Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Movie Review - The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai

My thoughts behind movie reviews are different than typical movie reviews. I'm not going to write a lengthy review about any old thing. I only review things for one reason and one reason only--I want to convince you that whatever it is I'm reviewing is worth your time.

Which is why I have to review this movie, even if I know that 90% of people should probably never see The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai. Not because the movie is bad. Though it is. And not because it's genres and background would turn off most people to begin with. Though they do.

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai is a Japanese film. A pink film. Pink films, for those not in the know (don't worry, I didn't either) are Japan's equivalent to Cinemax softcore porn. The movies are typically low-budget and based more around titillation than gratuitousness. A large part of that comes from Japan's rules on adult material (can't show the 'working bits') that reemphasizes the storytelling element. Well over a hundred of these pink films are made and released every year, but they're almost unheard of outside of Japan.

I know you're ready to move on now, but please, stay with me. It gets more interesting from here.

So, why tell you about this one? Because this one breaks the mold. Originally conceived as a typical pink film entitled Horny Home Tutor: Teacher's Love Juice, the film played so well that the director was allowed to go back and expand it with an extra half hour of footage.

The result? Insanity. And awesomeness.

The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai is the story of a cheerfully vapid prostitute named Sachiko. While having dinner one night, she witnesses a violent restaurant altercation between a North Korean agent and a Middle Eastern man. In a sudden firefight, she's shot in the head. But not fatally. Instead, the bullet lodges itself in her brain in a way that awakens mental powers she didn't know she had. Genius intelligence, ESP, and some humorous sensory lag.

Oh, and in the scuffle, she picks up a cylinder. The same cylinder that the North Korean killed the Middle Eastern for.

Oblivious to that, she begins to wander the streets, until she stumbles across a book vendor and rips through a tome of metaphysical philosophy. Digesting it in seconds, she finds the professor who wrote the book and begins to debate metaphysics with him. She then gets hired on as the tutor to the professor's sullen teenage son.

At the same time, the North Korean agent begins to pursue her. He needs what's in that tube. The object? The cloned finger of US President George W Bush, which can be used to launch nuclear weapons to anywhere in the world. If North Korea gets it, they'll be able to rule the world.

Oh, and did I mention that Bush's cloned figure is sentient, and also might want to bring about the end of the world?

The film is just one thing after another, insanity and surrealism stacked upon one another. It doesn't help that each setpiece is punctuated by a hilariously perfunctory and terrible softcore sex scene. Don't worry, you won't see anything that you wouldn't see in any R-rated film. And none of it is particularly enthralling.

But as punctuation to the story of philosophy and nuclear proliferation, it's absolutely hilarious. The best scene comes when the finger of George Bush comes alive and decides to violate Sachiko. As she lies on a rooftop, the finger worms its way into her panties (and elsewhere) and an abandoned TV nearby suddenly comes to life as George Bush (a man with a picture of George Bush pasted over his head) begins to spout the rhetoric of the Iraqi war in an entirely new context (e.g. "We don't need the Security Council's permission to invade! We will find them in caves!")

A film this out there is hard to pin down. And it's definately not for everyone. But I'm pretty sure that anyone who would appreciate it would know that they're that person just from my rough summary. It definately transcends the sum of its parts--the goofy philosophical dialogue, the political statements, and the constant sex--to make something that's both hilariously entertaining and surprisingly well-thought-out. From the terribly cliche beginning to the ridiculous Japanese rendition of the Star Spangled Banner that closes the movie, it all works. Inexplicably, subversively.

Like a bullet to the brain.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Movie Rundown - Oct 6 to Oct 12

I've decided to steal this idea from Sarah, and start posting all the movies I've seen each week. Mostly because I watch lots and lots of movies, and I'm okay with turning that into content for the blog. This one will be shaky, because we're working on my recall, but here goes.

I'll list the movie and then my star rating, and a bit about it. And yes, I'm already aware I watch a lot of movies.

  • Blue Skies [****] This Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire musical tended to go on a little long. Most of the musicals from this era suffer from using the story as a prop to move from one musical sequence to another. However, Fred Astaire's performance of 'Puttin' on the Ritz' is so powerful that it turns a solid movie into a good one. Or, you could just watch it on youtube.
  • Heavy Metal [***] Take metal culture and animate it into a bunch of shorts in the 80s, and you've got Heavy Metal. For a movie based on a comic based on a genre of music, it's almost devoid of good musical moments. Also, it has a plethora (plethora, I tell you) of big chested fantasy women. It's not good, but it was funny.
  • Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist [*****] This was just about everything that I wanted out of a teen romantic comedy. Better than almost any other teen movie I've ever seen, it has all the terror and boredom, the potential and wild-eyed joy of being young and falling in love. Also, further props for having an incredibly well-integrated world view, with non-stereotypical homosexuals and jews added in a way that never feels like a gimmick.
  • Woman of the Year [***] Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy's first screen pairing. And, as a good indication of their legendary love affair, their on-screen presence is absolutely dynamite. However, the movie goes on a little too long and Hepburn isn't quite the charmer she is in most of her other movies. I blame the writing more than her, though. She seems less like a scatter-brained political philosopher/socializer and more like a type-A she-bitch. That said, the duo is (as always) charming, but this is the weakest of Hepburn's films that I've seen. ( For another opinion, see here. )
  • The Tracey Fragments [****] If there was ever such a thing as stream-of-consciousness filmmaking, this movie would be it. A story of a 15 year old girl (the always enchanting Ellen Page) who sets out to find her younger brother, who she believes she hypnotized into believing he was a dog. The film itself is an amalgam of small frames and split screens, done so that the story is told almost entirely visually. There is dialogue, but I'm almost sure the film would play well without it. Enchanting, so long as you can take the experimentalism of it all.
  • Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera [**] This was a documentary about snuff films. I don't really know what to say about it. The subject is interesting on a film geek and morally bankrupt level, but the documentary itself doesn't provide anything you couldn't find out on your own after 15 minutes of google searches. Also, there are plenty of staged and real videos that border on snuff (videos of death, but not filmed for profit). I couldn't recommend it for anyone who didn't have an inherent interest in the subject.
  • Ghost in the Shell [***] Considered one of the seminal pieces of anime cinema, I have to say I was pretty disappointed. It had great music, and some significant (though well-tread) tenants of cyberpunk and all, but it just didn't grab me much. I think much of its notoriety is based on the fact it was one of the early anime films to hit the US. Also, the voice work is TERRIBLE. Maybe the Japanese version had better voices, but I was watching it through Netflix Instant View and that wasn't an option.
  • One Missed Call [****] I'm continuing my project to watch all of the films of Takashi Miike, and I'm going in reverse chronological order. So I hit this film, which was made into a recent American film (which I will hopefully never watch). The film itself was shot well, but the story was only so-so and too derivative of other works. However, the newscast sequence and a whole set-piece towards the end in an abandoned hospital helped bolster the less-than-stellar plot.
  • Y tu mamá también [*****] Another coming-of-age story, this one far more serious and down to earth compared to Nick and Norah. Alfonso Cuaron is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. A story of two friends in Mexico who go on a road trip of discovery on the cusp of adulthood, I found the movie absolutely enchanting. It's both funny and heartbreaking, in a way entirely different than most road and buddy movies out there. I couldn't recommend it enough.
  • Enchanted [****] The first third actually only warranted three stars, and I had a satisfied but disappointed review written here (this article was written mid-film) but the movie won me back into 4 stars with a great mid-movie musical sequence and a truly spectacular final third.
And that's it. Check back next week when I'll hopefully not have a whole ten movies, but something much more managable.