11/10/17 (Fri), Tokyo
A clever horror flick set in the here and now (like right now – the characters wish Obama could have had a third term) with a great premise and sly social commentary expertly woven in. A black guy visits his white girlfriend’s large family estate in what looks to be an updated Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (“You did tell them I was black…?” “Umm, don’t worry, they’ll love you”). But his isolation in their snow-white society and the clumsy attempts by whites to be hip (“I love Tiger Woods”) are the least of his worries as events take a sinister turn. Continue reading
- 仁義なき戦い (Battles Without Duty and Humanity)
Duty is the great theme of traditional Japanese Kabuki theater, with characters typically forced to choose between their all-important loyalty to their lord or society and a betrayal of that duty with an act of compassion or emotion. Compassion often wins out but only at great cost, usually death. The best known example of a pure loyalty tale is the ever-popular The 47 Loyal Retainers (忠臣蔵), where duty to a murdered lord leads to a meticulously planned, suicidal act of revenge by his former retainers. That sense of loyalty carries over as well into typical samurai and yakuza dramas, where duty is often itself the point.
The 1973 film Battles Without Duty and Humanity (the name would be punchier without the “humanity”’; also known by the much better title The Yakuza Papers) doesn’t just puncture that ideal but renders it a useless relic of a lost age. Continue reading
- ラジオの時間 (Welcome Back, Mr McDonald)
The prolific stage/film writer Mitani Koki has his good days [The Last Laugh (笑いの大学), Twelve Gentle Japanese (12人の優しい日本人)] and bad (most of his output), and this 1997 film, based on his 1993 stage show, is one of the latter. Continue reading
- A Look Back: La Cage Aux Folles (musical)
Another Japanese revival of the popular La Cage Aux Folles is opening soon, so I figured it was a good time to rerun my modest rewrite. The musical is great fun, but I’ve always been bothered by its preachiness. It shakes a virtual finger to tell us (rather than subtly lead us) to love gays and hate bigots and so forth. As I noted, that “is partly a function of the changing times, a trend that the musical itself helped bring about”. But it’s looking more like a period piece than the pure farce intended in the French film (I haven’t seen the original French play). The French are clearly much more relaxed about sexual matters like this – the film dates from the 1970s, when openly gay-themed shows in English were pretty rare – and their approach was more cunning in underlining the couple’s basic humanity.
- Othello (National Theatre Live)
I loved Adrian Lester a few years back in a show called Red Velvet as a 19th-century actor playing Othello, so I wasn’t going to miss him in the real thing. With direction by Nicholas Hytner and the added attraction of Rory Kinnear as Iago, my expectations were high.
An amazing British film from 1961 about a secretly gay magistrate who pursues a gay blackmail case at the his risk of his own outing. And that’s back when homosexuality was a criminal offense in the UK. I imagine this was pretty controversial in its day, especially as it questions a widely held view and basically advocates that the law be rescinded. But aside from the politics, the story is a taut thriller that works very well on its own terms.
10/10/15 (Sat), Tokyo, ¥7,500
A revival of Lepage’s breakout one-man show of 1995 – a reworking really, since it adds a character and evidently ups the technology factor considerably. I never saw the original, but any Lepage show is an event as far as I’m concerned, so I bought the tickets without knowing much about it (and despite the off-putting title).