Sion Sono’s hip hop tribute to West Side Story screened last night and screens again tonight. If you’ve developed an appetite for Japanese musicals here’s five more from directors you might not associate with musicals: MM Alumnus Takashi Miike, Kenji Fukasaku, Seijun Suzuki and Tetsuya Nakashima.
Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
Takashi Miike adapts Kim Jee-woon’s The Quiet Family (1999) as a musical. Kim’s movie is a dark and very dry comedy about a family who run an inn and end up with a lot of bodies to dispose of. And yeah, it stars both Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) and Song Kang-ho (The Host; The Good, The Bad And The Weird), who between them star in nearly every Korean movie ever. Miike’s is colorful and exuberant adding very Miike touches like a woman crushed during sex with a sumo wrestler. Most of all, he adds musical numbers.
Shanghai Rhapsody (1984)
Fukasaku is best known among fans of the Madness for Battle Royale (2000), but he had a long career that includes films as diverse as The Green Slime (1966), the Japanese portion of Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), The Black Lizard (1968) and graphically violent yakuza movies that practically reinvented the genre. He made Shanghai Rhapsody the year after he made the fantasy chanbara, Legend Of Eight Samurai (1983) starring Hiroyuki Sanada, Sonny Chiba and Chiba’s martial arts protege, Etskuko Shiomi. Shanghai Rhapsody is set during World War II and also stars Shiomi. I could not find a clip, but I could find a poster and a dvd cover. Behold…
Princess Raccoon (2005)
Seijun Suzuki is most famous for his amazing 1960s yakuza pictures for Nikkatsu studios including Tokyo Drifter (1966), which isn’t exactly a musical, but comes close. And it stars singer and actor Tetsuya Watari as the drifting, whistling yakuza. But that’s not what I’m planning sharing because Suzuki made a straight up operetta. In Princess Raccoon, Amechiyo falls in love with a tanuki princess (Zhang Ziyi). His father Lord Azuchi Momoyama does not approve. It’s orgeously stylized with lovely sets and costumes. There is also rapping.
Memories of Matsuko (2006)
Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions (2010) disturbed and distressed many, but he has an earlier film about a schoolteacher gone wrong. After his aunt Matsuko is murdered, Sho cleans out her apartment and discovers the story of her life as a neglected little girl, a school teacher and as a disgraced family member. It sounds gloomy, and Matsuko does have a rough life, but it’s also candy-colored and, in the words of the Japan Society, “An unlikely cross between Moulin Rouge, Citizen Kane and Amelie, Memories of Matsuko is a magical realist descent into the suppressed history (both farce and tragedy) of the most unfortunate woman you’ve ever seen on screen.”
Or, it’s kinda like Mame, if Auntie Mame were dead at the beginning like William Holden in Sunset Boulevard.
TOKYO TRIBE screening times:
Fri., Sept. 5th, 10:00 PM, SCOTIABANK 8
Sun., Sept. 14th, 3:30 PM, LIGHTBOX 3
WORLD OF KANAKO screening times:
Sunday, Sept 7th 9:15 PM ISABELLA BADER THEATRE
Tuesday, Sept 9th 11:30 AM THE BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
Saturday, Sept 13 9:00 PM THE BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
OVER YOUR DEAD BODY screening times:
Thurs., Sept. 11, Ryerson 6:00 PM
Fri., Sept. 12, The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema 9:00 PM
Sat., Sept. 13, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 6:30 PM
This post was originally published on the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness blog.