Thursday, April 24, 2008

This Weekend Only: Nikkatsu Action Invades Los Angeles!

Hey you, citizens of Los Angeles! Yeah, I'm talking to you!

This weekend only, the American Cinematheque will be showing six rarely screened Nikkatsu action films of the late 60s that have been making the rounds of the festivals (like Fantastic Fest) and screening societies over the last few months and are all very much worth seeing: GANGSTER V.I.P.; THE VELVET HUSTLER; MY COLT IS MY PASSPORT; GLASS JOHNNY LOOKS LIKE A BEAST; THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS; and ROUGHNECK. None of these movies ever screened in the U.S. until last year and none of them are available on DVD even in their home country, making these screenings all the more special. What's especially unique about these screenings is that the prints of all of these films come straight from Japan but without any subtitles, so subs are being provided via computer, specifically the laptop of my pal Marc Walkow of Outcast Cinema, who will no doubt have very tired fingers once the weekend is over. If you go, feel free to kick him in the ass and say it's from me. Seriously, he'll have no problem with that.

Now, in truth, I've only seen some of the films showing (GANGSTER V.I.P.; VELVET HUSTLER; MY COLT IS MY PASSPORT and THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS), but I liked them all and wouldn't be recommending the series to you if I didn't. These flicks are all dripping in coolness, and it's a real, fresh coolness from another time, era, and place that no amount of fanboy fakeness could ever duplicate. The first three are gangster films (pretty obvious from those titles) and what's interesting about them to me is how they're from an era in Japanese cinema when the walls of self-censorship was just starting to break down and the influence of western culture (rock, jazz, French, British and American film noir and crime cinema) but what we get is so distinctly Japanese that is really does feel like something new and exciting. Even if you know other gangster pictures of the era (the Suzuki and Fukasaku films) the style behind these films still makes them stand out from many other films of the same type. Even better is THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS (also known as THE WARPED ONES), a crime film in only the loosest sense of the term, much more influenced by Godard, BREATHLESS and THE WILD ONE than anything else. But it also stands out to me as one of the few films directly influenced by one classic that becomes a classic on its own. I like BREATHLESS well enough, but I found THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS to be even more exciting a film, one with a tremendous life to it that moves out into the audience and leaves you with a great buzz. It feels like it captures not just the excitement of the era, that idea that things were indeed about to change, but it shows you how Japan took to it in a manner that we could never really appreciate until we see it through their eyes. This one truly is a must-see and if enough people catch on it could become a classic in its own right.

Anyway, if you're in Los Angeles and want to know what to with yourself this weekend, I just told you. Seriously, make sure you catch a few of these while you can. It's not like there's some big music festival in town or anything.

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