Just a quick mention about the state of modern festivals.
The internet is a powerful tool for communicating about films, but it’s a little unfocused. Without the internet, millions of people would never have heard of Miike, for example. But, on the other hand, would that be so bad? What has that mainstream appeal wrought recently? A few years ago, when membership was a bit more scanty, the internet used to be like a finger, pointing you towards missed gems. But now it’s all too much like a shovel, throwing rubbish in your face. You only need to glance at a film schedule this year to see too many festivals with too much trash on the slate.
I’m not just moaning about movies like Machine Girl, but mostly I am. Truth told, these films are utter trash. Have we reached the point where we are appealing to the lowest level, even in our international selection? Is this how studios will pick what films should come West? Certainly it’s not by success. Machine Girl was a total disaster in Japan, as you’d imagine, the people there don’t want to watch rubbish anymore than the people anywhere else do.
So why was it brought across? Because it’s wacky? Almost entirely so. Machine Girl sums up all that the casual audience expects out of Japanese cinema these days. It’s loud, colourful and strange. Limbs might be seperated in a huge gush of blood. A person turns into this or that. There’s violence and a bit of sex.
I heard that a number of people got into French films in the 60s by watching the movies on TV, looking for a bit of nudity. They went looking for the nudity, and they found actually great films which hooked them in as fans many years later. I can’t imagine a teenager watching Tokyo Gore Police or Machine Girl and getting anything out of it but a headache.
Since Ring caught the eye of studios everywhere, Japan has been pumping out truckloads of movies they think the international audience wants. Hence, they beat the horror genre to death and now will happily smother nostalgia. The truth is, the people who are watching are not fans of Japanese cinema, rather they are thrill seekers. They will never be happy with cutting someone in half, unless you cut them in half again.
Takashi Miike might have had a lot of things in mind when he made Ichi the Killer, but I hope he didn’t mean to draw 13 year old gore-hounds to Japanese cinema. Unfortunately, that is what has happened. That’s fine, there is always an audience for it, but festivals ought to be ashamed of themselves.
Will more people turn up to see somekind of genre Japanese gore puddle film? Of course they will. But ought festivals run these pictures? I believe not. 60 years ago, nobody had heard of Akira Kurosawa, until the films started being shown internationally. Luckily, some people decided to spread his genius abroad. Today, can we look on the people releasing the DVD of Machine Girl in the same way? Out of all the films in Japan, did they pick the best to release on disc? Are festivals that dare promote a Japanese program, then only show shock cinema, really representing the country they are talking about?
I wouldn’t like to tell programmers how to do their job, but I can’t imagine how someone can look at the range of Japanese cinema, old and new, and select Machine Girl or Tokyo Gore Police for a screening at a major film festival.