May 1, 2006

Barcelona Dispatch. 3.

In his latest dispatch from the Barcelona Asian Film Festival, Juan Manuel Freire reviews Princess Raccoon, Reflections and Green Mind, Metal Bats.

Princess Raccoon Not a single film by Seijun Suzuki has been released in Spanish cinemas. Yesterday, BAFF offered an opportunity to delve into Japanese maverick's mind, though his latest, Princess Raccoon, may give a wrong impression of the master - this is a flat work without the imagination, nerve or class of his true classics. Appeals to "cultural difference" to explain away Princess Raccoon are rather pointless, because all of its faults are universal. This is a musical without musicality, a comedy without laughs, and a wreck without so-bad-it's-good fun. The non-initiated should check Branded to Kill before watching this one.

Thankfully, BAFF had some interesting surprises on yesterday's program. Two films from Official Section fulfilled the expectations, especially the debut from Hou Hsiao-hsien's assistant, Hung-i Yao. Reflections seems a perfect companion piece to Millennium Mambo and the third story in the now-classic Three Times. Hsiao-hsien helped with production and writing, and it shows. Reflections covers a familiar floating ground of urban ennui, isolation and emotional anemia, the spirit of a young generation translated into images.

Reflections Though not as assured as the master, whose talent for hypnotic images is unique, Yao has made a fine work, capturing the zeitgeist in this film about a triangular relationship doomed by emotional confusion. He makes no moral judgments and develops characters in ambiguous, strange directions. Everything is told in slow motion, just to make room for the action to show all its meanings, just to let reality do its self-explaining. Images are usually rather fascinating, with the dim lights of the city landscape playing as reflection of the characters' state of mind. A remarkable debut.

Green Mind, Metal Bats, by Kumakiri Kazuyoshi, is not such an attractive piece of cinema and leaves a lot of doubts. But it is nonetheless an enjoyable rarity which shakes surrealist humor, thriller action and sport-film motivational spirit into an impossible mixture. Based on the manga of the same name, this is the crazy story of Nanba, a young man whose long-time crush on baseball results in psychotic behavior and becomes his main charm, earning the favors of an alcoholic lady.

Green Mind, Metal Bats Not without its failures, but entertaining all the way through, the film is a voyage through distorted minds told with (pardon for pun) a great swing. The narration is as "yucky" as the central character, confounding drama and comedy and playing with conceptions of what's criminal and what's heroic. Though recently associated with straight dramas, Kazuyoshi made his début with the splattering Kichiku, and Green Mind, Metal Bats inherits his early obsession with violence, becoming an unashamedly exploitive flick around half its duration. Another trace of trash: Wakamatsu Koji, author of classic pinku eiga such as Sex Jack and Ecstasy of Angels, appears as the spirit of none other than Babe Ruth.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 1, 2006 9:53 AM


Ow ... I actually really like Princess Raccoon ...

Posted by: Todd at May 2, 2006 10:39 AM