general reviews

sometimes write other reviews on my letterboxd [click bear]. will try to update this more often now that it's actually scrollable.

reviews (from newest to oldest)

vivarium
2019, dir. lorcan finnegan

i don't remember where but at some point i saw someone say something about this film, something that intrigued me enough to point it out to my boyfriend while looking for something to watch, despite the generic poster and low rating. i didn't even realize it was imogen poots in the leading role, perhaps her face should have been the forefront of that poster, considering she carried the whole movie. on amazon prime, trailers seem to either be a random two-minute clip from anywhere in the film, or an action-packed trailer which shows the entire film. this was the latter - more intriguing than a clip that's usually just men chatting in an office, but i mean, you know exactly what is going to happen. for me, the trailer ended up being more scary/exciting than the film, which was a slog mostly due to close-ups of jesse eisenberg being sappy [i hate to say it, i usually don't mind him as much as everyone else does...]. i didn't agree with a lot of joke letterboxd reviews asking what the point was; for me it was pretty easy to interpret it as some kind of allegory on the ideal suburban family life or real-estate vultures/capitalism, so much so that if i weren't already disillusioned against modern films, i.e. 14 again, i'd have posted a lot of screenshots of it on tumblr. it's just that this falls pretty flat; it's too obvious, it's too long, it's empty, despite the concept providing plenty of further brainstorming material. i liked the part where the ground opened up, i liked the elements of the slightly surreal, but it just didn't pan out. apparently the director has a short film with about the same concept, i assume the pacing was better there though perhaps the acting and [definitely the] production value were amplified here. i just hope that this film inspires a wave of films like it that execute it in an intensified way!~

red post on escher street
2020, dir. sion sono, 13/10/20

i came into this year fearing sion sono's output, as nicolas-cage-fronted 'prisoners of the ghostland' was scheduled to come out this year. i don't know when it's going to actually come out, but finding out about this was a breath of fresh air. i don't doubt that an english language sion sono film will be some kind of wacky fun, but i'm just hesitant to english-language films in general, maybe not especially but certainly consistently when they feature nic cage. i was saddened to look into red post's appearances at festivals and find that many of them had left the online festivals behind, fuck u guys for being better than us! however, there was one, and that is all it takes! this film's description is pretty vague, but it is exactly what happens: a bunch of people audition for a film. it's a cynical love letter to cinema as it simultaneously acknowledges the corrupt, greedy nature of the industry and celebrates the small actions the crew, the people who actually care about art, take to serve justice to cinema. we're introduced to a myriad of characters, a lot of them played by actors in their first feature films, all starting from different places in life, but ending up at the same red post, the same central 'd-day'. among these are a 'kobayashi true love club' who are endlessly dedicated to the director [the same way i am to sono] who sing in harmony, walk in harmony, and dress all in white -- clearly i would love to join -- and the somewhat central extras, [as chosen by the director's oracular girlfriend, katako] kiriko, a widow with overbearing parents who ran into the director in a gas station, and yasuko, who doesn't seem to care about the audition, or anything, whose hands are consistently covered in her dad's blood, who, together, decide to take the film's trajectory into their own hands, no matter what. the first minute i got alone after watching this i cried for at least fifteen minutes. it is cruel of sono to use the music from noriko's dinner table, it stabs me in the heart. the ending was one of my favorites in sono film history, and he's pretty fucking good at endings. i'd like to thank my sagittarius king for giving me a reason to live every year, i'm not kidding, the search for antiporno sustained me for a couple years, and it was worth it, of course. it's hard for me to articulate anything regarding his films because i'm just inclined to believe we have some kind of soul connection, i can't love practically the entirety of a filmmaker's work this much. pretty sure i dreamt about this one too, really thought that was real. papier-mache guns are sick. maybe i can start running if i pretend sion sono's filming it

flowers of evil/惡の華
2019, dir. noboru iguchi, 13/9/20

if you were to bring me the notion of a film adaptation of one of my favorite manga, noboru iguchi would not be my first choice of director -- clearly, it would be sion sono, after all, its main features are panties, perversion, paint, young love, books, and chaos, elements that he excels in. iguchi's track record, on the other hand, has mostly excelled in elements of, i suppose, panties, perversion, and chaos, but in a comedic, over-the-top kind of way, things like machine guns coming out of butts and shrimp stabbing. i cried reading aku no hana, so i worried that iguchi would somehow bastardize the emotional elements. for the most part, he didn't. the casting helped, particularly for sawa nakamura [played by tina tamashiro], arguably the most complex character, and notably the most sono-esque; throwing a foolish boy on the ground, lots of yelling, 'where is the exit'. the worst was kasuga, kentaro ito's crying was so bad that it was probably what stopped me from shedding a single tear. i guess that element disappointed me, i might have been more disappointed if i had watched the anime beforehand, but i haven't gotten around to it yet; i certainly will now. though nakamura's character is made more empathetic in the manga through more digging into her home life, which was touched on for maybe two minutes in the film, tamashiro's acting was truly good compensation for that. i liked nanako saeki almost as much as i did in the manga, and though aya tokiwa's character was not explored as much as in the manga [for example, her boyfriend is mentioned once and then forgotten about], it feels purposeful, as to not detract from nakamura's specific effect on kasuga's life. sometimes the soundtrack seemed slightly out of place, but it was good overall. i liked the use of obvious cgi for the first time in my life, the after-credits scene may have given me chills. seeing iguchi portray a solely human story was a good shock, and i wonder if he will go in this direction more in the future. either way, i respect him more now, the ending was very satisfying. i didn't mind the weird non-chronological storytelling either. i didn't know there would be a day when i'd seriously be comparing an iguchi film to something like love exposure! i love tina tamashiro now, i have diner on my computer, i might watch it...i gotta watch it

viy/Вий
1967, dir. konstantin ershov & georgiy kropachyov, 10/9/20

viy is a very interesting soviet fantastika comedy-horror [apparently the first soviet horror film] following a young priest's descent into terror after an encounter with a strange babushka. based on a folk story from ukraine, khoma, the virginal priest, witnesses the old woman transform into a beautiful young woman, following a surreal flight on her back and then, violent protest. he runs away, but after the young woman falls ill and dies, he is ordered to read her prayers for three nights, upon her request. he spends a lot of time worrying, drinking, refusing, and then spends each night in a chalk circle fighting for his life. for the short running time, the pacing in this was interesting; a lot of time was spent on bergman-esque sequences wherein khoma would drink, joke, and sing with wonderfully mustached men -- so much so, that the whole film had a light tone, thus the 'horror' parts weren't scary. that being said, during the film's culmination on the final night, my jaw dropped seconds after giggling. the soundtrack worked well, compared this movie in my mind to runescape, minecraft, and death grips. should have watched it closer to halloween, so great, another film i can't delete from my hard drive! cool/fun monsters, liked when village women were weeping but clearly laughing, it just seems like this would've been a blast to be an extra in. can't remember the main actress's name but i'm going to watch kidnapping caucasian style for her, even though it sounds a bit questionable..

the day a pig fell into the well
1996, dir. hong sang-soo, 07/9/20

i watched 5.5 sang-soo films and the first fifteen minutes of his newest film before deciding that i wanted to watch his filmography from the start -- here. the film follows some sort of love pentagon, mainly revolving around some drunk asshole/struggling author. after fifteen minutes, i started pondering whether all sang-soo's films were about drunk assholes, but i don't really care. i usually like movies about drunk assholes. i just hated this guy though, and hoped and prayed he'd die in the end, at the very least. though he has little success in his career, he has some success in his relationships with two women; one married to a workaholic husband who has turned to prostitutes after her refusal to have sex with anyone but the author, the other a ticket seller and voice actress reaching levels of discomfort, an object of someone's infatuation, someone who is jealous of her hopeless devotion to this horrible man. the characters were really mostly charmless, it was like a soap opera in that manner, and the myriad of affairs. even the more charming characters, such as the one who sacrifices everything for a drunk asshole simply hurt to watch. i loved the fashion and a lot of the compositions, as you can see linked above, but the plot didn't grab me, i didn't particularly care what happened to these people in the end. the ideas in this have been executed far more smoothly many times, by sang-soo himself none the less, as seen in his later films. i'm excited to continue watching his evolution with kangwon provice next!

fried dragon fish
1993, dir. shunji iwai, 03/9/20

this is a TV movie of shunji iwai's [director of all about lily chou chou] that i've been searching for for a while; it's on youtube, sans subtitles. it stars tadanobu asano, who would appear in both picnic and swallowtail butterfly in 1996, and miyoko yoshimoto, who seems to have primarily been a popstar. the plot is really just television variety; seems so simple, yet so muddled. due to its plot points of tropical fish and serial killing, it inspired me to rewatch sono's cold fish directly after. yoshimoto plays a detective investigating a 'marine paradise', and befriends asano, who owns a few fish. it's only an hour long, so there's only so much plot explanation i can offer. the soundtrack fared well in terms of iwai TV films -- fireworks' sounds were atrocious. however, overall his other 1993 tv film achieved more in terms of plot, atmosphere/comfiness, and general immersion. i obviously didn't find this to be a waste of time; it was nice to see a scrawny possibly teenage tadanobu asano, and it seemed that the scenes of the two main characters sitting in the glow of fish tanks was a prototype for some of the most beautiful scenes in 'a bride for rip van winkle'. how interesting that this aquarius loves to utilize water so often, and so wonderfully. also, just found out he's a capricorn moon, so am i, it all makes sense now....

an evening with beverly luff linn
2018, dir. jim hosking, 30/6/2020

it took me a few of days to finish this movie, as i fell asleep 2/3 of the way into it, and forgot about it for the next 48 hours. it's an interesting movie, at least. i haven't seen the director's other film, the greasy strangler, but i think i saw a trailer for it once and it repulsed me. this film's saving grace from repulsion is the hot actors. but don't be fooled, it seems this director is deliberate in this; he wants you to be confused, and uncomfortable. there are lynchian and john-waters-esque snippets here, but mostly nods to lynch; it made me want to watch his entire filmography at once. lulu and lula, acting that is somehow simultaneously overdramatic and uninflected, certain compositions [particularly one of the initial setting shots of the diner], the general aura. i love aubrey plaza [the rest of the cast is good too], and the soundtrack is great. i can't say i understood it, entirely, but it delights me to live in a world where i can view a nonsensical, willfully off-putting film made by what seems to be a lynch fanboy.

escape from new york
1981, dir. john carpenter, 28/6/2020

somehow this film just has a consuming aura that made me fight off sleep long enough to finish it. i never knew kurt russell was so attractive. neon lights and empty, chaotic streets just feel good. read a review that described its world basically as something that you'd dream up as a child; an imaginative world where all sorts of things are just happening and it makes sense despite not making that much sense. i feel the same as when i watched 'they live' but better, because kurt russell is better. i feel a regenerated appreciated for american 80s cinema, which is something good to fall back into during these braindead-quarantine [yes everything opened up again it's just my job doesn't want me back and no one's hiring me!] times which make it hard for me to commit to paying attention to blatantly thought-provoking films. this film, while political at its core, doesn't feel heavy at all and i'm sorry but the ending can only be described as epic...thanks john

oshi ga budoukan ittekuretara shinu
2020, if my favorite pop star made it to the budokan, i would die

i've become even more of a cheap bitch, and as such, no longer pay for anime. using funimation's free version, i scrolled through more recent anime to find some that actually had episodes that i could watch. that's how i stumbled upon this. it seemed innocuous enough to fall asleep to, and it was. it's not groundbreaking, in fact i'd almost forgotten about it completely until i began writing on this page. i digress that it was very nice to fall asleep to, comfy, and not exciting enough that i want to binge it all in one night, but not boring enough that i can't make it through an entire episode. there's some suspension of disbelief on the pathology in idol culture; it touches on how idols constantly have to project a certain image, and fans' obsessive tendencies, but the comedic tone throughout implores you not to think about it. i didn't know what was going to happen in this anime, but somehow all of the characters were likeable. character art is very pretty, and the opening theme is nice. i never watch idol anime, with the exception of zombieland saga, and this one differs from others due to focus on the perspective of the most devoted fans. for the sake of lesbians, i support it

paprika
1993, yasutaka tsutsui, adapted to film by satoshi kon

to be completely fair, if i were reviewing paprika as a stand-alone novel, and not comparing it to its film successor, it would probably appear more positive. however, satoshi kon almost seemed to have a clearer vision of the story than the original author did. i don't want to bully tsutsui too much, but from what i've witnessed and heard, his novels typically translate better to screen. perhaps some of its charm was lost in translation, as the language used was never particularly gripping -- i only really felt intrigued during dream sequences due to their surreal nature. it was hard for me to get into this book, not only for aforementioned quarantine-braindeadness, but because the style of writing and the descriptions and sometimes actions of characters presented a standoffish aura. this is personal and embarrassing, but a few years ago, i tried to read paprika in the midst of a period of disordered eating; the first page, describing paprika's thinness and infrequent eating, immediately turned me away. i'm less neurotic about that kind of stuff now, but anyone who reads this will pick up on the unreality of paprika's perceived perfection. everyone she meets falls in love with her, everyone is jealous of her, everyone is looking to destroy or violate her. it doesn't seem fun for paprika and it's not fun for the reader, encountering gratuitous rape scenes, half of them riddled with homophobic undertones. it honestly wasn't all that distracting but it's pretty lame to see a sci-fi novel with such a psychologically exhaustive premise that could be explored in a myriad of interesting ways seemingly used as the author's way of venting against homosexual ~perversions. the film, on the other hand, makes paprika/atsuko chiba seem more human. it's not like satoshi kon shies away from sexual violence, as anyone who's seen perfect blue would know. but in this adaptation, the horrific men aren't so jarring and don't take away from the fast-paced, relatively light-hearted psychological dream war going on. in short, yasutaka tsutsui makes it more serious than it needs to be, in a way less interesting way than it could be.