I’ve used the term “fairytale for grownups” before when referring to some movies, although this is I think the first time I’ll be using it in reference to a live-action film. Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural, despite the title, is definitely a fairytale for grownups in mood and theme. It’s not for kids; younger children will probably have the living daylights scared out of them, although teens will be able to handle it fine. What adults will probably find most disturbing is the explicitly delineated child-in-peril plotline — and Lemora goes far beyond mere peril, especially at its startling conclusion.
The story’s deceptively simple. Lila Lee (cult actress Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith, in a very rare childhood appearance) is the daughter of criminal-on-the-lam Alvin Lee (William Whitton). Lila and her father have been estranged for some time; at the opening of the film, she’s living with a preacher (director Blackburn, in a very enjoyable performance) who seems to be constantly fighting back impure thoughts about his adopted daughter. One night, after brutally murdering his wife and the guy she was in bed with, Alvin is spirited away by strange robed and hooded figures, and Lila later receives a letter informing her that her father is sick and near death.Read more
Takashi Miike has made more than thirty movies in every conceivable genre — science fiction, fantasy, slapstick comedy, gross-out horror, surrealism, cold-blooded gangster violence, and intermixings of all and any of the above. With Young Thugs: Nostalgia, he’s dived back into his own past in a way that brings to mind Fellini’s Amarcord. Nostalgia isn’t a clone, though: it springs unmistakably from Miike’s own raucous and sometimes vulgar sensibilities. And like many of his other movies, it’s funny, wistful, grotesque and painful — often all at the same time, and without apology. It is also one of Miike’s most accessible movies, and given how whacked some of his films are, that’s really saying something.
Nostalgia follows no particular plot-line at first, just the ebb and flow of a few weeks in the life of a ten-year-old boy and his chaotic family. We see his birth in flashbacks (and his father winning a bet with his co-workers that the baby would be a boy), and then jump into late Sixties Japan, where the kid hides out in drainpipes with his buddies and paws over skin magazines. He’s not yet a delinquent, but he’s getting there: when his rivals spray him with fireworks, he lashes back at them and takes a beating. Then his father finds out, but instead of whipping him, he invites over all his friends for a round of drinks to celebrate (and gets the kid sloshed in the process). Read more
The term “over-the-top” will not suffice for something like Dead Leaves: it’s more of a fall-off-a-cliff-and-no-bottom-to-hit. It is not so much a form of entertainment as it is an attack on the senses, where the barest germ of a story is used to fuel one transgressive blast of imagery after another. In the words of an old beer commercial, it refreshes the parts other anime cannot reach.
I’ve seen Dead Leaves twice now, and what I find most unnerving about it is not the thing in itself but the implications of its very existence. First there was stuff like Excel Saga, which machine-gunned everything in sight for the sake of parody and moved four times faster than anything else out there. Now comes Dead Leaves, which moves four times faster than Excel Saga and has proportionately less to hold it back — you know, little things like story, characterization, and plot. I was reminded of Ken Russell saying that in the future all movies would be twenty minutes long, with all that boring people stuff left on the cutting room floor.Read more