Archive for film

Manyoshu and Kokinshu art films

Posted in cinema, japan, video with tags , , , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by reccaphoenix

Made for a premodern Japanese literature class by me and my friends. Our project (3 separate films) translated poems from the Kokinshu, Manyoshu, and Shinkokinshu (3 Japanese poetry anthologies) into the content and visual styles of our films.  Unfortunately I have lost the Shinkokinshu film file.

See my friend Susannah’s Kokinshu film here:

My main influences here were Antonioni’s ‘Red Desert’ and ‘Blow-Up.’ I tried to reflect the ambiguous yet simple voice in the Manyoshu poems in a cinematic style reminiscent of Italian Neorealism.

Concept, Cinematography, Direction, Production – Recca Phoenix
Boy – An Hoang
Girl – Susannah Davidson

Edited in iMovie
Titles edited in Final Cut Pro

(c) 2007 Reccalux

Liberty Eyes – my experimental film

Posted in animation, cinema, movie posters, video with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by reccaphoenix

I now present the blogosphere debut of Reccalux’s greatest film to date: my experimental collage animation “Liberty Eyes”.

My main stylistic influence was Ken Jacobs.

My film examines colonialism and its aftereffects in Ghana via handpainted movie posters and Nana Agyemang Ofosu’s poem “Virgin Liberty”. It also comments on cultural “dumping”. “Liberty Eyes” screened at the UC Berkeley Pacific Film Archive in 2010 as part of the Film And Video Makers At Cal program “Fleshed Out.”

Looking, Looking (a.k.a. not to defend Twilight or anything, but…)

Posted in advertising, cinema, rants with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2010 by reccaphoenix

I had to read Laura Mulvey’s article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” recently.  It’s about a lot of things, but one big point it brings up deals with men and women in films and scopophilia (voyeuristic pleasure in “looking”).  It talks about how female characters are generally just a spectacle to be looked at, so male characters have to advance the plot.

Which got me thinking….

Why is it that there aren’t a lot of “displays” of male characters in films?  (Not that I’m for that or anything, this issue is just interesting to me as a film nerd).  It seems to me that many viewers get irritated by this kind of display of men when it does occur (although rarely).  Now, this could be because it usually happens in “chick flicks” or films like Troy with a sizable female (or perhaps gay male) target audience; many male viewers or those with actual taste dislike these kinds of films and so would be irritated by just one more stupid thing in the film.  Case in point – a recent internet reviewer’s take on the Twilight: New Moon trailer went something like this:

(The trailer shows a bunch of shirtless werewolves and vampires)

Reviewer: (angrily) Did I mention this film was directed by a woman?

Yeah, so what if it was?  Not to defend Twilight or anything (’cause it probably sucks) but why are you so angry with this, Internet Reviewer?  If it was women doing the stripping, would you feel the same way?
The scary thing is that I had a similar reaction.  This film seems to be about 80% what we in the anime fandom community call “fanservice,” or the insertion of gratuitous romantic-hinting, nudity, exposure, or other such things.  That kind of stuff is unnecessary; it may sell a film, but it’s gratuitous.  Fanservice has its place in the arsenal of tricks, though, and it happens.  But it seems to me that it is far more acceptable, even in supposedly-more-“artistic” films (like the recent Nine) to have women prancing about in lingerie, etc., than it is for male characters to do similar acts of fanservice.

I am a girl, yes, but I generally dislike films targeted towards me as a demographic.  I find their tactics of targeting me, as a woman, insulting for the most part.  Hollywood people, stop acting like all women like that kind of shit.  Make some decent Annie Hall-style romances instead.  And women, make better films.  About stuff other than relationships.  Seriously.  (Recent Oscar shout-out to Kathryn Bigelow, a.k.a. pretty much the only awesome female director since Leni Riefenstahl**)

But you know, it should be all right for male fanservice to happen alongside female fanservice, without reflecting on the filmmaker’s sexual preferences or gender. I don’t support it, but let’s be fair.  Next time you or someone you know gets mad about this kind of thing for EITHER gender, just ask yourself/them “would you feel the same way if it was the opposite sex?”

Jumping around again, I am guilty of gender bias, sadly.  I often complain about female filmmakers’ inability to make films about anything other than “f—ing relationships” or other girlie sh*t, but…. it’s okay for men to do this?  Well….yeah.  If they’re good at it.  Like, say, Woody Allen.  My sexism reveals itself. Le sigh.

I suppose what I should say to both genders is just “make good films.”  Yeah.  I’ll go with that.

Recca 3/11/10

**disclaimer: Nazis are not cool, but Leni was a great director despite her political views.

Review – MW (2009)

Posted in anime, cinema, manga, osamu tezuka, rants, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by reccaphoenix

News has been circulating around the internet for a while about the live-action adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s mature manga masterpiece MW (pronounced “moo,” like a cow), created to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Tezuka.  I was able to see this film in an advance screening last night and have been itching to share my thoughts.

Being a huge fan of both Osamu Tezuka and MW, I was anxious to see how this film would turn out.  Not surprisingly, I found myself with a graveyard of bones to pick after seeing it.  It’s hard for me to separate this film from the manga it’s based on and review it fairly.  Rather than a straight-up review like those I usually write, I do want to bring my Tezuka knowledge to the discussion, but I’ll try not to digress into fangirlish ranting.

MW (Japan, 2009) dir. Hitoshi Iwamoto. Color, 35mm.

Putting the manga it was based on aside, MW is overall a standard action film, about on par with most of Hollywood’s recent offerings, but nothing special.  A little lacking in the CG department, but a worthy effort nonetheless.  Hiroshi Tamaki, the actor who plays the main villain Michio Yuki, did a great job with the material he was given.  He lost quite a lot of weight for the role to give Yuki a skeletal and hollow appearance, and the effect is quite powerful.  The characters in the film are not all that well-developed or interesting, and as little as that matters in an action film, the action alone here doesn’t make up for everything else that is lacking.  I believe I might have enjoyed this film more were it not “based on” MW and given the same title.  But alas, it is, and comparisons are almost unavoidable.

That being said, I’d like to give my opinion on many of the changes in the movie.  *Cue disorganized rant*

The film character of Yuki comes nowhere near the complexities of manga Yuki.  Yes, he is “pure evil,” but he does not have the dualities and childlike moments of Yuki in the manga.  Part of what made Yuki so interesting was his total lack of remorse juxtaposed with his playful side.  Film Yuki comes off as more of a typical “evil” villain – cunning and remorseless, but also without emotion.
The same can be said of Garai and the other characters adapted from the manga.  A female reporter character added for the film comes off as uninteresting and completely useless.  Many characters are missing, which is not a bad thing on its own, but the characters which ARE there lack good characterization.

Characters’ actions and other things don’t make much sense.  The reporter and Garai help Yuki find MW on the island for no apparent reason.  Why were they helping him?
Garai’s inner struggle is almost nonexistent as well.
The backstory is drastically simplified.  In the film, Garai and Yuki are boys who grew up together on the island and escaped together when the military was killing off the survivors of the MW incident.  This makes Garai’s later “repentance” less dramatic and once again, downplays the relationship between the two.
The film basically turns into a straight action film.  Superficial suspense and chases make up the first half-hour.  It was exciting, I have to admit.  But MW the manga was already full of suspense that would have come across just fine in the film – were all these big-budget action scenes really necessary?
The sexual content is also completely absent.  This is not a bad thing, either, but extends to a ridiculous extent in the fact that the relationship between Garai and Yuki is barely even a subtext.

Sorry for the ranting.  I could go on forever about what’s different in the manga, but when it comes down to it, the film dilutes the manga’s plot and characters to fit an action-movie mold and adds its own ineffectual material.
It’s not that I’m against deviation from source material.  In fact, it can often be a good thing (why make a film if it’s the exact same story?  Use the medium!).  Take, for example, the Metropolis anime – though it went against Tezuka’s wishes and fundamentally altered much of the manga, it did so well and in the spirit of a Tezuka work (the extra characters mainly came from other Tezuka works).  Most importantly, it held up brilliantly on its own.  Though I still prefer the manga, I like the film.  It’s an original work.  With MW, however, I felt that the film was using a Tezuka name to sell a generic, uninspired action movie; it succeeds as neither a good action film nor a Tezuka film.

In one sentence: I’m disappointed.
In another sentence: They could have done so much better, even with half the budget.

Rating: 4/10

Trailer: (official site)

P.S.: A tie-in MW TV drama (oneshot) is going to air on TV in 4 days.  I’ll try my best to watch it and post my thoughts if I find anything worth mentioning.

P.P.S.: I was so utterly disappointed with the film I had no interest in watching the tie-in drama.

Review – Kind Hearts and Coronets

Posted in cinema, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , on October 5, 2008 by reccaphoenix

Continuing on my BFI 100 Quest (I still have 76 films left -_-;), which is progressing in somewhat-random order, I watched the #6 film…..

Kind Hearts and Coronets (UK, 1949) dir. Robert Hamer.  B&W, 35mm.

A charming Victorian black comedy about murder and ambition, Kind Hearts and Coronets tells the story of Louis (that’s pronounced the French way) Manzini, 9th or 10th in line for the D’Ascoyne family’s dukedom.  He grew up learning all about his family, taught by his mother (who was exiled from the family because she married for love).  After his mother dies and the D’Ascoynes refuse her dying wish (and after a girl he loves turns him down because he’s poor), Manzini starts to play a more active role in trying to acquire the dukedom.  It’s here that the film gets a lot more interesting, as Manzini starts killing off D’Ascoynes right and left.

Like Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, Alec Guinness (one of the great actors of our time) plays multiple parts: 8 different members of the D’Ascoyne family!  One of them is a woman, so if you’ve ever wanted to see Alec Guinness cross-dressing, look no further.  Yes, some of them are nearly identical “dignified old people,” but Guinness’s acting is well-played and amusing.

The film is very entertaining and darkly humorous, with a witty, dry narration by Louis.  Some of the shot composition is also quite good.  Here’s the requisite batch of images….to cover up the fact that I can’t write a long review for this one 😛

(click images for full size)

No, this picture isn't upside down.... it's just a brilliant point-of-view shot of when Louis is using one of those old-fashioned cameras (when you look into one, the image is inverted).

This is a gorgeous shot.

Louis is up to no good again. Nice foreground/background setup in this shot.

See that nude statue in the foreground? Yep. Total symbolism.

He was a big, boorish bear of a man....and the mise-en-scene tells us that.

—-Recca 9/19/08

Rating: 7/10

Availability: Region 1 DVD (special edition) from Criterion, Region 1 standard edition from Anchor Bay, Region 2 DVD, VHS.


New Mod Film “Flawless”

Posted in advertising, cinema, mod, video with tags , , , , on February 14, 2008 by reccaphoenix

modreccaI heard about Flawless, a new jewel heist movie that’s coming out soon, and was quite excited 🙂 , seeing as how it’s set in London in 1960!

A little before the mod period, but still very stylish and modern 😉

Here’s another connection to mod that isn’t so apparent – Michael Caine, who plays the old janitor in this movie, was in a famous mod film called Alfie, remade in ’07 with Jude Law.  He’s known for not trying to hide his working-class accent (even though that’s exactly what he did in his first big film, Zulu, where he played a pretentious officer).

I like heist movies (my favorite is Rififi) so I think this should be a pretty awesome film.

AKIRA + Clockwork Orange a.k.a. OHHHHHHHH!

Posted in animation, anime, cinema, clockwork orange, manga, reviews/opinions with tags , , , , , , on November 4, 2007 by reccaphoenix


The other day I saw a website point out this similarity and then it occurred to me – AKIRA (the manga/comic is waaaay better than the film btw) is basically A Clockwork Orange in cyberpunk Japan, at which point I said something like “OHHHHHHHHH!”  Rival gangs in which the members dress alike, who take drugs w/drinks, a kid who gets taken in and re-programmed by the government.  That’s where the similarities end, as Continue reading