Sunday, 29 December 2013

To Clear Through The [Re]Watch List #2: Nurse Witch Komugi (2002)

Form http://nsm01.casimages.com/img/2008/01/24//080124073811194601639808.jpg

Dirs. Masato Tamagawa, Masatsugu Arakawa, Yasuhiro Takemoto and Yoshitomo Yonetani

The problem with Nurse Witch Komugi is one that goes beyond the complaints taken at Japanese anime within the last decade or so. Those complaints are still there. The discomforting sexualisation of young girls even if they're animated. The pandering to a small subset of otaku where the fetishes and in-jokes to anime are alien to any outsider. Honestly even if you did have fetishes to glasses on a woman, big breasts, maid outfits etc., or have watched obscure giant robot shows from the seventies, you may feel a disconnect to this still. The problem is that, for its few bright spots of imagination and clever humour, able to mock itself too, the sum of it is the issue that faces not just anime, but any group. Geek culture. Cult works. Hobbies. Dare I say even religion and politics. When the quality and fun is replaced with a cheap aesthetic look and everything feels tacky. Not fun. Extravagant. Sincere. Uplifting. Clever. Sexy. Any potent feeling, not even kitsch. Just tacky. And such works are knowingly tacky, which is worse because it'll encourage the followers of that areas to just want tackiness. Within five straight-to-video episodes, including a bonus "2.5" one, it automatically caused my heart to sink when the opening theme is a sickly cute song, sung in too high a voice by the female singer, using medical terminology to describe romance. The lyrics are ridiculous, the voice too high, but the problem is how contrived it feels even when I don't speak Japanese. Too cute. Too quirky. To the point it doesn't feel sincere. This is not something cheesy that you can enjoy for its sincerity and because it's ridiculous, like how I've fallen in love with the song by Loudness from the animated box office bomb Odin (1986) which I covered on this blog. This is just being cute because it wants to be surface level cute and nothing more.

The anime is a spin-off from a TV series called Soul Taker (2001), which not only takes characters from a serious work and place them in a comedy, but it became far more popular and talked about then the original source. I have never seen an episode of Soul Take but this isn't a hindrance for Nurse Witch Komugi. Now the references to anime from the past I may have to see to get some of the jokes. Komugi is a downtrodden cosplay idol, looked down upon by her management for continually screwing up the jobs assigned for her to become more famous. A lot of the reason she screws up is that she has to juggle a secret alter ego, transforming into a nurse witch to defeat the minions of a King of Germs, a task assigned to her from a magical land of medicine with a perverted rabbit mascot by her side. Representing the villains is a maid witch; a great idea from the series is that she has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde personality where neither side knows of each other, one the villain, the other Komugi's school friend. From there it's a comedy with action but its empty. You're stuck with a work that panders but offers nothing of real interest for a great deal of it. Loosely connected around Komugi having to fight evil virus monsters and being a cosplayer trying to get higher in her career choice, it boils down to a series of absurd sketches per the six episodes but not really succeeding.

A great deal of it is arbitrary. The titillation, of course taking cue of the magical girl genre its riffing on to show Komugi's costume change sequence like a stripshow, is creepy because, like in most anime unfortunately, the characters are seventeen or younger. But its creepier and perversely lazy in how it's incredibly chaste while yet having countless bathing scenes and the like, especially as a straight to video release. Treating sexuality in such a compromised way yet presenting dubious sexuality in a sugar coated tone is incredibly off for me even after all the anime I've seen. In the perfect world, if titillation was still required, the creepy sexualisation of young girls would be boated out in favour for grown up female characters, as much in control of the sexual nature of the work as the viewer. Unfortunately even then, if the lazy, chaste tone to it was kept in still, the anime would be compromised as before. This kind of anime takes sexual fetishes and smoothens them of all their interest and depth in favour of a checklist mentality. Big breasts. Older women. Maid costumes. Nurse uniform. Flat chests. To decry any sexual objectification of this sort of thing is too obvious. Decrying this sort of anime for killing off any sense of mystery and tantalisation to sexual fantasies, especially when animation could give one the chance to show something completely fantastical if actually used properly for once, should be done more often.

The same laziness is there with the references as jokes. They're funny when you don't even need to know the references, when the jokes already funny in context of these new characters or completely bizarre to you because of the lack of knowledge. But like Family Guy at its worst, it's a private conversation that isn't actually that worth knowing the secrets of, because there's nothing beyond the surface name checking. Moments do shine in the anime. The bosses Komugi deal with are imaginative and funny. One representing all those otaku fetish forums, which naturally pisses Komugi off when the "flat chest" forum, represented by cat people, group around her. A giant robot that gets its own mecha show theme tune sung with burning passion like the originals. Legions of road raging vehicles that leads to a peculiar joke mocking completely CGI animation being released around the time this was made. Even a wrestling match in Hell. And those moments, mentioned earlier in the review, when it mocks its own industry, while completely hypocritical considering the anime itself, do sting. Crazed fans. The chaos of fan conventions, and an entire episode about making anime that shows that the creators of this are masochistic about their profession.

There was the potential for something great here, but most of Nurse Witch Komugi is not like the good ideas presented above. Most of it responds to the most mediocre aspects of anime in recent years, which are just dull to sit through. The final episode tries to be fairly serious, in air quotes since its still humorous, about a teacher witch (presumably) with breasts so large they have the consistency of beanbags than living flesh. The lack of time in twenty or so minutes to make something compelling, especially when the actual story is of the episode is dull anyway, prevents it from doing anything of worth. It's pretty much like this for most of the anime over its episodes. Brief glimpses of goodness swallowed by the tenuous. It's kind of surprising that one of the directors of this was Yasuhiro Takemoto, considering looking into him he made two good comedy vignettes series, Lucky Star (2007) and Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (2003), bearing in mind their imperfections and that they were based around vignettes rather than a consistent plot. The thing is thought, while Lucky Star is the superior of the two, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu is a good comedy series which yet still suffers from problems effecting this one - bad opening theme, creepy titillation suddenly appearing in a later episode, and some moments that fall over badly even if they're rare. And this was a work with clear delays between each episode, and multiple directors working on various episodes, which unless the quality is kept to a high level, is going to cause drops in said quality to take place. Ultimately Nurse Witch Komugi is pretty much the sort of thing not really worth seeing. I actually rewatched this a second time when it came to this review, and frankly the sense that this was made for the smallest, tiniest audience of people who have no real connection to anyone else even in Japanese pop culture is big. And it's not good. It looks cheap, it's not funny enough, and it does define how tacky anime can unfortunately get.

From http://pic.rutube.ru/video/33/3e/333e02e08f06fb49d6e34f95303bc03e.jpg

Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Videotape Swapshop Christmas #2: Santa Claus (1959)

From http://vciclassicfilms.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/poster-santaclausmurrayversion3.jpg

Dir. René Cardona

Christmas is slowly drawing to an end for this year. Someone reading this blog post has probably eaten their own weight in chocolate. Maybe two. To close it off, its befitting to choose a film that has been dismissed as garbage, but to my delight, actually has more enjoyable qualities than other Christmas films I've seen. Its better than the one with Dudley Moore at least.


From http://cdn.mos.totalfilm.com/images/s/santa-claus-1959-.jpg

Prata Palomares (1972)

http://titlovi.com/images/posters/Prata-Palomares_dfb6e998.jpg

Dir. Andre Faria

Honestly, as physically availability becomes less of a concern in how I treat what I look to watch for in cinema, the question of how cinema itself is treated is subjected to questioning. The notion of what cinema is meant to do and represent; as I watch this sort of cinema more, concepts such as tone, politics and structure are broken down. The lack of availability of a film like Prata Palomares, and the fact that its use of Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stone at the end will make it difficult to release the film uncut, makes the influence of films like this one more powerful for me, the suppression of films like it for distribution reasons adding to the potency of things it breaks. Films like this become difficult to gage with because of this, but have a more pronounced effect on your thoughts when you can gage with them. It's a perverse irony that this Brazilian film, made during a military government that prevented the film from being shown at two Cannes Film Festivals, is now only available for me to see, in a period of freedom of speech in most places, from a copy ripped from a VHS tape from an unknown dimension. Consumerism turns out to be more powerful than a dictatorship.

The film itself is about the dangers of compromise. Two wounded revolutionaries wait in a church in a local village for a mission to be started. One pretends to be the priest that was supposed to take over the church, at first using it to bring the people together against the corrupt upper-class family that runs the town, but through an existential crisis becomes a lapdog for their words. All of this is presented in an abstract and unconventional film which shifts from the polemic to the gruesomely surreal. There's material reminiscent of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Glauber Rocha. The violence reminds me of José Mojica Marins too, whose horror films made him an unexpected political rebel when the same Brazilian government that suppressed this film banned his too. Prata Palomares is its own unique, charged film though, which like many films from South America I've seen, have a rawness where local culture, of countries and regions, meet the complications of politics, morality and urbanisation with a vivid metaphorical and phantastical bent. There's a brutalness in the violence and despair felt by the lowest in social ladders even in an abstract presentation. It's incredibly passionate filmmaking that is desiring to create real rebellion.

I confess the first part of the film, where the rebels are by themselves in the church, shouting at each other, was a struggle. In fact, for its moments of goodness, it's the worst of experimental polemic cinema, that which would actually compromise any revolutionary message in how it feels like it's a herd mentality wrapped in broad, unintentionally ridiculous pretence. But when a woman, a possible Virgin Mary figure for the revolutionary cause, enters their bubble and one of them becomes the "priest", the film truly starts to become a great work. Full of transgressive imagery - cannibalism, a church as a literal execution dudgeon, police death troops assaulting people - the issue in the middle of its message of how the left wing revolutionary can become compromised, distorted and a tool for the state is still relevant today and gives this messy film power. How anyone can confuse what they should do, regardless of political bench they're sat on, and end up being a lapdog or a deluded liberator. It does have some compromised thoughts. At first this sole female character of note is there only to give birth to the children of revolution, although this thankfully changes, in a film of archetypes and stereotypes, when even destroyed she's still the strongest force of the rebellion. It's also a revolution where one of the evil, decadent family - American, older woman pasted up in make-up, corrupt little girl who adores the violence - is clearly signposted as such by being effeminate and gay. This is a minor detail but it's another irony to write about with this film, where the issue of what one character's revolutionary ideals are questioned, that the message of the film is questionable in small details, the danger of this coming off as a brutish, heterosexual masculinity being projected from the film rather than an idealism for a new political utopia apparent in aspects like this. Details that could retrograde these ideals to the same mentality of the decadence its rebelling against. With someone like Alejandro Jodorowsky, he had the right idea of presenting decedent sexuality not in terms of specific sexuality, but when all sexuality becomes merely to consume another through corrupt and visually grotesque tackiness.

Despite these few details though Prata Palomares still has a great deal to stand out. The "priest" at first has the right idea - that the Christian God and Jesus were subversives for the downtrodden, or at least question God but use the cross as a symbol of unity - but he compromises himself into the puppet for others who wish to crush humanity through brainwashed spirituality. His desire for peace and non violence becomes as a means to shut up the anger of the downtrodden in a very clever flourish at one point. What makes the film spectacular when it fully immerses itself into its plot is how complex and unconventional it is. Even when corrupted, or just insane, the "priest" can be right. He destroys his comrade's revolutionary streak, in the best scene of the film, by pointing out that for all his polemic words, he's lost the one word needed to make his desire for upheaval of worth. Christians just need two sticks together in the shape of a cross he says, and his friend doesn't have this but empty phrases. But the "priest" is also a coward and easily manipulated, suffering from the same flaw. When revolution is seemed to have been won in the ending, what he does is no less ugly than what the former leaders did - in fact its more pathetic and off-putting in its farcical delusion of utopia. The one sole exception who is consistent is the woman, a politicised Mary Magdalene, who beret the men throughout the film for their compromises, but even she is literally silenced.


The film is difficult, shifting in place and full of dialogue that needs to be digested. The acting is stylised, with large portions screamed at high levels and a character at one point ramming his head into walls out of self mutilation. Sometimes the rebels just scream for large passages over what they're witnessing. It's an aggressive and abrasive work which matches its rich, ideological questions with the form of a blunderbuss shot, surreal images and a unconventional time structure even when following its small plotline. Unfortunately this reckless, difficult filmmaking is rarely seen now because even alternative cinema seems to have a tendency to copy mainstream filmmaking. By the seventies film could be trangresssive and legitimately dangerous, with many films that are still difficult to assess or handle even today for the modern cinematic canon. Prata Palomares is chaos onscreen and it's not surprising it was suppressed by the Brazilian government of the time, not just because of its message, but its tone and erratic nature which obliterates any sense of good taste. The difficulty of the film, even that sluggish first quarter, is now a nectar for me as a viewer. I am bored by what is to be expected and safe; it means nothing because I will forget it and, even by the virtues of mere entertainment, not have enough to actually entertain me. A film like this challenges my perceptions and my politics, and for glaring flaws, the challenge is rewarding as a film viewer but also in expanding the thoughts in my mind. Sadly films like this can only be seen, literally, on a muddy VHS rip from origins I don't know of. Thus it feels like a need to find films like this is a minor rebellion to clean out what I've been stuck with as cinematic art. Less elitism, more bored frustration, and befitting a film made to promote subversive ideology for utopian ideas, its complexity asks as well that even the concept of cinema should not be left to follow one style but question it continually. 

From http://i39.tinypic.com/10zwdmt.png

Monday, 23 December 2013

A Videotape Swapshop Christmas #1: We Wish You a Turtle Christmas (1994)

From http://lh4.ggpht.com/-NAkMc4yQmEY/Uq0kT08rfaI/AAAAAAAAKvA/chCLRnIt4vs/we-wish-you-a-turtle-christmas-TV-sp%25255B1%25255D.jpg?imgmax=800

Dir. Larry Osborne

Christmas is nearly upon us, and all the cheer and magic of the season is reaching its highest peak. Unfortunately this is also the holiday which has the most and succinct abuses of its message, and when delving into Christmas and motion image entertainment, you can't really ignore it. Its better, out of two reviews I did for this year's season for Videotape Swapshop, to get the terrible one out of the way first. Its a spoiler for my opinions of the straight-to-video short, but when you read the review you realise why I've said that. Let the review be a warning of how Christmas is not used properly.

Review Link - http://www.videotapeswapshop.co.uk/18358/we-wish-you-a-turtles-christmas-1994-director-larry-osborne/

From http://lh6.ggpht.com/-5tBq8xYNI1A/Uq0kX-6lmAI/AAAAAAAAKvg/d_hrU0yJYOM/we-wish-you-a-turtle-christmas-TV-sp%25255B2%25255D.png?imgmax=800

Saturday, 21 December 2013

To Clear Through The [Re]Watch List #1: Pulp Fiction (1994)

From http://ahmedalkiremli.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Pulp-Fiction.jpg

Dir. Quentin Tarantino

It's bizarre to actually watch Pulp Fiction. It's not a pop culture UFO everyone references and says is the best film ever made, let along made in the nineties, that people have only seen many years ago. You're not just saying "Royale with cheese" to yourself and imaging the film you watched in your adolescence years ago, a century almost for me now in how I've changes in my art tastes in only less than six or so years. You're actually watching it with near decades having passed, and with how Quentin Tarantino is now as a director, trying to reappraise it. It's amazing now that such a legendary film that, for better and unfortunately for worse in areas, drastically changed cinema culture and style was such a little film. Its effectively a slice of life indie movie...that just happens to use characters and plotlines from crime fiction and expand everything they do to pass the time into further importance at points. Rewatching this evoked the likes of Wayne Wang's Smoke (1995) and Jim Jarmusch as much as it did classic film noir and Reservoir Dogs (1992). Despite its length, the manipulation of time, and its cast, its far more concerned with imagining two hit man going to a drive-thru burger joint, even though this example doesn't happen in the film, and debating whether to get a cheese or Hawaiian burger between them. A former video store clerk who, in making Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, had completely sacrificed part of his memory bank entirely to cinema - flights of fantasy, sleaze, glamorous crime, which are purely fiction - but was as obsessed with how he and his friends would be sitting around shooting the shit eating Captain Crunch. The paradox still exists in his main auteurist flourishes now even though he's expanded the material to much more epic proportions now in his last two films.

My relationship with Tarantino as a director has been a complicated one. Like everyone, when I got into cinema as an adolescent, I was immediately drawn to Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Then came the disappointment of Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), and my sole viewing of Death Proof (2007) was a painful experience to view its entire length, having such an effect that Inglourious Basterds (2009) would be a make-and-break on whether I would follow his films anymore. It was good but flawed back then, and Django Unchained (2012) was divisive for me back at the cinemas in January this year. Unfortunately the cult of personality that surrounding him, one that once encouraged people to find obscure genre and cult films, has become a plague on cinema in general, which would dampen your view of him unless you separate them from the filmmaker himself. By himself, Tarantino is becoming for me one of the few American directors whose actually an auteur, has the talent and makes films that are unconventional yet I can actually see in a multiplex because of how Britain embraced him from the beginning. Rewatching Jackie Brown (1997), I found an incredible film, and Inglourious Basterds has became ingenious in its ideas in its head on the rewatch. Pulp Fiction in comparison, is a minor work frankly, the transition from the lean Reservoir Dogs to the style that would be last to now, with failures, with stuff not as good as his later work, but a lot to love nonetheless. Despite potential issues with his style, his perceived glibness, he was touching on tics that were clever and underrated that he would expand on later.

From http://theartdepartments.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/pulp-fiction-144.jpg

What immediately becomes the key to seeing a lot of what Pulp Fiction is about is the Jack Rabbit Slim restaurant hitman Vincent (John Travolta) and Mai Wallace (Uma Thurman) go to. It's a place that's too cool to ever exist in real life - fifties b-movie posters on the walls, $5 dollar milkshakes that are actually worth the money - but it also comes off as a metaphor of having to reassess the culture of the 20th century, and even further back in history, and what individuals are faced with in connecting it back into something relevant. Directors have been heavy in their referencing of other materials long before Tarantino, especially with Jean-Luc Godard, but Tarantino has drastically changed the notion of doing this. However, even if he was to get a nosebleed and an erection just being in the proximity of a long unmanufactured brand of breakfast cereal, he was still able to step back and question whether there was any real meaning or point to how people assessed this kind of material in its littlest details. It's about the "little details" as Vincent describes being in Europe to his co-hitman Jules (Samuel L. Jackson), and in many ways their own existences, along with the others characters, is changed and affected by Tarantino by the little details he adds to them onscreen. It's cool for Tarantino to reference this stuff, but where is its place nearing the Millennium and onward? When everyone knows who Marilyn Monroe is but with context of her of an image, not as an actress let alone a human being. When no one has no idea who Mamie Van Doren is, more ironic when I've only discovered who she is within this year and have yet to see any of her films, except Vincent. That he also still says that the restaurant is a waxwork museum with a pulse despite digging it. The entire film, begun with a definition of what "pulp" is, is effectively trying to assess the place of these pulp characters - hitmen, gangsters, a bribed boxer, femme fatales, a pair of romantically together robbers - in a world where there's more concern about the meaning of giving another man's wife a foot message while a hit taking place is a per usual nine-to-five job. Its befitting in that definition of pulp he also includes the other use of it as a word to represent churned matter, as particularly in the nineties, an entire century's worth of pop culture seemed to collapsed in on itself in a concentrated mass, which asked the question of how one would use it from then on. It's not surprising Tarantino became the person to define this aspect in how he tried to work with it. Everything that he is obsessed with is reassessed in the context of what his day-to-day life outside of the cinema probably was like, and in doing so the concept of being connected to pop culture material was given to the characters within said material through his take on it.

And it is this that gives the film the best virtues, while the aspects that made Pulp Fiction iconic are, while good, of lesser interest or are even major flaws. The plot of hitmen Jules and Vincent is good, but suffers from Jackson feeling a minor character in his own pieces and a trite spiritual turn for his character later on. Yes, the Marvin (Phil LaMarr) sequence is something to remember, but the two characters have the best moments separate from each other. Jules with a word based standoff with Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer as lover robbers Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. Vincent with Mia Wallace. It's not the Ezekiel 25:17 speech which is the best dialogue for Jackson in that scene, it's that the use of language as a weapon, amplified the most as a concept for Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds, existed back then in the director-writer's work with Jules and the Big Kahuna Burger. It's not Thurman and Travolta dancing which is the best part of their plot, but their cute and awkward bonding. The dialogue is great from Tarantino, but for a man dismissed as not knowing when to stop talking, a lot of this film gets incredibly quiet and stand out immensely, especially one between Travolta and Thurman which leads to her talking about those "awkward silences". It's not the main plot about boxer Butch (Bruce Willis) on the run from mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) that's the best parts of his story, but two quiet scenes with Willis and two actresses. With a taxi driver (Angela Jones) discussing what it was like to kill a man in the ring, and with Butch's girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros) whose brief passage on how she wants a potbelly fills her out as a fully formed character in a single dialogue chunk and, for a director probably more obsessed at this time with Sonny Chiba films than romance, showed he could yet write emotional and passionate exchanges between characters. Even the music, which is a key aspect of Tarantino as well as his casting choices, is not the "trendy" music for casual tastes, but deep cut pop music for those who want to relax with something different. The rush of Dick Dale's take on Miserlou - quick, urgent, very short instrumental around what is effectively a quick, fast fingered guitar solo as a whole song -  over the opening credits is pitch perfect to get you quickly into the film. But the rest of the music, even with the iconic Urge Overkill take on Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon, is calm and lethargic. It's not aggressively cool music, but surf rock to ride waves on, bubblegum pop or very unconventional song choices that are great music, especially something like Flowers On The Wall by The Statler Brothers, but young adolescent fans of Tarantino would never give the chance to listening to. How he uses the music is completely against the image of cool soundtrack music, with characters just turning a radio or music player on to unwind, like Butch singing along to Flowers On The Wall while driving despite what has happened a few moments ago with him.  

From http://www.squabblebox.co.uk/admin/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/pulpfiction1994-3.jpg

The main issue within Pulp Fiction, even if it wasn't the one Tarantino intended in writing the stories contained in it, is what exactly to do with these fictional pulp characters he's watched countless times in films to keep them alive for the next few decades. By seeing what they'd be doing in their off-time. Literally what burger a mob enforcer would eat, and how'd he describe it, and far from a pointless discretion it forces you to actually think about these archetypes more thoroughly - in the plots, the dialogue, the switching of tones and all the pop references. Far from someone who just glorified violence, the violence is actually even more sickening because of being within the context shown onscreen, where even if you laugh at some aspects, the incident at the end of the Vincent and Mia Wallace segment is gristly. Far from shown as a blackly humorous as I thought it was, the rape scene in this is actually discomforting. It's just that Tarantino, in probably the only time he's ever had something legitimately weird in one of his films, still glorifies a samurai blade and makes the appearance of a leather gimp humorous around it. The film as a whole is flawed trying to be a pulpy genre film, because transitioning from Reservoir Dogs, he wasn't able to make it as interesting as in later films. But the important digressions from the plots is the virtue of the film, and when the two sides can co-exist fully, like Jules and the Ezekiel speech in the hotel, or Vincent and Mia Wallace's whole plot together, its seamless and vivid in character depth despite being archetypes.

The only real issue with this film, barring the flaws Tarantino would hammer out in his newly evolving writing and structural style from Jackie Brown onwards, is the issue of him using racial epilates in his dialogue that has been in criticism of his work for years. Immediately, the fact that I'm a white male means that I could be making excuses to defend something he should be taken to task for. But for me it's a lot more complicated than this. Both Reservoir Dogs and this film have very course language at times, but not only is it usually spoken from characters who exist within crime organisations and the underground, who would not be soft spoken and politically correct in reality or fiction, but it feels more like Tarantino was a very young guy too enamoured with edgy dialogue which he would transition away from. Django Unchained made me uncomfortable in its use of racial language, and its content in general, but that's a film intentionally making you uncomfortable and tackling American slavery head-on, meaning that Tarantino is at least now addressing these issues fully even while riffling on gory exploitation cinema. The only time he seems to step too far in Pulp Fiction by accident is the infamous "dead nigger storage" speech, which is made more unfortunate by the fact he's playing the character saying it, who suddenly from this aggression at Vincent and Jules tags along behind Harvey Keitel like a shadow for the rest of his screen time. The issue for me, and I understand I may be violently disagreed with in this issue, is that a white male is using terms like "nigger" in his scripts' dialogue but not in the context of a Oscar nominated film about racism.  But with characters using it in its various contexts as well as alongside edgy, pulp characters. I've encountered examples of this that I find far more controversial to me honestly -  the novel L.A. Confidential (1990) by James Ellroy is far and away more of a issue to digest, even for its virtues, because its the omniscient third person narration that is riddled with coarse language full of obscenities upfront. Here, Tarantino feels like a white man who listened to a lot of hip-hop and rap music, but may have stumbled badly in moments of Pulp Fiction over the context of certain words with loaded and complicated histories to them. But he improved drastically in this area immensely, where you can have Inglourious Basterds make an exploitation film surrounding the issue of the Holocaust, but not trivialise it and also make the film an issue about the nature of propaganda that ruminates on it. There are so aspects about the context that need to be thought about too. That Samuel L. Jackson and Ving Rhames are the kind of people who would not only flat-out refuse to act in a film they found offensive, but would have kicked said director's skull in. That Jackie Brown exists and Tarantino, adapting a novel, changed a white protagonist to Pam Grier. That more questionable material is allowed to be celebrated with a muted backlash to them - particularly in cinema where The Birth of a Nation (1915) is still seen as the beginning of modern American cinema. It's a debate that needs a whole term devoted entirely to itself. It needs writers and commentators of African descent to have the first words. I need to read up on it. But for me, Tarantino was a juvenile person writing Pulp Fiction, who would drastically grown up internally in Jackie Brown despite still wanting to make films like Kill Bill.

In its entirety, Pulp Fiction is a good film, great to return to. But it's a minor film. It doesn't make sense for this to be the best film in existence or even in the director's filmography. It's an experiment, a starting point for the directorial and writing style he has made his idiosyncrasy. Jim Jarmusch made better films than this. Tarantino's made better films. And unfortunately I have to wonder if an infantilism is involved here - a film you would encounter and dig as an adolescent, but you're unwilling to move on in your favourites of his in case it decimated your found memories of it. If someone has this as their favourite? I won't argue, good for them. For me, it's good, but its either Reservoir Dogs or a later film that makes him worth existing. This is a masterpiece only for the fact of its great individual moments, and that's taking into consideration I may become fonder and more appreciative of it on more rewatches. That he became who he is thanks to its success. Because this film is why I can see the director's peculiar and unconventional take of filmmaking in a multiplex for his last two films so far, at least giving me something different when everything else is not really interesting for me that week at the pictures.

From http://sgtr.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/pulp_thumb.jpg?w=590&h=378

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mini-Review: Voodoo Passion aka. Der Ruf der blonden Göttin (1977)

From http://imageshack.us/a/img802/1332/l9x3.jpg

Dir. Jesus Franco

Voodoo Passion is straight-up softcore. There is a story of such, but the main and consistent part of the film is the nudity of its female actresses and sex. It feels like a Franco film, a slow and deliberate pace, dream-like, but its streamlined back to the obsession with the female form more so than Female Vampire (1973). Your ability to like this film depends on your liking of mood in Franco's work. A newly wedded wife of a government official moves to Haiti, only to feel that her sense of reality is dissipating as she believes she's murdered people. As this happens, the sensuality of the local music, and the draw of both her husband's platinum blonde haired, and horny, sister and their maid servant, is becoming too much to handle.

What could come off as a "voodoo is bad" film, under the belief that she's being manipulated and with voodoo dolls laying around the house, actually turns out to be immensely different. Baring in mind it feels less like French softcore than the older film, but more Euro softcore, with said sister whose continually nude and lusting over her brother's wife, it's very much a reimagining of Franco's own Nightmares Come at Night (1970). There's shades of Female Vampire too in at least one moment. Far from feeling like Franco tritely repeating himself, it's actually cool that he was riffing on his own work repeatedly in different tones and styles. It helped that he never made the same type repeatedly each time - which may have made this sort of thing too much when he had the expansive filmography he had - and the interconnectivity of it all, that characters are doomed to be repeating the follies of previous Franco characters, is engaging as an idea in taking his whole filmography as one giant film. It comes off as befitting a musician whose main obsession, jazz, could be as much about repeating sequences from previous work and taking it into new improvisions. The thin plot for Voodoo Passion is enough for Franco to push his female protagonist through a series of scenarios where erotic and bloody incidents take place out of her hands. It also becomes apparent, even if depicting its setting as exotic, that Franco is on the side of the Haitians just because he leaps on the opportunity to use the environment's musical rhythms in his film's score instantly, mixing it with jazz as the film progresses. A lot of the film is people being taken away by the beats of the music, equal opportunity nudity by the bucket load, the entire film more of a musical piece than a narrative. Long stretches, when it's not the softcore sex, is lengthy moments of dance, of characters wandering rooms and outside, the entire eighty minutes or so a vast lengthy atmospheric piece.

Its definitely a weaker Franco piece. It does feel long trying to exist only on its nudity and music, not even a basic plot. Nightmares Come at Night (1970), which it takes its inspiration from, was drawing on an abstract air and slightly more complicated narrative. Admittedly the films which repeat tropes from his previous work, that I've seen so far, have felt weaker, though I don't dismiss those films at all, just that in this case, Voodoo Passion is definitely the weakest of the two. It mainly rests on its erotic material and it has to be viewed through that mainly. Is it sexy? Titillating? I confess to being attracted to every woman onscreen, and to Franco's credit the women (and men) are of many shapes and sizes, and that his actresses, even if lusted over, at least had a distinctness and charisma to them that made them more human than vacant. For a man who could get very scuzzy, the film is actually a lot more held back too despite the wall-to-wall nudity. Its solid visual appearance probably  explains this - this is not The Devil Hunter (1980) which does feel scuzzy - and for simple titillation this film is far and above most softcore of now, which is legitimately worse than something like this in quality in so many ways. Whether you can appreciate this film for that or not is entirely of a subjective opinion in this case rather than with other Jess Franco films.

From http://eutorrents.ph/imagehost/images/derrufjvj.jpg

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Clearing Through The To-Watch List #4: Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1988)

From http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_pa-agDoYU3A/TCeD755PGQI/AAAAAAAAAAo/uxa8eglgQJE/s1600/journey.jpg

Dirs. Rusty Lemorande and Albert Pyun

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth really takes the biscuit for how unfinished a film can actually be when its released. Like an unfinished building being opened up to the public, the complete lack of solid foundations despite the thing still being able to support itself tentatively is startling, and the holes are so obvious its more interesting to ask yourself what was supposed to be in the spaces missing. Rusty Lemorande has actually (presumably?) put up a brief piece of information on this film's IMDB page stating that only eight minutes of this film, at the beginning, are actually his own creation, the rest presumably that of b-film director Albert Pyun. Originally an update of the Jules Verne story, only for something significant issue to take place that, believing Lemorande's thoughts, caused the project to become a Frankenstein stitched-up creation, it's a case that, only seventy or so minutes long without the end credits, the whole piece is an utter mess.

A British nanny ends up travelling all the way to Hawaii for a job, only to end up having to look after a washed up rock star's dog rather than a child like her job suggests. In screwy, illogical circumstances she ends up in a cave, stuck, with two American brothers and said dog. The film is pretty dreadful in the beginning, to the point frankly that even if Rusty Lemorande got to make his film, it may have been a poorer film than what it is now. Completely leaden dialogue and character interaction that comes off as lame, with a broad performance style that is wooden. Abruptly, as the characters sleep, there are clips in dreams that feel like, in hindsight, scenes originally recorded for the original context of the film. If not, how do you explain an amusingly ghastly rescue sequence with a lazer gun, eighties hair, and troll men who are literally giant rubber ornaments you can also wear, who can only waddle around side-by-side and have no other form of movement let alone bendable limbs to do so? It's incredibly generic filmmaking through this beginning, everything that I really cannot enjoy despite there being a lot of people who delight in these sort of eighties and nineties films. I view this without the nostalgia of films like this being on video, because I grew up as an adolescent with DVDs, nor the real interest in this kind of filmmaking because it feels rudimentary than creative or insane like I prefer it to be. It's the churning of gristle into dust. Creation of film for product only.

Things get a little bit more interesting when, so far removed from an attempt at a Jules Verne story already, it completely abandons the notion of being such a thing and turns into something different. It's still set for the rest of the film in the middle of the Earth's core, so the title is still appropriate, but after that questions have to be asked about what "adaptation" actually means against this film's results. The perverse thing is that this is, technically, deep into the material Albert Pyun added, but I actually found it more interesting than what the film may have supposed to have been. Suddenly the centre of the world is Atlantis, (water, water not everywhere though, but let's not ask about that), a totalitarian city populated by punks, new wavers and proto-steam punk fetishes. It's still got a terrible broad sense of humour, especially when it comes to jokes about the dictatorship of the city, Judge Dread this isn't, but finally this gristle of movie has some layers on of some curiosity. Elaborate sets and costumes even if made on the cheap and baring in mind the possible production history of this whole work. Vaguely interesting characters. A legitimately interesting idea where, after encountering an "alien" from the surface world, a blonde female Californian, the Atlantis military squandered its resources to transform willing participants into exact duplicates of her, even in height and vernacular by rack and vocal couching respectively, to spy on the surface without actually thinking duplicates of a single person would immediately send off alarm bells above.

Then suddenly there's a freeze frame. Random moments of a post apocalypse motorised gang attacking ruined cityscape. Then we're back on the surface in front of a television screen, a peaceful truce between Earth's surface and Atlantis having taken place. An entire catalogue of possible events taking place in-between completely skipped. The film just ends. Its befuddling honestly. Right when a film got vaguely interesting, it suddenly ends because there wasn't enough material and/or time to finish it. It vanishes half way through a sketch you paid to see and no one knows what happened in the rest of the story to improvise, because it was already garbled in its storytelling before it legged it. It fosters the realisation you could release anything to cinemas even if its incomplete. It's actually a Cannon Pictures release, but their logo doesn't appear in the beginning. Only a few years later they would close down, making this film's creation an ill omen in many ways. Either way, even if it was finished properly, it would have either been vaguely interesting but average, or just awful. Frankly as the mess it is its probably memorable for a brief months, but would have disappeared in my mind immediately if it was properly completed. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

November 2013

1. Angel’s Egg (Mamoru Oshii, 1985/Japan) [Rewatch]
2. The Great White Silence (Herbert G. Ponting, 1924/UK)
3. Mawaru Penguindrum (Kunihiko Ikuhara, 2011/Japan)
4. Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974/France) [Rewatch]
5. The Falls (Peter Greenaway, 1980/UK) [Rewatch]
6. The White Dove (Frantisek Vlácil, 1960/Czechoslovakia) 
7. The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963/UK-USA) 
8. The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979/West Germany) 
9. My Way Home (Miklós Jancsó, 1965/Hungary) 
10. Chronicle of Ann Magdalena Bach aka. Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach 
(Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1968/West Germany)
11. Noisy Requiem (Yoshihiko Matsui, 1988/Japan) 
12. The Brute (Luis Buñuel, 1953/Mexico) 
13. Sicilia! (Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, 1999/France-Italy-Switzerland) 
14. Takeshis’ (Takeshi Kitano, 2005/Japan) 
15. Brain Damage (Frank Henenlotter, 1988/USA) 
16. The River (Jean Renoir, 1951/France-India-USA) 
17. Space Adventure Cobra (Osamu Dezaki, 1982/Japan) [Rewatch]
18. Josef Kilian aka. Postava k podpírání
(Pavel Jurácek and Jan Schmidt, 1963/Czechoslovakia)
19. The Steel Helmet (Samuel Fuller, 1951/USA) 
20. Decoder (Muscha, 1984/West Germany)


Honorable Mentions: Vertical Features Remake (Peter Greenaway, 1978/UK) [Rewatch] / Sympathy for the Devil (Jean-Luc Godard, 1968/UK) [Rewatch] / Celluloid Man (Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, 2012/India) / Farewell to the Ark (Shuji Terayama, 1984/Japan) / The Awful Dr. Orlof (Jesus Franco, 1962/France-Spain) / That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Buñuel, 1977/France-Spain) [Rewatch] / Chocolat (Claire Denis, 1988/Cameroon-France-West Germany) / The Heisters (Tobe Hooper, 1964/USA)

An interesting month of films where reality questions itself. A search for God. Internal reality is pushed to the outside until it animates the whole reality. Characters end up participating in the stories they've been watching through magical boiled sweets. Art represents ones internal emotions. Art takes down a whole society. Documentary is able to make real the journey of incredibly brave men in the South Pole. An American forest and pre-existing footage makes up the Korean War. Outer space is a cosmic journey but reality as it is as abstract, whetever its excepting the past (Mawaru Penguindrum), dealing with the present (Noisy Requiem), through drug pushing worms (Brain Damage) or just trying to figure out the absurdity of it all (Takeshis' and Josef Kilian). Reality as it exists is just as important because of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and through Jean Renoir's The River and all the extra shorts that came with it depicting India, and Claire Denis's debut film, the world and many cultures stand tall even over colonialism. And the colonialists try to find their purpose too. Penguins are running around the place and people are turning into birdmen. Men forget even that they are "Me" while one man did everything he could to prevent Indian cinema being forgotten, getting his day in the sun in a film of his own about films, even to the point that pirating film reels is seen as a necessity in preservation and education. And on the opposite coin, Peter Greenaway proves the documents and archivists can completely miss the point of what they're supposed to be doing, with typo errors that archivist P.K. Nair would have found unforgivable if he encountered them. 

There are disappointments, the great hope of Lav Diaz failing me when Century of Birthing (2011) merely makes the mistakes that a Celine and Julie Go Boating doesn't in depicting the structure of reality, but there are highs, not only animated or in colour, or with ridiculous bad English kung fu dialogue, but with a whole part of the month entirely in monochrome as seen in the images above. Inexplicably I ended up watching promotional football DVDs. My first North Korean film, propaganda and all, makes sense digging into the world, but the football DVDs I can't explain. Nor am I explaining why I saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles singing awful Christmas songs with Jamaican accents, that could cause reggae as a genre to punch the creators of this concept in the face. Any guilty pleasures? Not really but it was a month where the female nudity was gratuitous at points, real and hand drawn, which could be seen as shameful if I didn't give up being "respectable" and just excepted it all. Most of it was silly at its best, or tiring at its worst. Anything truly awful? When animation just gets scuzzy in a disturbing way (Jinki:Extend (2005)), without even needing nudity, ninja turtles butchering Christmas, and in Curse of Chucky (2013), horror cinema completely lost from its original artistry and sense of ghoulishness. Trick Or Treat (1986) would be another example, proving it was losing the plot as a genre back in the eighties, but that film at least had Ozzy Osbourne. Jess Franco and Robert Wise ended up having to rescue the genre this month.

November has passed, scored by the glam noise of  Kanye West's Black Skinheads, and it'll soon be 2014. Christmas is arriving but that's not going to lead to a succession of bad Xmas movies. If its to be, it'll be like stepping into the world of Santa Claus (1959), the Mexican film, a gaudy, strange existence of giant sets, red lipped computers and dancing devils. That way it'l be somewhat more entertaining.


63 Works Watched In November
14 Rewatched Works
49 New Works Seen

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1. http://guriguriblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/snapshot20090209140659.jpg
2. http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?espv=210&es_sm=122&biw=1024&bih=642&tbm=isch&tbnid=Y7UUE6yCnKJGhM:&imgrefurl=http://www.dokument-festival.com/database/movie/5078%257CThe-Great-White-Silence&docid=4jAMCqy774SsBM&imgurl=http://www.dokument-festival.com/website/var/tmp/thumb_5587__lightbox_full.jpeg&w=800&h=500&ei=ghejUsruAovwhQex2oD4CA&zoom=1&ved=1t:3588,r:23,s:0,i:161&iact=rc&page=2&tbnh=172&tbnw=246&start=12&ndsp=16&tx=99&ty=64
3. http://www.origamicupcake.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/gg_mawaru_penguindrum_-_01_b8c345e7-mkv_snapshot_20-25_2011-07-09_15-40-20.jpg
4. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-BMeC8vsWW4M/TnURpp1X7lI/AAAAAAAAEbI/vQH7ofXDcek/s1600/vlcsnap-1242613.png
5. http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4055/4348305998_abcf211a82.jpg
6. http://readwritehand.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/the-white-dove.jpg
7. http://wondersinthedark.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/haunting48.jpg
8. http://img413.imageshack.us/img413/1927/mb65ec.png
9. http://stagevu.com/img/thumbnail/tvggwotqnduvbig.jpg
10. http://michaelgloversmith.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/anna.jpg
11. http://s3.amazonaws.com/auteurs_production/images/film/noisy-requiem/w448/noisy-requiem.jpg?1289474103
12. http://historiasdelceluloide.elcomercio.es/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Brute-El-Bruto-Review-Luis-Bunuel.jpg
13. http://deeperintomovies.net/journal/image10/sicilia1.jpg
14. http://www.vodkaster.com/var/vodkaster/storage/images/films/takeshis/screenshots/69900e-image-de-takeshis-2796/21841516-1-fre-FR/69900e-image-de-Takeshis-2796.jpg
15. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-aICxH_4qWE4/UEV5yLnetUI/AAAAAAAABQA/Uix84m22-kM/s1600/Brain+Damage_6.JPG
16. http://i.imgur.com/3TnGzbF.png
17. http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m0qxpuupAL1qdc388o1_500.gif
18. http://www.mouthlondon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Postava-k-podpirani_Scene-1963.jpg
19. http://cinematicshadows.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/steel-helmet1.jpg
20. http://cinematrices.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/vlcsnap-00823.jpg

Friday, 6 December 2013

Frog Dreaming: Decoder (1984)

From http://theendofbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/DecoderPosterNU.jpg

Dir. Muscha

Decoder avoids what happens to a lot of films based on the subcultures of their time, becoming badly dated, by taking the aesthetics so far it is completely in its own world. It is of the eighties and yet completely its own reality. The colours push out any sense of the real world. Blood reds. Blues. Greys. Sickening woodland greens. Scored with industrial music, this is a filmic manifesto for alternative culture, made in a collective independently with director Muscha. Amalgamating together beat culture, with a William S. Burroughs cameo, industrial music, punk aesthetic, anarchist politics and full out surrealism involving frogs. It still evokes a world of the Berlin Wall, European architecture and even the gothic together with computer technology and industry. It's what Claude Chabrol's Dr. M (1990) should have been, a multi-cultural melting pot of Europe, politics and dystopia, the past and the future melded together into one film.

From http://assets.motherboard.tv/post_images/assets/000/013/077/Screen_Shot_2012-07-11_at_4_18_51_PM_large.png

The movie is languid in its plotting. At first it's as if we'll follow a detective, Jaeger (artist and actor William "Bill" Rice), of a Big Brother law organisation, a weather beaten face of film noir still using computers and CCTV cameras, that can see everything, to his advantage. He is clearly tired of his existence, a ghost drifting along on the streets in his investigations. At a distance from his work colleagues as he says viewing clips of Metropolis (1927), the most famous German dystopia on film, is of use for his assignment. He wanders into the red light district as if for a case but becomes more curious about one of the women who works at a peep show, Christiane, played by Christiane Felscherinow. In a world where surgical footage of female circumcision and autopsy material is shown for a turn-on for patrons, evoking J.D. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), his interest in her is far more than mere sexuality but a strive for something out of place in the wreck of a society. But he is not the main character. Part of the way through we are introduced to him, a sound musician, and boyfriend to Christiane, called F.M. played by FM Einheit of the group Einstürzende Neubauten. He becomes intrigued with a fast-food burger food chain, believing that they use a special type of music to brainwash their patrons, working day and night on what he believes will be a noise that causes physical nauseousness. Spreading it to attack the food chain and every fast food restaurant possible, he hopes to cause a political upheaval, as Jaeger is assigned to track him down and finds that even he is more sympathetic to F.M. then his own employers.

Decoder is about mood. Intense, atmospheric music including compositions made by industrial artists who starred in the film. A world of human decay where arcade games blur with the sound of transport into a mass of violent noise. American war films play on the TVs, and even the people on F.M.'s side exist in a fiery underworld abyss led by Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Girstle as an anarchist keeper of knowledge. The only serenity for any character is for Christiane , literally in a world of frog dreaming, as the review's title suggests, at a point surrounded by the amphibians and books on frog anatomy, dreaming of a red desert wasteland monologue by a mix of the witches' chants from Macbeth and Burrough's work. It is ill advised to view the film as a vast narrative as that is clearly not what it wanted to do. It follows aspects of classic crime stories. The detective becoming enamoured with the subjects he is following and questioning his purpose. The attempt by an everyman to demolish a group that, in one scene in their absurd training of new employees just to work at a burger place, have no qualms in restricting "ugly" workers to the kitchens only and act with a belief that they are a titan of culinary skills, even if it means using noise weaponry when any of the customers get aggressive in their premises. (Although when one potential employee admits he'll be finally able to buy a specific brand of shoes with his wages, far from dismissing it as consumer gullibility, the film briefly steps back and admits that the people behind the counter are ordinary young adults like F.M., just happening to work for businessmen who view them as merely human resources). But the film drifts along as the world is turned upside down, real riot footage used to depict the city going up in flames. It's a grubby, beaten down reality distorted by the bright, bleeding colour saturation or dark shadows. It does feel like a feature length music video, but this is in Decoder's favour, as its visually depicted plot is driven by its musical content. The sounds of crashing metal. Synth. Only Soft Cell's Sleazy City, repeated every time the red light district is shown onscreen, doesn't quite work, but it's more of a personal taste issue for me, out of place against the more ominous, mostly instrumental compositions that even border on jazzy. What really sticks out with the film, as stated, is that it managed to be more faithful to older, even centuries older, influences like the gothic and noir while explicitly being new in its anti-authoritarian, industrial music driven world. It's not accidental that there's feelings of German Expressionism in the film because it itself has clips of Metropolis shown, fittingly squashed on a tiny CCTV screen next to surveillance footage, the metropolis here having pushed itself further into monitoring dissidents. Clearly Muscha and every contributor to this film wasn't aghast to the notion of referencing the past, still subversive and outside conventions, and in tipping their hats to the likes of Burroughs, seen in an electronics shop amongst cables and wires, the upmost respect and realisation that Decoder is as much a continuation of forefathers as well as its own work is alive in what's seen in the film, and is a great deal of the reason it works completely. While its future is of the eighties now, in the past, the mood and atmosphere, the ideas and how everything is depict, become a future in another reality, still potent even if the context of it feels more alien. Its newly gained alien nature replaces what is missing with the sense of intensity and rhythm of music that makes Decoder probably a greater film now it's been severed from its original time and place, allowed to be independent of its original purpose and able to become a subversive, abstract beat film completely in its own self-made context decades later.

From http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s314/araknex777/DVD%
20SCANS%20AND%20SNAPSHOTS/vlcsnap-00015.png

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Clearing Through The To-Watch List #3 - Jinki: Extend (2005)

From http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/64/Jinki_Extend.jpg

Dir. Masahiko Murata

"Do I have to write about this? " "Yes, because you're a crazy completist!" "I'm wasting my time." "But you're a cine-masochist..." "But-" "-and will write about any anime you-" "But I didn't write about Cospley Complex (2004) and that was atrocious..." "Ignore that one." "Fine," I think to myself having this internal debate, "But I'm going to strop about it while the series is still warm in my mind." I found a science fiction anime series for cheap. Giant robots. Front cover of the first volume is two girls, one with black hair, the other blonde hair. First scene of the first episode is them, older, fighting each other in "Jinki" war robots in the centre of Tokyo. The blonde girl, drawn like a very cutesy, moe character, is the villain. Even in bad anime, how characters, especially female ones, have their eyes depicted when they've lost their sanity or moral compass is always artistically effecting. The stereotype of female character with eyes bigger than their heads has use when you can exaggerate emotions for potent effect. The other girl is the heroine completely outmatched. Clearly the series is going to skip back to when they were younger, together in the same training camp as friends, maybe as close as sisters, maybe a tragic back-story. It's obvious but you can get good powerful drama from the idea. This is not what you get.

The series is actually a mashing together of two separate manga into one narrative. It tries to be clever by juggling two different time periods but with a lacksidasical tone. The first is in 1988. The black haired girl, Aoba, is shipped off to a Jinki defence base against her will in Venezuela by her evil mother. Nonetheless she shows a superhuman ability, and enthusiasm, to pilot one of the Jinki that needs to be honed out of the unatheletic girl who was more interested in plastic model kits before. The time period is never told to us, and with any reason for why this alternative dimension is as it is for this advanced robot technology to exist in the eighties. The blonde haired girl, Akao, appears in this segment, but she exists more so for the part set three years later in Japan. A more advanced version of the Jinki defence force exists, with a whole group of girls and women piloting multiple Jinki. With no memories from before those three years previous, Akao also has superhuman powers of her own which are of interest to a dark group. Completely off topic for a moment, the main villain is a rather bland, height stunted masked man who is so much of a void I wished one of his barely seen minions stabbed him, Julius Caesar style, and taken over the world domination plan for themselves. But he exists and he's interested in Akao, with plans to pervert a girl who refused to fight into evil. A girl so much of an innocent that, unfortunately, to depict it there's one of her flashback memories, of how happy she's been with the Jinki pilots, of her being completely unable to open a packet of crisps without someone's help. Yes, some packets of food are a bugger to open but as characterisation of a female character I wouldn't be surprised if anime was dismissed as misogynistic for this sort of thing and an insult to crisp packet manufacturers. This moment happens long after it becomes clear that Akao, along with all the other characters, even the more sparky Aoba, are pretty one dimensional. In the first few episodes the white elephant already went to sitting on top of me refusing to be ignored. The young, innocent Akao, turned into a killing machine, piloting a leviathan sized red robot, with dead eyes is a starring character of a badly put together, cheap looking series.

At thirteen episodes, there's far too many characters and plot points to cram into them, especially as this is two manga set in the same world being combined together. The story actually had to be finished on the twelfth episode, the final one an epilogue as a DVD extra. It is a complete mess. It might have worked regardless of the squashed length. Hades Project Zeorymer (1988-1990), giant robot sci-fi too, was four episodes with far too much plot to cram into them, but not only was it good hand drawn animation, with great robot designs, but the plot was an amazing dramatic sucker punch regardless. Jinki:Extend is bland. Generic plot. Paper-thin characters. Beyond Aoba, the female characters, who dominate the show, are less like real female characters then strange perceptions of femininity written by isolated males. The girls are submissive, despite being pilots of city destroying war machines, easily breakable or/and mentally nonexistent. It comes apparent too this series is trying to rift on Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) in being dark, but never succeeding. I'm flabbergasted, despite having legitimate problems with it, that I could have hated that acclaimed series  at the same level as something like this. "Why?" I ask myself, "Because I'm an idiot."

Fan service creeps in slowly. Aoba is caught with her pants down a couple of times. Eyes roll. There's a clear attempt at potential underage Sapphic passion that's not edgy, in this TV friendly work, not character building or romantic, but a lame attempt to keep the male otaku happy. Indeed, when they meet again, discrete under the sheets, two characters fondle each other admiring how much they've "changed" everywhere on themselves, not with an (admittedly) perverse take on horseplay between two girls, but because, hey, let's drool over underage animated girls groping each other. With an innocent casualness that's more disturbing than being explicit about it. A female character is from Nottingham, England, raising a brief smile cause it's not that far from where I actually live, but she's abruptly introduced late in the series, uselessly characterless, and is there only to have a character who wear shades, to be an adult with big breasts, and wear clothes to show said assets off without any sense of a person oozing sexuality and charisma. Then there's the creepy aspects which scuttle in through the later episodes in the Japan arc. Anime can be dubious, which I admit as a fan of it, completely offensive, but even something like The Legend of the Overfiend (1989) forced you to see the things it showed and the full horror being shown. Jinki: Extend is the first thing in a while that's made me sit up in some of the stuff it was showing, legitimately creeped out by its slapdash and casual use of some of the perverse material is references. It's even beyond having a female villain, randomly introduced later on, be represented as being evil by having her snog any girl in her vicinity, as if being attracted to the same gender is a villainous character trait on her bio. A female Jinki pilot, whose already depicted as a asinine, weak and frail archetype, is kidnapped by a man disguised as her older brother, who plans to pilot his Jinki in a later fight with one hand while the other "plays" with her. It's not played as a sickening gut punch or a trangressively potent comment, just an offhand remark that is flippantly suggested and never mentioned again along with his whole character. One girl is dunked into strange liquid which partially dissolves her pilot's suit, skin-tight as designed for male viewers, yet doesn't dissolve the ropes she's tied in, by another male pervert on the villains' side who, along with the scene, is never mentioned again too. The lack of actual explicit content and the rushed nature of the plotting makes this stuff pointless disturbing than important for the plot, which is worse than something that was being offensive on purpose. A key part of a relationship, barely sketched out anyway, is that one of the people within it was raped and she still gave birth to the child conceived. The discrete, flippant tone of the off-screen rape, and the plot reveal, barely mentioned again too like the other examples, is in all serious far and away more objectionable, when such material can be written in half heartedly because it seemed "normal" to have it done in the narrative.

Its despairing to defecate verbally on something other people worked hard on, but this is terrible. Characters look the same, confusingly, but on purpose for the plot. Some look the same but it wasn't on purpose. Major plot points and events are skimmed over, for being able to get the entire narrative gone in such a small space of time, but also for squandering it on the wrong things. The thirteenth, final episode is the one that actually has some virtue. It's nice that a character has some back-story from photos and unprocessed photo film found in her old home, memories once lost rediscovered. Its legitimately funny when one girl, too young to drink, still pretends to be drunk for fun, as every girl is firing off twenty year old fireworks that still work in a back garden, to the bafflement of others. But it's too late. It cannot save a bland, forgettable anime. And it can't save it when the characters had no personalities before and when some were pointless molested in an occasional, out-of-place sequence in a previous episode. A paradox is created. Why review something no one would want to watch?  Catharsis. To get something of worth from my wasted English pounds. To warn people off it. To cause people to remember this series, blocked in amnesia by its blandness, reading this and remember how bad it was to share the pian. If a fan of Jinki:Extend, if one actually finds this, gets annoyed, and tries to convince me to try it again, or read the mangas, although it would have to be a bulletproof argument to even consider doing so. Because I'm a masochist who will cover any anime I watch. Admittedly I did skip over reviewing one as stated in the beginning, but that might be the exception. I may stupidly rewatch it just to review it. But in this case, Jinki:Extend is just horrible even for someone fond of collecting bad anime along with the good anime.