Cat Soup – Nekojiru-So review

cat soup

Cat Soup (Nekojiru-So) is probably one of the most enticingly surreal films that I have watched. It lasts only half an hour – thank God, because I don’t think my brain could interpret much more! It was written and directed by Tatsuo Sato and released back in 2001.

The film is likened to ‘Hello Kitty on acid’ … and I can see why. Though, it’s such a captivating representation of a reality that, in some way, you really want to explore more.

cat soup pullTo be honest, I can’t coherently explain this film, nobody really can – even Sato himself! The basic premise of the film consists of a kitten trying to save his sister’s soul after death comes to take it away. Unfortunately, as he tugs at the soul against death’s firm grip, it splits in two – so, he returns half the soul to his sister and they both embark on an incredibly bizarre journey to the ‘other side’ to retrieve the other half of her soul. There is no dialogue, the occasional speech bubble appears and in the circus we do hear voices – which is interesting because the sound is simply what you would hear if you listen as you fast-forward a tape. It’s refreshing to watch something that isn’t driven by dialogue.

cat soup cut

cat soup cut upThe film looks pretty innocent and happy from the outside but, that – it is not! It actually gets pretty violent…for a start the little kittens father is a massive alcoholic. And some scenes, for example at the circus – we see, who I believe to be God chop up a woman, brutally. And then fly the body pieces around the room and put her back together in the air. God a circus attraction, eh? Take what you will from that.

This is one of those films where, if you’re the type of person who can just sit back, enjoy some trippy, psychedelic visuals and not get caught up in the specifics – you will love it. And if like me, you search for hidden meanings in every image – prepare for cat-soup-42your brain to go into overdrive. I actually do think that this is a brilliant film, and the thing that I love the most about it is how non-specific it actually is. After watching the film I was still fairly confused, so I did a little research on what inspired the film, the surreal images and the overall premise. Basically, Sato tends to get questioned a lot on: why he put this in that shot, and what that sign means…what that character represents. And really…he doesn’t always have an answer! He admitted that on occasion he didn’t have anything specific in mind when he was drawing up a scene, it was just there. I find this comical, because if you have ever been in a media studies lesson, you will be told that every single piece of a film, every character, every shot, every noise has this huge significant underlying message – when in reality, sometimes it is actually…just there.

That itself is what I love most about the film. Also, it seems really powerful and interesting to me that each individual who watches this will take so many completely different meanings from it.

catsoup1 flood

To me, it’s like fairytales and biblical stories merged into one insane adventure. We see God, performing in a circus – and then a giant wave floods the entire world – no land is to be found. The kittens and a pig are left on a small wooden boat (intertextual with Noah’s Ark), the flood eventually dries up and the adventure continues on land. This is where we eventually get to a man who takes the kittens in, he gives them food – lots, and lots of food! Birds (which he kills in front of them, and the younger kitten enjoys watching a live bird burn a tad too much), a giant gingerbread house smothered in syrup, and bigger birds. Eventually the kittens end up in a giant cooking pot…remind you of a certain fairytale? Anyway, the list goes on. You do also see time fast forward, then slowly rewind, as it rewinds you cat soup pigsee all of the harm and damage mankind has inflicted on earth – atom bombs, murders, cars crashing, the great depression suicides and wars. When the time is reversing, it does so by God pulling a lever and stopping the cogs of the earth from moving, the earth is a part of a giant clock – reminds me of the watchmaker (design) analogy by William Paley, relevant? Maybe, maybe not…that’s what I love about the film – it actually allows you to delve into your own personal little interpretations!

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 21.32.59

Final point…as I am now rambling, the end of the film – time has re-wound, the soul is back in big sis’ body and the family are watching television – the little bro kitten has excused himself. One by one each of the kittens’ family members get ‘switched off’ as you would switch off a TV. The kitten returns, confused. We then cut to an exterior shot of the house in darkness – just one flickering street light until – the shot is too, switched off. Now, this could refer back to God who was originally controlling the worlds or the power and reliance our contemporary world has on media OR – as the film does circulate around the bad nature of humans (warning I may be looking waaaay too far into this) but it does kind of remind me of the whole controversy of the electronic banking conspiracy – and the great global blackout which plunges the world into chaos and slavery. Probably over thinking there, admittedly that is just how my brain works! Either way, thought I’d share my odd interpretations so watch the film and let me know some of your own!

Catch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_HdMLe-pZM

LA Film Students To Explore Moviemaking With Google Glass

such a strange device…kind of intriguing though. What I’d do to be in film school in LA right now..

CBS Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Beauty is in the eye of the Google Glass wearer.

At least that’s what the Internet search giant hopes a handful of young filmmakers will discover. Google is enlisting film students from five colleges to help it explore how its wearable computing device can be used to make movies.

The $1,500 Google Glass headset is already being used by 10,000 so-called explorers. The device resembles a pair of glasses and allows users to take pictures, shoot video, search the Internet, compose email and check schedules.

As part of its experiment, Google will lend each school three pairs of Google Glass.

The participating schools are American Film Institute, California Institute of the Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Southern California.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Documentary Pitch

I am going to produce an informative and eye opening documentary that looks into the different ways that Alzheimer’s effects people; rather than this singular stereotypical view of what an Alzheimer’s patient is like. I want to look at the different stages of the disease: from the tests and diagnosis to the eventual deterioration and patients who are now living in a care home. The documentary will include interviews and information from patients, the families, and importantly, professionals in the field.  I am aiming to film in the North Wales/Bangor area but will travel further afield if necessary. I do have personal ties and experience with the disease, as my grandmother suffers from ischemic and degenerative Alzheimer’s and is currently residing in a care home specifically for Alzheimer’s sufferers – which are where I got a lot of my inspiration for producing the documentary.

Personal:

Through watching my grandmother change from a stern, funny, family orientated woman to a person who cannot even string a sentence together, I believe I owe it to her and every other Alzheimer’s sufferer and family members of those whose loved ones are effected by the disease to create a documentary informing the nation about the process of testing and diagnosis to what is essentially, the deterioration and effects of the disease.

I visit my grandmother every week or other week in Leyland, who have a brilliant care team looking after about ten Alzheimer’s patients. After a few visits, I noticed that each patient was effected by the disease so differently, from my quiet but content grandmother, to people with quick and unprovoked mood swings, the inability to physically say real words and even the constant repetition of certain phrases/words. I’ve met some lovely people who suffer from the disease and they have really inspired me to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s, there is so much more research that needs to be done! The sad fact is Alzheimer’s is more common than most of us realise, and it’s on the rise as we’re living longer.

I find it fascinating that this disease can and does physically change your brain, and consequently; the personality of the person afflicted with the disease. It’s a horrible thing and so hard to see somebody you care about stare at you so blankly. Knowing they are there in body but not in mind. Now, so far this is just my basis of my own experiences but I will be expanding on this. My sister, Louise Lockwood has a Masters degree in Psychology and studied in Bangor University. After studying Alzheimer’s and having relevant contacts with industry professionals I should be able to set up some professional insight interviews to give the facts, reliably. I do want to film this in North Wales, obviously if I have to travel to visit some care homes/day centres then I will, my aim is to create a hard-hitting documentary that will show you what it’s really like to suffer from Alzheimer’s, or to know somebody who does. From start to finish, beginning to end.

If anybody would like to help out with this production, has any useful information or contact details relevant to the documentary email me at lockwoof@uni.coventry.ac.uk or comment below. If you would like to make a donation to the Alzheimer’s society please follow the link below. Thank You. 

http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/

Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams” review

'Dreams' 1990 Poster

‘Dreams’ Poster

Looking through my blog I realised that I haven’t written one post on one of the most talented and influential icons of cinema; that being, of course – Akira Kurosawa.

Now, if you’re thinking…”Kurosawa? Never heard of him.” – you are wrong!

Kurosawa was and still is considered a monumental film maker who’s style, themes, and overall productions influence many techniques and plots that you see today. I could go on about his influence and techniques almost incessantly – and I probably will but, not today because today…I am writing about ‘dreams’.

Some people do not like this film because the stories are ambiguous, blurry and do not have an ending – to that I say, when do dreams make complete sense? And when do they have straight forward, to the point conclusions? Some may, yes…in fact ‘Village of the watermills’ has a nice little ending making it a great way to conclude the film. But really, these stories are Kurosawa’s dreams, the fact they don’t have clear endings are what makes them so much more unique and interesting!

The film ‘Dreams’ was released in 1990 and is based on actual dreams Kurosawa had throughout his life. Kurosawa wrote this film and directed it, making it one of his much more personal films and in my opinion, it’s completely engaging and abstract. The film consists of eight segments (eight dreams):

  1. Sunshine through the rain
  2. The peach orchard
  3. The blizzard
  4. The Tunnel
  5. Crows
  6. Mount Fuji in red
  7. The weeping demon
  8. Village of the Watermills

the boy behind the tree foxes

I could go into huge detail about each dream but, I don’t think I could fit it into just one post. The first segment ‘Sunshine through the rain‘ really is a perfect way of entering the film – this dream does make more sense if you are aware of Japanese legends but it isn’t necessary. This specific dream revolves around the legend of Kitsune (foxes) and it is said that when the sun shines through the rain the Kitsune have their weddings. A little boy is warned not to go out because of this, as the Kitsune get very angry if they are seen during this time. The boy goes out anyway and sees a precession of Kitsune, unfortunately he is seen and runs away. But when he gets home a Kitsune has left him a message – a knife, as he is now supposed to kill himself. Sounds harsh, right? The boy is not allowed back into his home, he is told to apologise to the Kitsune and hope they forgive him, though they rarely forgive. He walks to a rainbow (this is where the Kitsune live) and the scene fades out. We don’t know if he was forgiven, not even Akira truly knows, this is where his dream ends after all.

the blizzard

My two favourite dreams would have to be ‘The Blizzard’ and ‘The Tunnel’. The Blizzard follows four mountaineers climbing a mountain during an awful blizzard, they are tired, freezing, and feeling hopelessly lost. It’s safe to say that they’re faith is no more, and they want to give up. The four men slowly stop walking and do give up, falling asleep and falling into sure death in the snow covered mountain. The leader is eager to move on, but he too falls asleep in the snow, not far from death. Just as they have given up a woman appears to the leader, she urges him to give in and sleep (which will end in all of the men dying). She tells him that the snow and ice are warm, and physically pushes him down, even when he tries to stand. Now, these metaphors do in fact resemble the symptoms of hypothermia – becoming overwhelmed by fatigue and believing that you are warm (due to blood vessels widening and whatnot). The woman represents the onset of certain death. Furthermore, it is thought that the woman may also be a representation of ‘Yuki-onna’ who is a famous spirit and legend in Japanese folklore known for killing mortals in snowstorms – my own interpretation is that the woman is basically a personification of hypothermia and death, luring the men to their end (as Yuki-onna does). But from somewhere deep inside, the leader musters up the strength to push away this woman, the snow storm ends and the sky becomes clear – he sees that camp was a meer few feet from them all along, and the men survive. I think it’s quite a nice little story, showing how that little bit of inner-strength and motivation can make all the difference – it’s surprisingly optimistic.

soldier:officer

‘The Tunnel’ – definitely one of the best dreams, it follows an army officer walking down a road after the second world war. He come across a large, dark tunnel – this scene is set up so well visually, the dusky, eerie atmosphere is captivating. The officer comes across an angry, snarling anti-tank dog strapped with explosives (animal cruelty to aid a human war – which I’m afraid to say really went on during wartime – poor dogs). Anyway, the man gets out of the tunnel eventually, and a dead soldier, Private Noguchi approaches the officer. Noguchi’s skin is completely blue – signifying that he is in fact dead. However, he does not believe that he is whole armydead. The officer does manage to convince Noguchi, and is obviously very distressed by this whole incident. Noguchi returns into the dark tunnel, but it gets worse. The entire third platoon leave the tunnel and approach the Officer – all are blue and were annihilated in the war. The Officer is overcome by his feelings of guilt about their end, and gives a truly moving speech – the soldiers remain still and mute. Which is so creepy, but so effective. In the end the Officer orders the platoon to about face, and march. They return into the tunnel. And he salutes them as they go. The dream ends with the return of the anti-tank dog, barking at the Officer. This is definitely an intriguing dream, did the Officer really see any of these things? Is his overwhelming guilt facing him head on? Is the anti-tank dog a representation of his self punishment? …Or is it nothing but an interesting dream?

‘Crows’ looks at an art student who literally enters the paintings of his idol Vincent Van Gogh, and meets the artist himself. The most interesting part of this story is how attached we get to the people we look up to, the people that influence us. This student is van gogh wheatfieldso engulfed in Van Gogh’s work he literally steps inside his world. I did some research into Van Gogh and I digress here but I found such a hauntingly beautiful quote from a letter Van Gogh wrote, “La tristesse durera toujours” (The sadness will last forever). It’s not totally off topic as one of the last things we see is Van Gogh walk out into the painting ‘Wheat fields with Crows’ – It was thought for a long time that this was his last painting (though, they have now found that it probably was not). But it so clearly conveys Van Gogh’s perpetual depression and sorrow – the black crows, gloomy sky, and cut off path (which is where Van Gogh walks to) is haunting. But a great representation of his life and work, and inspiration to generations of people and artists.

The last three films look closer into how humans have mistreated and destroyed the world that we live in. ‘Mount Fuji in red’ and ‘The weeping demon’ look at nuclear explosions and the destruction of Japan – and the aftermath and mutations that result. ‘Mount Fuji in Red’ shows a large nuclear power plant melt down, with six reactors exploding one at a time. The people fuji nucleurrun into the sea, and consequently drown. There are then three adults and two young children left (the children with their emotional mother). One man wearing a suit explains that the different coloured clouds will cause cancer, leukemia, and mutations/birth defects. He sneers at how foolish they were to colour code the three lethal gases, after all they are all lethal no matter – he is ashamed to admit he worked for the power plant and believed in what it stood for, he goes on to kill himself by jumping into the sea knowing that there is no better way. The gases shower around the mother and her children and the young man, who takes off his jacket attempting to clear the air for the children. This is where the dream ends, unfortunately you can guess how it ends without needing to see it, a pretty dramatic story.

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 01.05.12‘The weeping demon’ sees the aftermath of a radiation poisoned Japan – with humans growing painful horns and becoming demons who live by eating each other. The horns cause great pain but the demons cannot die – “immortality is their punishment”. My favourite parts of this dream is the visuals, there is a great shot of the 2/3 horned demons screaming in pain at night by two pools of red liquid – it looks intense! Also, the ground that was once beautiful is now bleak terrain, though there are ‘monster dandelions’ that grow – I did find this slightly comical…giant weeds, get Alan Titchmarsh on it!

dandelions

Monster dandelions!

The final dream is fairly tranquil, a traveller stumbles upon a village who use no modern technology whatsoever, in turn they live long, happy lives and instead of having funerals full of sorrow they celebrate with great joy the end of a full and happy life with the whole village leading a procession of the coffin. It’s a nice, happy little way to end the film and an interesting take on what our priorities are in today’s society.

dreams4

‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’ – The moment we all turned pro.

‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’ snook up on us so fast! 

OBTS poster

One minute I got a message asking to be involved in a promising production, the next – I was heading down to Devon at 4am, eager to get filming. 

I’m not entirely sure how we got through the film without collapsing from exhaustion, though I believe we all went pretty damn crazy by the end of the night! Obviously all of us – the crew – are still in the learning process, and you only learn by doing. Well, I can safely say I learnt a hell of a lot. It definitely helped that we had such a talented cast, who managed to bring the characters to life with such ease, and so convincingly that there were a fair few times where the lines of film and reality became a blur. Which, is always a good sign. We’re lucky to have such a supportive cast who were skilful and full of good humour (much humour!) but also, are the type of crew who work as a team, get on really well, and produce some purely engaging bits of film! 

OBTS attack shot

In terms of technical equipment, it’s all becoming easier with each shoot, we’re all becoming a lot more fluent and confident with our roles and equipment. It’s really just like second nature setting up and getting ready now, things will always go wrong – or not quite the way you expected, but you figure it out, keep working and find a way around it. 

I really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this film and yes, we got stressed. Yes, we all went a little crazy. Yes, some people were even harmed in the making of this film. But that is why I love it (not in some sadistic way). Being able to laugh and joke even when we had managed to create such a dramatic ambience – says a lot about what a great team we had. 

Seeing the stills from the shoot today made me all the more hopeful for Once Bitten Twice Shy’s future, I wish I was more OBTS bottle shotpatient…I was eager to see the final cut of the film before we’d even left the set! But it’s something I shall look forward to seeing. 

So, basically – I learnt that I can still function after three days without sleep and it was an epic experience. Being a part of these projects drives my passion for producing film and with some good luck – this could be the stepping stone to bigger, and brighter things! Maybe even brighter than a 500W flood light shining in your face. 

This post seems pretty corny – I’ve never liked corn. 

Anyway, check out the Facebook page for all updates and info on Once Bitten Twice Shy: https://www.facebook.com/oncebittentwiceshyfilm

I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it! 

‘The Five of Me’ – TV film review

So, last night I was tediously flicking through sky movies selection of films when I came across the dramatic true movie: ‘The Five of Me’ (1981).

Plot: 

David Birney

David Birney

The film follows the life of Henry Hawksworth (David Birney) and his struggle with a dissociative identity disorder (otherwise known as a multiple personality disorder). The opening scene shows Henry – a 7 year old boy being attacked and threatened with castration by his mentally ill father. We then jump forward to Henry as an adult; however, he is now known as Dana – a hero after saving a fellow soldier’s life during three years of captivity in South Korea. Dana becomes the prevalent personality, but is not the only one. Peter – an emotional child, Phil – a limping war hero, and Johnny – a violent sociopath, constantly getting in trouble with the police all take over Hawksworth for certain periods of time. The film shows Hawksworth spiral out of control, with scenes becoming more and more violent and troublesome – from killing the man he saved in Korea in a car crash, to attempting to kill his pregnant wife, and facing his abusive father.

My thoughts:

Personally, I’m intrigued by the complexities of the human mind and this film really delves into a widely misunderstood mental illness known as DID. The most engaging little detail, is that this film is completely true. It was written by Henry Hawksworth as an autobiography and was later adapted into a TV movie. Knowing that somebody actually went through all of the terror and confusion that the character on screen did is a chilling thought – especially as it was based in a time where mental illness still wasn’t understood very well, afterall – there is still so much we don’t understand about DID today, due to it’s sheer rarity and complex nature.

Birney plays the five characters so well, that with each personality you can quite literally see the physical differences. Some are obvious, for example: Phil’s limp and Dana’s bad eye sight (the only personality who needs glasses). But it’s the finer things that really distinguish the personalities – the idiosyncrasies and mannerisms alone manage to convey that the character has changed.   The frustrating part of the film is that Dana actually visits dozens of doctors before his illness is finally recognised at the end of the film. The doctors simply say he suffers from temporary amnesia, and that he is an alcoholic – though Dana swears to them that he never remembers picking up a drink. Of course, Dana doesn’t drink, but Johnny does. The important detail is that Dana does not remember the episodes where he is another personality, so when he ends up in a cell or a burning car – he reverts back to Dana and is completely bewildered by how he got there.

Despite all of these episodes and trouble he gets himself into, Dana ends up getting closer with the wife of the buddy he saved in Korea – the man he also killed in a car crash. The two begin to spend a lot of time together, and though he does revert to his more violent personality Johnny in front of her, and even burn her with a cigarette, she can’t help but accept Dana’s proposal for marriage – the proposal was fairly comical, he popped the question in a doctors office, who said romance was dead, eh?

Dana’s life is happy and successful in terms of career and Annie his fiancee, however his father and abuser is released from a mental institute about half way through the film. Bringing up more of the trauma he suffered as a child. As soon as Dana see’s his father he becomes Peter the child, and becomes hysterical. His father is able to go home and becomes an added threat and distress in Dana’s life.

Hawksworth puts his wife (Dee Wallace) through a lot: cheating on her with her best friend, disappearing on their wedding night, and even strangling her whilst she is pregnant. However, they still blame alcoholism – he even attends AA meetings in an attempt to get better. When his wife finally can’t take anymore – I would have hit the road a long time before she did. – she leaves Dana and cuts off contact with him. At this point the sociopath Johnny completely takes over. A blessing in disguise in a way. Johnny is having a delightfully extreme game of chicken and the police involved send him for a mental assessment, where psychiatrist (Mitchell Ryan) works with all of the personalities, and eventually brings out Henry for the first time since he was seven years old. The psychiatrist is slowly bringing Henry to the present day, and controlling the other four personalities. Unfortunately, the end of the film seems quite rushed, like they ran out of time and decided to wrap it up in under 5 seconds. The day of Henry’s trial, he runs into his wife, though has no real recollection of who she is. As they walk into the court room a voice over states that Henry was ruled innocent and now lives at home, happily.

Now, his wife is still in love with Dana, so despite all the trauma and abuse she went through, I can imagine they reunited romantically. As for his relationship with his father who knows? Would you forgive him? Afterall, his father was ill himself, but the abuse he caused to his child was thought to be the trigger of Henry’s DID. Either way, Hawksworth obviously became a success through his autobiography and his recovery brings a lot of hope to the management of DID.

And if I were David Birney, I would have asked for five pay cheques.

If like me, the wonders of the mind intrigue you as well, check out the 1976 film ‘sybil’, it has a similar premise in that the central character has multiple personalities, and it’s a truly captivating story.

Would You Rather? Film Review

would-you-rather-david-guy-levy-movie-poster

Would You Rather is a sadistic Thriller movie released in 2012.

The film follows Iris (Brittany Snow), a young woman struggling to make ends meet following the untimely death of her parents, and terminally ill younger brother Raleigh (Logan Miller). Just as things reach a new low, a suspicious aristocrat makes an appearance…offering Iris endless wealth and medical help if she can complete one game at a dinner party, which involves seven other desperate souls.

A dark twist on the child’s game ‘Would You Rather’ leaves the guests playing for their lives.

The film is classed as a Horror/Thriller, I would add cringe in if that too was a genre. The film wasn’t particularly scary as such, but Psychological Thriller definitely fits – with a fair amount of gruesome activity, but not so much that you need a pillow to grasp. It’s definitely not a dinner party I would like to go to.

The film basically follows a similar premise to the ‘Saw’ franchise – a sick, twisted game being played among people in a low situation run by a sadistic antagonist. Obviously, this film is totally different from Saw, it’s nowhere near as gory but there are similarities – maybe what Saw would have been like if he were a lot nicer. In any case, this film definitely had it’s moments of pure engagement. I mean, waiting in suspense as a man decides whether to get shot or slit his own eye open with a razor is definitely an intriguing move. And I have to say, I had no nails left by the credits.

On a more negative note, though the film tries to keep the tension levels high, it often comes across fairly dull – mainly during the first half of the game, I was tempted to fast forward. I didn’t though, which I suppose is a good sign.

I’d only ever seen Brittany Snow in comedies, musicals and light dramas; films like Pitch Perfect, Hairspray and teen movie John Tucker Must Die. And she plays that type of character well, so I was interested in seeing whether she’d be able to pull off the tortured mind type. Which she did, she was a convincing character and it really shows the variety she can bring to the table.

The film does allow you to question how you would cope under such horrific circumstances and we see all the different perspectives on the game. We see Amy – who appears completely dehumanised, a noble ex army-man, the voice of logic and reason – among a few others. Making such sick decisions with 15 – 30 seconds is definitely the definition of pressure – I mean, what would you do?

WARNING SPOILER ALERT!!!!
The ending is by far the best part of the film, and if you don’t want to know why then look away now!….OK, young Iris in a moment of panic and weakness pulls the trigger on her morals leaving her the winner of the game. Unfortunately, it turns out that leaving her ill brother alone for the night with the intention of saving him, left him with the opportune moment to take his own life. Leaving poor Iris with nothing but the haunting memory of a really bad night out.

Give it a watch, even if you’re squeamish I’m sure you can handle it. Though I don’t recommend you take any dinner party tips from the film, unless you really dislike your guests.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it5XICr93wU – check out a trailer here