22 April 2011

[film] Laundry (ランドリー) (2002)

Can you imagine how long 1 year is? 1 year alone. I guess not.

Today I write about one of my favourite films ever. It's called Laundry and was made in 2002. It featured one of the most promising actors at that time, Kubozuka Yosuke . He became big when he played in "Great Teacher Onizuka" from 1998. Afterwards he acted in great movies like "Go" from (2001) and "Ping Pong" (2002). He also played in "Long Love Letter" a really popular tv drama. He was a big star in the early years of the new century. He, however couldn't deal very well with it and attempted to commit suicide, as he jumped off his 9th floor apartment and fell 26 metres. He survived and tried to be a writer after that ,with however not so much success. His acting career was kind of dead as he admitted to the usage of Marijuana. He then tried to be a reggae dancehall musician with mediocre success. In recent times he focussees more on acting again, but only plays minor roles.

I could have reviewed "Go" or "Ping Pong", as well, as they are equally great, however I chose "Laundry", because it deals with a very serious topic. It's about trust and reliance.

This flick is about Teru. Simply Teru. Teru and Mizue.
Teru is brain-impaired, due to an accident when he was younger. He works at his grandma's coin laundry. The character of Teru explains every customer's characteristics at the beginning. It's striking that no customer is really normal. For me there is not really a definition for what's normal and what not anyway. In a sense everyone has a certain quirk, so no one is really normal.
What I like about this film so much is that the Director Junichi Mori focussed so much on the details. It comes off like a documentary sometimes, as the focus stays on a certain scene and view for seconds without moving. You could say that most of those cuts are Teru's vision. It's a very attentive picture. You can, for example, see how a new customer (she seems so normal) visits the laundry and the camera focusses on her calmly smoking a cigarette. She is Mizue. Mizue forgets a piece of clothes.
When Teru follows her and tries to deliver the forgotten piece of clothes those two meet each other and start to talk.
You can see that Mizue seems lonely, so she invites him in for a cup of tea (mostly to show him gratitude). Due to his mental disability he talks like a young boy. He seems naive and innocent. The boy sometimes asks the most banal and mundane questions. For example, one customer (the boxer) talks happily about how he would have knocked out his opponent and gets very excited as he explains all the little details, when suddenly Teru interrupts him and asks him "Say, are ambulances fast?".
The young boy left Mizue's place pretty soon and they didn't talk much, however it seemed she felt comfortable around him.

we are shown Mizue as she attempts to commits suicide one day. She survives.
On the day Mizue leaves, she asks Teru to come see her off. On the way to the bus station they come across a huge puddle. She tells Teru that she believes she can get her life back on track if she can jump over it.

When Teru returns to the coin laundry he notices the beautiful girl left another piece of clothes, this time blood stained. Teru in this sense is not naive, though he talks naively. He earlier noticed the taped wrist of Mizue and gave it a doubtful look. He cleans this green shirt until there is no trace of blood any more and decides to deliver it to her when the place at which the coin laundry was got on sale.
On his naive but resolute journey he meets a strange but direct guy who helps him reach his destination. After being able to deliver this piece of clothes to a lonely and lost Mizue she decides to stay with Teru. She gets the feeling Teru needs her and that he can't live alone. 

However as soon as the unorthodox couple move together with Sally (the guy Teru met - he offered Teru help whenever he needed some) the beautiful girl realises that she needs Teru more than he needs her. After Sally goes on a trip to the USA to find a buxom American wife the two have to take over Sally's business and live at his house. They are a happy couple, until Mizue's demons begin to haunt her again....

Laundry is a sweet, but well-balanced romance without all the kitsch we are used to from other romances. What I love so much about this film is its intense symbolism. As the story unfolds you can notice a lot of subtle metaphors being shown. I can't really pick a favourite scene because there are so many.
Kubozuka Yosuke plays the role of Teru so well. There is a lot of irony, but also lots of emotions on his side. Koyuki who plays Mizue, gives her character a lot of depth and makes her really special. Also all the other characters are kind of special. If you love this flick as much as I do, you will be able to remember most characters in the film as they are so significant in the way they live and the way they act and behave.

The soundtrack (as you can hear above) is very melodic and calm. The music is rather easy listening and doesn't expect too much from the viewer which adds perfectly to the cinematographic of Junichi Mori.
He managed to deliver a lot of messages with this film.
You can say that there is a bit of Teru and Mizue in all of us. Especially when it comes to love and our daily life. However, with that being said, Laundry is a very uplifting motion picture and experiencing it made my life richer. It touched me a lot.
I hope you felt or will feel the same after seeing it. 

So long! :)

1 April 2011

[film] Gojira vs. King Ghidhora (1991)

This post contains massive spoilers. Don't read if you haven't seen the mentioned film and still want to see it.
Also I'd like to point out that written content applies only in this film's universe and is not comparable to other flicks. So statements given here might sound ridiculous to fans of the mainstream and blockbuster film.

Gojira (or Godzilla) vs. King Ghidhora from 1991 is one of the greatest Godzilla films, I think.
You might think that the 18th instalment of the series must be worse than all 17 prequels and I'm not saying that it is the best of all (the original film from 1954 is still the best), but it definitely ranks in my top 5 of Godzilla films. It's the second directed by Kazuki Omori. He already directed Godzilla vs. Biollante, which already had an interesting set up for a Godzilla flick. Unfortunately it wasn't very good in my opinion.
However Godzilla vs. King Ghidhora did a few things right. First of all it gave Godzilla finally some background story and history.
Godzilla fans all over the world must have wondered where Godzilla even came from in the first place. Godzilla used to be a dinosaur who lived on the Bikini Islands in 1944 and as the USA tested the H-Bomb there the dinosaur became Godzilla (you should know that Godzilla's source of power is radiation and nuclear energy so this is a rather consequent back story (I'm not going to discuss the dinosaur in 1944 thing, or else wise I'd need to discuss the whole monsters thing in post modern times...).


The second and most important reason why this film is good is because it made Godzilla return as a villain again. Previously (except for the first few instalments) he was famous for saving Japan and even being "friendly" with kids. He was a hero. This time he is the havoc and destruction triggering monster that he used to be in 1954. Kazuki Omori did explain this quite smartly.
Godzilla was still weakened from the anti nuclear bacteria used on him in the previous film and so Japan's government felt quite safe until an UFO from the future appeared over Japan and people from the 23rd century explained to the prime minister that Japan will be no more in 200 years. They said Godzilla would destroy nuclear power plants and radiation leaks and forces Japanese people to leave their country. They came to save Japan and change its history that's why they wanted to travel back to 1944 and teleport the dinosaur to another island so it won't be exposed to radiation and can never transform into Godzilla.
After they did so and left three little cute dragons on Bikini Islands, the people from the future revealed their true intentions. The three cute little dragons became Ghidhora and as one monster it plans to destroy Japan. Fortunately (rather unfortunately though) Japan's government discovered the dinosaur on the island it was teleported to sending a submarine with nuclear missiles to "create" a new Godzilla. Not knowing it was hit by a sunken submarine which carried nuclear weapons a few years ago already it finally caused Godzilla to be even bigger and more vicious.

The previous Godzilla films lacked suspense and thrill, because when Godzilla the hero entered the fight everything usually turned out well. It used to be the typical wrestling procedure. The face (good guy) beats up the heel (bad guy) pretty well in the beginning but gets serious beating in the middle of the fight nearly enduring till the end when the face suddenly regains his will to win and then eventually wins.
In this film everything turned out different. Godzilla defeated Ghidhora relatively fast (yes - the centre head gets torn off once again haha) but continued destroying Japan. People were frightened of him again.
In the end it even needed Cyborg Ghidhora from the future to step in and help.

I also liked the effects of this one. It is visible that they had a lot more budget for this one. Of course the goofy fights and cheap looking monster dresses are still the same, but that's just a trademark of the Godzilla films (CGI effects as for example in Emmerich's Godzilla from 1998 destroyed this. This is by the way (imo) one of the worst films ever made). Also this time the film title doesn't exactly reveal who the villain is (though by reading this you would already know.)

In conclusion there is to say that I highly recommend this flick to anybody who is interested in cool monster films. They are actually rare these days.