Monday, September 11, 2006


I recently visited Odd Obsession Movies at its new location (incidentally, it's now open on Mondays), and saw a couple of Japanese movies of interest. The first was Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space, an enigmatic but imaginative film directed by a duo that calls themselves t.o.L. It's animated, but it's made as if the last fifty years of anime didn't exist: the primary influence on the animation seems to be American cartoons of the 1930s (like most of these, it's mainly in black and white), with a bit of Peter Max thrown in. There are also brief interludes of full-color, hyper-realistic 3-D animation. There is a dense network of repeated images, so dense that they can't all be absorbed in a single viewing (I watched it twice). As to the plot, the film's first half is devoted to the adventures of the title character, a cute but foul-mouthed female cat from Cat Earth. The second half shifts the focus to Michelangelo, a cat Tamala met on the Planet Q. To say much about the plot of this half would be to spoil it, but it's derived in part from The Crying of Lot 49, and has similarities to Serial Experiments Lain as well. And like the latter, it becomes increasingly incomprehensible, at least on first or second viewing. (I would argue that Lain is in fact mostly comprehensible, but that's a story for another post.) Still, I would definitely recommend the film if the preceding description appeals to you at all. The film's music, which is mostly electronica (assuming that I have the right idea what electronica is) and also composed by t.o.L., is also quite interesting.

The official website of the movie is in Japanese, but here's a "translation" from www.excite.co.jp (which is actually the best J-to-E translation engine I've found on the Web so far) which is coherent in places; click on the tabs on the left side for more. The website also has some short flash animations which give an idea of how the movie looks. This comment by Michael Chmilar on IMDb (you may have to scroll down) has more background info, some of which I've used above. And the comments as a whole demonstrate how polarized the reactions to the film are.

The copy at Odd Obsession has English subtitles, but you have to use the "subtitle" button on your remote control to get to them.

The second movie is Metta Meta Gakido Koza, a live-action comedy from 1971 directed by Mio Ezaki, based on a manga by Tanioka Yasuji. Odd Obsession has this in its "experimental" section, but it's more like a crazed blend of Benny Hill, Monty Python, and Takashi Miike's Visitor Q. The main character is a lecherous boy, around twelve years old, who has a habit of hitting people on the head with an ax. (In fact, the characters are constantly inflicting violence upon each other, though there's no blood.) Among the other characters are his brother, who is only a couple of years younger but is always dressed like a baby, and a "superhero" who wears a blue rooster costume with three leglike appendages attached for some reason. Occasionally, various characters grow huge buck teeth (a bit like the ones in the Monty Python sketch). The copy at Odd Obsession has no subtitles, but the comedy is mainly physical, and I was pretty much able to follow the action, even though I only understood occasional words of the dialogue. For a more detailed description of the film, see here.

If you were a kid in the 1960s in the Chicago area (and perhaps other cities as well), and are nostalgaic for those days, there's another movie at Odd Obsession you may be interested in: Journey to the Beginning of Time, a.k.a. the serial they showed over and over on Garfield Goose. It turns out it was originally a feature film, and Czech (or should I say Czechoslovak?) at that, though the version that was syndicated in the U.S. added new, U.S.-made footage.

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