by Dave Maier
I am a big fan of Japanese cinema, and in the past year I've seen some really great stuff. These are neither the most famous nor the most obscure films out there, just some I saw and liked. I generally try to avoid spoilers, plus my memory of a couple of these films is a ltttle foggy, so I will be light on plot details here. Many of these films are available through the Criterion Collection, and there are trailers there, so check 'em out.
Let's start with the horror. Not “J-Horror”, exactly, which term I associate more with films like Ringu (Ring) and Ju-on (The Grudge) and their descendants. First we have:
House (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)
I expected this one to be weird, and it certainly is, but not in the way I thought. According to Chuck Stephens,
What Toho Studios was hoping for when it hired Obayashi [who had been in advertising for several years at the time] was a homegrown Jaws: a locally produced summer movie roller coaster sufficiently thrill-chocked to at least partially deflect the ongoing onslaught of Tokyo-box-office-topping New Hollywood hits from Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas—something fast and loud, with tons of fun packed between screams.
What they got was “a modern masterpiece of le cinéma du WTF?! […] a film that must be seen to be believed, and then seen again to believe that you really did see what you think you saw.” It's too dizzying to be as fun as it relentlessly presents itself as being, but for some of you (you know who you are), a must-see, if only for the scene where Melody, the musician among the seven appropriately named teen houseguests, is devoured by a grand piano.