By Sarah Choi
July 24, 2015
Sibling dysfunction never looked so good.
Making his feature film debut, John Magary stunned audiences at last year’s SXSW festival with his acerbic and strange sibling comedy, “The Mend.” The film was especially noted for Josh Lucas’ career-defining role as Mat, a volatile and self destructive man who attempts to build a stronger relationship with his more put-together brother, Alan (Stephen Plunkett.) Lucas’ stellar performance as Mat has already stirred up some awards buzz, and showcases his ability to play complicated and difficult characters.
The film unravels in three distinct acts, each part with its own stylistic and rhythmic uniqueness, which is already evident through the equally exclusive pulsating trailer. Check it out above, and catch a glimpse of the hilarity, drama and absurdity of “The Mend.”
By Simon Abrams
July 7, 2015
“Japan Cuts,” the Japan Society’s annual survey of pop cinema, stands apart from film festivals that pander to contemporary trends, encouraging attendees to revisit the past through an eclectic slate of both new and repertory titles.
This year’s highest highlight is, tellingly, the new 4K digital restoration of Belladonna of Sadness (1973), a beautiful and disturbing X-rated animated fantasy based on Satanism and Witchcraft, Jules Michelet’s sensationalistic historical primer. Belladonna of Sadness’s rape-centered plot — a beautiful peasant (Aiko Nagayama) makes a pact with Satan (samurai movie star Tatsuya Nakadai) after he repeatedly violates her — is a tough swallow. But the film’s surreal animation style is jaw-dropping.
Co-writer/director Eiichi Yamamoto’s Yellow Submarine–meets–The Devils aesthetic is heavily influenced by Gustav Klimt’s golden paintings and Aubrey Beardsley’s art nouveau drawings. Yamamoto draws viewers’ attention to his feathery pencils and psychedelic watercolors by presenting his illustrations as a series of still images filmed in slow camera pans. These static animation cels are so gorgeous that they might persuade you not to dwell on Belladonna of Sadness’s more objectionable content.
By Mike Hale
July 3, 2015
The annual cinematic cornucopia known as Japan Cuts — the largest festival of Japanese film in the United States — has previously been presented in association with the even larger New York Asian Film Festival. This year, its ninth, Japan Cuts is going it alone as it presents 28 features and a program of experimental shorts beginning Thursday through July 19 at Japan Society in Manhattan.
BELLADONNA OF SADNESS The most distinctive item on the program is this restoration of a 1973 animated feature produced by the anime legend Osamu Tezuka and directed by his colleague Eiichi Yamamoto. It’s an Age of Aquarius curio, based on a 19th-century study of witchcraft and featuring alternately flowery and surprisingly graphic depictions of sex. (No one under 18 will be admitted to the screening.) Fair warning: The story, about a peasant woman assaulted by the king on her wedding night, is both a female-empowerment fable and a rape fantasy, in which the initial attack is followed by less violent anime-style intrusions of flowering tendrils and devilish imps. But the impact of the story is secondary to the strangeness and beauty of the mostly still images (the camera moves slowly across them) done in styles resembling Klimt, O’Keeffe, Op Art, Ralph Steadman and the higher class of Playboy illustration.