Nikktasu's revitalized roman porno screens for NYC audiences.
Today in New York City at the New York Asian Film Festival, two productions from Nikkatsu Studios' ballyhooed Roman Porno Reboot Project will screen for audiences. The Reboot Project was announced last year, and includes major directors such as Hideo Nakata of Ringu fame, Sion Sono of Cold Fish and Tokyo Tribe, and Kazuya Shiraishi, who made The Devil’s Path. Three films will be included in the New York fest, which began several days ago—Kazuya Shiraishi's Mesunekotachi, aka Dawn of the Felines, and Akihiko Shiota's Kaze ni nureta onna, aka Wet Woman in the Wind, will screen today. Isao Yukisada's Gymnopedies ni Midareru, aka Aroused by Gymnopédies premieres on July 14.
Will these be as edgy as Nikkatsu's vintage roman porno offerings? We have our doubts—some of those movies indugle in excesses so extreme we're amazed they're even available on DVD. We expect the new roman porno to be milder but perhaps contain a modern feminist twist, a shift in point-of-view that would be welcome, at least to us. All three of the movies playing in NYC have already seen release in Japan and gotten decent reviews, which means festival audiences should find something enjoyable in them. If you're in the Big Apple area you now have a potential plan for the next ten days. As for us folks who live far across the ocean, hopefully we'll get a chance to see some of the films soon as well, and if we do we'll certainly report back.
Sharp curves and unexpected twists in road next 1,000 miles.
Every once in a while we come across a pleasant surprise of a film and Road Games is an example of that perfect nexus where no expectations meet good filmmaking to greatly improve our day. Starring Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis, Road Games is about an American hitchhiker making her way across the Australian outback the same time a depraved serial killer is loose on the road. She's picked up by truck driver Keach and the two of them come to believe they're following the same route across the country as the murderer. Keach and Curtis are great in this. Even though Curtis's attraction to a porno mustached forty-something can only be explained as a case of outback fever, the May/December storyline is deftly handled and reasonably believable, and the entire movie is given extra dimensionality by vast Australian vistas and witty dialogue. We highly recommend this one. It seems to have been mismarketed as a horror movie back in its day, but really it's just a thriller. Straightforward, well made, and starring two appealing performers, Road Games premiered in Australia today in 1981. You see the Aussie poster above, while the U.S. promo, along with some production photos, is below.
If it's there you can bet we'll find it.
Above you see a poster for Aizome Kyôko: G no kaikan, aka Kyôko Aizome's G-spot Pleasure, with Kyôko Aizome (not to be confused with Kyoko Izumi) fronting the art. Aizome goes way back. She appeared in her first film in 1975, but this particular effort premiered in Japan today in 2000, when she was forty-two. Though it's a comparatively recent production we were not able to track down a copy, which when you think about it is apropos, considering science says g-spots don't really exist. We're pro-science guys, but a lot of women say there's a real piece of anatomy in there, and a dedicated search often turns something up—if only the woman's heart rate. Aizome, below, suggests you give it a try.
Low visibility and even lower survivability.
Yes, we're tripling up on films this lovely Thursday because all three premiered today in some year or other. This third poster is the Spanish promo painted by Macario Gomez for John Carpenter's horror flick The Fog, about a town beset by a ghost ship filled with murderous lepers. It's an oldie but a goodie, we'd say, with Jamie Lee Curtis, her real life mom Janet Leigh, Adrienne Barbeau, and Hal Holbrook. Couple of takeaways from this one—Jamie Lee will hook up with any old schlub, and haunted fog really scoots. Think you can outrun it? Forget it. If you hated the 2005 remake (and who didn't) give this one a try. There are some legit chills here. The Fog premiered as La niebla in Spain today in 1980.
All jerks and no play make Linda a very dull movie.
Some of the other titles of the West German sexploitation flick Linda are Captive Women, Naked Super Witches of the Rio Amore, and Orgy of the Nymphomaniacs. Those should tell you everything about the content of this movie. Plotwise, it involves a woman forced to work as a prostitute at a bdsm brothel on the island of Madeira, Portugal. How that actually happens doesn't much matter. The circumstances are ridiculous, and not at all the point. The point is nudity, which is delivered often and steadily. Characterwise, almost every man in the film deserves to be drawn and quartered, which makes it too bad that doesn't actually happen. It's actually a scorpion that turns the tide and allows the heroine to finally escape.
The movie is notable really for only two things: it was one of more than 100 productions helmed by Jesus Franco, that misunderstood genius, and it features 1979 Playboy centerfold Ursula Buchfellner, billed here as Ursula Fellner. Three things, actually: it's as humorless a sexploitation flick as we've ever seen. Even Katja Bienert in the title role can't save it. No way we can recommend this one, but we wanted to show you the Italian promo poster. It has the look of pieces painted by Mafé, but he signed all his work, as far as we know, so this must just be a convincing imitation. Linda premiered in West Germany for the first time today in 1981, and don't say we didn't try to steer you away.
Bonus material: just for the hell of it, just because they exist, we've uploaded a couple of promo shots of Bienert and Buchfellner below. Their names together sound kind of like a cop show, like a prime time drama where every problem is solved within an hour. We think it would have been a hit, because they've solved our problems in just a couple of minutes. But our previous advice holds true: don't watch the movie.
It isn't the wind making that howling noise.
Above you see two colorful Japanese posters for The Howling, Joe Dante's 1981 werewolf thriller starring Dee Stone, Patrick Macnee, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers hero Kevin McCarthy. As werewolf movies go, The Howling was a bit of a gamechanger simply because the principle werewolf was more terrifying than any that had been put on screen to that point. It looks more than anything like a ten-foot tall Wile E. Coyote, with a long crooked snout, and devilish ears that stick out from its head like horns. Covered with wiry hair and perched upon long canine legs like a walking dog, the brute physicality of this beast is cringe inducing. On the other hand, the ancillary werewolves might make you laugh. The filmmakers obviously wanted to genderize the creatures, which led to the idea of making the female wolves somehow cute. Instead they end up looking like Ewoks. The giallo-styled soundtrack might also be jarring for modern audiences. We love it, though it's right in your face like doggie breath.
But the film is definitely worth watching these thirty-six years later. The plot involves a television reporter whose investigation into serial killings in New York City result in her—seemingly in random fashion—spending time in a rural retreat to recover from emotional trauma. There she realizes a coven of werewolves rule the woods. Dante went for a slow build-up to the big reveal, and when that first encounter came it forever recalibrated the werewolf genre. Today some of the balloon effects may look quaint, but objectively they're more visceral than anything computer graphics have managed thus far. Other effects, including a brief animation, aren't as convincing, but no movie is perfect. The Howling is a landmark, and our only regret is we were never able to see it in a cinema (though that may change if ever our local horror festival screens it). The film premiered in the U.S. in March 1981, and first howled across Japan today the same year.
In retrospect, maybe this solo hiking trip wasn't the best idea. Oh well, I'll be fine. But next year: Burning Man.
Hmm. So she disappeared down there in that bizarre nimbus of light? I think it's about time for my donut break.
Okay, okay! Let me just find the leash and we'll go. Geez—sometimes I can't tell who's the owner and who's the pet.
Arooooooo! Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! Baaaaacooooon!
So, you loaded this with the silver bullets, right? Right? Baby, did you hear me?
Well, the thing is, werewolfing helps me relax. Fronting my speedmetal band is really stressful.
I think the night went bad after the third Jäger shot. Could be worse, though. Garth got a tribal tattoo on his calf. Man, these beasts are seriously horr— Whoa. Single white werewolf at twelve o'clock. Bitch got some fucked up teeth but I can work with that.
Cohjizukin creates a modern piece of poster art for two classic films.
You know how we always say we're going to get back to something? Some artist, some subject, some mid-century murder spree? And then we never do? Kind of like when you were eight and your parents kept promising to let you buy a grizzly bear but always put you off until finally telling you they weren't going to buy you one and never planned to? Well, we don't want to be like your lying ass parents, so we've decided we need to be better about actually geting back to stuff we said we'd get back to. Consider it a twelve-step program of sorts, which we already started by keeping that five-year old promise about the naked diaries.
So here's someone else we promised to revisit—Japanese illustrator Cohjizukin, whose poster for an Ed Wood triple bill we shared back in October. He painted the above poster for Federico Fellini's I vitelloni, known in some circles as The Young and the Passionate, and Giulietta degli spiriti, aka Juliet of the Spirits. We knew nothing about Cohjizukin last year, but we've learned a few things. He's actually award winning artist Koju Suzuki, who was born in 1948, has had innumerable exhibitions, live painting events, published many books, and seemingly even has delved into music, releasing four albums in the 1990s.
He also likes creepy eyes. Everybody in this poster looks like they're trying to drain your vital essence. We checked to see if either of these movies involved essence-draining, but they're both comedy/dramas. Not sure Fellini would have approved of psycho faces on a poster for his films, but the art is amazing. Cohjizukin created it for a double-bill sometime during the 1990s, probably for some film festival or other. You can learn more about him by visiting the (also a bit scary) website maintained at this link, but it's text heavy and without Japanese probably useless to you. We'll dig up more pieces from him later. That's a promise we'll keep.
The riddle is this: why didn't Lesley-Anne Down wear that outfit?
We'll admit we watched Lesley-Anne Down's 1981 thriller Sphinx just to see if she ever got into the gauzy number she's wearing in the promo photo above. We thought it unlikely, and we were right. She mostly wore what you see below—no spike heels with asp straps, sorry. But it wasn't the worst expenditure of time, finding this out. Sphinx feels like a television movie by today's standards, but the location shooting is excellent, and some interesting performers pop up—among them Sir John Gielgud and John Rhys-Davies, the latter of whom you may remember as Sallah from another Egyptian themed movie—Raiders of the Lost Ark, which hit cinemas four months after Sphinx. Like Raiders, in Sphinx you get an antiquarian on the trail of a lost tomb while baffled by arcane clues and beset by duplicitous locals. We don't think a single Egyptian had a noteworthy role here, but at least a few of the cultural details are accurate (though perhaps not the most flattering ones). Are we recommending this one? Not without Down wearing that outfit we aren't, but the movie isn't as bad as many would have you believe. It premiered today in 1981, and the awesome poster was painted by Bob Peak.
Even she doesn't know it yet, but she's a danger junkie.
The Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco closes tonight. We couldn't be there, living as we do across the ocean, but like last year we screened some of the films at home and that has been a treat. We said at the end of last year's group of write-ups that we probably wouldn't do it again, and that turned out to be a lie. Next year we definitely won't do it. It's fun, but makes the website almost like actual work, which isn't what this is about at all. It isn't you, Noir City, it's us.
Tonight's final entries on the festival slate are Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which we've discussed below, and the film for which see two promo posters above—Victoria. The hook here is the movie is shot by director Sebastian Schipper and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen in one take—not many takes digitally spliced, but a single analog take about two hours and fifteen minutes long, beginning in the wee Berlin hours and extending into dawn. Schipper has said in interviews that he had three chances to get it right, and the finished film the is the result of the third effort.
It tells the story of Spanish millennial Victoria (Laia Costa), whose lonely existence is changed when she meets local boy Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his three friends during a night at a disco. Sonne seems like a nice enough guy, and Victoria leaves with him and his buds for a sojourn along streets and a rooftop that ends with the two agreeing to meet again. It's at that point one of the friends get sick from all the booze he's ingested, and Sonne desperately asks Victoria to drive the remaining trio somewhere. Why? Because wherever they're going there are supposed to four of them and three will not do. Uh oh. Where are the boys going? To commit an armed robbery.
Victoria doesn't know this at first. It becomes clear soon enough, but only after she's in too deep and stuck as a getaway driver. Of course, the audience knows she's in trouble long before that. If there's a flaw with the movie it's merely that Victoria doesn't seem lonely, reckless, or clueless enough to get herself into this mess. But maybe that's a function of the movie's nature. We can't know her in two hours, filmed in real
time,with no structural concessions for subplots, flashbacks, or any of the standard expository digressions. We have to take her at face value, and accept her as revealed to us. If you do, then the blossoming of her inner danger junkie is logical and seamless. Victoria is really an astounding achievement, and not just because of the single take. Schipper is almost twenty years older than the cast he directs, but he's made a generational landmark of a film.
Nobody can hurt you quite like your own family.
Noir City ticketholders are in for a nasty treat with Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Made in 2007, well reviewed but under appreciated, it doesn't tick the film noir box but it's a top level thriller, gripping from explosive beginning to crushing end, with timelines restarting to drip feed plot twists to the viewer. And “drip feed” is apropos as a descriptive, because it's like water torture watching the lives of the family at the center of this film come apart.
It all starts when Philip Seymour Hoffman—in desperate need of cash—convinces his little brother Ethan Hawke—also in need of money—to knock off a jewelry store. Neither are criminals, but the potential robbery is too easy to resist. The store, you see, belongs to their hardworking parents. It's literally a mom and pop operation, located in a quiet suburb, insufficiently guarded because there's never been an instant of trouble in all the years the place has been in business.
Hawke is good as a man who is never remotely in control of his circumstances, and Hoffman is brilliant, but Albert Finney drives the movie with righteous anger and unbearable heartbreak. Critics'fave Michael Shannon has a crucial role, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei is perfect as a woman in the middle of a mess she can only barely discern, and fourteen-time nominee Sidney Lumet directs with austere precision.
We originally saw Before the Devil Knows You're Dead years ago and always planned to rewatch it, but kept shying away from doing so because we knew it would be difficult to sit through again. Yeah. It's like that. Hard to watch—even with Marisa Tomei in it—when you know what's coming. But since you have no idea how it unfolds you'll get through it fine. We highly recommend that you queue this one up.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
1925—Jury Decides the Teaching of Evolution Is a Crime
In the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, American schoolteacher John Scopes is found guilty of violating the Butler Act, which forbids the teaching of evolution in schools. The sensational trial pits two great legal minds—William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow—against each other. Ultimately, Scopes and Darrow are destined to lose because the case rests on whether Scopes had violated the Act, not whether evolution is fact.
1969—First Humans Reach the Moon
Neil Armstrong and Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. become the first humans to walk on the moon. The third member of the mission, command module Pilot Michael Collins, remains in orbit in Apollo 11.
1972—Chaos in the Big Apple
In New York City, within a span of twenty-four hours, fifty-seven murders are committed.
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