am psyched to see his newest entry The Land of Hope, which with any luck will turn up at VIFF this October. Sono forces ordinary people into extraordinary situations tackling subjects from incest, abuse and rape to suicide, peer pressure and abandonment. Sono’s genre-defying films prove there are still original ideas out there and filmmakers with the balls and talent to make them!


#38. Kaneto Shindo

What I’ve Seen: Children of Hiroshima (1952), The Naked Island (1960), Onibaba (1964), Kuroneko (1968),

Japanese director Kaneto Shindo made 45 full length feature films (2 are documentaries) and I have seen only 4! I have had no luck finding any other Shindo films on DVD. I gave Onibaba, The Naked Island and Kuroneko 5/5 and Onibaba and Kuroneko are on my top 100 favourite horror films of all time list. Be warned, The Naked Island, is incredible but unlike the two aforementioned it is not a horror film. Wonderful, moody, atmospheric tales that are perfect in every way. Visuals, sounds, intriguing stories and fantastic characters; it’s all here! I could not give this small list of films higher kudos! I will continue my quest for Shindo’s films. Evidently the director died this year, May 29 at the age of 100! Freaking 100 ya’ll!!


#37. Jean-Luc Godard

What I’ve Seen: Breathless (1960), A Woman Is a Woman (1961), My Life to Live (1962), Contempt (1963), Band of Outsiders (1964), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot le fou (1965), Masculin Féminin (1966),

French director Jean-Luc Godard is part of the 60s new wave of directors which ignited my imagination when I was younger. After discovering foreign films in college I couldn’t get enough, and Jean-Luc Godard was one of my earliest discoveries. I love the 60s style and no two women wore it better than Godard muses Jean Seberg and Anna Karina. Seberg and Karina were the epitome of cool and damn talented actresses too! Godard raged against the mainstream with his inventive camerawork, a hearty helping of his brand of politics and philosophy and a goodly amount of nods to other filmmakers. I have seen 8 of his 34 full length feature films and would be hard pressed to pick just one favourite. It would be a toss up between Breathless, Contempt, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville or Masculin Féminin. Godard has inspired countless directors, many of which will appear on this list or have already! I have so much more to explore in Godard’s world! Vive La France!


#36. John Carpenter

What I’ve Seen: Dark Star (1974), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), Christine (1983), Starman (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), Village of the Damned (1995), Escape from L.A. (1996), Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001), The Ward (2010)

I have seen all 18 of American director John Carpenter’s full length feature films. Carpenter was a God of the 80s! Sadly, with the exception of In the Mouth of Madness and to a lesser extent Vampires; Carpenter’s post 80s films have been a bummer. That said, the man has made some epic contributions! The Thing and Halloween are two of the best horror films ever made! They Live, Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York are also brilliant! Dark Star, The Fog, Christine, Prince of Darkness and Big Trouble in Little China aren’t chopped liver either. Carpenter’s films have entertained me immensely over the years! Carpenter’s great characters have freaked me out and made me laugh; the man can do action, comedy, Sci-fi and horror and he did em all so very well. Halloween was one of North America’s first successful slashers and would inspire a flurry of copy cats. It also set a bar in the sub-genre, one few other directors would achieve. The Thing was also a real game changer. The Thing has intensity to spare, a perfect chemistry among its cast and some of the best gore effects ever caught on celluloid. Mind-blowing effects from back in the day that few have topped. John fucking Carpenter…I salute you!


STRANGE CIRCUS (2005) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by goregirl

Strange Circus marks the fourth film I’ve seen from Japanese director Shion Sono. My Sono exposure thus far has led me to come to two conclusions; the man creates visually impressive films and he is obsessed with dysfunctional families. Dysfunctional sure seems like an understatement in Strange Circus. The films non-linear story revolves around the rape and abuse of a twelve-year-old girl. Mitsuko’s father hides her in a cello case forcing her to watch him fuck her mother. This eventually leads to dad repeatedly raping his daughter. If that isn’t traumatizing enough, her mother becomes intensely jealous and starts beating her regularly. School is simply a horrifying extension of Mitsuko’s shitty existence where her despicable pedophile father is also the institutions principle. And that is just the launching pad for this twisted tale.

Strange Circus is a highly visual film. The sets and props are fantastic. The imagery is endlessly impressive from a flower filled coffin ablaze to the burlesque style circus sideshow. The red painted walls of Mitsuko’s school hallways look freshly bloody and are particularly horrifying. Miksuko’s stark and sterile home is appropriately uninviting. There isn’t much in the way of graphic violence but what is included certainly is memorable. Strange Circus has its share of ugliness, distress, violence, and weirdness that messed with my eyes and my head!

Newer films rarely surprise me, so it seems worth mentioning when one does. The climax blind-sided me. I did not see it coming. I thought I more or less had things figured out and it turns out I didn’t know shit. Looking back I don’t know why I didn’t consider it. There is some clarity provided in the climax, but is also raises more questions. The film does have its lesser qualities. Strange Circus constantly jumps timelines and is often disorienting. The film drags a little through the middle and would have benefitted from tighter editing. Strange Circus is the type of film that will either frustrate or thrill.

Actress Matsumi Miyazaki plays two roles in Strange Circus and is outstanding. Miyazaki bares her soul and her clothing and gives a natural and believable performance. I had no beefs at all with any of the performances in Strange Circus. Strange Circus will probably appeal more to those who enjoy eclectic foreign fare. The mix of convoluted plot, artistic visuals, and a slower pace will not make this popular with the average horror viewer. Strange Circus is a visually arresting film that is a disturbing, violent and surreal experience. Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Shion Sono

Starring: Masumi Miyazaki, Issei Ishida, Rie Kuwana, Mai Takahashi, Fujiko, Madamu Rejînu, Mame Yamada, Pyûpiru, Erika Mine, Keiko Yokomachi, Tsutomu Ihara, Emiko Yamada, Rinco, Sachiko Yamagishi, Ken Sasaki

VIFF – COLD FISH (2010) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Japan, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2010 by goregirl

Film number two at The Vancouver International Film Festival was a Saturday afternoon showing of Cold Fish. Cold Fish is a Japanese drama/thriller and according to its cover, is “inspired by true events”. I have no idea how faithful the film is to the actual events but it is one hell of a ride regardless! Cold Fish is tragic, funny, violent, demented, unique and a completely hypnotizing experience. That’s a lot of adjectives for one sentence, but this film earned it!

Shamoto, the meek owner of a small tropical fish store is told his teenage daughter Mitsuko has been caught shoplifting. With new wife (and step mom) Taeko in tow they go to meet with the manager. The meeting does not go well until the customer who accused Mitsuko speaks up. The customer, Murata-san is a jovial and boisterous man who convinces the manager not to call the authorities and give Mitsuko a second chance. Shamoto and Taeko are extremely grateful and when Murata requests they accompany him to his store they happily agree. Murata, by chance also sells tropical fish except he drives a Ferrari and his massive store Amazon Gold has an army of employees. He takes them on a tour, introduces them to his wife and they share some tea. He even offers to employ Mitsuko, suggesting it might help keep her out of trouble. The two families become joined at the hip and Shamoto finds himself in a partnership with Murata. But the seemingly jolly and fun-loving Murata-san may not be the good-natured guy he appears.

Cold Fish has style but it isn’t flashy. The images on display evoke the proper amount of emotion whether it is disgust, anger or empathy with effective simplicity that suited the film well. Not to say the film lacks creativity by any means. Shion Sono’s opening scene sets the pace for the rest of the film so beautifully. We watch Taeko grocery shopping like she is on crack. Speeding through aisles throwing packages after package at breakneck speed into her shopping cart. Than we watch her make an entire meal in about 2 minutes and the camera rests on the dysfunction family as they eat in complete silence. Cold Fish is calm and frantic in equal measure. Shamoto and Taeko are quiet and soft-spoken and their home and work environment reflect that. Murata and his wife are the polar opposites and are eccentric, loud and aggressive. When the two worlds collide friction is inevitable.

The performances are top notch, particularly Denden who plays the crazy Murata with such dangerously joyful enthusiasm. Mitsuru Fukikoshi also does a great job as the painfully meek Shamoto (although my one and only minor complaint about the film relates to the development of this character). The three women, Taeko, Mitsuko and Murata’s wife (sorry I don’t even know the characters name!) do a hell of a job also. I wasn’t able to find a list of the character names, so sadly I can’t give the actresses their proper due. Every character is interesting and quirky, even the minor players, and their actions kept me glued to the screen. Cold Fish clocks in around 144 minutes and has a great rhythmic pace. It reveals its warped little secrets steadily throughout its runtime. Cold Fish is full of fascinating, strange and violent surprises. There is more gore and violence than a lot of horror films and they throw in some sex and nudity for good measure. No joking, there are scenes that will be difficult for some viewers to watch.

Cold Fish knocked my socks off. Except for a minor complaint about the development of the Shamoto character, I thought the film was amazing. Its twisted story, unforgettable visuals, and fascinating characters thrilled me from start to finish. I look forward to rewatching Cold Fish when it makes its way to DVD and I will certainly be checking out Shion Sono’s other films. The squeamish should avoid, but everyone else should definitely check this one out. Highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Shion Sono

Starring: Makoto Ashikawa, Denden, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Hikari Kajiwara, Asuka Kurosawa, Masaki Miura, Jyonmyon Pe, Masahiko Sakata, Tarô Suwa, Tetsu Watanabe