Archive for May, 2013

How not to enjoy a film!!

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A little pep talk!!!

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The Terracotta Distribution Back Catalogue Challenge 2

So I have taken it upon myself to watch every film in Terracotta’s back catalogue. How will I be a UK leading expert in South East Asian Cinema if I’m not totally up to date with what’s being released by the main distributor in the country. I want to nice and up to date for the start of my studies in September 2013.

Second Film up is Return to Burma

Now this film has a bit of a personal touch as I wanted to learn more about Burma, the country where my Mothers lineage is from. My great gran parents left Burma for a better life settling in Malaysia before my Mother herself went on the same journey to England. I knew a little about Burma from my travels in 2007, that it had a military dictatorship and was full of civil unrest and poverty. In November 2007 you may remember the news about police beating monks because of their silent protests but accusing the monks of hiding stashes of weapons. Well at the time many Burmese were trying to escape particularly children trying to get a better quality of life. How do I know this well December 2007 I moved to a small village called Maesai on the Thai/Burma border and did volunteer work for a children’s shelter working to rescue and protect the children coming over the Burmese border. A lot was happening, the area was full of child trafficking, some of my girls had indeed been rescued from that life, the effects of the golden triangle and its opium production and dissatisfied Burmese youths desperate for another life. Without work a lot of youngsters have taken to substance abuse and the bridge between the two countries was a place to find young children sniffing glue trying to get the kinds of high they witnessed their parents on from opium. Now I don’t speak Thai or Burmese so it was hard to communicate as the only foreigner but the children would act their stories, some left with parents’ consent, some taken and some no choice but to leave. Well the Burmese military did not like this exodus of its youth and laid traps on its borders.

I will never forget the story of a boy named lousu and how he tried to escape via the forest but stepped in a bare trap; he was rescued and brought to the shelter now living a good life. He showed me his scars but he was full of life and energy now that he had some real prospects. All children rescued from Burma are given Thai citizen cards and basic education to give them a chance at a new life. It is also a fact that tribal peoples in Burma like the nomadic Ahka found in China, Burma, Laos and Thailand are not given Burmese citizenship and therefore are not allowed to work making their lives even more difficult. It was a difficult time I have seen and heard things most will never know. I was however able to take a day trip into the Burmese side.

Lousu the boy I’ll never forget!

Now this isn’t the safest idea especially at the time but my passion and curiosity of South East Asian cultures was too strong for me not to. At the time Burma was still a closed country so there were strict rules to follow like surrendering your passport to border control which they replace with a visitors card. This card states the maximum time you’re allowed to stay plus the maximum distance you can travel from the border as places like Rangoon were off limits. What I found was amongst the tourist traps of being taken to gold stores and markets, was delicious food and amazing architecture. The Wat’s in Burma are beautiful and I would give anything to go back there and discover more about this Country.

But enough about me Return to Burma hit a nerve and made me relive a whole period of my life. Return to Burma is from the point of view of Xing-Hong, an immigrant labourer in Taiwan. He saves his money after hearing that Burma is holding its first elections and believes that a new age of prosperity is coming so buys a plane ticket home. Unfortunately it’s not the way, finding a job is hard and the youngsters are despondent. Most want to work abroad in places like Europe they long for a better future. To Xing-Hong credit he doesn’t want to neglect his home but continue to try and support its economy. This is a sombre documentary focusing on the youth and how dissatisfied they are. You can also see the effect of having a military rule has on a country and children play with guns pretending to shot and kill each other. They play war in the dirt roads no wonder so many tried to go to Thailand to get a better life. Burma like so many of these countries that have been plagued by tragedy and their government ruling them through strength and terror longs to be more. Burma like places like Cambodia have been neglected yet when you look past the low poverty line you find such rich culture.

This is the beauty and the melancholy of this film while Xing-Hong discovers a country not as he imagines he finds a family to return to and people who are friendly. You see both the despondent nature of the youth wishing for a better life but also the culture of Burma snippets of traditional life and art that are magic to those not from there. An anthem of prosperity and joy plays throughout an uplifting tune sung by all and a complete juxtaposition to the reality of Burmese society. The most perfect example of the beauty and juxtaposition between traditional Burma and modern Burma is scene of monks passing under a beautiful archway. This is a country with a rich history and culture with strong religious beliefs and amazing architecture that also hasn’t found a place in its society for the new youth cultures, the new workers those that dream of a modern world. I still believe there is hidden magic in Burma and maybe opening itself up to tourism will create more work for the youth culture I just hope it doesn’t come in the form of a McDonalds!!!

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The Terracotta Distribution Back Catalogue Challenge 1

So I have taken it upon myself to watch every film in Terracotta’s back catalogue. How will I be a UK leading expert in South East Asian Cinema if I’m not totally up to date with what’s being released by the main distributor in the country. I want to nice and up to date for the start of my studies in September 2013.

First film up is Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack
The plot is pretty simple to start, 3 friends on holiday before graduation head to the coast and are plagued by a rotten fish smell at their summer home. They soon discover and small mutated fish with legs that they kill and throw out. Thinking this is the end of it turns out to be a mistake as a shark with legs is lurking and goes on the attack. They escape its attack only to discover legion after legion of legged fish are leaving the sea and their fight for survival has only just begun!

Things escalate pretty fast at first the fish being a curiosity to the public then a menace as they disrupt transport and infrastructure. The movie breaks into two storylines; Koari our brave and noble female lead takes the first flight back to Tokyo on a mission to save her Fiancé. Meanwhile back at the summer house slutty Erika is dealing with the mess in her own way by ignoring it favour of fooling around. In true horror staple don’t have sex, you meet a horrible end and Erika’s is truly awful. Turns out a scratch by the mutant fish spear like legs turns you into a rotting overinflated living corpse, swollen and grotesque, producing a vile smell described like human corpses and rotting fish. But then starts a conflict between Erika and friend Aki. Whose nerves have been shattered and feeling abandoned and betrayed has started to lose the plot culminating in a harsh character assassination on Erika before beating her in with an ashtray. But this isn’t the most horrific part as things begin to get truly horrific and out of control.

This is not a film for the faint hearted and the escalation of the grotesque is truly something. The movie is an adaptation of a Junji Ito manga and he is the man that brought us Uzumaki and Tomie. I have in fact many years ago seen these films and they are quite something. They merge the horrific and grotesque with the insane and unpredictable. You either love these films or hate them and since I enjoy a bit of horror, macabre and the aesthetics of the grotesque this work and his previous movies have appealed to me. Gyo however had me really thinking hard whether to turn away, its one thing to see a swollen mutating girl spew gas from her mouth and arse it’s another to see girl merge with fish carcass leg structure as weird tubes are forced into her mouth and anus. This is the worst kind of forced fellatio!!!!

The reason I did enjoy this movie is that it has a strong plot, there’s a reason to what’s happening and a natural evolution to the events of the film. I’ll try not to spoil the plot too much as it’s a clever and in depth one but I know I can get carried away when describing things. The basics are crazy scientists creates bacterial gas that can be used as a biological weapon. Experimentation takes place on a remote island then abandoned. Fish get infected but it’s not truly a mutation instead the gas, a rotten mixture that smells like corpses and may have developed a mind of its own, has used material found in the sea to make legged structures attaching itself to the fish. And there you have it walking fish; if only it stopped there this movie would be very different and if it had been an American film then the military would have saved us all. No such luck as the fish hosts decompose and explode the scaffolds are left behind so that the next thing infected can get strapped into them and power their crazy rampage.

Oh yes this movie goes from gross to disturbing to just mind blowing oh god insanity. There should be some test on scientists so they’re not allowed to experiment with mutant gas that rots, mutates and sends people crazy. By the time the fish are dying there’s so many infected people that the scaffolds just uses their strange tubes to combine them hence the mouth and arse rape of hideous bloated people. Despite all, friends Aki and Erika’s disagreement comes to a head, Aki resents Erika for being slim and pretty and getting the boys even though Aki has too low self-esteem to overcome. As Erika suffers Aki feels a sense of superiority finally not the fattest one in the group, nothing like a tough situation to bring out the best in people and to learn who your friends really are. Aki sees her opportunity to get her revenge on Erika for feeling fat, left out and boring but doesn’t take the time to listen to Erika that despite her behaviour sometimes and Aki’s attitude about herself she wouldn’t have hung out with her if they weren’t friends. This is a test of friendship that fails as Aki soon finds herself in trouble and no matter how much she begs Erika has forsaken their friendship.

We are left with Kaori who has teamed up with a cameraman she met on the plane called Shirakawa. They fight their way through Tokyo escaping sharks and Giant squids only to discover crazy scientist has turned Kaori’s fiancée into a prototype walker powered by the gas, a more mechanical lab based version of the evolved scaffolds running lose in Tokyo. Kaori isn’t one to give up, convinced there must be some humanity left she chases after her mutated infected Fiancée Tadashi. Now you can tell this film was never going to have a happy ending, no miracle cure or military force strong enough. There’s no way you can fight against an evil cloud of disturbing gas that infects and destroys all in its path. This is pretty much one of those films where you can safely say it’s the end of the world. As the human scaffold corpses, rotting, abominations they are start to merge together its pretty much lights out for humanity. But only in a film so disturbing would it end with a view of the gas swirling into the sky making beautiful patterns and colours and when asked about the smell the reply “I’m already used to it”.


As I’ve said this film isn’t for the faint hearted but it’s also not to be mocked or ridiculed. It has its fair share of controversial material but I don’t feel anything was done just to shock and offend people. Everything seen was shown for a reason mostly to help us the viewer understand the mechanics of the scaffold and the workings of the gas. The film wanted us to see the horror of bio bacterial weaponry and how ill prepared humanity is. The film shows us the harsh realities of how people behave when in crisis and the harsher truth that people easily get used to things they shouldn’t and that something horrendous soon becomes the norm. I may not be eating fish for a little while which will be hard as I’m pescaterian so I’ll be sticking to foods that don’t mutate like vegetables. I will however recommend this film to anyone who does like a horror that not only disturbs you visually and mentally but also is so surreally engaging you are left wanting to find out more. I for one have more questions and want to see how the world copes with this epidemic. I do enjoy a bit of the deconstruction of people both physically and mentally and this film does this well.

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