John_Lehtonen has written 112 reviews for films with no rating.

  • Eyes of the Spider

    Eyes of the Spider

    "Charisma came out in ’99, Pulse was 2000, and I think the vague idea I had at the time was that we were really on the cusp of a new century. The idea was to abandon, by destroying everything from the 20th century in order to head into a good, new future. It wasn’t that the apocalyptic vision was negative or despairing, it was positive, a way to get rid of old baggage."

    -Kurosawa, in conversation with Reverse Shot

    "On…

  • The Revenge: A Scar That Never Disappears

    The Revenge: A Scar That Never Disappears

    Like its predecessor, more dark ambient play with genre frameworks, but a move away from the classical arc there. We're still in familiar territory — avenger gone dark, mirroring between Law and Criminality — but de-centered from driving narrative purpose. One of Kurosawa's most outwardly despairing, essentially Eyes of the Spider without that film's quietly radical tonal experiments or transvaluing humor, it's a film on entropy, for institutions and individuals alike, told in a series of rhymes between two declining…

  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Hero

    Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Hero

    “My encounter with Sho Aikawa was very significant. At the time he was a brand unto himself: it wasn’t about the story or the character, it was about him. He was a genre in himself; ‘Sho Aikawa-starring V-cinema’ was already a genre. That gave me an incredible freedom, because that was the fundamental element of the fiction I was creating. Aikawa himself turned out to be incredibly flexible and multifaceted. We would shoot scenes without written dialogue and have him…

  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Nouveau Riche

    Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Nouveau Riche

    Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself 1-5 is like the same song played with variations, each giving Kurosawa opportunities to stretch his generic vocabulary (he stages an impressive collection of standoffs and drug deals), each finding their own pockets of melancholy and joie de vivre.

    The Nouveau Riche is the most farcical, with a MacGuffin that multiplies itself and then vanishes well before the conclusion, and yakuza that cancel each other out in a comic twist on similar set-piece ideas in…

  • Door 3

    Door 3

    On the dangers of hot people / "I can't love, but I like being loved."

    Thematically transitional, sharing themes with both The Guard from the Underground (horror of office politics, more specifically office sexual politics) and Cure (concerns over "animal magnetism", manipulation, and questioning "self" wrt to those two factors), but a definitive step towards formal control and the shaping of an individual aesthetic. The long takes here are particularly impressive, power games expressed through blocking, emotional ambiguity through the…

  • The Hitcher

    The Hitcher

    This risks being both too clever and too thin, and unspools some tension with its pyrotechnics, but I'm comfortable calling it one of the great genre films of the 80s. A distillation of American myth and culture of the preceding decades — the road, cars, leather jackets, fascist police, generational division, roving serial killers and roadside diners — into propulsive, hyper-physical genre cinema, a western shot through with horror. Instead of perpetual renewal and actualization the landscape now spits your…

  • Pompeii

    Pompeii

    Probably the best Titanic remake that'll ever be made. Not because W.S. matches the '97 film's technical splendor, or the populist heights of its romance, but because the natural disaster is more directly wedded to the film's affective movement. A series of grace notes and gestures under tyranny, consummated by apocalypse: the mercy-killing of a beast of burden; a passionate shared glance across lines of class; two slaves sharing names and memories of their families as earthquakes rattle their cell.…

  • Retribution

    Retribution

    Kurosawa's main innovation on the Nakagawa vengeful ghost formula (think Black Cat Mansion, which also makes a concluding reference to proper burial) is an updating, first an foremost, of the imagery attendant. It's still rain and ruins, but abandoned sanitariums and empty lots instead of old castles or artificial villages. His urban montage brings Gothic brooding into a fresh space — a character may still take a cursed ferry ride, but now straight through the heart of a metropolis.

    He…

  • Exorcist II: The Heretic

    Exorcist II: The Heretic

    I'm always intoxicated by this film's gonzo and highly intuitive mixture of science and faith, rejecting the usual antagonism between the two, reaching instead towards reconciliation or even mutual dependence. It doesn't entirely make sense but is all the more glorious for it. Belabored exposition is junked, we're expected to believe the hypnotized can lead the hypnotist, that dreams and memories can literally be shared, that the world can be leapt over immediately via this link between technology and the…

  • A Bay of Blood

    A Bay of Blood

    You have to rely on instinct in certain situations.

    A Bay of Blood is another circuit of death, like Blood and Black Lace and Five Dolls for an August Moon, tracing the violent schemes of people vying for a McGuffin/property. The preceding films play cynical games with shared complicity and multiple guilty characters, but A Bay of Blood pushes this to farcical proportions. Here, almost everyone is a killer, not just a node of guilt. Both Italian titles are more…

  • Absence of the Good

    Absence of the Good

    "Absence of the Good is all about family. It’s about the damage that can be done to a person by his family... It’s almost a genealogical detective story..." — John Flynn

    A serial killer film predicated on muted sadness and winter light. While Flynn can't fully transcend its TV Movie-ness, particularly in the handling of the wife's arc, he wrests it away from the typical sensationalism of the subject and its predictable standbys. Rather than expressionist shadows or ghoulish art…

  • The Exorcist

    The Exorcist

    I've always resisted this, out of a three-pronged disinterest in Church propaganda, demonic-possession horror, and the cinema of William Friedkin, but was won over completely this time by its modulation alone. Almost perfectly sequenced slow-burn, expansive horror, jumping continents, building fear with sonic details and suggestive juxtapositions, bits of associative montage that draw horror out of everyday detail (the nearly wordless opening ten (my favorite stretch of filmmaking in the director's career); the encounter between Karras and a homeless man;…