Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Review: Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine (2012 anime)

[I will spoil large portions of the series, right up to the end.]

From the first scene where a geriatric cult-leader intoxicates his congregation by shedding white petals from his skin, we know we’re in for a weird ride. Fujiko Mine is pulp, but not trash; trippy, but not unhinged; 1970s infused, but not regressive.

We follow Fujiko Mine, cat-burglar, whose tools are deception and seduction, and whose only master is herself. Or is she? She disguises herself as a cult-leader’s wife, as mafia don’s best girl, as the governess for a royal family, as a teacher in an all-girls boarding school, but beneath these masks is there a face, or another mask? A mask not even Fujiko knows of? And who are these gentlemen in owl masks?

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Review: The Handmaiden (2016 Film)

[This review will spoil the entirety of the film. The book is fourteen years old, though.]

Sook-Hee is a Korean handmaiden to a Japanese heiress. Sook-Hee is a thief who aims to lock an heiress in an asylum to steal her fortune. Sook-Hee is the heiress’ lover. Lady Hideko is a blushing heiress, set to marry her adoptive uncle. Lady Hideko is known for her live readings of high-class pornography. Lady Hideko is an unwitting victim to a thief. Lady Hideko would put her lover in an asylum. They hide themselves from each other and from the audience.

I warned of spoilers, but spoilers couldn’t spoil this film. The enemy of most twisting narratives is foreknowledge. If the audience knows every twist, the string unknots, and all that’s left are dead shocks. Not so here. Tension in The Handmaiden comes from dramatic irony, the audience knowing more than the characters. As the audience learns each characters’ secrets, old scenes acquire new subtext. On first viewing, the audience knows Sook-Hee is fattening a sheltered heiress for the slaughter; on second viewing, the audience knows Hideko plays the ingĂ©nue to fatten Sook-Hee. Far from spoiling the film, foreknowledge increases the dramatic irony, thus the tension. 

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Review: Sweet Blue Flowers (2009 Anime)

‘Gentle’, ‘soft’, ‘tender’ – all apt words to describe Sweet Blue Flowers, yet imperfect ones. They make the show sound tepid. While this show may not boil with emotional intensity, while it may not even simmer with latent passion, one cannot say it’s tepid. It is warm, but not luk-warm. Its characters are gentle. They neither yell, nor spite each other, but not for lack of strong emotions. Its music and visuals are soft, but not saccharine. All relationships are tender, but not mawkish. This is a story about the symbiosis of half-false-loves and half-false-selves. It is slow-moving drama about characters too mature to misunderstand or despise one another. Sweet Blue Flowers trembles with empathy.

Our ensemble coming-of-age story begins with Fumi discovering her cousin is marrying a man. She feigns sickness to avoid the wedding. Fumi’s cousin, her first lover, has abandoned her love. Still-standing, but aimless, Fumi crushes on a Princely girl, Sugimoto; and Sugimoto seems to reciprocate. But just as Fumi’s heartbreak guides her lovelorn grasping, so too does Sugimoto’s.