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Rainy days AND Monday

Raining here hard in San Francisco means it’s time to watch some movies. And so last night, I popped in the HK DVD for Memories of Matsuko, the latest from Shimotsuma Monogatari (better known as Kamikaze Girls) director Tetsuya Nakashima. A Japanese online commenter wrote in allcinema.net wrote that it’s essentially a pop version of Dancer in the Dark, and it’s mostly true - Memories of Matsuko is a story of a woman who experiences an almost-constant downward spiral, but finds comfort in singing a little ditty here and there. The difference is that it’s not as pretentious, and there are actual pop stars involved.

Some may criticize it for things such as its gender politics (Matsuko makes some really bad decisions along the way because she just wants to be loved by a man) or its shallow MTV-style storytelling, but I find the MTV stuff done much better here than its Hong Kong counterparts. Hong Kong filmmakers often indulge in MTV-style editing for the sake of style, and they hinge on taking the film merely from one sequence to another to show off new visual tricks with no knowledge of pacing or fluidity between scenes. Here, Nakashima crams in decades of Matsuko’s life using this style, but he somehow manage to juggles style and storytelling at the same time, streamlining events along the way at an efficient pace, but also allowing the emotions to be felt at the same time. As for gender politics, Matsuko’s search for love isn’t simply out of her need for a man; that need comes from her family upbringing, out of her inability to be loved.

And the music - as a musical, Memories of Matsuko has some of the best integration of pop music last year. Unlike the recent musical, which cashes in on hit pop song cashing in on collective nostalgia, songs created for this film (by J-pop artists such as AI and Bonnie Pink, who both make appearances in the film) actually have things to do with what’s going on onscreen. It may be pop, but it’s pop with a meaning.

Behind the pretty pop stuff, though, there is a very tragic story in Memories of Matsuko, but the impact is lessen thanks to the blend of bubble gum pop and 50s technicolor Hollywood spectacle. Nevertheless, emotions are felt, and the senses are stimulated just the same. You buy it or you don’t. I did, and I think it’s one of the best Asian films of 2006.

A report of an interview with director Tetsuya Nakashima from back in May is here.

The Twitch review (written better, but tougher to read through) is here.

Buy the HK DVD here.

- The Hong Kong numbers are in, and as expected, Night at the Museum tops the box office with its advanced screenings with HK$1.43 million on Sunday from 55 screens (that includes most theatres who put it on at least two screens) for a $2.99 million total so far. I didn’t realized that the umpteenth computer-animated animal film Open Season (The Chinese version boasts the voice talents of Eason Chan and Jan Lam) also had its advance screenings this weekend, and it’s at number two with a very weak HK$220,000 Sunday on 27 screens. Repeating its fate from pretty much around the globe, Charlotte’s Web got only HK$160,000 on 29 screens for a total of HK$330,000 so far. These three films open next weekend before Lunar New Year.

Everything else is pretty meh around Hong Kong, with Borat having another strong Sunday showing with HK$70,000 on only two screens for a HK$650,000 total so far. Pretty good, considering it’s only been showing on two screens.

source: Mov3.com

- The controversial uncensored version of Lost in Beijing was screened in Berlin, and people are wondering what the hell the big deal is. The details here from Variety Asia.

Good news is that it’s also generally well-received. At least by Variety.

- Update on the Yellow Handkerchief remake I mentioned a couple of days ago thanks to Hoga Central. Apparently, imdb lists Udayan Prasad, who made the little-known, but timely My Son the Fanatic, as the director. Apparently, Yoji Yamada is understandably not directing this (but did hand over a script, apparently) because this is going to be a Hollywood film too.

- Midnight Eye has posted its results for the best of 2006 poll by readers. As great as it is that lesser known films (really, Miike isn’t all that huge in Japan) are recognized, I think some of the better mainstream films are getting left out simply because they’re….well, mainstream. Japan’s mainstream films are quite solid, even if they’re often made for commercial intentions. At least they don’t make movies like Norbit in Japan.

Midnight Eye reviewers’ own best-of lists are here.

I was hoping the Japanese drama ratings would be out by last night, but it wasn’t. That’s life.

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