meinImage(Is the tag line really “A woman’s unpainted face is scary!”? I get where they’re coming from but, hmmm – problematic)

Adapted from the 1997 novel by Aya Imamura, you’d be forgiven be forgiven for thinking that Roommate is something of a rehash of seminal ’90s “my roommate is a psycho” drama Single White Female though it goes a couple of steps further in the influences stakes and throws in Fatal Attraction and The Three Faces of Eve for good measure. Honestly anything else is a spoiler (though anyone who’s ever watched a film of this nature before is going to guess 70% of the plot about ten minutes in) but sit back and get ready to enjoy a very silly (though not really silly enough) tale of violence and psychological intrigue!

The film starts with the police arriving at the scene of a violent crime where a severely injured man and woman are being taken to hospital leaving another man dead inside. Cut to three months earlier and Harumi (Keiko Kitagawa) – the woman from the crime scene, has been injured in a car accident and wakes up in a hospital dormitory. Shortly thereafter she’s visited by the man who was driving the car, Keisuke (Kengo Kora), along with his insurance broker friend who’s very keen to sort out the paperwork for the compensation etc. Whilst recuperating Harumi builds up friendship with one of the nurses, Reiko (Kyoko Fukada), and when it comes time for Harumi to be discharged the two decide to become roommates! It’s all amazing at first but cracks begin to appear as Reiko’s behaviour becomes increasingly strange and Harumi starts getting closer to Keisuke. Then Harumi starts seeing a woman who looks really like Reiko, but is not actually Reiko, hanging around and things just start to get even more bizarre from then on.

Yes, you’ve seen all of this before. Not just in Single White Female and every other identity theft stalker drama since but even the various twists and turns feel lifted from other, more successful, movies. There’s even an incident with a pet that’s kind of like the one in Single White Female but it’s been given a Fatal Attraction style twist to make it less obvious. At this point, when your roommate’s behaviour has become this dangerous, a normal person would actually do something about it, wouldn’t they? Not in the land of the movies though! Revelation after revelation and about an hour of psychobabble later it’s all explained (sort of, as long as you don’t really think about it) but the last twist and the subplot with Tomorowo Taguchi’s sleazy mayoral candidate seem a little superfluous.

Mostly the film has a disappointingly televisual feeling and though there are a fair few interesting techniques in play such as the use of split screens, this feels both too on the nose and underdeveloped to have much of an impact. Performances are also on the weaker side though this may rest partly on the lack of depth in the fairly schlocky script – Kengo Kora isn’t left much to do other than being generally ‘nice’ and though the bond between the two women is well brought out, neither of them really gets to let loose with the intense extremes of their characters. The problem, really, is that Roommate walks a fine line between camp horror movie and serious psychological thriller, which just makes it a little bit dull. It never manages to build up much of an atmosphere of fear and its unwillingness to play with ambiguity makes it that much less engaging. Had it gone further down the schlocky, campy, melodrama route, Roommate might have proved more fun but this light on gore heavy on drama approach makes it only mildly diverting.

It’s about as tame and mainstream as they come, but Roommate isn’t exactly a bad film, just not a very interesting one. Not crazy enough for the midnight crowd nor smart enough lovers of cerebral thrillers, it ultimately falls between two stools. With such a high profile cast you might have expected something a little more powerful but Roommate is the classically OK, yet totally inconsequential film that’s fine for occupying a couple of hours but little more.

LFF 2014 Round-up

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Total Films
  1. Hill of Freedom
  2. Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
  3. Black Coal Thin Ice
  4. Bjork Biophilia Live
  5. Tokyo Tribe
  6. Shrew’s Nest
  7. Still the Water
  8. Giovanni’s Island
  9. The Drop
  10. The New Girlfriend
  11. Dearest
  12. Rosewater
  13. John Stewart Debate Event
  14. War Book
  15. The Wonders
  16. A Girl Walks Home Alone, at Night
  17. Black Souls
  18. The Goddess
  19. A Girl at My Door
  20. No Man’s Land
  21. Betibú
  22. Dragon Inn
  23. Jauja
  24. Leviathan
  25. Furthest End Awaits
  26. Shadow Days
  27. White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom
  28. Winter Sleep
  29. Satellite Girl and Milk Cow
  30. Three Hearts
  31. Mommy
Booked but Missed
  1. Pasolini
  2. Exit
  3. White Bird in a Blizzard
Wanted to see but couldn’t (off the top of my head, probably I’ve forgotten most of them)
  1. Duke of Burgundy
  2. The Dinner
  3. pretty much everything else
Top Picks (the ones I liked most, not necessarily the ‘best’ films, also a bit arbitrary )
  1. A Girl Walks Home Alone, At Night
  2. The New Girl Friend
  3. Mommy
  4. Black Coal Thin Ice
  5. The Furthest End Awaits

So, the London film festival is over for another year. Blow for blow I think I feel less ‘wowed’ by this year than others even though most of the films I saw were more than good and I only saw two that I didn’t like so much, hmm – well maybe three.  My selections were a bit random though – started with the ones I most wanted to see and worked around those meaning I missed some of the most popular titles like Hard to be a God, Goodbye to Language, The Tribe etc. I really wanted to see Duke of Burgundy but that’ll get a release soon enough, bit disappointed I had to miss Exit but it was for a good reason. Would have liked to have seen more of the archive stuff – had an idea I didn’t really like Altman but I was kind of blown away by Jimmy Dean. Oddly I saw most of the competition films and agree with the winner, Leviathan – a true masterpiece. I guess that’s it ’til next year – I wonder what that will bring?

Stray Cat Rock Wild Measures '71 castReview of the new high definition Stray Cat Rock box set up at uk-anime.net

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Totally forgot to post this at the time but here’s an interview I conducted with rising star Hoshi Ishida at Raindance 2014 on behalf of Uk-anime.net.

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Another Raindance 2014 review up on Uk-anime.net

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Review of Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats up at Uk-anime.net! Screening in London as part of the 2014 Raindance Film Festival on 30th September / 1st October. Tickets still available and the director will be in attendance!

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The Tale of Iya review up on uk-anime.net

 

20,000 Days on Earth

Posted: September 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

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Nick Cave – post-punk, counter culture legend, novelist, screenwriter and occasional actor has certainly led a very full life and on the day we meet him is living his 20,000th day on the planet. It is, of course, a fairly arbitrary number and a fictional conceit taken from one of Cave’s old notebooks in which he realised he was exactly 20,000 days old when he began working on the album that would eventually be released last year – Push the Sky Away. 20,000 Days on Earth is not your usual rockumentary – part fictionalised, fairly light on personal histories and musical performances, the film seems to want to push deeper into the nature of art, and the artist, more than the man known as Cave.

The film begins with an explosive series of images ranging from the important pop-culture moments of the last fifty years to what could be the personal images of someone’s life alongside a clock counting up to the all important 20,000th day. Cave, awake at 6.59, gets up from his all white bed leaving a still sleeping dark haired woman with her face obscured by pillows (presumably his wife, Susie). He informs us that he ceased to be a human being at the end of the twentieth century – he eats, writes, watches TV, plays with his children and ‘terrorises’ his wife. This fictional 24 hours in the creation of an album sees Cave probing and re-evaluating his life as an artist, his creative process and ultimately his purpose in life. What it does not do, particularly, is attempt to tell the story of Cave’s life or reveal any great personal truths but this extraordinary and ramshackle testament to the nature of art is as beguiling as it is inspiring.

Cave narrates his story with the air of a pulpy noir detective sitting down at a typewriter, probably fatally wounded, to tell us how it all went wrong after ‘that dame’ walked into his office. Equal parts Walter Neff leaving a last confession on a tape recorder and a punkish William Burroughs offering poetic and philosophical musings on the nature of memory and the art of transformation, Cave imparts to us the secrets of his craft. It’s not all solo musings though as Cave is visited by three ‘ghosts’ of his past each accompanying him on a picturesque drive along Brighton’s seafront. With actor Ray Winstone, who starred in the Cave scripted The Proposition, Cave seems deferent but talks about his love of performing and rejection of conscious ‘re-invention’. A second meeting with ex-bandmember Blix Bargeld feels rawer as they discuss the reasons for his departure from the band but the third, with fellow Ozzie Kylie Minogue feels altogether warmer and more cheerful. Each disappear as mysteriously as they arrived and you can’t help but wonder if they were ever really there at all or just a re-conjured memory or an imagined conversation only existing inside Cave’s mind. That’s not to mention the frequent reminiscences with more recent collaborator Warren Ellis about shared memories and an artistic working relationship or the fake interview with a psychoanalyst who probes Cave on his earliest sexual experiences and relationship with his father.

Cave describes himself at one point as ‘a front row kind of guy’ and worries that his performances don’t stretch so far beyond that. He likes to pick an audience member and ‘terrify’ them, there’s something about the mix of awe and terror that fascinates him and indeed the scenes from an intimate concert at Camden’s Koko show him bringing one female audience member to a state of near fearful ecstasy – such is his stage presence. The film features scenes from the creation of an album but isn’t the usual chronicle of its completion nor an exploration of the album itself. The whole thing climaxes with a triumphant performance sequence taken from a high octane concert taking place at Sydney Opera House which bears testimony to his skill as a stage performer and the ultimate justification of everything that’s gone before. In a slice of cinema magic, Cave appears to step out of Sydney Opera house directly onto the pebble beach at Brighton where he offers another description likening the process of songwriting as being like a sighting of a sea monster – sometimes you only see the humps but it’s your job to lure Nessie to the surface.

20,000 Days on Earth sometimes feels like one of those late night pub corner conversations with a mysterious old man who’s decided he wants to tell you his story. You aren’t sure if any of this is true, and some of it certainly sounds improbable in the least, but something about his delivery or the look in his eyes makes you want to believe him. He’s telling you the story he wants you to hear which bears its own truth, even if it wasn’t the one you were expecting. Lyrical and strangely profound 20,000 Days on Earth is an inspiring journey inside the mind of an artistic genius.

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One of my favourite films – Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill reviewed at uk-anime.net!

Also, hot on the heals of Arrow’s dual format DVD/BD combo of Branded to Kill, Eureka/Masters of Cinema announced today that they’ll be releasing a dual format release of Suzuki’s earlier colour film, Youth of the Beast!

Everybody’s going Seijun Suzuki crazy which can only be a very good thing! Now someone hurry up and release the Taisho trilogy.

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This is from a million years ago but it was caught up in the queue at UK-anime.net and has only just been liberated! Also I wrote this when I was deathly ill (festival fever is a real thing!) so I’m not entirely sure it’s completely coherent. Anyway, have at it – The Kirishima Thing reviewed at Uk-anime.net

Also look out for fellow queue inmates Kumiko the Treasure Hunter and Tale of Iya which, I am assured, will shortly become eligible for parole.