Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's On starting March 12

The Reader arrives! Benjamin takes his buttons and departs!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, March 12

by Thomas Ohlson

Best Bets: The Reader. Bolt. Watchmen.

I find it astonishing that The Reader has appeared at our Major Cineplex, especially after the poor showing of Revolutionary Road, but here it is. The chain should be commended for bringing this fine film to Chiang Mai. I suggest you take advantage of its presence, because it most certainly will not be here long.

Here are my comments on the movies playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, March 12, 2009. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks.

This is Issue Number 20 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* The Reader – US/ Germany, Drama/ Romance – 124 mins – Directed by Stephen Daldry. Kate Winslet won two Golden Globes this year, and one of them was for best supporting actress for her role in this film. And she won the Oscar for the role as well, but as best actress. Anyway, it’s a fine fine film! Even if somewhat removed and emotionally distant. Kate’s performance is something definitely not to be missed. I recommend it and urge you to see it. It’s an absolute marvel that it showed up here in Chiang Mai at all – cheers to the Major Cineplex chain for bringing it in, especially right after the disastrous run of Revolutionary Road.

No one expected The Reader to get a best picture nod, along with nominations for director Stephen Daldry, actress Kate Winslet, screenwriter David Hare and cinematographers Chris Menges and Roger Deakins. David Hare, nominated for adapting the screenplay for The Reader from the novel, noted that it’s about "an unrepentant Nazi war criminal having an affair with an underage boy. It puts a lot of people off. . . “. That’s the underage boy at the left, and the male with his back to you in the picture to the right, David Cross, who was 17 when filming began. [To avoid legal consequences, the crew delayed the filming of the sexually explicit scenes until after his 18th birthday on July 4, 2008.] The lady in the picture is of course Kate Winslet, playing Hanna. Also starring Ralph Fiennes.

Rated R in the US for some scenes of sexuality and nudity. Mixed or average reviews: 58/60 out of 100.

Roger Ebert: There are enormous pressures in all human societies to go along. Many figures involved in the recent Wall Street meltdown have used the excuse, "I was only doing my job. I didn't know what was going on." President Bush led us into war on mistaken premises, and now says he was betrayed by faulty intelligence. U.S. military personnel became torturers because they were ordered to. Detroit says it was only giving us the cars we wanted. The Soviet Union functioned for years because people went along. China still does.

Many of the critics of The Reader seem to believe it is all about Hanna's shameful secret. … [Sentence deleted as a spoiler!] …. Others think the movie is an excuse for soft-core porn disguised as a sermon. Still others say it asks us to pity Hanna. Some complain we don't need yet another "Holocaust movie." None of them think the movie may have anything to say about them. I believe the movie may be demonstrating a fact of human nature: Most people, most of the time, all over the world, choose to go along. We vote with the tribe.

To read the whole of Ebert’s thought-provoking piece, click here – but do it after you’ve seen the film, so as not to destroy the story.

* Miss You Again / A-Nueng Kidthueng Pen Yang Ying / อนึ่ง ... คิดถึงเป็นอย่างยิ่ง: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 90 mins – The third entry in veteran director Bhandit Rittakol’s romance series that began in 1992 with I Miss You, then I Miss You 2 in 1996. It's a teenage movie about old school friends trying to save their financially-troubled school from closing and being sold to a big supermarket company.

* Dragonball Evolution: US, Action/ Adventure/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 100 mins – This film doesn’t open in the US/UK until April 8; they’re trying it out on us here in Asia! It’s the tale of a little boy, Son Goku, who grows into a powerful man known as Dragonball. As a young warrior Son Goku seeks to fulfill his grandfather's dying request to find the great Master Roshi (Chow Yun Fat) and gather all seven Dragonballs to prevent the evil Piccolo from using the magical orbs to take over the world. The film is based on the very popular Japanese manga by Akira Toriyama, whose work not only included best-selling graphic novels, but also video games and a phenomenally successful television series. What started out as a successful manga, grew into a world-wide phenomenon and is now probably the most popular Japanese series, world-wide. The manga Dragonball which started in 1984 and its sequel Dragonball Z boasted a total of 519 issues, which were later condensed into the 42 volume version which is still being published to this day. [The cover of the first of these tankōbon volumes is shown at right.] Over 150 million volumes of the series were sold by 2007. The television spin-off of 1986, drawn by different artists, lasted an amazing 508 episodes. This live-action film is directed by James Wong (Willard, Final Destination, Jet Li’s The One).

Bolt: US Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy – 96 mins – John Travolta does a superb job voicing Bolt, a canine TV star convinced of his superpowers who sets out on a cross-country journey to find his owner. I found this whole enterprise a complete delight, containing many moments of real heart. If you at all enjoy animation, don’t miss this one. Great for kids – and adults! Very obviously made for the 3D effects, but shown here only in regular old 2D. Generally favorable reviews: 67/65 out of 100.

Watchmen: US/ UK/ Canada – Action/ Drama/ Fantasy/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller– 163 mins – I have to admit that this film simply blew me away! I think that once you accept the violence and the comic-book origins, you will find this a monumental film. If you liked The Dark Knight or A Clockwork Orange, you should appreciate this. (It’s monumentally long as well, so be prepared.) Directed by Zack Snyder (who gave us 300), it’s complex and multi-layered, and is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are a part of everyday life, Richard Nixon is in his fifth term as president, and the US won the war in Vietnam – which is now the 51st State. And that’s just for starters! Amidst all the blood there’s a lot of philosophy, and a lot to think about and debate before you see it again. Rated R in the US for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity, and language. Mixed or average reviews: 56/53 out of 100.

Clint Morris, Moviehole: Might just be the best-written, best-performed and most meaningful superhero movie ever made. Unlike a lot of caped-crusader movies, it actually has a point to make.

Roger Ebert: A film experience of often fearsome beauty. . . . The film is rich enough to be seen more than once. I plan to see it again, this time on IMAX, and will have more to say about it. I’m not sure I understood all the nuances and implications, but I am sure I had a powerful experience. It’s not as entertaining as “The Dark Knight,” but like the “Matrix” films, LOTR and “The Dark Knight,” it’s going to inspire fevered analysis. I don’t want to see it twice for that reason, however, but mostly just to have the experience again.

Kyle Smith, New York Post: Director Zack Snyder's cerebral, scintillating follow-up to "300" seems, to even a weary filmgoer's eye, as fresh and magnificent in sound and vision as "2001" must have seemed in 1968, yet in its eagerness to argue with itself, it resembles "A Clockwork Orange." Like those Stanley Kubrick films - it is also in part a parody of "Dr. Strangelove" - it transforms each moment into a tableau with great, uncompromising concentration. The effect is an almost airless gloom, but the film is also exhilarating in breadth and depth. …

There are so many competing ideas within "Watchmen" that it is built to be viewed repeatedly and debated religiously. Among comic-book movies, only the two most recent Batman entries compete with it for complexity. It's not clear who the hero is, if there even is one.

Despite the burden of a story in which "it's too late, always has been, always will be," "Watchmen" levitates with a prophetic fury worthy of the Jimi Hendrix cover of "All Along the Watchtower" that blasts over a key scene. Other fantasy movies are playing checkers. This one plays chess, with grandmaster panache.

The title is taken from a line by the Roman poet Juvenal, "Who watches the watchmen?" warning about abuse of power. Shortly after the comic series was published in 1986, the line appeared as epigraph in the Tower Commission's report on the Iran-Contra scandal.

Best of Times / Kwamjam San Tae Rak Chan Yao / ความจำสั้น แต่รักฉันยาว: Thai Romance/ Drama – 90 mins – Yongyooth Thongkongtoon’s leisurely romantic drama centers on two couples, young and old. A young vet struggles to forget his first love, but when he meets her again years later she doesn't seem to remember him at all. And an elderly man and woman, each alone in the world, meet and fall in love. A love story by the director of Iron Ladies and Metrosexual, which I found tedious and unremarkable, though I did enjoy the performances of the older couple.

Wise Kwai: Yongyooth Thongkongtoon offers his most mature film yet with the romantic drama Best of Times. (Thai title: Kwaam Jam San Dtae Rak Chan Yaao, ความจำสั้น แต่รักฉันยาว, literally "[my] memory [is] short, but my love [is] long.") The veteran director of such comedies as Iron Ladies and M.A.I.D. has put together a lucid yet dreamy rumination on the fleeting passage of time and the connections we make in our all-too-brief moments on this planet. …

It's all very touching and poignant, beautifully filmed and sumptuously scored -- the strings swell at all the predictable moments, just to cue the audience that something significant is happening. …

Less-patient viewers will start checking their watches and cell phones sometime after that cool and funny scene at the black-light bowling alley.

Power Kids / Haa Hua Jai Hero / 5 หัวใจอีโร่: Thai Action/ Comedy – 90 mins – Except for the fights, a film of mind-boggling ineptitude about kids battling terrorists in a hospital. Sloppy script and plotting, sloppy directing and photography – none of which seemed to bother the audience, who seemed to enjoy it immensely. Also has sloppy English subtitles, e.g., “He’s been sleeping like vegetables for months.”

Wise Kwai: Power Kids was in production for more than four years before it was finally released. It wasn't worth the wait. There's no discernable reason for it to have taken as long as it did to finally be released. …

Bad acting and a hole-filled plot are standard equipment with Thai action movies, but it's accepted because there will usually be eye-popping stunts, hard-hitting kicks and bone-crunching punches. This is not the case with Power Kids. While there are a few decent moments, the stunts become repetitive and dull. They play better as a highlight reel or in the trailer.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, March 19

Seven Pounds: US, Drama/ Romance – 123 mins – Rescheduled for this date. I find this a dreadful movie, and it makes me feel very uncomfortable just to talk about it. I think it’s grim, morose, and undone by an illogical plot. However, I have to admit that Will Smith is a charismatic actor, and you can hardly not watch him and get involved. In this unbelievable and exasperating story, Smith is an IRS agent who is depressed and guilt-ridden about mistakes from his past, and he sets out to make amends by helping seven strangers. It’s shamelessly manipulative of your emotions. I’d suggest that you don’t see it, except that somewhere, someone will like this film and be entranced by it, so if you think you might are that person, by all means, go! Directed by Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness). Generally negative reviews: 36/46 out of 100.

Meat Grinder/ Cheuat gon chim / เชือดก่อนชิม: Thai, Horror – 90 mins – A slasher/horror, torture-porn thriller about a noodle-shop lady who serves up a special meat with her dishes. Shades of Sweeney Todd! In case you can’t quite make it out, that’s an eyeball at the end of the chopsticks.

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

At Alliance Française on Friday, March 13: Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie / The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) by Luis Buñuel – 102 mins – France/ Italy/ Spain, Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 93/86 out of 100.

With Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Bulle Ogier, Michel Piccoli, Delphine Seyrig.

In typical Buñuel fashion The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie surrealistically skewers the conventions of society. The film depicts a series of profoundly frustrating dinner parties. The well-to-do guests gather for especially delectable dinners, but their host does not appear. Every time they are about to begin eating, some bizarre event prevents them. Adding to their tantalization is the dream state many of them enter, with each dream exploring some deeply symbolic or perverse aspect of their lives. Many of the dreams are also of interrupted dinners…

Alliance description

Luis Buñuel's scathing and surrealistic political comedy masterpiece about a wealthy group of friends repeatedly prevented from beginning their elaborate dinner by increasingly strange events. No matter how hard they try to enjoy the meal and the privileges money affords, everything from closed restaurants to terrorists conspire to thwart their pleasures...and soon it seems that the violence is even pervading their dreams. Academy Award Nominations: 2, including Best (Original) Story and Screenplay. Academy Award: Best Foreign Language Film., Jake Euker: From the moment his 16-minute Surrealist dirty bomb Un Chien andalou was dropped on an unsuspecting Paris in 1929 until the time of his death in Mexico in 1983, director Luis Buñuel patiently and gleefully held court as cinema’s most steadfast, outspoken, and off-handedly inflammatory enemy of “polite” society. He built a career on his contempt for unexamined social mores and the gluttonous, self-righteous civic and religious leaders who perpetuated them, and he wasn’t just fooling around. …

Buñuel’s cheerful blasphemy was, as you can imagine, shocking, but his commitment to relaying narrative through free-associative, non-linear images – his commitment, that is, to the Surrealist creed that raged among Parisian artists – was seen by many to be as grave an affront. Audiences grew hostile, it seems, when, in Buñuel’s films, livestock lounged about in the beds of debutantes or miffed gamekeepers shot and killed children to blow off steam. Buñuel, who was a Spaniard, suffered a more concrete hardship when Fascists took power in Madrid in 1938; he eventually settled in Mexico in 1946, returning to Spain in 1961 where General Franco banned his first new film, Viridiana, just as hurriedly as the jury at Cannes awarded it the Palme d'or. And so Buñuel relocated to France, now in his 60s, and at an age when most directors have retired or have long since begun recycling their own material, he entered one of the most fertile periods enjoyed by any filmmaker anywhere. There are masterpieces scattered among Buñuel’s French films like confetti, but in his 1972 comedy The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, one of cinema’s most brilliant directors made the most brilliant film of his career.

The Surrealism is present, but what once was aggressively confrontational has transformed, for the most part, into the hilariously inappropriate. The story, to the extent that one exists, deals with the attempts of three affluent Parisian couples to successfully take a meal together without tragedy, calamity, or emergency troop maneuvers interfering, which they invariably do. It’s a problem; without a meal in front of them this clique of glittering fashion plates and powerbrokers can’t think of a single thing to do. Between abortive dinner and lunch appointments, the men – one of whom (Fernando Rey) is ambassador to the fictional South American country of Miranda – smuggle substantial quantities of cocaine into France in diplomatic pouches and fire rifles out the embassy windows at an attractive young street vendor who may or may not be a spy. In the absence of the men, the women a) drink; b) have sex with one another’s husbands; and c) make a pretense of worrying that their Chanel gowns may not be nice enough to wear to a neighborhood inn. Buñuel shows sublime assurance in directing what amounts to a top-drawer ensemble – he elicits performances from them that blend artifice and desperation into a delicious, satiric aperitif, all within his usual businesslike, deadpan style – and his work here exhibits the kind of ease that perhaps only a master filmmaker of such advanced age could achieve. Alfred Hitchcock called Buñuel cinema’s greatest director; in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie evidence that this might be so glows serenely, frame by frame, on the screen.

The coup-de-grâce, though, is the lunatic nonchalance that Buñuel brings to the film’s structure. He violates narrative rules and convolutes the flow of his film as though he literally could not be made to care whether or not he brings his characters safely to a conclusion. (A recurring motif in the film – footage of the cast strolling without destination down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere – echoes this.) Dream sequences – sometimes achingly funny – punctuate the narrative with utter unpredictability. (Unpredictable, that is, unless Buñuel chooses to announce that he’s shutting the film down for that purpose; in one scene a soldier interrupts a dinner to request of his superior that he be allowed to relate an interesting dream he had the night before to a crowd of 30 or 40 strangers.) Mapping the dream-within-a-dream plot of the second half of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie would seem to indicate anarchy, as though Buñuel changed directions at his whim. In reality it's part of a casual formal genius that occurs only very rarely in films, blooming like magic amidst the rambling of The Bank Dick or the irrational velocity of Eraserhead.

As mentioned above, Buñuel, in his 80s, had softened his viciousness for his pet victims into a biting comic derision. But that's not to say that he lets them off the hook. His bishop in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie becomes a murderer (Buñuel has always maintained that the church kills), the military is shown to be under the command of a pot-smoking clown, and Buñuel aptly makes the point that the unconcern of the voracious, groomed monsters whose story he tells – these same people who become outraged when inconvenienced in their pursuit of roast duck or melon – results in death and horror for less privileged people throughout the world.

At Alliance Française on Friday, March 20: Pierrot le fou / Pierrot Goes Wild / Crazy Pete (1965) by Jean-Luc Godard – 110 mins – France/ Italy, Crime/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 73 out of 100.

With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Dirk Sanders, Graziella Galvani, Raymond Devos.

Ferdinand meets an old love, Marianne. But at her place, they fall upon a cumbersome corpse. They then decide to flee the killers through France to an island where they might be safe… One of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s best roles in this “Nouvelle Vague” film.

Alliance description

Pierrot (Jean-Paul Belmondo) escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run.

TV Guide: Pierrot le fou was Godard's tenth film in six years (not including four sketches that he contributed to compilation films) and perhaps the first to contain all the elements that have been called "Godardian." He combined everything that came before--the romanticism of Breathless, the inner monologue externalized in Le Petit soldat, the structural division of My Life to Live, and the epic odyssey of Contempt--with the linguistic diary format that would overpower some of his later films.

Working from the outline provided by Lionel White's novel Obsession, Godard was able to proceed without a script and create what he called "a completely spontaneous film." Spontaneous or not, Pierrot le fou is arguably one of the few Godard pictures to have the desired balance of romance, adventure, violence, and humor on one side, and philosophy, literary and cinematic allusion, and Brechtian distancing on the other.

The film was lensed quickly in May, June, and July 1965 and then edited even more rapidly for a showing at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August.

At Alliance Française on Friday, March 27: 13 m² / 13m2 (2007) by Barthélémy Grossmann – 84 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82 out of 100.

With Barthélémy Grossmann, Youssef Hajdi, Thierry Lhermitte, Lucien Jean-Baptiste.

Jose is looking for a way out of his small time banlieue deals. When he overhears a conversation between his girlfriend and his step-brother, he might just have found a very lucrative way. Together with his two best friends, he decides to attack an armored vehicle, full of cash. But everything goes wrong and they're forced into hiding, in a 13 square meters bunker. There, they will have to test their friend-ship, their motivations, as every move outside triggers even more paranoia...

Alliance description

A first-time directing effort by actor Barthélémy Grossmann, who also wrote the script. After the hold-up of an armored lorry, José, Farouk, and Réza take refuge in a hideout measuring 13m². Shut away with the money and a tarnished conscience, the relationships and personalities of the three friends are revealed with the passing lies and conflicts that this oppressive situation triggers. Each excursion into the real world from now on presents a threat. Will they manage to overcome their fate and make a fresh start?

Film Space schedule

At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm

March is “The Month of Bad Luck Money” at Film Space.

Due to a mix-up, Danny Boyle’s Millions (2004) was shown last Saturday night instead of the scheduled 6ixtynin9 (1999), so the skipped movie will be shown this Saturday.

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. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.

At Film Space Saturday, March 14: 6ixtynin9 / Ruang talok 69 (1999) by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang – 118 mins – Thai, Comedy/ Crime/ Thriller.

In this critically-acclaimed Thai comedy, a young woman named Tum finds a mysterious noodle box full of money on her doorstep, shortly after losing her job. The clever beauty attempts to hold on to the loot and soon finds herself at the center of a thrilling, high-stakes caper between Thai Boxing gangsters, corrupt executives, and the bungling authorities. Rated R in the US for violence, language, and brief sexual humor. Generally favorable reviews: 65/66 out of 100.

Twitch, Todd: Without a doubt one of Thailand’s brightest lights is writer / director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. He exploded onto the international scene with the absolutely stunning Last Life in the Universe. . . . In 1999’s 6ixtynin9, Lalita Panyopas stars as Tum, a low ranking employee in a Bangkok financial services firm – an industry sector that has been hit hard by an economic recession. Tum arrives at work one morning to find an impromptu staff meeting in session. The firm has been forced to lay off three employees and, unwilling to single anyone out for termination, the unlucky trio is decided by drawing lots. Tum, of course, is one of the unlucky three sent packing. This places her in a horrible situation. She has been financially supporting her parents and younger siblings and is now a single woman with no support network and little to no chance of finding legitimate work in the midst of the current hard times. Faced with the real prospect of having to turn to prostitution to make ends meet Tum begins shoplifting and fantasizing about suicide. Until one morning she discovers a box left outside her door, a box full of money, and sees a possible way out for herself. Here enters the continual case of mistaken identity brought on by a faulty apartment door number (the film’s title is a play on this), rival gangs, illegal passports, dope smoking youth, over exuberant police officers, nosy neighbors, an amputation and rather a lot of blood.

The summary makes 6ixtynin9 sound like a fairly busy, high energy film but like all of Ratanaruang’s other films it is actually a very quiet, meditative piece. Much like Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Ratanaruang loves to dress his films up in genre convention when they are actually psychological mood pieces. The gangsters are window dressing, what really matters here is that Tum is a woman in an incredibly difficult situation with some harsh moral decisions to make. How will she bear up under the stress? What path will she choose? The obvious point of comparison is Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave – a film that shares several significant plot points – but where Boyle’s film revolves around issues of greed Ratanaruang’s turns on desperation. How far are you willing to go to survive?

Key to making the film work is Panyopas’ performance as Tum and she does an admirable job charting Tum’s progression from a woman caught up by forces beyond her control into becoming one of those forces herself. She is giving very little dialogue to work with and has to rely on body language, frequently carrying her character entirely through her eyes. She has a quiet sense of grace and strength to her, more than enough to allow you to buy into the wildly excessive situation Ratanaruang drops her in to.

Where the film struggles a little bit is in the balancing of humor with the darker, more serious elements. Ratanaruang has a bit of a dreamer in him, as well as a healthy dose of absurdism, and he struggled to mesh those impulses with the ‘real-world’ feeling he also wants to maintain in his films until he finally struck a perfect balance with Last Life. There are some awkward moments here where you can tell he’s aiming for humor but the situation is paced and played just a little too realistically to laugh, and also some character moments that just don’t seem to fit with the tone of the rest of the film. Which is not to say that 6ixtynin9 isn’t a good film – it is, very – but fans of Last Life will need to approach this as an example of a master still learning and experimenting with his craft rather than coming in expecting the degree of balance, polish and subtlety of his most recent work.

At Film Space Saturday, March 21: Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl / Samehada Otoko to Momojiri Onna / 鮫肌男と桃尻女 (1998) by Katsuhito Ishii – 108 mins – Japan, Mystery/ Action/ Thriller/ Comedy.

The film opens in a surrealistic mountain setting as a young, determined Toshiko (Sie Kohinata), executes a daring escape from her sexually abusive, obsessive and oppressive, lunatic uncle Sonezaki (Yohachi Shimada). Speeding away down the road, she notices a man running hastily through the woods, clad in nothing but underwear. Distracted, she does not notice the car from which he is running...until she collides with it head-on. Rated R in the US for violence, sexuality, and brief language. Mixed or average reviews: 44/43 out of 100.

Bruce Fletcher, Hawaii International Film Festival: "...surreal, violent, funny, lovers-on-the-run adventure... striking cinematography, rapid-fire editing and ultra-rich colors that rise from the young director's shooting more than 80 Japanese TV commercials. The colorful cast is clad in a designer style known as hyper fashion gear, except Samehada (Asano) who dons Takeo Kikuchi designer fashions, down to his TK brand underwear...Arguably, the coolest movie of the year."

Janick Neveux, KFC Cinema: "Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl is one hell of a piece of work...[It] contains a rare collection of colorful characters that has yet to be seen in another movie. You have about 20 or so unique characters, each one extremely different and well-drawn. Most...had a pretty cool style while others were plain bizarre."

Dave Kehr, The New York Times: An outlaw-couple-on-the-run story, in a context of harsh social satire and nihilistic despair. Mr. Ishii's background as a hard-working director of television commercials is reflected in his technical facility and flashy compositions, most of which involve gang members dressed in outrageous high-fashion costumes. The adults are rigid, uncool and involved in bizarre sexual practices; the kids are stylish and hot. The picture makes killing look like high-spirited fun and turns violent death into an occasion for giggles and snickers.

At Film Space Saturday, March 28: Adrenaline Drive / Adorenarin doraibu / アドレナリンドライブ (1999) by Shinobu Yaguchi – 112 mins – Japan, Comedy. Generally favorable reviews: 69/65 out of 100.

A parody of popular Japanese teenage girls' romances includes slapstick in a comedy of robbers versus robbers. About money, and a shy guy, and a not-so-shy girl who have the money and a handful of thugs and one real badass Yakuza dude who want it. A busy, fun, and creative little flick, by the director of the very popular Waterboys (2001), which was shown in Chiang Mai, about the travails of a group of teenage boys who seek fame in, of all ventures, the world of synchronized swimming. Generally favorable reviews: 74/74 out of 100.

Shown is Masanobu Ando, one of the two

stars of the movie. [Not from the movie.]

Film Society of Lincoln Center: Director Shinobu Yaguchi's masterful parody of popular Japanese teenage girls' romances, Adrenaline Drive takes slapstick to dazzling Keatonesque delights in this sly comedy of robbers versus robbers. When a gas leak explodes at a yakuza's headquarters, a shy, timid nurse and a meek rental car clerk gain possession of a briefcase of blood-soaked money. The rest is a wild ride of chase and escape, as the nurse is transformed to glamorous heroine and outsmarts the gangsters eager to recover the loot. Joyous and giddy, the story teases its characters and audiences alike in a fresh, unpredictable style.