Professor of history, UCSD
Even though Halloween has little connection to Japan, the ghosts and witches that I associate with Halloween are also a rich part of its lore. Two recent DVDs explore this. Hirokazu Koreeda’s After Life is a wonderful meditation on a liminal realm between death and resting. According to Japanese Buddhist custom, during the first 49 days after death the soul’s unsettled and wanders. After Life is an update, a solemn and comedic look at what people “do” immediately after death.
Kiki’s Delivery Service is very different — an animation by the famed Hayao Miyazaki. In Japanese lore, ghosts, demons, spirits can be either benevolent or mischievous. Kiki is the former, a magical tour of a 13-year-old “witch” coming of age.
After Life (Japan) 1998,
Kiki's Delivery Service (Japan) 1989, Walt Disney
Programmer, San Diego Asian Film Festival Extreme, sdaff.org
When I decided to put together an extreme program for SDAFF, there were two films that I really wanted but could not get for two entirely different reasons. One, because I couldn’t get a print, and the other because the program needs to be tested first before I can see how far we can go into the underground. So, that said, my picks are Lady Snowblood, a classic Lady Samurai tale that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (just listen to the brilliant score). Great revenge story where a woman gets to carve her up some men!
And then The Undead Pool, also known as Attack Girls’ Swim Team Versus the Undead. Really bloody gory zombies (including one that juggles) with a pinku twist. Definitely qualifies as an extreme film! Wait till you see where one character hides her laser weapon.
Lady Snowblood (Japan) 1973, Animeigo
The Undead Pool (Japan) 2008, ADV Films
List price: $29.98
Vice chairman and board member, San Diego Asian Film Foundation
SDAFF Extreme demonstrates film’s potential to examine the subversive and explore roads less traveled. Here are two classics to prep you for it. In Audition, a widow hosts auditions for a fictitious production to find a wife. Unfortunately, his new lover’s résumé doesn’t check out. Director Takashi Miike hints about his femme fatale early on (you’ll never look at a burlap sack the same way) but he’s after much more as he explores themes of power and obsession. The horrific climax will remain with you long after the closing credits.
In Oldboy, Dae-su’s kidnapped, held captive for 15 years, then suddenly released. Director Chan-Wook Park sets up an intriguing thriller involving dental work via hammer, a knife fight in one take, and the demise of an octopus. But as Dae-su searches for the truth, Park uniquely explores a range of themes from tragedy to irony to redemption.
Audition (Japan) 1999, Lionsgate
Oldboy (South Korea) 2003, Tartan Video