Asian Film Hall of Fame


Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough

Daimajin (1966)

Forgive me if you have zero interest in pro wrestling, but everything is pro wrestling. Watching this film I couldn't help but to think back to two specific pro wrestling matches from the largest pro wrestling company's most lucrative time period: The Undertaker vs Mick Foley in a Hell in a Cell match and Triple H vs Mick Foley in a Hell in a Cell match. The Undertaker and Mick Foley is maybe the most famous pro wrestling match of all-time, if you are a fan of the sport(s-entertainment) you've seen at least the two major clips. Mick Foley goes off the side of the cage through the announce table and later goes through the top of the cage to the hard ring below. As far as I know, there was not any sort of build that said Foley was going through the cage in that match, but when it happened, it was organic and it was bananas. Foley vs HHH on the other hand, was built entirely around Foley being willing to dive off the cage to take out HHH. The anticipation for a single moment was off the charts. And while Foley did go through the cage again, it was far less organic, far less satisfying (, and far safer) than the other match. The match with Undertaker had probably worse work outside of the two big spots than the HHH match, but the work itself didn't matter nearly as much to the fans who had sky-high expectations.

Daimajin has a very cool look, like a Hulk that I wanted to see smash, and that's pretty much all I wanted in this film. I was promised that Hulk smashing all kinds of sh*t, but I guess, just like the WWF fans in 2000, I should have managed expectations and appreciated what I was getting for what it was. There was a decent enough samurai film going on, but we were all here for the Hulk and not Bruce Banner. But this was like sitting through an hour of decent Bruce Banner for a fantastic ten minutes of Hulk smashing.

I just rewatched Rashomon, and I think I actually saw this not too long ago and simply forgot. Maybe in preparation for the Japanese Hall of Fame? I think I need to start keeping a movie diary or something, since my memory for these things is getting even worse haha.

Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough
I just rewatched Rashomon, and I think I actually saw this not too long ago and simply forgot. Maybe in preparation for the Japanese Hall of Fame? I think I need to start keeping a movie diary or something, since my memory for these things is getting even worse haha.
letterboxd... do it.

Daimajin (Kimiyoshi Yasuda, 1966)

It is so messed up that this dumb monster movie looks better than anything that's come out in the last 30 years. This looks so good I can 100% forgive the boilerplate story and weak dialogue and honestly it might even be better for being as simple as it is in those regards. The lighting, camerawork and even the colour grading are very expressive and definitely carry the bulk of the film along with the impressive sets until (obviously) the kaiju action kicks in and oh man it is so, so satisfying when it does. Marked out huge for basically everything the Majin did and the miniatures are maybe some of the best I've ever seen. The only real downside is the score. It's very similar to the Gojira score and leaves no impression whatsoever. That's my only gripe. I was completely blown away by this. Definitely gonna watch the rest of the trilogy at some point.

Rashomon / 羅生門 (1950)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Kichijiro Ueda

Rashomon is a film that focuses on differing perspectives, and how biases can influence our interpretation of events. It questions what the word “truth” means in a world where we are incapable of being completely objective. There is a fantastic use of light and shadow, with clever techniques being used behind the scenes to make the forest's natural light more visible on film. The editing is also great, and I particularly liked how emotionally-charged shots would often abruptly cut to a character sitting quietly in the court before continuing their story.

Machiko Kyō's character underwent the most dramatic changes between the different versions of the murder being presented, and she did an admirable job jumping between those personalities. While I certainly enjoyed the performances overall, I sometimes felt that they were just a little too over-the-top for the tone of certain scenes. This more theatrical style of acting did occasionally work well, specifically in the wife's recollection of events, but most of the time I thought it could've been tempered a bit better.

Rashomon's ending seems strangely optimistic in comparison to the rest of the film, but supposedly Kurosawa wanted the sky to have a much more foreboding look, and the weather just didn't cooperate. I think another storm cloud brewing in the distance would've been perfect, since hinting that more misery was right around the corner would've made for a much stronger ending. Since that was reportedly Kurosawa's original intention, I'll happy to pretend those shots made it into the final cut of the film.

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Oh yeah, if anyone needs help finding Hanagatami hmu, I have it up on a google drive.
I haven't looked for any of the movies yet, and I should as some might be hard to find.

Could you PM me your link to Hanagatami hmu? I'm not familiar with Google Drive so probably couldn't find it on my own.

I haven't looked for any of the movies yet, and I should as some might be hard to find.

Could you PM me your link to Hanagatami hmu? I'm not familiar with Google Drive so probably couldn't find it on my own.
I found a very accessible link to it, I'll send it to you.

So it turns out that I had actually seen Snake in the Eagle's Shadow before!

The first couple scenes didn't seem familiar, but by the time the training montage started, I knew I had seen it before, and could even remember how to rest of the film played out. There were often Jackie Chan marathons on one of the channels we had when I was younger, so I must've caught it on tv at some point.

Chocolate (Prachya Pinkaew, 2008)

So I don't really want to hold this against the film because it was clearly made on the cheap but this was shot on a potato and its hard to look past sometimes. It's a shame too because the choreography is certainly there but its done such a disservice by the filmmaking. I mean, they definitely tried to give it some visual flair but it backfired more often than actually improve the film, most notably in the fight at the butcher shop where I couldn't read a single thing that happened. In the other fights I at least can tell what's going on but the camera and edit still manage to suck most of the life out of them. Honestly the film just feels extremely slow and dull overall and its most memorable moments are indebted to the soundtrack which has these surprisingly great bargain-bin dream pop bangers sprinkled throughout. Now, as a neurotypical it wouldn't be my place to make a judgment on whether this character portrayal is ableist or anything but it was certainly pretty cringe to watch. Yeah, didn't really like this much.

Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough


Speaking on an Obayashi film is not an easy thing to do, because he didn't make films that fit within convention. I could describe to you the things that he did that others didn't, but it would fail to really show why those things worked so well. I would love to spend a day travelling around his mind and seeing it at work, because he was totally unique. I've only seen three of his films, but two of them from 40 years apart both being legitimate five-star classics tells me what I need to know about him. He made gorgeous films that stunned me and grabbed me with their playfulness, inventiveness, and audacity. Hausu was a crazy ride, Hanagatami was maybe the best coming-of-age film I've ever seen. With Obayashi, a simple descriptor such as that fails to do it justice, but I don't think I could do this film justice anyway.


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Drunken Angel (1948, Akira Kurosawa)

This is a fascinating, if minor film in the Kurosawa oevre. As many note, it is primarily worth mention for the first casting of Toshiro Mifune as Matsunaga, a vicious gangster with TB that forms an unlikely friendship with alcoholic slum Doctor Sanada (Takashi Shimura). The film tricks you into thinking Mifune is the protagonist - a nice idea unfortunately undercut by Mifune's amazing screen presence and energy. Indeed, from the second Mifune appears, his intense physicality overpowers virtually everything else in the film. Kurosawa eventually focuses more heavily on Matsunaga, implicitly acknowledging the issue.

The film also features what would become some trademark Kurosawa visual flourishes - including framing multiple speakers in different parts of the screen looking in different directions, a stunning technique that looks like fine art - and one used to perfection in the far better Yojimbo. There is also a breathtaking three mirror shot in the final fight and several other hints of the genius work to come from Kurosawa.

The film is strong thematically - it reflects the sorrow and disarray of post-war Japan and slips in several negative references to Americans, averting censorship. Notably, the Yakuza dress and act American. It is a nice touch too that Doctor Sanada is far from a perfect messenger to help save Matsunaga. It's difficult for him to persuasively insist Matsunaga quit drinking to avoid more damage from his TB when the Doctor himself is drinking. Similarly, the Doctor's fits of anger and arrogance mirror the very qualities he hates in the Yakuza, a sign of the moral rot that had infested Japan (along with the less subtle toxic waste river in the middle of town.)

The biggest drawback is Shimura's performance, which is over-the-top even for Kurosawa, though undoubtedly a lot of that is in the writing. There is also a thread with a woman he is harboring from the Yakuza that only sort-of gets paid off. The film is a bit wobbly all in all, but interesting historically, if nothing else.

On a personal note, it's a funny coincidence that I was strongly considering nominating the movie that this film directly led to - Red Beard, in which Mifune plays the doctor that confronts the Yakuza. It's a far stronger film, but I'm glad I got to see this one anyway, as I would have watched it eventually and there are some great moments. If nothing else, it's worth a watch to see the incredible Mifune performance and the beginning of one the most fruitful and visionary pairings between actor and director in cinema history.

3/5 stars.

Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow / 蛇形刁手 (1978)

Directed By: Woo-Ping Yuen
Starring: Jackie Chan, Yuen Siu Tien, Hwang Jang Lee

It's been many years since I've watched a film with this style of martial arts comedy, so it felt a little nostalgic to sit back, relax, and laugh at the absurd antics on screen. The use of ridiculous action sound effects, and slapstick facial expressions felt like a novel concept once again, rather than the tired trope it became over the last few decades. Since Snake in the Eagle's Shadow was one of the films to start that trend, it's quite appropriate that it's the one which has reconnected me to the joy I used to feel watching the genre as a kid.

Despite its light-heartedness, the film's pace is almost exhausting, with very little pause in between its elaborately choreographed action sequences. The story becomes almost irrelevant, as nearly any excuse is used to showcase the work of its talented stunt team. That's not exactly a complaint, because those martial arts performances are a key component to these types of films, and they are certainly a major draw for its target audience. Jackie Chan does a particularly great job here, making it easy to see why directors typecast him in similar roles for most of his career afterward.

While I'm sure I had previously seen an edited version of the film, this viewing did contain very uncomfortable footage of real animals fighting that went on for far too long. Watching the fight serves as inspiration for the protagonist, but just one clip of the cat swatting at the snake would've sufficed, so I do recommend going with an altered cut if it's available. I'm not going to hold it against the film, but I certainly don't condone animal cruelty, and I'm glad film makers across the globe have been moving past this.

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Also a note to animal lovers: One of the key scenes in the film involves a cat fighting a snake. In some cuts of the film, real footage of a cat fighting a snake is shown. From what I've seen though, most of the versions of the film on YouTube have heavily edited the scene so that no contact between the snake or cat is seen, so you should be fine.
I don't usually read the reviews of films I haven't watched yet until I've written my own piece about them, but I had noticed this bold part while scrolling down the page at the time, and read the note.

Even though I ignored the advice and did not watch the copy on Youtube (and even worse, watched the original version) I just wanted to say that I appreciated the warning.

I'm glad Cosmic just posted about that, cause I didn't see the bolded part in Hastag's review. Think I'll watch the YouTube version so my wife stays happy I'll be happier too.