Hello, Film Threat.
It’s been a long time. But now that I’m a new city, about to start reviewing again at the best film festival ever, I figured I’d take a crack at writing a new movie night column. Because I’m in a new city, in a new apartment with a new cast in the Peanut Gallery, calling it the Den of Sin just didn’t feel right. I haven’t lived at the Den for a long time now. But I still love movies and sharing them with my friends (not to mention you, people of the internet). And so I give you: Meeko’s Movie Night Massacre.
Since running into Jeremy Knox at Fantasia last year, a lot has happened, including moving to Montreal. And that means even more Fantasia. So to celebrate, I decided to have some of my new friends over for a little pre-Fantasia bash.
The original plan was for an all French, violent, nihilist, double bill of “Inside (À l’intérieur)” and “Frontier(s).” Problem is, my local video store didn’t have “Frontier(s),” so I opted for a slightly different direction. One that wouldn’t alienate all of my new friends. I instead chose to start the night with one of my favourite Fantasia films, Toshiaki Toyoda’s “9 Souls.”
It was a respectable turn out, especially considering the invites went out last minute and it was the night before Canada Day (or Moving Day as it’s known in Quebec). Including myself there were 7 people to start, although Susie had to leave before the ultra-violence because she is a self-described chicken. Pre-film banter was concerned with Fantasia talk, a recap of the TV show “Moonlight” and the differences between a 3CCD digital video camera and other digital video cameras. There was also some discussion about how the Netherlands makes people think of nether regions, which Chris pointed out was “a private place where you can’t touch.”
For those who haven’t seen it, “9 Souls” tells the story of nine Japanese convicts who through a twist of fate manage to escape from prison together and travel to Tokyo in search of what they think is their recently expelled cell mate’s counterfeit fortune. While Toyoda makes no bones about the fact that these men are criminals, the focus of the film is on their humanity, for better or for worse. And while it is a its heart a drama with comedic overtones, there is also shocking violence, which oddly makes the film more touching.
The film begins with a surrealistic overview of Tokyo, where one by one all of the buildings disappear until all that is left is Tokyo Tower. A lack of Mt. Fuji lead to much speculation about what city it was, but that all died down once Tokyo Tower showed up. Attention then turned to speculation about Japanese prisons with Al suggesting that there were no locks, they were all just too honourable to leave and Chris quipped about the paper and balsa wood prisons of yore. The presence of little person Onimaru also prompted Chris to inquire about dwarf samurai movies, noting that there was a dwarf James Bond and dwarf westerns, but none of us could think of any off the top of our heads.
Everybody got really silent when the counterfeit king went crazy, but the banter started up again during the extended running sequence when the convicts actually break out with Susie shouting “Wheee!” and MC shouting “Freedom!” The scene where the sex starved convicts come across a herd of sheep also warranted quite the vocal response, once everybody realized exactly where things were going. That’s right, the movie goes there. And it’s played for comedy. Lord love the Japanese.
Another key exchange happened when the convicts get to the home of a friend of the senior most convict. Turns out he isn’t that happy to see them, especially with his new Filipino bride cursing him up and down for letting them in the house. Chris commented on the friend’s pink pants and Sue speculated that they might have something to do with his need for a mail-order bride, while Lee felt that it had more to do with the pleats. Fashion also came up when the convicts all dressed in drag to go undercover at a restaurant. Onimaru was particularly cute in a schoolgirl uniform and braids and Sue remarked that the billowiness of the elder convict’s outfit made him look more like an old-school samurai.
Comment of the night probably has to go to Al, who during the scene where the convicts all end up at a strip club in the middle of nowhere remarked that it was “fetish night” because “all the girls are Japanese.” This prompted a swift scolding from his girlfriend, MC, and some very guilty laughter from myself. There were also frequent declarations of “I don’t understand what’s happening,” and “I’m confused,” from all parties, so I did my best as the only one who had seen the film before to help everyone keep things straight. It certainly didn’t help that everyone had the same haircut and very similar builds, with the exception of Onimaru, the old dude and the hulking “loose canon”, and they were all dressed in matching outfits for much of the film. L observed that the film had more than a little Shawshank in it while Al would have appreciated a Morgan Freeman character to narrate things.
Other observations included Lee’s comment about the wealth of “man-booty” and L’s question about whether or not you could knock yourself out, which Chris suggested was only a possibility if you were a “loose cannon”. Al, L and Chris all agreed that you would probably get sent home early if you started to beat yourself up.
I was subjected to some rather shocked and nervous looks during the very grim ending of the film, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, even if name tags on the characters would have made things easier. Those who were accustomed to the typically loose symbolism of modern Japanese cinema seemed to enjoy it more than those who hadn’t watched a lot of Japanese cinema, but the overall opinion was very positive which made me happy.
After the film MC put on the blooper reel of the Alex Kovalev hockey skills DVD which she and Al had lent me and L so we could enjoy Kovalev’s rendition of “We Are The Champions.” It should be noted that now that I live in Montreal, being a hockey fan isn’t really an option anymore, it’s a full-on responsibility. And the Alex Kovalev DVD was the number one selling DVD in Quebec last year.
The evening continues in Meeko’s Movie Night Massacre: “Inside (À l’intérieur)”>>>