Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Kamikaze Girls and the Frog

Odd, disjointed bunch of film-watching lately. The usual, in other words. Here's a few highlights, also cross-posted from Haunted Vinyl:

Chi Bi, a.k.a. Red Cliff (China, 2008)

The cute young cops of Chungking Express (Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro) have grown up to be the handsome warriors of Chi Bi. Nice! Especially on the Takeshi Kaneshiro front. The movie's so epic and awesome, I immediately ordered the box set containing the 2,340 pages of novel it's based on (Three Kingdoms, also called The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, attributed to Luo Guanzhong). I'm still cliff-hung, though, since I haven't had time to watch Chi Bi II yet.

The Princess and the Frog (U.S., 2009)

Against all odds, Disney has finally made a movie for me. Yes, I could have spent a lot more time with the old hoodoo lady in the swamp, who was much more interesting than the schmaltzy musical romance and the cute anthropomorphic critters. But it was great to see the 1920s New Orleans setting. Even better, Dr. Facilier (great name!) joins the villains of Live and Let Die and Sugar Hill (which I saw advertised as Sugar Hill and Her Zombie Hit Men) in the select list of Baron Samedi-looking bad guys. Plus, he's voiced by Keith David, formerly an important member of the John Carpenter Players. Yup, that's the sound of a They Live fanatic squealing over a Disney picture. It sounds just as strange as you'd expect.

Shimotsuma Monogatari, a.k.a. Kamikaze Girls (Japan, 2004)

Motorcyles, fight scenes, and frilly dresses -- together at last! I don't know if I've ever seen a movie where the plot was driven so openly by clothes, and that's just one of the reasons for my wild enthusiasm. Oddly detached teenage Momoko spends her time fantasizing about her ideal life in 18th-century Versailles, and all her money on elaborate "Lolita" style fashions from her favorite Tokyo shop. Needing cash, she advertises some old bootleg "Versach" clothes her father once tried to sell, and meets tough-talking, long-coated Ichigo, who belongs to an all-girl biker gang.

The film is full of stylized humor and strange asides, even breaking into anime for flashbacks. It kind of reminds me of Muriel's Wedding, even though it's completely different in every way. Momoko ignores Ichigo and Ichigo bullies Momoko, but eventually a friendship develops. As the characters use fashion to give their lives meaning, the film depicts the paradox of expressing individuality by embracing what could seem like stereotypical identities, and it ends up being crazily inspirational. In addition to just plain crazy.

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