The Festival du nouveau cinéma is on. Here are some of the films screening at the festival over the next few days.
If an all-fighting hip hop musical based on a manga (Santa Inoue’s Tokyo Tribe2) sounds like something that might make you lose your shit, then chances are that Japanese director Sion Sono’s trippy dip into all-rapping madness will cater to your every nerdy whim.
A mix of cult classic The Warriors and something supremely corny like the Step Up franchise, but with the dancing substituted by rapping and gratuitous violence, Tokyo Tribe tells the colourful tale of rival Tokyo gangs and the madman who seems to reign supreme. Big Bubba (insanely played by Riki Takeuchi), the supposed boss in question, mainly enjoys capturing young women, eating their flesh or turning them into “furniture” for his son. Oh, and jacking off a giant dildo (one of the many odd gags). Fuelled by his mad henchman Mera (Ryuhei Suzuki) and his grudge against Kai (Young Dais), the leader of the happy-go-lucky Musashino Saru gang, Bubba announces an all-out war against all gangs.
Spattered blood, cannibalism, gangster rap, sexy topless Japanese girls, white-panty crotch shots and an aesthetic that’s reminiscent of a demented video game: every element is there to assure a madcap, frenzied two hours of non-stop aggressive eye candy, but somehow, an hour in, I found myself bored.
It’s just a bit too long and a bit too repetitive; every funny joke is repeated twice and the rapping loses its steam. One song seems to simply involve the lyrics “Tokyo Tribe, never ever die!” repeated over and over again. Also, since feminism is the new black, I should probably warn that the female characters are mostly present to get their breasts fondled and beg for their cherries to be popped. I walked in expecting pure silliness and a film I would probably love — one falling in the terrible-but-good category — and left just a tad disappointed. On the plus side, you do get a treat for staying until the end in the form of the silliest punchline of the whole film. (Roxane Hudon)
Tokyo Tribe screens at Cineplex Odéon Quartier Latin (350 Émery) 0n Friday, Oct. 10, 4:30 p.m.
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll
John Pirozzi’s doc weaves the history of Cambodian pop music with the political turmoil that surged when the country was drawn first into Cold War politics, and then into the actual war in neighbouring Vietnam.
Starting in the 1950s when the music-loving royal family opened the isolated country up to the world, and musicians began to mix traditional Cambodian sounds with European and Latin pop, the doc follows the influence of rock n’ roll, soul and funk on Cambodian music. Focusing on the careers of locally famous entertainers such as Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Serey Sothea and others, Pirozzi traces the arc of their careers as various musical trends came and went.
During the same period, from the ’50s through the ’70s, the country was undergoing tremendous political upheaval. The monarchy was overthrown in a right-wing military coup; that government was then unseated by the communist Khmer Rouge. The latter, practising a harsh form of Maoism, brutally oppressed artists (among many others), resulting in the “lost” part of the film’s title.
A longtime cinematographer and camera operator, director Pirozzi knows how to craft a nice image. And the musicians’ stories, as a microcosm of the country’s tragic history, give him powerful material to work with. The film is no one’s idea of cinematically innovative, with the usual mixture of talking-head interviews, archival footage and some simple animation of the era’s beautiful record covers. It’s more of a history lesson, but it’s a valuable one; apart from that, music fans curious to discover new international sounds will find much to appreciate. (Malcolm Fraser)
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll screens at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on Saturday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m., and again on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 3:30 p.m., $13
Very few people would have expected Marjane Satrapi to make a movie as demented as The Voices. Satrapi became known for her graphic novel Persepolis, which chronicled her childhood during the Iranian revolution. She co-directed the well-received film adaptation (and a more under-the-radar animation/live-action hybrid titled Chicken With Plums) and then, through some kind of bizarre alchemy, she ended up making this pitch-black comedy about a serial killer whose cat and dog drive him to kill.
Reynolds is Jerry, a disturbed factory worker who decides to stop taking his anti-psychotics because he prefers the bright colours, cheery outlook and murderous comments from his Scottish-accented cat Mr. Whiskers that the sober life brings. When he accidentally murders his beautiful co-worker, he finds himself in a violent spiral where the bodies just keep piling up. The thing that often ends up sinking black comedies is an inconsistency of tone — The Voices doesn’t have that. For what it’s worth, Satrapi keeps the film chugging along as a maniacal, blood-spattered sitcom that never becomes off-putting despite the decapitations and rotting body parts. It’s never quite a mile-a-minute laugh riot, but there’s something to be said for its consistency and drive. This isn’t likely to be a crowd-pleaser, but I certainly admired the dedication. (Alex Rose)
The Voices screens at Cineplex Odéon Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Saturday, Oct. 11, 9:15 p.m., $13
The Festival du nouveau cinéma runs through Oct. 19. See the complete program here.