Spanning a staggering 26 films and 100 television episodes over the course of 27 years, the persona of Zatoichi is one of the most prolific characters on screen in film and television industries in post-war Japan – the only legacy that can best Zatoichi is Tora-San, a series spanning 48 installments that were released between 1969 and 1995, but was of vastly different material. Where Zatoichi was concerned with the rough day-to-day affairs of honor and valor through violence and sheer dumb luck, Tora-San, an unlucky but charming bachelor, was bumbling his way through one failed attempt at marriage after another.
Taking place during the Meiji era in Japan, the films of Zatoichi represent a period in Japan’s history where the citizens were introduced to strange Western concepts and innovations that shook their lives due to political decisions that mostly kept the island of Japan isolated from the rest of the world. This isolation led to a corrupt government where the majority of the people, particularly farmers, were left to fend for themselves.
Takeshi Kitano, most notably known for his plethora of Japanese gangster movies, revisits this age-old tale complete with the cliched but intriguing concept of a corrupt government official abusing the people, something to which our ill-fated pseudo hero Zatoichi is no stranger – he became an orphan at the hand of corruption. Kitano who directs and also stars as our blonde and blind hero, creates a world where the weak fight back and sometimes win, of course at the expense of the loss of the lives of family and close friends.
The character of Zatoichi is a representation of the pain and suffering inflicted on the average citizen during these times; an image of an oppressed society that can no longer continue to suffer through a dying and corrupt government. Despite such a multi-centuries’ long anger, we are given a view at a precise and delicate deconstruction of that oppression, thankfully at the hands of a master swordsman. – Pat Vehling
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday, January 26 and 27, at 7:00 and 9:15. You can get your advance tickets here.
We’re in the depths of a brutal Minnesota winter, so it might seem weird to go see a movie about a failed expedition to the South Pole. But Ernest Shackleton’s perilous 1914 journey was an adventure the likes of which we can only imagine today. And the feature film made along the way, Endurance aka South (1920) is an amazing document of that voyage.
Shackleton’s crew wasn’t particularly well equipped. Their wooden ship, the Endurance, wasn’t large. They had no radios, and no way to call for help if things got dicey.
As it turned out, things got very dicey. The Endurance was trapped in ice, its hull crushed, and the crew had to travel by lifeboat and by foot hundreds of miles to safety.
This silent film is rarely screened theatrically, and Dreamland Faces will be providing live musical accompaniment. –Michael Popham
Endurance aka South screens Friday and Saturday, January 9 and 10 at 7:00 and 9:00; and Sunday, January 11 at 5:00 and 7:00. Tickets are $10 for this live musical event and you can purchase tickets here.
Notorious but lovable schockmeister William Castle teams up with a fading Joan Crawford in this dumb, crude but quite entertaining melodrama. Lucy Harbin (Crawford) finds her husband in bed with a another woman. Grabbing an axe, she dispatches them both in a grisly fashion, without realizing that her young daughter Carol (Diane Baker) has witnessed the whole nightmarish scene.
Twenty years later, Carol is an up-and-coming sculptor and is about to be married. She seems to have put her awful childhood behind her, but then she gets word that Lucy is about to be released from the mental hospital. Once Lucy arrives at the home of her brother Bill (Leif Erickson) her eccentric behavior makes it clear that she’s quite far from all right — and when people start getting chopped up with axes, the list of suspects is pretty short!
This is one of the horror films that Crawford made after her late-career success with Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962). While it isn’t the best film of her career, it isn’t the worst (as is often asserted); in fact, she is quite delightful in spite of being asked to play a 25-year-old in a flashback sequence (she was 56 at the time). In any event, Crawford’s career low (1970’s unintentionally hilarious Trog) still lay in the future. –Michael Popham
Strait-Jacket screens Friday and Saturday, January 2 and 3 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, January 4 at 5:00 and 7:00, at the Trylon. We ask any patrons bringing axes to the screening to kindly check them at the box office. Advance tickets are on sale here.
Let’s step into the Wayback machine and see what The New York Times‘ Nina Darnton had to say when Labyrinth premiered on June 27, 1986:
”LABYRINTH,” which opens today at the UA Gemini Twin and other theaters, is the product of an impressive collaboration between its executive producer, George Lucas, who created Chewbacca, Darth Vader and R2D2, and its director, Jim Henson, who created Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and the irrepressible Miss Piggy. The result, a fabulous film about a young girl’s journey into womanhood that uses futuristic technology to illuminate a mythic-style tale, is in many ways a remarkable achievement…
The puppets in ”Labyrinth,” inventively created from the drawings of the conceptual designer Brian Froud, are a long way from Jim Henson’s original Muppets, which used the traditional puppet box. Now they are complicated, highly technical creatures, each requiring about five people to operate, with many of the movements done by remote control. But one of Mr. Henson’s special gifts is producing puppets that are wonderfully human, eccentric and individualistic. As a result his new creations are not cold, automated electronic marvels, but fantastic humanoid creatures inhabiting a newly created world who mirror our own foibles, and so can move us and make us laugh.
The story of the film is a variation on a classic theme from children’s literature. Fifteen-year-old Sarah, in that twilight time when a girl begins to change into a woman, is staying home to care for her baby brother, whom she resents. A girl with an active imagination – her bookshelves are filled with the works of Lewis Carroll, Maurice Sendak and the brothers Grimm – she wishes her brother weren’t her responsibility. ”I wish the goblins would take you away right now,” she says aloud. And they do. The rest of the film is her journey to get him back – through the labyrinth of mazes, puzzles, magic and topsy-turvy twists of logic that must lead her to the center, where the goblin king is holding her brother. David Bowie is perfectly cast as the teasing, tempting seducer whom Sarah must both want and reject in order to learn the labyrinth’s lessons, and his songs add a driving, sensual appeal….
Most of the people who appear in the film work in teams of ”performers” who operate the puppets – a lessening in the need for actors that might interest the Screen Actors Guild. Some of these puppets create memorable characters, such as Hoggle, the ugly gnome who is a coward but conquers his worse nature for love of his friend Sarah. Others are Ludo, a huge, hairy oaf who becomes Sarah’s loyal friend, and Sir Didymus, a tiny hand puppet with the face of a dignified fox terrier who has a touch of Don Quixote in him. He’s a gallant little knight who says lines like ”Don’t worry, we’ve got them surrounded” when the goblins are closing in on him. The script, by Terry Jones, co-creator of ”Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” is witty and slightly zany – a good combination to entertain both children and adults.
Labyrinth screens Friday and Saturday, December 26 and 27 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, December 28 at 5:00 and 7:00 at the Trylon. These shows will be well-attended and are likely to sell out, so we encourage you to purchase your tickets in advance!You can purchase them here.
Here in America it’s always been fashionable to make fun of the French and their zeal for the finer things in life, but everyone knows we secretly envy them. Who wouldn’t want to be a young sexy Parisian, smoking cigarettes, reading Baudelaire and picking up beautiful strangers in picturesque bistros?
It sounds romantic, but it isn’t all champagne and pomme frites for our friends across the ocean. Louis (Louis Garrel), the protagonist of Philippe Garrel’s Jealousy, wants to follow his heart and in so doing starts his own feedback loop of pain and betrayal. He has been living with Clothilde (Rebecca Convenant) and their young daughter (Olga Milshtien), but he’s fallen in love with actress Claudia (Anna Mouglais). One night he leaves Clothilde, in spite of her desperate pleas for him to stay. Clothilde struggles to keep it together for the benefit of her daughter, but she is devastated. Louis and Claudia have a seemingly perfect relationship, but trouble is clearly on the horizon: Claudia is jealous of Louis’ friendships with women, and unhappy with his financial insecurity, and pretty soon she starts looking around for something better.
This romantic drama is shot in black-and-white, which is just what you’d hope from a movie about Parisian lovers. Anna Mouglais stands out with an ethereal beauty and a whisky-and-cigarettes voice, and Olga Milshtien is memorable as the young girl caught in the middle of the grown-ups’ muddled lives. –Michael Popham