Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cold Fish

I originally saw this film last fall at Pusan (and said this). Upon re-screening, I think it no exaggeration to state that, with Cold Fish (2010), Shion Sono has created the definitive serial killer picture. Based on actual events, the film conveys a raw reality that is so much more chilling than Silence of the Lambs-style theatricality. Here, you're going to get blood on you. Lots of it. Here, characters wallow in the gore -- literally. Cold Fish is the kind of film Asia Shock is all about.

So you've got middle-aged Japanese character actor Denden (Cure, Ju-on, Uzumaki) channeling notorious serial killer Gen Sekine who, during the 80s and 90s with his wife Hiroko Kazama, dispatched, dismembered and destroyed the corpses of four people (that we know of -- there were likely many, many more). Sekine was an exotic animal importer specializing in Alaskan malamutes, so no doubt some of his victims found their way into his dogs. In the film, Sekine becomes Yukio Murata and his specialty shifts from dogs to tropical fish. He's got a huge shop, staffed by teenage girls in tight tees and hot pants. He takes mild-mannered Nobuyuki Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi), a competitor with a much smaller shop, as his business partner. Unfortunately for Shamoto, a primary component of Murata's business is killing people, and before he knows it, our hapless ultra-wimp protagonist is sucked into Murata's murky world of murder.

I received a review copy of the Cold Fish double disk from Third Window Films and particularly appreciated one of the special features, a half-hour discussion of the actual case upon which the film is based. This comes courtesy of Jake Adelstein, journalist and author of the book Tokyo Vice. Adelstein relates the details of the case in great detail, revealing how accurate the film is to real events (although the plot goes in a completely different direction in the third act). Adelstein also offers insights into the way murder is investigated (and often not) in Japan. Apparently 80,000 people a year go missing in Japan, and only 4% of suicides are investigated. So it seems that a lot more people are being murdered in Japan than is reflected in official records.

Anyhow, if you're a fan of serial killer flicks, you've got to see Cold Fish. Fan of Japanese film? Even better. And if you like sushi … there's a moment in the film that will forever color your sense of it. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Japan Cuts in NYC

Summer in New York City means one thing to Japanese film fans: movie time! Beat the heat next month at the fifth annual Japan Cuts film festival brought to you by the Japan Society. Partial proceeds go to the Society's Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. Follow the links for more details and enjoy all those cool flicks for me while I sit here in the woods and whittle.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Rug Cop

There's nothing particularly shocking about The Rug Cop (2006) -- it's just a silly police procedural spoof concerning a cop with a super-powered wig. But I haven't blogged for awhile, so I figured I'd better post something.

If you're a fan of a certain kind of goofy Japanese humor, one that goes for lots of sight gags and dick jokes, you'll find The Rug Cop a pleasantly quirky 78 minutes. Directed by Minoru Kawasaki (who gave us such memorable titles as Pussy Soup, The Calimari Wrestler and The World Sinks Except Japan), the story concerns an aging cop who nevertheless maintains a high arrest record thanks to his amazing rug. In tough situations, he invariably whips it off and throws it at whomever/whatever is endangering him; the hairpiece knocks guns out of peoples' hands, beheads a ventriloquist dummy (he was holding bank employees hostage -- really), the fucking thing even bites. Rug Cop is aided in his investigations by clownish cops with nicknames like Old Man, Big Dick, Handsome and Shorty. It's all very puerile and it probably says something about me that I sat and watched the entire thing.

It occurred to me after screening The Rug Cop that the whole concept likely came from a misinterpretation of the phrase "rogue cop," as "rug cop" sounds about the same in a Japanese accent. So there you have it: One very silly concept based on a mistake. Is it a mistake to see it? Probably. But then you could say that about half the films on this blog!