Y Azumi Haruko desapareció

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Una ciudad se llena de carteles en busca de una chica desaparecida. Nos esperamos lo peor, pues en アズミ・ハルコ行方不明 (Azumi Haruko Yukue Fumei) hay las suficientes dosis de violencia, sexo y ambigüedad para un final dramático. Los tiempos se entremezclan y los personajes se superponen en esta cinta pop con colegialas que dan palizas a hombres; ojísanes que repiten tópicos machistas de una sociedad decadente; y personajes en busca de algo que dé sentido a sus vidas.

Aquí va el podcast de la semana:

 

y el vídeo del programa.

Here is a review in English of the film

MISSING 28-year-old Azumi Haruko

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A 28-year-old young woman is smoking a cigarette next to a car. The camera follows the direction of the smoke that spreads and disappears in the sky; and by the time the image comes back to the car, Azumi Haruko is gone. I like those beginnings in extrema res, whose details and reasons become puzzle pieces for the audience. アズミ・ハルコ 行方不明 (Azumi Haruko Yukue Fumei, Haruko Azumi is Missing) is one of those films with a chaotic structure of characters and time as in a time-traveler machine, a collage of graffiti conceptual art that tells the story of a few young women fed up with a small-town narrow-minded society that doesn’t let them pursue happiness.

We have the group of high-school girls that raid the night in search of lonely guys to beat them up, as in a clockworkorange-like orgy of counter-violence; the two women, respectively in their late 20’s and 30’s, having to work next to two 昭和 Shôwa-era-thinking middle-age misogynists who insist that women should get married by 30, before they get rotten; a 20-year old girl used and despised by her boyfriend; and a happily-divorced young mother who has tasted the sour dream of a conventional family.

The commodification of art is another of the themes that young director Matsui Daigo introduces in the film: an entrepreneur sees in the missing young woman an opportunity for making money trying to revive a forgotten amusement park in a forgotten town with no future, a town where most young people seem to be フリーター (Furita). Of course, the result is failure, and it seems that the only exit for those women in town is to run away from it. The sooner, the better; the faster, the safer.

How should we take Azumi Haruko Yukue Fumei? As a self-contained fable with no referential or mimetic reading? As a metaphor for mainstream Japanese society in line with Koreeda’s Kuuki Ningyou?

In any case, originally based in the homonymous novel by Yamauchi Mariko, it’s a visual pleasure to watch. And 蒼井優 (Aoi Yû) is great in her role.

 

Oboreru Naifu: Ellas los prefieren malos

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La ciudad frente al campo; la infancia frente a la vida adulta; lo espiritual frente a lo mundano; el arte frente al sexo; los sueños frente a la realidad: de todo esto y algo más trata 溺れるナイフ (Oboreru Naifu, Cuchillos que se ahogan), una película sobre adolescentes para adultos:

 

Aquí está el vídeo del podcast.

And here is a review  of the film in English.

 

Oboreru Naifu: from a manga for girls to a complex and ambiguous film

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As far as sex is concerned, Japanese morals differ from the Judaeo-Christian-based culture of “the West” in many aspects, but, above all, in the permissive way they deal with the matter. A few years ago, I wrote a review about a Japanese movie called Nude, in which a countryside young woman from Saitama gradually enters the world of Porn Videos (euphemistically known as Adult Videos or AV) as an actress. She is hypocritically rejected by former friends and family but eventually she overcomes those feelings of guilt and shame because she considers herself as an actress and, therefore, enjoys her profession.

In the case of 溺れるナイフ (Oboreru Naifu, Drowning knife), adapted from a 少女漫画 (Manga for young girls) of the same title, the director presents us Natsume’s story: a fifteen-year-old middle school girl whose sexy photographs in men’s magazines make of her a young national idol. What takes her to popularity and fame also means the impossibility of having a “normal” life in the Wakayama village she moves afterwards to with her parents. Besides, she suffers an attempted rape by one of her grown-up fans, causing her a trauma and destroying the relationship with his also teenage boyfriend. It is obvious the director’s open reflection about the sexualization of minors in an adult’s world with the silent complicity of the parents, and ultimately of the whole society.

However, this movie is not just about Natsume’s precocious career as a model and its ambiguous consequences, because it also depicts a confrontation of lifestyles and values: the urban, modern and fashionable Tokyo, which is represented by the capricious girl; and the more traditional, old-fashioned Japan of the 田舎 (Inaka, Countryside), with its slow pace and its animistic summer festivals, represented by こうちゃん, her boyfriend, who suffers the consequences of Natsume’s arriving in town as an element that disturbs in the village the spiritual balance among men and nature.

On a different level, this is also a story about coming-of-age, about crossing the blurry borders between childhood and adulthood, at times violently. We see girls who start using make-up for their 高校デビュー (Koukou Debyu, High School Debut, aka KKD) and look like different people; male teenagers like こうちゃん who join fights to prove their manhood in a self-destructive way. And above all, Natsume, whose dream of success becomes real, but at the price of the loss of her innocence.

Kono Sekai no Katasumi: la mano que crea también destruye

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Aquí está el podcast de esta semana sobre la película この世界の片隅 (Kono Sekai no Katasumi, En un rincón de este mundo):

 

Aparentemente una película de animación para niños con una estética de animación “antigua”, trata el controvertido tema de la bomba de Hiroshima desde el punto de vista de una inocente joven que intenta sobreponerse al sufrimiento personal y familiar con su creatividad y sus habilidades artísticas. La animación debe servir para animar; la mano que crea también destruye. Si queréis ver el vídeo del podcast…

Boku no Ojisan: Los filósofos también se enamoran

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Con 9 sobrinos y habiendo pasado alguna temporada que otra de mi vida adulta en la casa familiar, no es difícil identificarse con este entrañable personaje de ぼくのおじさん (Boku no Ojisan, Mi tío) encarnado por Matsuda Ryuhei y cuyas claves os explicamos en nuestro podcast sobre cine japonés actual. Atención a las similitudes con Mon Oncle, de Jacques Tati, y a los paralelismos con el discurso quijotesco de las armas y las letras:

 

Aquí está el vídeo del podcast

And here is a review in English of the film.

De nada, como dice mi crítico favorito de Babelia.

Travels with My Uncle or Boku no Ojisan

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“I’m a borderline philosopher. That’s why I read manga”. And the soliloquy goes on with many of the excuses that Masuda Ryouhei’s character in ぼくのおじさん (Boku no Ojisan, My Uncle) raises to justify his indolence and his lack of action (nothing against manga, though).

Working as a 非常勤講師 (part-time university teacher) in Japan can be a tough job if you have to provide for a family and make ends meet, begging for classes here and there. Commuting to different universities on the same day can also keep you half of your day stuck in crowded suburban trains. However, that’s not the case for our protagonist, because teaching only one コマ (Koma, 1’5-hour class) a week, he can have for himself all the time of the world to indulge in a life of laziness and procrastination, as he usually does. His salary, though, is likewise, hardly 30,000 yen (265 US dollars) per month. That makes him a poor among the poor. And he must live at his elder sister’s house with her family, being scolded by all members of the family, including his nephew and his niece, but with whom he keeps a close relationship. The same way the pre-Socratic Stoics claimed that philosophers should be immune to misfortune, he sees himself as a kind of a thinking genius, and tries to overcome the constant humiliations with a simple “Wow!” and quoting Kant.

A single uncle –in this case he doesn’t even seem to have a name, because it is not mentioned in the film– is an interesting figure for children. It’s supposed to an adult, but since it’s not a parent and doesn’t have the obligation to educate, he can become more of a buddy than other thing. That’s the case in this movie, where the middle-school boy, Yukio, is even more mature than the おじさん ojisan, and must takes care of him more than once.

However, there is not only family relations and comedy in the film, because a female character shows up in the ojisan’s life; and that changes everything. He seems to switch from his former good-for-nothing attitude to another one, more of a combative and pro-active man, as in Don Quixote’s discussion about guns and letters,  or even compared to Unamuno’s philosophical character Augusto Pérez’s determination to do anything to get the love of a female passerby. And through Eri, a fourth generation Japanese-American in Hawaii, another interesting topic is grafted in the plot: the descendants of Japanese in the US during WWII, kept isolated in concentration camps, and only at the end allowed to participate in the war in Europe, far from the land of their ancestors. The movie, more interested in showing a touristic Hawaii, doesn’t enter the controversy –now of current concern thanks to Trump–, but the topic is there, ready to be caught by any intelligent spectator.

In summary, this is an unpretentious film that will make you spend a good time and burst into laughter from time to time, thanks to the 空気読めない (Kuuki Yomenai, not able to understand situations) but at the same time likable character of the ojisan, quite well played by Masuda. And great music, by the way, quite cheerful, in the line of The Sting.

Recluta paparazzi Nobi, a la guerra de las primicias en SCOOP!

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Esta semana hablamos sobre SCOOP! (Primicia), esta inusual película “de guerra” de paparazzis japoneses que disparan con sus teleobjetivos los excesos de famosos, políticos y otras tribus urbanas.

Aquí está el Podcast:

 

con vídeo en youtube.

And here is a review in English of the film.

 

I’d do anything for a SCOOP!

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In August 1997 Lady Di died in a fatal car accident while being harassed by paparazzi. Many conspiracy theories were created afterwards, but in general the shutterbugs plus the driver’s taste for alcohol were considered the main causes for the sad episode. In Japanese movie SCOOP! we also have a car chase inside a tunnel, but in this case the paparazzi are the ones being persecuted by the bodyguards of a politician; Shizuka, the protagonist, had just taken a picture of the young, married and faultless public person with his lover in a first-class hotel.

The film is a sequence of different episodes of celebrity hunting and shootings of their excesses with sex, alcohol and violence with the common thread of a couple of paparazzi: a middle-age guy with the most vulgar and politically-incorrect mouth, plus an innocent female journalist, a newcomer to the business who gradually feels the adrenaline of the job and becomes an intrepid scoop hunter.

They can be compared to a couple of soldiers, the veteran and the new private, in a war against society’s hypocrisy, sometimes at the expense of their own physical security, as when Nobi is almost raped by a celebrity’s gang. And from the 先輩―後輩 sempai-kouhai work relationship, strong emotional bonds emerge between both of them, culminating into an inevitable bed scene.

However, above all, this is a story of comradeship among all the members of the sensationalist magazine, especially the senior ones, devoting their private lives to a work they believe in, and supporting each other, even though they can be rivals inside the tabloid. The two sections in the magazine compete for its reading audience: on the one hand, news and photographs of scandals, mainly 不倫事件 (infidelity cases); on the other side, グラビア (gravure), with photos of young models in sexy poses wearing bikini or underwear, which seems to be what is more demanded by the audience nowadays. Here we have an implicit allusion to the consumers of these weeklies and the evolution of their interests.

The turning point of the story with the presence of chameleon-like actor リリー・フランキー Lilly Franky as a deranged drug addict gives a closure to the movie and connects the profession of paparazzi with war press photographers like Robert Capa.

Ya no te quiero, ni siquiera una pizca: Nagai Iiwake

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Las cosas del querer / No tienen fin, ni tienen principio / Ni tienen cómo ni porqué / Así son las cosas del querer.

Y hasta que no las perdemos, no percibimos su verdadero valor, como el personaje de Sachio en esta conmovedora y políticamente incorrecta película 永い言い訳 (Nagai Iiwake, La larga excusa). He aquí el Podcast:

 

And here is a summary in English.

 

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