Joel and Ethan Coen are among my favorite contemporary film makers, so when I heard that they had a new film out, Hail, Caesar! (2016) I didn't hesitate to make a rare visit to the theaters in Tokyo to see it. It is mostly a homage to the old Hollywood studio days with tributes to the films, personalities, the writers, the politics of the time (communism), the bigger than life bosses and the stars and their tawdry lives that were kept under wraps. The film is essentially seen through the eyes of studio chief Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), who is constantly putting out fires and making sure all of the films are being finished despite the many problems that emerge during the productions. One of the biggest is that his lead actor on his prestige biblical film, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a group calling itself "The Future," causing headache for the completion of the film. There are several entertaining films with in the film that are homage to the factory machine -like production of the big studio days: the singing cowboy action hero Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), the Gene Kelly-like dancer Burt Gurney( Channing Tatum), the swimming beauty DeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johanasson),etc. There are great cameos throughout, and they employ regular cinematographer Roger Deakins. It was a real treat to see it on the big screen. Perhaps the message of the film was somewhat muddled, but that's OK-it works as pure entertainment for me. I am rarely disappointed by the Coens (although it does happen: The Ladykillers and Burn After Reading come to mind), and this was no exception.
There recently was a feature on Japanese action director Kinji Fukakatsu in Film Comment, that inspired me to track down some of the movies I hadn't seen, which is what led me to Yakuza Graveyard (1976). This film stars Tetsuya Watari as Kuriowa, a cop with ties to the yakuza-he gets caught up in between rival factions during a war. The Nishida family has a formidable female boss played by Lady Snowblood herself, Mieko Kaji. Kuriowa is dating the drug addicted prostitute former girlfriend of a yakuza he killed in the line of duty. Kuriowa follows his own code and feels no allegiance to either the cops or the yakuza. Fukasaku is known as a impresario of violence and employs his trademark hand held camera during the fight scenes. The period details added to the enjoyment of this film for me.
Apparently every year there is an event held in Asagaya, Asagaya Nomiya Matsuri, designed to get people visiting the areas many restaurants and bars. There are one, two day and three day passes-this year the festival spans May 10-12. The pass allows the wearer to get a free beverage (usually from a special menu) at participating shops. This is the ticket center on Star Road.
I started out with the know at craft beer bar Wash1n with a glass of Coredo Marihana.
Next up Oolong hai (shochu and ice tea) with some moyashi namaru at Tochan, a yakitori shop.
Upstairs from Wash1n, Robata Fu Fu Fu, is where I had some nihonshu, Hitakami from Miyagi.
Then onto an izakaya, Shosai Hanahi where a draft beer was the choice.
This street on the south side of the station is like a mini Golden Gai (Shinjuku)-full of small bars and restaurants.
Another Ooloing hai at Sayaban (garlic shochu in the background).
Deep fried shrimp to go with the drink Kushiaki Tochan.
Star Road-next to the train tracks.
Tokyo Gurrechi with draft beer and cucumber with miso.
My local bottle shop, Mitsuya was also on the bill with small glasses of drat, Edilpils this night.
The fountain on the south side of Asagaya station.
There's usually a lineup at Hatsune for two reasons-it has some mighty fine tanmen and it only has six seats. Since it's known for the tanmen I got it for ¥780, and it was a very nice light broth with loads of fresh vegetables.
Changing jobs unsettled my schedule of part time jobs as well, so I had to quit two long time jobs (Nihon University's School of Industrial Technology in Chiba and Musashi University in Egota). However, I picked up a new job at Kyoritsu University in central Tokyo nestled in between the Imperial Palace and the Jimbocho district (know for its used booksellers).
In some ways, Ming-liang Tsai's 1997 film, The River, is typical in the depiction of Tsai's themes and motifs. It is another look at modern alienation and disconnect within the city that features little dialogue, rain and water, scenes of mundane everyday activities-eating, sleeping, using the toilet, etc. juxtaposed with joyless sex and unfulfilled emotional lives throughout the duration of the film. It chronicles a dysfunctional family that barely operates as a cohesive unit, but the parents are forced to deal with their son's possible pyschosomatic neck injury that is debilitating. The parents are in a sexless, and probably loveless marriage, but soldier on seeking gratification outside the home. Perhaps, this is what sets the film apart from the others I have seen-the bleakness, the lack of hope, change, redemption or hope for the broken family that endures instead of living joyfully in the present. I read a comment about the film that compared Wong Kar-wai to Godard and Tsai to Antonioni, which seems like a fair comparison to me. Tsai like the Italian neo-realist is excellent in depicting the cold, alienation of the modern city and technology as well as industry creeping into modern life which is full of people unable to connect with one another.
I've read a couple reviews about Camelback located in Kamiyamacho near Yoyogi Park, so I decided to stop by last weekend. Artisanal sandwiches and great coffee, but only take-out and outdoor seating available. I got the bacon pepper sandwich, which was under ¥1000.