Monday, May 19, 2008

Hall of Strangeness Part XXVIII

Tampopo – (Juzo Itami) Taking the “spaghetti” western literally, Itami created the first Japanese “noodle” western. Truck-driver and modern-day cowboy Goro rides into town to help hapless widow Tampopo turn her noodle shop into the most successful joint in town. The main plot is intercut with unrelated vignettes about food and romance. Cutely colored with a palette of yellow, pink and baby blue, Tampopo contains everything from broad comedy to savvy parody.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: ****

Tears of the Black Tiger – (Wisit Sasanatieng) – From Thailand comes a western melodrama pastiche with a color scheme borrowed from tropical skittles (expect fuchsia and teal to dominate). Sasanatieng exploits decades of genre conventions to demonstrate how cultural flavor and auteur visuals can still enliven a rusty premise: a doomed love between a mayor’s daughter and a brooding bandit (the Black Tiger himself). The numerous western shootouts are enhanced by emotional excess and quirky hyper-violence (think cowboys wielding bazookas). The music is repetitive, but playfully pinches from classical and spaghetti western tunes.
Artistry: **** Fun: ***** Strangeness: ****

Tetsuo: The Iron Man – (Shinya Tsukamoto) After being hit by a car driven by a metal-fetish masochist, Japanese everyman Tetsuo changes into a scrapheap cyborg monstrosity. Covered in wires, metal struts and whirring power-tool body-parts he soon realizes that his destiny lies in a final apocalyptic battle with the man who triggered the transformation, now also hideously mutated. Techno, stop-star animation and plenty of confusion await viewers of this Japanese Eraserhead. The sequel brings in color and even more intense battles although the attention-grabbing randomness of the original is somewhat ameliorated by a more coherent plot.
Artistry: ** Fun: *** Strangeness: *****

Three Crowns of the Sailor – (Raoul Ruiz) Chilean director Ruiz gives a literary treatment of an old sailor yarn that has the layered interconnectivity of Gene Wolfe, the stream-of-conscious density of Joyce and the temporal elusiveness of Proust. The challenging material is shouldered by Jean-Bernard Guillard playing a cursed sailor who bequeaths his sorry lot aboard a ghost ship to a fleeing murderer. His price: three Danish crowns and a night of prose-heavy storytelling laden with symbolism and strangeness. Maverick cinematographer Sacha Vierny adds suitably disturbing deep-focus imagery.
Artistry: **** Fun: ** Strangeness: *****

Times to Come – (Gustavo Mosquera) Where do post-apocalyptic, sci-fi mind trips and eighties, new-wave music videos go to make babies? Argentina. A fascist military officer and an unstable male nurse duel over the comatose witness of police brutality… I think.
Artistry: *** Fun: *** Strangeness: ****


Patti said...

I really like your summary of "Times to Come". I think I might share that with some of my friends who really like Argentina and see what they think.

Mad Dog said...

I liked Tetsuo, but there's only so many stop-motion machine transformation sequences you can see before it gets old. This movie's only, like, 70 or 80 minutes long, but it feels like it could be half that length and not lose too much. Too much enthusiasm put into too little story.

FilmWalrus said...


I'm glad you were there for that.

Mad Dog,

I kind of agree with you about Tetsuo not being a great success, but I actually do get caught up in it. I want to see it again now that I've read more material about it by Tsukamoto and Tom Mes, whose "Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto" is a fascinating read.