This week finally sees the North American release of the Ben Mendelsohn-Rooney Mara drama Una, which Walter Chaw reviewed at last year's Telluride. The Florida Project also begins trickling into theatres today; Angelo Muredda covered it for TIFF. And I hear there's a sequel to Blade Runner?
***½/**** starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green directed by Denis Villeneuve
by Walter Chaw Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 is oblique without inspiring contemplation, less a blank slate or a Rorschach than an expository nullity. It's opaque. There are ideas here that are interesting and inspired by the original film and Philip K. Dick source material, but they've all been worked through in better and countless iterations also inspired by the original film and Philip K. Dick. The best sequel to Blade Runner is Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, with a long sidelong glance at Under the Skin, perhaps--and Her, too. All three films are referenced in Blade Runner 2049 without their relative freshness or, what is it, yearning? There aren't any questions left for Villeneuve's picture, really, just cosmological, existential kōans of the kind thrown around 101 courses taught by favourite professors and at late-night coffee shops and whiskey bars. Yet as that, and only that, Blade Runner 2049 is effective, even brilliant. It's a tremendous adaptation of a Kafka novel (a couple of them), about individuals without an identity in tension against a faceless system intent on keeping it that way. It has echoes of I Am Legend in the suggestion that the future doesn't belong to Man, as well as echoes of Spielberg's A.I. and its intimate autopsy of human connection and love, but it lacks their sense of discovery, of surprise, ultimately of pathos. This is a film about whimpers.
EROS + MASSACRE (1969) ****/**** Director's Cut: Image B+ Sound B Extras B- Theatrical Version: Image B Sound B Extras B starring Mariko Okada, Toshiyuji Hosokawa, Yûko Kusunoki, Etsushi Takahashi written by Masahiro Yamada & Yoshishige Yoshida directed by Yoshishige Yoshida
HEROIC PURGATORY (1970) ***/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B starring Mariko Okada, Kaizo Kamoda, Naho Kimura, Yoshiaki Makita written by Masahiro Yamada directed by Yoshishige Yoshida
COUP D'ETAT (1973) ***½/**** Image B+ Sound B Extras B starring Rentarô Mikuni, Yasuo Miyake, Akiko Kurano, Tadahiko Sugano written by Minoru Betsuyaku directed by Yoshishige Yoshida
by Bryant Frazer In director Yoshishige Yoshida's restlessly erotic trio of films dealing with Japanese radicalism (aptly dubbed "Love + Anarchism" by Arrow Films), past and present merge as easily and ineluctably as the personal and the political. Released between 1969 and 1973, they were made at a politically turbulent time in Japan, when the New Left movement gained social currency and student anarchists, the Zengakuren, challenged the status quo by occupying buildings at universities and high schools around the country. In that conflict between anarchy and order, Yoshida saw reflections of Japan's past--earlier generations of radicals who challenged societal structures in the same way that new activists were pushing back against contemporary norms. Yoshida was not inspired to make anything as simple as a series of biopics or historical dramas; instead, he embarked on a series of formally elaborate films that evaluated the struggles of radicals and would-be revolutionaries from decades past in light of the then-current political moment.