Two Heart Day rentals.

Shall We Dance (1997)

Written and Directed by Masayuki Suo. Featuring: Shohei Sugiyama, Mai Kishikawa

Are you ready for the Japanese title of this one? Shall We Dansu? I love that malleable language they’ve got over there. That and the toys…

Anyway, if you are at all romantic or just want to appear that way to impress that special someone, pop this one in the VCR and then get the hell out of the way because the “Aw, that’s so sweet” train is going to be pulling into the station in short order.

One of my favorite films of the 90s, Shall We Dance tells the story of an overworked accountant who signs up for ballroom dance classes in order to meet the lovely (and she is lovely) dance instructor he spies one night on the train. Charming, affirming and very funny the film features a strong cast, a wonderful story and never strays into the greeting card schmaltz one would expect from a similar film made in the States.

Highly recommended.

Gates of Flesh (1964)

Directed by Seijun Suzuki Featuring: Jo Shishido
Japanese cinema is occasionally pretty fucked up. No filmmaker is more representative of that fact than Seijun Suzuki. Bitter, satiric and filmed in a hallucinogenic style, Suzuki’s films are a unique blend of sex, violence and surreal humor. Kind of like David Lynch, but 30 years earlier, Japanese and stronger visually.

Anyway, Suzuki made this film 3 years before he was fired from by Nikkatsu for directing one of the most twisted films ever made, Branded to Kill. Watching Gates of Flesh you wonder how he survived that long as this film is lurid, raw, full of pulp style S&M and wouldn’t have made it any where near theaters here in the States.

I’m not sure it would be released now.

The film tells the story of a closely knit band of prostitutes in post-war Japan who live by a strict, self-enforced code. Punishment, in this particular sociological model, is meted out in the form of bondage and torture. The appearance of Joe Shishido (who was also the star of the later Branded to Kill.) upsets the delicate balance of the operation and the perversion strewn aftermath is the engine that drives the film.

Recommended, although admittedly it’s not for everybody.

Of unknown provenance. Presumably published some time in the early 2000s.