Kakuto

By Adam Lippe

kakuto01Opening with a short animated sequence (done in the style of Waking Life) which suggests that we are beginning at the end, as several people are up to something mischievous and running away from some horrible crime, Kakuto cheats the viewer by pretending, at any moment that the real story will begin. The voiceover during this introduction, filled with a combination of premonitions of upcoming nightmarishly violent occurrences and pretentious musings about living in a dream, is a tease, and utterly misleading. Your anticipation is helpful to tide you over as all the characters are introduced and we sit through long, pointless, seemingly improvised scenes where the actors, mostly playing aimless obnoxious teenagers, ruminate about nothing in coffee shops, garages, and other random places. One sequence in particular has two people who seem to know the same girl (though we never learn how they do), hang out at a bathhouse, while the less coherent fellow rambles on about Charlie Brown, and how he knows a cartoonist who may have been inspired by it.The other guy isn’t listening, and I have to admit, by that point, neither was I.

kakuto5Further conversation ensues with characters sitting in a circle bragging about how many valentines they get every year and how one of them is not a ladies man. It’s like eavesdropping on a conversation involving people you don’t know, have nothing in common with, and have nothing interesting to offer. Scenes just run together like this, and the tone is never clear, except when it is announced by the music. At a birthday party (the same one where the guys are in the circle), one character tells a story about trying to break up a physical fight between his parents through an atypical overreaction, but the Tracey Chapmanesque guitar riff is slapped in and repeated over and over, almost drowning out the words (even though I was reading, it was a pretty big distraction), throwing the possible poignancy of the story completely off.

kakuto3Characters intersect but hardly have any connection. One guy steals a fancy red car in the parking lot of a 7-11 and drives it off in the most exciting sequence up to that point in the movie, which unfortunately completely resembles a real car commercial, with close-ups of the odometer, the wheels, etc. No one is chasing him, but he comes to his senses and stops at a payphone to call and apologize to his father for his failures in life.

An ineffective cop crosses paths with the main crowd (the three guys at the party) who are also faintly involved with the Yakuza drug trade, and I guess we are supposed to laugh at how pathetic he is, but the actor looks lost and undirected. There’s another scene where he can’t seem to convince some kids trying to illegally buy cigarettes from a machine that he is a cop, but everyone seems like they’re just waiting around until someone calls cut.

About an hour in, the movie turns into a rip-off of both Trainspotting and Go with the three prongs to the story involving drugs, police and criminals mildly intertwining, and we are treated to lots of first person camerawork while characters are being chased accompanied by techno music, rampant ecstasy induced hallucinations, overly glamorized vomiting, and guilt-ridden joyriding in fancy cars.

kakuto4In fact, this seems to be really a short, padded out to feature length. A perfect example is after the story portion of the movie, from minute 60 to minute 95, there is a five minute scene where the actors just laugh and celebrate. Nothing else. This is followed by a five minute scene where they talk about things they hate, while smoking on a roof. These things they hate include large crowds and how cold ice cream is. None of this is relevant to anything else that occurs in the picture, so I think it’s fair to say that perhaps the director knew he didn’t have much and just stretched it because it’s a lot harder to make money on a short than on a feature. But during that 35 minute period he didn’t have any original ideas, so all that remains is a cliché ridden middle section surrounded by two acts of utterly nonsensical occurrences and endless blather.

Video:

This was obviously a quickie, and it was shot on digital video. The disc is in 1.78 anamorphic widescreen and seems adequate for video and in fact handles the blues in a scene in a fish store very well. The different shades come out quite clearly. Sill there is the requisite graininess which is nearly unavoidable in DV, but it is not a huge distraction. The subtitles were easy to understand.

Audio:

This is a 2.0 mix and the only times you will notice the surrounds is during the heavily scored sequences, both in a club and during the running scenes. Other than these examples, there is no low end whatsoever. The dialogue is clearly recorded.

kakuto2Extras:

There is a trailer that implies that the movie is far more action packed and filled with incident than it really is. I’d say that they squeezed all of the action in the entire film into that 1 minute and 40 seconds. Also included is an on the set making of that shows the crew at work. There are a few interviews with the actors. It’s entirely in Japanese with no English subtitles and runs seventeen minutes. Lastly there are some cast and crew bios, in Japanese only.

Overall:

This is where the ever handy trait of patience becomes useful, as the movie is a tedious bore for an hour, and then replicates the idea of excitement by stealing from other well worn sources, rather than creating any itself. The video, audio, and extras are serviceable, considering the material.

Film: D
Video: B-
Audio: C+
Extras: C+
Overall: C

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Roadracers

By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]


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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.