So, I'm a girl, and I like violent, action packed Japanese movies. No, I'm not a tomboy, I am attracted to guys and am an all round girly girl. But there is just something that intrigues me about Japanese films that nothing out of the United States, Canada or United Kingdom could ever offer me. Sure, we have the timeless classics like Toy Story and Back to the Future, or more recent heartwarming films such as the independent film Keith (2008), but anyone who knows their Japanese films will surely agree with me that, in general, the quirkiness and strange nature of Japanese film and humor in general is hard for any western writer, producer or director to replicate. And besides, why would they want to? Hollywood is proud of its film repertoire, and rightly so.
Japanese films aren't all violent: How about Hideaki Anno's Love and Pop - a bizarre tale of a girl who goes on a series of phone organised 'play dates' with older working men, so that she can buy a ring she comes across at a local mall. There isn't really much of a plot, or indeed much meaning, until the end, where she finds herself having learned the great lesson, "don't prostitute yourself, even if you want to buy something really bad", as a result of a pseudo-rape at the hands of a client.
I am, like most girls, slightly ADD in terms of my films: if it doesn't grip me almost immediately, I space out. Old Japanese films, much like old western films, don't really entertain me, despite their recognition worldwide as classics. For example, my grandmother absolutely adored the film Zulu, and it is widely regarded as one of the world's classics, but I just don't like it, plain and simple. Having grown up in that decade, I'm more of a 90s kinda gal, with a dash of the new millennium just for good measure.
However, it has to be said, the best Japanese films are invariably peppered with graphic violence. Of course, I'm not so sick as to enjoy watching an hour and a half of constant blood and gore, but the occasional battle intertwined within a twisted, gripping plot is something which all of the best Japanese films invariably possess. Take the classic Battle Royale: Everybody knows it has deep meaning behind the inevitable bloodbath. I just love the cold, harsh reality of this kind of game that hopefully will never happen: it's like a film version of Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. Girls who claim they are friends in the normal school environment end up poisoning and shooting eachother in the game, as the true nature of their friendship is exposed. And that's what this film is all about: true love, true friendship. That between Noriko and Nanahara is true love: sacrificing all for your soulmate; and Kawada's relationship with those two is another kind of love, also known as friendship.
But my favorite J-film of all time has to be the more recent Love Exposure, written and directed by Sion Sono. At over 4 hours long, it is one of those once in a lifetime films, and a piece of art that is extremely hard to summarize in one sentence. It is on the one hand extremely funny, tongue in cheek and ridiculously bizarre; on the other, it is a serious, epic tale about true love, cult religion and childhood trauma, and the disastrous effects this can have in later life (surely a nod to the writer/director's own painful childhood). Once I saw Love Exposure, I quickly went and bought Sion Sono's other works, such as Suicide Club and Noriko's Dinner Table.