Boy, do I need to get off my lazy ass or what?
Instead of updating my blog, I spent the last couple of very hot days in Phoenix on a very disappointing trip.
One of the few highlights of my trip to Phoenix was coming across the trailer for Kiriya Kazuaki's newest film, Goemon. Somehow I found the trailer while I was watching some old South Korean music videos on YouTube while drinking beer in my hotel room (This will be a post sometime this week.).
I first became aware of Goemon when it first went into production over a year ago. I visited the rather bare website (at the time), but then I totally forgot about it. I got distracted by other things, I'm sure.
Anyway, the Japanese trailer for Goemon looks KICK ASS. It's a wonder to behold. This doesn't look like a film that was probably made for a few million dollars, much like Kiriya Kazuaki's previous film Casshern. Indeed, I dare say that Kiriya Kazuaki makes a mockery of the trash that has been coming out of Hollywood for the past several years.
That Kiriya Kazuaki should make a mockery of Hollywood isn't too much of a surprise. I thought that Casshern, despite all of its flaws, had more imagination, more creativity, more ambition, and more passion than those piece of shit Star Wars prequel films from George Lucas. Yes, Mr. Lucas, you should hold your head down in shame for those three celluloid atrocities.
Don't get me wrong, Casshern is/was a difficult film. I found watching the film to be quite a challenge. Yes, there were some clumsy scenes that just didn't work, such as length and pacing. Yes, there were some hammy performances from some of the minor actors. Yes, the ending was probably the most mind boggling that I can remember seeing for quite some time, apart from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yes, Casshern probably attempted to do too many things. Yet, taken as a whole, Casshern was daring cinema, I thought. Here was someone, Kiriya Kazuaki, in Japanese cinema who was willing to take risks and let his imagination be his guide in telling a quite ambitious story.
I first found out about Casshern one day at work while looking at the Yes Asia website for new DVD releases instead of working on security clearances for my small part of the bureaucratic monster that is the 8th United States Army in South Korea. After work, I went over to the film's website and watched the trailers. Even the redoubtable South Korean website Film 2.0 (a website I used to visit quite a bit) had the South Korean trailer for Casshern. I also found out that Kiriya Kazuaki, a former fashion photographer, had also made several videos for his then current wife, Japanese-American J-pop titan Hikaru Utada. I looked up these videos on YouTube (having just discovered YouTube) and my jaw hit the floor of my Seoul apartment. They were amazing. Suitably impressed, I ordered the deluxe three-disc Special Edition of Casshern from Yes Asia the very next day.
UPDATE: Here is a link to an interview that Kiriya Kazuaki gave to UK sci-fi website The Zone. In the interview, Kiriya Kazuaki makes a couple of clarifications about Casshern that might be useful to those that are/were confused by the film.
Now, four years after Casshern, here comes Goemon. Kiriya Kazuaki is just as ambitious as ever in his version of the often-filmed legendary ninja thief who would steal from the rich and give to the poor (a la Robin Hood) during the late-16th century. The cast of Goemon is top notch, featuring a Who's Who of the Japanese entertainment scene. Yosuke Eguchi, one of Japan's best ever actors (I'm a big fan of his work), plays the role of Goemon. Eguchi has one of the best CV's in terms of J-doramas (he's right up there with Takuya Kimura in my book), but his CV in terms of film has been disappointing (as it is with most actors and actresses in Japan unfortunately) despite major roles in Shunji Iwai's outstanding Swallowtail Butterfly (1996) (someday I'm going to write about this) and the highly controversial Kiyoki no Sakura (2001) (aka Madness in Bloom). Also included in the cast is former teenage starlet Ryoko Hirosue, who has seen her career rebound in a huge way since she dropped out of college at Waseda University, got pregnant, and got divorced a couple of years ago. Thus, I'd say that Ryoko Hirosue's career has rebounded much in a similar fashion as Yuko Takeuchi's career has rebounded, but that's just me. (Once upon a time, Japanese actresses had their careers finished following pregnancy and divorce, so it looks like things are slowly starting to change. Slowly.) Also included in the cast are veteran character actor Susumu Terajima, Jun Kaname (who like Terajima also appeared in Casshern), Masato Ibu, and veteran film and occasional J-dorama actor Takao Osawa. Heck, even South Korean K-1 fighter Choi Hong Man has a bit part in the film. (Who says South Koreans aren't liked in Japan? Whatever.)
The visual look of Goemon is just simply amazing. Like Casshern and the music videos he directed for his ex-wife, Kiriya Kazuaki makes extensive work of computer generated imagery (CGI) and the green screen to make these elaborate sets, epic battle scenes, and grand vistas in order to compensate for the relatively low budget (in Hollywood terms). One of the major flaws of Casshern, in the opinion of many, was the script. In an interview I once read, Kiriya Kazuaki admitted that he was unable to distinguish the forest from the trees since he tried to attempt so much. So, let's hope that Kiriya Kazuaki was able to fashion a great script for Goemon.
Whether the film succeeds or not (and I'm hoping that Goemon is as stunning as its trailer), it's great to see a Japanese director show some flash and ambition. Then again, that was one of the main criticisms about Casshern was that there was too much style and not enough substance.
Here's hoping that Goemon that equal doses of both style and substance.
Here's the link to Goemon website. As befits a Kiriya Kazuaki film, the website is gorgeous to look at. Unfortunately, it's in 99.8% Japanese, so get out your kanji dictionary. Plus, I haven't had any luck in copying and pasting any of the characters into a written language translator. Oh well...
Here's the trailer to Goemon. Enjoy.