May is “The Month of Funny Little Things” at Film Space. June “The Month of Cuisine.”
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. For the roof, you might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. And, if on the roof, the start might be delayed while everyone waits for it to get darker. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, May 23: Supermarket Woman / Sûpâ no onna / スーパーの女 (1996) by Juzo Itami – 127 mins – Japan, Comedy.
This is a 1996 Japanese comedy/ romance film written and directed by Juzo Itami, who was an actor before becoming a popular modern Japanese film director. Many critics came to regard him as Japan's greatest director since Akira Kurosawa. His 10 movies, all of which he wrote himself, are comic satires on elements of Japanese culture. He died in December 1997, under circumstances not fully explained – possibly suicide, possibly murder.
The film stars Juzo's wife and regular leading-lady Nobuko Miyamoto as a woman who is hired by a failing supermarket to help it compete against an aggressive local rival. Another frequent star of Juzo's films, Masahiko Tsugawa, plays her boss and later romantic interest.
Having, in the past, made films that attacked every target imaginable, from family traditions (The Funeral), to taxes (A Taxing Woman & A Taxing Woman Returns), to diabolical gangsters (Minbo), to hospitals (The Seriously Ill), Juzo Itami this time takes on the supermarkets and their attempts to get the consumers at whatever cost. And while this film has its funny side, in the crazy situations that it creates, it also shows another side, which is very much the attitude of a corporate structure that is more concerned with its profits than it is with any customer.
Goro has a supermarket. And a competitor comes into the neighborhood, trying to take him out of business by providing less expensive prices for everything that is sold in the supermarket. Bargains Galore, its name, has in mind the closure of Goro's humbler venue, so that in the end it can mark up its prices in any way it can. Goro hires Hanako, a housewife whose talents seem to be better suited to management than they are in anything else. Hanako, as she gets familiar with the operation, discovers many of the tricks of the trade, done by many of the elders in charge of each section of the market. And the procedures are simple: not "fresh" food, but a new package and a new date, to try and convince the customers that quality is on the shelves.
Supermarket Woman was nominated for six Japanese Academy Awards in 1997, including Best Film, Director, and Actress, but did not win in any categories. You can see a wild trailer at http://www.listal.com/video/100655673. Available on DVD from YesAsia.
About the director, Juzo Itami
Juzo Itami directed his first film at the age of 50. It was Ososhiki (The Funeral), and the year was 1984. This film proved popular in Japan and won many awards, including Japanese Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. However, it was his second movie, his "noodle western" Tampopo, that earned him international exposure and acclaim. All of his films were profitable; most were also critical successes.
Before tturning to directing, Itami worked at various times as a commercial designer, a television reporter, a magazine editor, and an essayist. He first acted in the 1960s Ginza no Dora-Neko and appeared in various films and television series, including the big-budget Western film Lord Jim in the 1960s. The most notable movie in which Itami acted may be Yoshimitsu Morita's 1983 movie Kazoku Gēmu (The Family Game).
In 1992, Itami was attacked, beaten, and slashed by five members of the Goto-gumi, a Tokyo yakuza gang, who were angry at his portrayal of yakuza as bullies and thugs in his film Minbo no Onna. This attack led to a government crackdown on the yakuza. His subsequent stay in a hospital inspired his next film Daibyonin, a grim satire on the Japanese health system.
He purportedly committed suicide on December 20, 1997 in Tokyo, by leaping from the roof of the building where his office was located, after a sex scandal he was allegedly involved in was picked up by the press. The suicide letter he reportedly left behind denied any involvement in such an affair. Many consider his death suspicious; some believe it had something to do with a cult religion he was dealing with, or, as another possible revenge attack by the Yakuza. At the time, the police treated it as a possible homicide. His surviving family has remained silent on the circumstances surrounding his death.
At Film Space Saturday, May 30: My Secret Cache / The Secret Garden / Himitsu no hanazono / ひみつの花園 (1997) by Shinobu Yaguchi – 85 mins – Japan, Comedy/ Crime.
The hilarious comedy of a bank teller who hopes she'll somehow luck into a vast sum of cash - and does, only to have it slip from her fingers. The film evolves into a series of wild adventures as she tries to regain that lost wealth in the face of every conceivable obstacle. By the director of Adrenaline Drive, seen at Film Space on March 28, and the 2001 comedy Waterboys, about a group of teenage boys who seek fame inthe world of synchronized swimming, shown here commercially in September 2002.
International Film Festival Berlin: A story about middle-class apathy, obsession with money and feminist self-discovery in contemporary Japan in a grotesquely hilarious fashion.
As the director of the internationally acclaimed Down the Drain, an upbeat comedy about a somnambulistic high school girl, Shinobu Yaguchi creates in this 35 mm debut film another powerful heroine who recklessly takes any risk to get the money. As in Down the Drain, he uses visual puns and narrative irony exquisitely to turn the heroine's serious efforts into an absurd comedy and transforming her hyperactive obsessiveness into a charming slapstick. Enfant terrible of Japanese independent cinema, Yaguchi refers mockingly to the aerial photography of the wilderness in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and inserts a playful flip cartoon of still images shot by a bank surveillance video. Mixing genres of adventure, crime, and films of self-determined women in a B-picture fashion proves Yaguchi's sheer inventiveness as a genuine auteur.
Since early childhood, Sakiko – the film’s protagonist - was never the kind of a child who would be considered “cute” by universal standards. For reasons unknown, even to her family, she loved money. When she graduated from high school, her mother casually suggested working at a bank. "You can count and look at all the money you want," she added. Thus Sakiko becomes a bank teller. But her moments of bliss are short-lived. She soon realizes all the money in front of her belongs to other people.
One day, the bank is robbed, and Sakiko is taken hostage by two armed robbers who grab five hundred million yen. They drive into Aokigahara Jukai (sea of trees), a vast wilderness area at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and accidentally fall into a ravine. Both robbers are killed, but Sakiko is spared.
Rescued, Sakiko becomes an instant media favorite as the courageous bank robbery victim. The press crowd at her door, but only for a month. She later finds out that the money the robbers took off with has not been recovered. She remembers that a suitcase sunk into a pond before she was rescued. Sakiko finally attains her goal in life. She tells her family about the money, and persuades them to go on a picnic in the Jukai so she may be able to locate the pond. The expedition turns out to be futile.
Lady Luck has not forsaken Sakiko. Watching the TV news one day, Sakiko learns that geologist Morita, a professor at Tamagawa University, is a specialist on Aokigahara Jukai. She immediately goes to the university and meets Prof. Morita and his assistant, Edogawa.
Following Edogawa's advice, Sakiko decides to study geology at the university. She quits the bank, cancels all her bank accounts, gets herself an apartment, and begins studying for the entrance exams. She successfully passes the exams, and plunges into the world of geology, purchasing expensive equipment for research. At the same time, she takes courses in scuba-diving and rock climbing. Naturally, she becomes bankrupt, and unable to pay her tuition or rent, she works at a bar. She participates in swimming meets and rock climbing contests for the prize money.
As Edogawa is visiting her apartment one day, the floor caves in because of the heavy equipment. The landlady is furious and orders all the equipment to be removed. Edogawa is kind enough to borrow a truck from the university to transport the equipment to her parents' house. While Edogawa leaves the truck parked, Sakiko steals it, equipment and all, and heads for the Jukai to put her luck to the final test.
June is “The Month of Cuisine”at Film Space.
At Film Space Saturday, June 6: No Reservations (2007) by Scott Hicks – 104 mins – US/ Australia, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance. Mixed or average reviews: 50/52 out of 100.
IMDb viewer: More a family drama rather than a romantic comedy. There is lavish bitter dark pathos of death in the beginning of the movie and the more colorful look at restaurant cooking while there are bits of humor scattered like sweets throughout the movie. There are some amazing close up scenes that really grab the attention of the audience with the emotions and captivating context of the scenes, the color motif is brilliant. Overall, the script is basic and mostly predictable with some good tie-ins and closures. It's Catherine Zeta Jones that really makes this movie deliciously sparkle. Entertaining and fun for the summer with good flashes of cooking on part with "Ratatouille" that came out just a little earlier.
NY Times: What’s unexpected and gratifying is the film’s enlightened attitude toward parenthood and work, which the movie’s publicity campaign conspicuously glosses over, even though it’s the story’s driving force.
Scott Hicks, the film's director, is also a wine-maker when he is not making films. The wine mentioned in the film is in fact the director's own wine label from his winery Yacca Paddock Vineyards in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia. (Just thought you’d like to know.)
Available on DVD from Amazon.com.