• Blue Spring

    Blue Spring

    ★★★½

    Teenage angst without release turns into nihilism which overwhelms everything it touches in this imaginative twist on a familiar story of adolescents unable to find a purpose. A high school structure becomes akin to an organised crime hierarchy where the angry and the disillusioned intermingle as the campus proves to be an almost lawless state; these wayward youths realise too late that they weren't able to grasp their one route to success and can only descend into despondency at the…

  • Pornostar

    Pornostar

    ★★★★

    Violent pessimism washes over Toshiaki Toyoda's strikingly dingy feature debut which inventively uses one man's psychotic path of aimless destruction to shine a light on the emptiness spreading throughout an entire generation. Similarly to many other Japanese films from the time, the economic disparity and social unrest that had been simmering away in the country during the previous decade plays a crucial role in shaping the bruised outlook; for people like the unhinged Arano (played with chilling intensity by Chihara…

  • Breathless

    Breathless

    ★★★½

    The candid manner in which this film looks at the lingering effects of childhood trauma and emotional abuse should be commended. It pulls no punches in portraying its lead character Sang-hoon as an unstable figure consumed by his past who lashes out at anyone in his vicinity, aptly capturing the disturbing depths people can plunge to when battling their inner demons and the violent cycles they inadvertently perpetuate. Broken individuals will always gravitate towards those who share their pain as…

  • Kikujiro

    Kikujiro

    ★★★★½

    Profoundly heartwarming and consistently funny without ever shying away from the deep sadness which permeates the lives of those who feel like they can't find a place to belong in society, this is Takeshi Kitano striking a wonderful balance between his playful and melancholy tendencies. It focuses on a quiet young boy taken across the country to find his mother by the exceedingly truculent titular character as we witness the madcap antics they engage in and the eccentric people they…

  • Fireworks

    Fireworks

    ★★★★

    Without having to alter his trademark stylistic choices too significantly, Takeshi Kitano turns this crime drama into a deeply contemplative and humane look at people resigned to accepting the cruel hand they've been dealt. Former detective Nishi is submerged in despondency, reeling from a tragedy on the job and his wife's terminal illness, to the point where reckleness and violence become a natural reaction to help alleviate his overwhelming anguish. His turmoil is an effective depiction of someone succumbing to…

  • Kids Return

    Kids Return

    ★★★★½

    Takeshi Kitano has an exceptional skill for underlining the wistful emotions that often lie behind dynamic pursuits, something which is used to superb effect in this charting of the tough transition into adulthood that befalls two rudderless teenage friends as one takes up boxing and the other joins the local yakuza. It's such a compassionate depiction of the difficulties people face when trying to break free from the limitations placed upon them by society, vividly capturing our susceptibility to external…

  • A Scene at the Sea

    A Scene at the Sea

    ★★★½

    A pleasant change of pace for Takeshi Kitano which sees him discarding the hostility and violence that dominated his preceding works for a gentle slice of life story focusing on the relationship between a deaf couple when one takes up surfing. It's more than content to coast along on the tranquil atmosphere it crafts via the understated interactions and exquisite scenery; there's little in the way of narrative propulsion, the dialogue is sparse and the sensitive emotions are often accentuated…

  • Boiling Point

    Boiling Point

    ★★½

    While there's still things to enjoy in Takeshi Kitano's sophomore effort, it does ultimately feel too disorderly and unrefined to function as intended. The standout aspect is once again the odd mood he creates that moves seamlessly between relaxed and uncomfortable, the calm repetition found in activities like baseball frequently interrupted by the darkly humorous and violent altercations as listless youths mix with unmerciful gangsters. As well as adding visual appeal, the sunny cinematography and picturesque locations fittingly juxtapose the…

  • Violent Cop

    Violent Cop

    ★★★

    It's always interesting to see a director's debut where their distinctive style is already in place, something quite clear with Takeshi Kitano's typically offbeat take on the cop who plays by his own rules. He imbues an almost leisurely quality to this narrative (through merging long takes, deadpan comedic moments and a buoyant score) which is often strikingly pierced by the harsh violence dished out by the morally corrupt characters; brutality is intrinsic when a person is involved with the…

  • Haze

    Haze

    ★★★

    Claustrophobic nightmare fuel from Shinya Tsukamoto in which he also stars as a disorientated man who finds himself trapped in confined, labyrinthine tunnels with no means to escape. Who is he? Why has he been imprisoned? Any deeper explanations are avoided entirely in favour of purely visceral chills which seek to convey the overwhelming confusion provided by the premise. The unease is effectively evoked through the excellent sound design and grainy textures, in the way that fingers claw at concrete…

  • The Long Day Closes

    The Long Day Closes

    ★★★

    Another poetic, semi-autobiographical reflection on childhood and family from Terence Davies. It revolves around a meek boy named Bud growing up in 1950s Liverpool who finds solace from a drab existence through the wonders that cinema can bring to the imagination, strikingly juxtaposing the warmth he receives from escaping reality with the isolation he often feels around his relatives and the hostility ever-present in the outside world. Less a straightforward overview, more various small phases in a youth's life pieced…

  • Distant Voices, Still Lives

    Distant Voices, Still Lives

    ★★★

    There's so much to appreciate about this film that I almost feel guilty for not liking it more. I myself can recognise the culture of this generation as my own grandfather's upbringing in post-war Liverpool was extremely similar to the one shared by these three siblings. It so vividly replicates the rhythm which guided the conversations, the ironic sense of humour born through adversity and the emphasis on a close-knit community; the fragmented narrative is like memories fading in and…