Queen & Slim
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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This is a movie that I spent more time at the drive-in trying to make 2nd base than actually watch this movie, so I'd actually like to see this again sometime. I know that it's a typical low-budget biker movie from the late 60s/early 70s, so, no big expectations, and I hear that William Smith steals every scene as the biker gang leader, Moon.
Two ambitious men have dreams of breaking away from their impoverished, war-torn village. One of them, Genjuro (Masayuki Mori) wants to make more money selling his pottery at the larger city, Nagahama; despite, his wife Miyagi's (Kinuyo Tanaka) desire to work the farm, stay close together with their son, and not take chances with the various armies and pirates. Being able to buy good food and nicer clothes for his wife and kid is irresistible to Genjuro.
The other man, Tobei (Eitaro Sakae Ozawa) wants to become a Samurai. He is ridiculed by his wife, Ohama (Mitsuko Mito) for being a dreamer. In town, Tobei begs to become a loyal vassal to one of the Samurai, just to get his foot in the door, but is quickly told that he must have his own armor and spear to go to war.
Both men dedicate their energies to another run at selling their wares in Nagahama, despite an attack on their village, by pillaging soldiers. With more money, Tobei can buy his armor. On their next trip, Tobei leaves his wife to join the army. Ohama runs after him only to be abducted and raped by some soldiers. She becomes doomed to prostitution.
Genjuro meets an enchanting noble woman, Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) who desires more than his pottery. The ghostly beauty and her luxurious home hypnotizes Genjuro and talks him into marrying her.
It's very Buddhist in it's story-telling that the suffering of the world is because of desire. Despite the desire for riches by Genjuro and fame and prestige of battle for Tobei, both men are not happy.
Be careful what you wish for.
The Ballad of Narayama (1958)
The sad sounds of Japanese Kabuki theater are shown in Keisuke Kinoshita's film about an impoverished village where the elderly are carried off to a nearby mountain to die. The film is all shot on sound stages with beautiful sets that show the different times of the season. Curtains will drop in the background to create the dark evenings. I'm not a fan of musicals normally, but the Kabuki style balladeer narration is kind of cool here, although it evokes the depressing tragedy.
Granny Orin (Kinuyo Tanaka) is a healthy, generous, and productive matriarch. She turns 70 and is looking forward to her trip up to the Narayama mountain to meet the mountain deity. Her widowed son, Tatsuhei (Teiji Takahashi) deeply loves his mom and appreciates all that she does for the family, but it is an expected tradition in the poor community. In fact, many in Granny Orin's family are anxious to see her leave the house.
She finds Tatsuhei a wife to make sure that his family is well taken care of and even shows the wife her secret fishing hole that helps to feed the family. This film was re-made in 1983, and even that was award-winning.
Onibaba means literally, Hag, but the alternative title for this film is Demon Woman.
Two impoverished women live by killing and stealing from samurai who wonder into the tall reeds in the wetlands where they live. They strip the bodies, drag, and then drop them into a deep hole. The mother (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) live in a tiny shack.
The mother's son Kichi and a neighbor, Hachi (Kei Sato) were taken by the military to fight in the prolonged wars between two fighting Shoguns, so their farming has suffered, but they are able to survive selling off weapons, armor, and clothing of the dead.
One night, Hachi returns to their hut and tells them that he and their son had escaped the fighting but had been attacked while trying to steal food from some local farmers and Kichi was killed. The mother suspects that low-life Hachi may have even killed her son.
Now the two lonely (and horny) women have been eyeing Hachi, the daughter in-law especially. Hachi and the young widow have been secretly seeing each other. Even Kichi's mother would like to have sex with Hachi too, but she's too old for Hachi's taste.
Angry and jealous, Kichi's mother tries to trick her daughter in-law into not seeing Hachi anymore with tales of demons. The mother wears a Hannya Noh demon mask. Ironically, the Hannya mask is an embodiment of a obsessive, angry, jealous, and heartbroken female demon.
Directed and written by Kaneto Shindo, who based this on a Buddhist parable, did an excellent job. It's well photographed too, with the tall reeds bumping into each other. The only thing that I didn't like was the ending, which left you in the lurch. Other than that, I love this movie.
Samurai Fiction (1998)
Along the same lines as Pulp Fiction, featuring many different characters with their own agendas. Most of this movie is in black and white with some scenes in color. As is typical for many Japanese movies, there's comedy, drama, romance, and some adventure.
A young, talented samurai, Rannosuke Kazamaturi (Tomoyasu Hotei) is given the boring duty of guarding a samurai sword that was a prized gift from the famous shogun Torenaga. Rannosuke was found unsheathing the sword and was accused of trying to steal it. Defending himself, he killed a high ranking official and took off with the sword.
Heishiro Inukai (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) is a noble samurai and the son of a loyal retainer. He sets out to find Rannosuke and return the clan's prized treasure. In the attempt, one of his childhood friends is killed by Rannosuke and Heishiro is wounded. An equally skilled ronen Hanbei Mizoguchi (Morio Kazama) was able to save Hieshiro from Rannosuke's final death strike.
Hanbei and his lovely adopted daughter Koharu Mizoguchi (Tamaki Ogawa) nurse Hieshiro back to health and try to persuade him to not try to fight Rannosuke again.