August used to be a missionary somewhere overseas, trying to do good works in places where good works are seldom seen. One day he returns home to his native Denmark, and walks in on his sister Christina while she’s in the middle of one of her porno shoots. She wants nothing to do with him, especially now that she’s about to have her daughter. When August asks her if the girl deserves a better life than what she’s created, she shouts “Plenty of other people need salvation — go and find them!” and slams down the phone in his ear.
Five years later Christina’s dead of a drug overdose, and August has renounced his vows. His new mission is not to preach to anonymous flocks but to do his best to bring up Christina’s five-year-old daughter, Mia. She’s been living in and around the nebulous pseudo-family of people that sprung up around her mother’s porno production mini-empire. August plans to take Mia out of that environment, keep her safe under his wing, and do right by her. He winds up doing wrong by almost everyone around him, himself included. Read more
If there’s one thing the Japanese movie industry has always wanted, it’s a massive international box-office hit on the order of Star Wars, Titanic or Jurassic Park. They’ve tried by aping the formulas of Hollywood blockbusters — but ironically enough the most successful of Japan’s movie exports have been Hayao Miyazaki’s animated productions. Spirited Away may have seemed “too Japanese” for other audiences by its own creators, but that also gave it a charm that couldn’t be copied, and it grossed over $250 million worldwide.
Japan’s other attempts at international blockbusters are strange creatures. Godzilla wasn’t really meant to be one (at least not at first), but it turned into just such a franchise after its studio, Toho, discovered an endless array of sequels and spin-offs not only made money but turned their giant radioactive lizard into a character as iconographic as Darth Vader or Indiana Jones. And there’s been other Japanese productions that were intended to make it big worldwide, and while some of them made big bank at home they ended up falling flat on their faces elsewhere: Kinji Fukasaku’s Virus (which I still need to see), or Sayonara Jupiter. Read more
Anthology films get no respect, if only because the vast majority of them tend to never be more than fair-to-middling. Most of them just grouped together a bunch of related stories that couldn’t be blown up to feature length. The best ones use the anthology format as a vehicle for other concerns: Bizarre was a satirical exploration (exploitation!) of the war between the sexes; The Animatrix used multiple animated segments to explore different facets of the Matrix universe that the movies couldn’t examine in depth independently.
Memories is an animated anthology film with three segments, each created by a luminary of the Japanese animation industry: Kōji Morimoto (of Mind Game and the “Beyond” segment of The Animatrix), Tensai Okamura (Wolf’s Rain) and Katsuhiro Ōtomo (Akira, Steamboy). Ōtomo created manga from which each segment was derived and wrote the second and third segments himself, while the first was penned by none other than Paranoia Agent creator Satoshi Kon. The segments are only vaguely related to each other; all are science-fiction themed, but they are more concerned with personality and possibility than graphics or hardware. That automatically makes them all the more interesting, even if the segments vary in quality.Read more