Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Manji (Yasuzo Masumura, 1964)

What starts out as a Japanese exploitation film about two women falling in love turns into a very interesting, almost Hitchcockian psychological thriller about obsessive love. Sonoko and Mitsuko meet at an art class and fall in love, despite and because of the ostracization they feel from the others at the school. The close friendship that these women immediately develop turns into an obsessive love, as Sonoko starts ignoring her husband in favor of her "sister," who slowly (but very surely) turns against her and makes her into a slave for love.

The film begins with Sonoko subconsciously painting a picture in her art class of the Goddess of Mercy with Mitsuko's face on it; this foreshadows the power Mitsuko has over Sonoko for the rest of the film. Mitsuko is like a goddess to those who love her, and, in the film's climactic scene, she literally becomes a goddess. Mitsuko is a prototypical femme fatale, a manipulating schemer who gets people to do whatever she wants them to. Throughout the film, she is in complete control of Sonoko, and eventually Sonoko's husband, and although she appears to be in an abusive relationship herself, I got the feeling she could have turned the tables to her advantage any time she wanted. This constant manipulation comes to a head in the last thirty minutes of the film; the cinematography of the perfectly choreographed sleeping powder scenes is truly beautiful. The colors seem more bright, even though these people's lives have been ruined. The frame story (Sonoko speaking to a psychologist, I think) lets us know that Sonoko survives the story, but that doesn't make it any less tense. And the final scene, where Sonoko voices the doubts that saved her life yet will haunt her for the rest of her life, is truly heartbreaking.

This movie is definitely worth seeing as a great example of the Japanese New Wave, and the second, psychological half really makes up for the borderline exploitative first half (not that I have anything against exploitation flicks, at all). A truly adult film, in all ways imaginable.


RIYL: Heavenly Creatures (another great film about obsessive female friendship)

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