BBC 4: Jonathan Ross’ Asian Invasion – Japan

January 12, 2006 at 6:23 pm (J-Movies, Other Films of Note)

Must See TV this aint, but not Must Miss either…

A three-part series that follows the host to Japan, Hong Kong and Korea as he claims to explore the world’s most innovative cinema.
“Nice eye candy, though far from authoritative. Even far from comprehensive. Heck, might as well just say it: If you want a decent intro to Japanese Film you better look elsewhere.” ~ 72HW

As charming as the show’s “Lunch with Ryuhei Kitamura” and all to brief Miyazaki interview segments are, the remaining 90% will be of little use to anyone familiar with Japanese cinema except for possibly the otaku set.

A criminally poor Kitano segment avoids any mention of his greatest works (Hana Bi, Kikujiro, Dolls, Zatoichi, etc) and instead paints him as little more than a violent character actor. The same can be said for the mind numbingly shallow profile of Miike Takashi in which the surprise twist ending of one his least impressive films ‘Audition’ is ruined.

Maybe I am being way too harsh here, but then again Mr. Ross does state how he feels Japanese film is becoming stagnant and too westernized. Omitting a film like “Twilight Samurai” in his list of recent good movies leads me to believe he’s just not looking hard enough, especially for someone who claims to be such a huge Kurosawa fan.

Overall it is a highly watch able show with some very entertaining footage, but one that comes far from even scratching the surface of the very subject it discusses.

Gaijin Otaku Gundan Mini Reviews in italics

Ryuhei Kitamura
Versus (2000)
– Ultra-violent classic!
Azumi (2003)
– Killer good movie, but avoid Pt. II
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
– My personal all time favorite Gojira flick!

Takashi Miike
Audition (1999)
– Interesting, just not one of his best.
Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
– Deliriously funny zombie musical.
Gozu (2003)
– Easily one of the strangest, and best Miike films to date.

Mamoru Oshii
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
– Fell asleep twice trying to watch this.
Avalon (2001)
– Pretty cool live action take on the ‘Matrix’ mythology.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
– Pass. See above for reasons why.

Hayao Miyazaki
Spirited Away (2001)
– Not yet seen this one.
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
– Brilliant, beautiful and timeless.

Shunji Iwai
All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)
– In a word – Wow! Dark, moving and exceptional work.

‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano
Violent Cop (1989)
– Gritty debut film masterfully hints at what’s still to come!
Boiling Point (1990)
– Strange, funny and violent – good, though a little messy.
Sonatine (1993)
– Stunning meditation on Yakuza as human beings!
Blood and Bones (2005)
– Kitano was OK at best in this bleak and unfulfilling movie.

Katsuhiro Otomo
Akira (1988)
– One of the few Anime films I have watched more than once.
Steamboy (2004)
– Not seen it yet.

Jonathan’s Other Picks
Wild Zero (2000)
– On par with ‘Versus’ and with GUITAR WOLF too!!!
Ping Pong (2002)
– A brilliant live action adaptation of a brilliant Manga.
Casshern (2004)
– Weird, confusing and messy – but truly beautiful to look at.
The Calamari Wrestler (2004)
– Sitting here waiting to be viewed!

Click Here for the official BBC 4 series homepage:

Jonathan Ross’ Asian Invasion


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