Back in January, the Criterion Collection paired the Oscar-winning short film Logorama (Ludovic Houplain, Hervé de Crécy, and François Alaux, 2009) with Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin (1966). Created by the French collective H5, the short constructs Los Angeles entirely from (3,000 or so) trademarked logos and then presents these sanitized images of friendly consumerism in the sun-drenched violence typical to films like To Live and Die in L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985) and Heat (Michael Mann, 1995). The result is a clever statement on the ubiquity of capitalist commodification in our daily life and a somewhat nasty dismantling of the corporate messaging shorthanded into these capitalist symbols. Those interested in the legality of Logorama (or at least the American legality of a French film) should read Rose Lawrence’s “LOGORAMA: The Great Trademark Heist.” Lawrence’s unpacking of the legal tests for parody, satire, infringement, and dilution are particularly useful in considering the artistic aims, popular interactions, and social commentaries at work in the short film. As a bonus, Lawrence also touches upon important legal texts like George of the Jungle 2 (David Grossman, 2003) and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”
MMC!‘s proposed collection of Tai Katô films continues with another exceptionally titled movie – Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man (1964). Adapted by Katô and Noribumi Suzuki from Gohei Kamiya’s novel, Shafu yukyoden – kenka tatsu (Fighting Tatsu‘s Japanese title) is a lighter take on the yakuza genre, injecting a romantic comedy into its story of mob politics and gang warfare. The film still manages its share of bloodshed, untimely deaths, and wild, riotous street fights to satisfy strict genre fans.
The movie opens in 1898 with scruffy and truculent rickshaw driver Tatsu (Ryôhei Uchida) arriving from Edo to Osaka ready to start his career with the town’s only rubber-wheeled carriage. Before even leaving the Victorian-designed train station, Tatsu bumps into a high-ranking official and gets into a brawl with him, his assistant, and his bodyguard. When told to mind his place and defer to the official, Tatsu proclaims that they live in a new era where all are “born equally now.” By these first few minutes, the film’s main character is immediately and perfectly defined – headstrong, independent, egalitarian, pugnacious – and no question is left as to how Fighting Tatsu will develop its dramatic conflicts.
JAPAN’S ANSWER TO SAM FULLER AND BUDD BOETTICHER
In Cruel Story at the End of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Kato offers a merciless view of the Shinsengumi, an elite police force in the service of Japan’s military government. Starring Okawa Hashizo (breaking from his typically lighthearted roles) and Junko Fuji (who would later star as the Red Peony Gambler), this bloody tale chronicles the brutal indoctrination of a young peasant into the Shinsengumi and the secret plot that hides within its ranks.
Next, Akira Shioji stars as Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man, an independent and confrontational young rickshaw driver who falls in love with a local geisha played by Rumiko Fuji and becomes embroiled in a local gang war. Here, Kato creates a highly entertaining film that is equal parts romantic comedy and gangster action movie.
By a Man’s Face Shall You Know Him is a sprawling, gutsy account of a Korean-Japanese gang’s ruthless rise to power in 1948 Osaka and a local doctor’s unexpected opposition to the hoodlums. Told though vibrant colour cinematography and a complex series of flashbacks, Kato traces the influences of sex, violence, and racism in post-war Japan.
Finally, I, the Executioner provides one of Japanese cinema’s most disturbing dissections of the serial killer, as five women are stalked by a sadistic sex killer intent on avenging the suicide of a 16-year-old boy. Contrasting an uninspired police-investigation with lurid, solarized flashbacks and on-location shooting in Tokyo, I, the Executioner is a shattering story often hailed as Kato’s finest movie.
Presented on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time in the West, these thrilling genre films feature some of Kato Tai’s smartest, toughest work.
- Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3000 copies)
- High definition digital transfers of all four films from the original film elements by Toei Company
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentation
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Newly translated English subtitles
- Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
- Original trailers for all four films
- Extensive promotional image galleries for all films
- Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork
- Booklet featuring new writing on all the films and a director profile by Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes, Mark Schilling, and Chris D.
We must admit, the last couple days have been tough here at MMC! and morale is lagging with things looking to get worse before they get better. I’m not sure if Wes Anderson’s new short Come Together (2016), a promotional work for H&M stores, helps the situation by offering some Christmas cheer or gives some further reason to mope by another of Anderson’s characteristic sad sack dollhouses, but we’re glad for it either way. Enjoy it now here, before it appears on the Criterion Collection’s eventual release of The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), and we’ll see you in December!
The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Little Murders.
After directing the successful off-Broadway revival of Jules Feiffer’s acclaimed play, Alan Arkin made his feature film directing debut translating the senseless, hysterical world of Little Murders to the screen. Apathetic photographer Alfred (Elliott Gould) and feisty optimist Patsy (Marcia Rodd) are a young mismatched couple in a frantic metropolis where sniper attacks, power outages, and obscene phone calls are commonplace. With riotous supporting performances by Vincent Gardenia, Elizabeth Wilson, Jon Korkes, Lou Jacobi, Donald Sutherland, and Arkin himself, Feiffer’s satirical screenplay takes absurdist aim at the meaningless violence and spreading disenchantment in American life and produces a blackly hilarious comedy classic.
- New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary from 2004 featuring actor Elliott Gould and writer Jules Feiffer
- New interview program with director Alan Arkin, stars Elliott Gould and Marcia Rodd, and writer Jules Feiffer
- Short films directed by Arkin – T.G.I.F. (1967), People Soup (1969), Samuel Beckett is Coming Soon (1993), and Blood (Thinner Than Water) (2004)
- Gene Deitch’s Academy Award-winning short film Munro, written by Feiffer
- Theatrical trailer and TV spots
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Jim Emerson and Roger Ebert’s original 1971 review
A week or so following the closing of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival, voting went up on its website for the short film program. SFFF’s top short was Seth (Zach Lasry, 2015), one of our favourite short films of the Fest. As per the filmmakers’ synopsis:
Manic man-child Seth lives in his own demented world where time is of the essence, his only friends are his stuffed animals, and the words of Michael Jordan inspire him to take all the shots he can.
Enjoy! Hope you like corn!