Friday, January 02, 2015

Blood and Toothpaste

If gangster is a respectable occupation, if it's okay to define your film career as neverending self-promotion, then why shouldn't a film crew be invited to film a gang war? Why should an ocean of blood mean anyone should have hard feelings? Like the films of Seijun Suzuki in the 60s, 2014's Why Don't You Play In Hell? (地獄でなぜ悪い "Why is Hell Bad"?) is a thorough send up of the machismo behind gangster films, using outright surrealism to emphasise the absurdity of the codes of conduct portrayed by the genre. It's a film that is simultaneously goofy and horrific and may be the weirdest and most anti-sentimental movie of 2014.

Did you remember to "gnash your teeth" this morning with tooth paste? It's "like a tingling bite"--just listen to little Mitsuko Muto (Nanoka Hara);

She takes that energy home with her, too--she rushes in the door before realising the whole kitchen and living room are ankle deep in blood from the gangsters her mother slaughtered with a kitchen knife.

It's for this reason Mitsuko's mother goes to prison for ten years during which time the little girl blossoms into a bit of a gangster herself (now played by Fumi Nikaido) who gives a guy the kiss off with a piece of broken glass, filling his mouth with glass first and of course telling him to "gnash your teeth!"

There are two big yakuza gangs in town--Mitsuko's father (Jun Kunimura--he played a gang boss in Kill Bill) heads one of them and the other is headed by Ikegami (Shin'ichi Tsutsumi), Mitsuko's number one fan.

Due to a confusing plot about Mitsuko being kidnapped by her own father, she's unable to star in the movie he's promised her mother will be ready by the time the woman's released from prison. So, with ten days to go, Muto enlists a dead eyed young man Mitsuko's been paying to pose as her boyfriend, Koji (Gen Hoshino).

He doesn't know anything about making movies so he enlists the aid of a group of amateur filmmakers who for some reason call themselves the "Fuck Bombers".

The ever manic Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) is their director and leader whose enthusiasm for being a great filmmaker has kept him from making movies all his life. Instead he spends most of his time making ecstatic proclamations with his crew at the local movie house and in bars. His gleeful awe over himself fits right in with the gangsters and he easily talks the star struck Ikegami into allowing him to film his showdown with Muto's gang.

There's so much blood in this movie, it's the Dead Alive of gangster films. All the blood and mania and broad comedy are dizzying and the film undercuts itself time and again until a climax that's both completely over the top and completely meaningless. It see-saws between cold blooded beatings and bizarre sentimentality, from severed limbs to the Fuck Bombers yet again waxing nostalgic about their years running around with cameras, filming everything but creating nothing. Koji marvels at meeting and falling for the little girl he had a crush on when he was a kid. This means more to him than whether or not anyone dies. But then, death would be committing a massive faux pas to stand in anyone's way here.

Twitter Sonner #702

Electric heaven volumes zap the shelf.
No leaf now learns of lakes in lost pond life.
Good colour paper chains please scissor elf.
A root will rend a rock if roads are rife.
Vertical houses hypothesise banks.
Refracted thistle thwarts the thatch of roofs.
Cat memories hacked the brain-stems of tanks.
Duplo assassins came on Lego hoofs.
Burnt ordinance smoulders in the lily.
Unnamed beer gods show up in purple gloves.
Goal lapels frame a young goat as Billy.
Ambidextrous graters have many loves.
Upside-down Ls shade the semicolon.
The liquid pirate remains unstolen.

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