Friday, July 4, 2008

Taking Inventory as of July 4

In my last post (which was my longest ever), despite throwing in the kitchen sink, I still forgot two worthwhile films.

I saw Love and Honor tonight at the Roxie. This film was directed by YĆ“ji Yamada and is the final part of his samurai trilogy. A few years back, I saw Hidden Blade, the second film in the series. I didn't think too highly of that one. The film I really want to see is Twilight Samurai, the first in the series.

Love and Honor was nominated for many Japanese film awards but I am ambivalent. At its core, it is a melodrama with a horrible happy ending tacked on. Shinnojo is a low level samurai and food taster for the local bigwig. He hates his job and is pretty obnoxious to his wife, Kayo. One day, he tastes some bad shellfish and is rendered blind. His loving wife stands by him even though his future is uncertain. Circumstances conspire to force her to ask Shimada, a high level samurai, to intercede with the castle lord to get Shinnojo an annual stipend, a sort of disability pay. Shimada agrees to help but not for free. Interestingly, the stipend is measured in pounds of rice and Shimada wants a pound of flesh in exchange. So Kayo whores herself, Shinnojo gets his rice allowance, and they settle into their new lives...until Shinnojo's loudmouth aunt says she's heard Kayo is about town with an unknown man. When Shinnojo uncovers the truth, he divorces Kayo and starts training to challenge Shimada to a duel. Up until this point, the film was mildly enjoyable but the film descends into predictability during the last third. First, Shinnojo beats Shimada in the sword fight. This despite being blind and a low level samurai while Shimada trained at a prestigious dojo in Tokyo. Not only that but Shinnojo doesn't even have a scratch. Finally, after telegraphing the ending 10 minutes in advance, Kayo returns as "the scullery maid." Of course, Shinnojo's heightened senses identify Kayo immediately by the taste of her cooking.

I have been planning on seeing Love and Honor for the past few weeks. Its had a long run at the Roxie but I forgot to mention it in my last post. Before I forget again, Viva (starring and directed by Anna Biller) gets a long 5 day run at the Red Vic from July 11 to 15. I saw Viva at the 2007 IndieFest and loved it. I don't get out to the Red Vic often even though it has great programming. It's not convenient compared to the Roxie and the Castro. Of course, PFA is a 15 minute walk from BART.

I've seen four films since my last inventory.

Tokyo Gore Police, Japanese with subtitles; (2008) - Hole in the Head
Lizzie with Richard Boone; (1957) - part of a Joan Blondell retrospective at PFA
Mad Detective directed by Johnny To; Cantonese with subtitles; (2007)
Love and Honor, Japanese with subtitles; (2006) - Official Site

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