Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 4:23 pm 
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Before remodeling, an exorcism is sometimes needed

Some of the scenes in this genre mashup are delightful, perhaps especially ones that have nothing essential to do with the plot. I liked when some young office drones finish an urgent conversation in the cafeteria and one says, "Good lunch!" And when the protagonist Kenji Fujimoto (dancer-rapper Kataoka Naoto, known as Naoto) is in a hospital for the spirit medium he's recruiting and two women with cancer in the ward mercilessly rag him for being a cowardly loser. It's not essential to the action, but the rhythm is great. The government agency for which the normally lazy Kenji works has put him in charge of a nightmare job - the demolition an old showa-era dance hall to be converted into a mall and offices. There's a serious snag: the ugly old building is haunted and people are afraid to go in. So the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, is called in as well as some ghosts who can help out. And Kenji, who never stops being comically frightened, enlists the medium he hears about (who's being bullied for it, by the way, the class "Carrie"), a high school girl called Yukiko (Aina Yamada). It doesn't hurt that to channel the ghost connection, Kenji has to hold hands with Yukiko all the time. A dancer called Mary (dancer model Bando Nozomi. haunts the building. (The involvement of Naoto and Bando Nozomi is due to a contract director Sabu (Hiroyuki Tanaka) has signed with a talent agency.)

A plane ride take Kenji to an all-out battle of dead guys in limbo. An aim is for lost souls to be allowed to go to heaven (So: ghost story meets martial arts.) He and the medium go over with a slaughtered yakuza full of swords from "death by a thousand" - or a dozen anyway - cuts. They come back with the wild Johnny (Kaito Yoshimura), a scruffy, rambunctious ghost of a rocker Mary's lost boyfriend, who hopefully will free Mary of her entrapment in the dance hall building. Johnny is a laugh all the way. Notice his wild reaction to being in a plane; and his demands after landing, en route to see Mary - chewing gum and a boutique outfit - and his critique of the boring modern car - lots of fun, throwaway moments come with Johnny.

Jason Maher, whose review in [url=""]VCinema[/url] elucidates details of the narrative that had eluded me, is one of several who note, in his case admiringly, that the style Sabu evokes here at times recalls the early Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Sabu acted in Kurosawa's 2001 Pulse). Maher notes that Sabu exchews "jump-scares and gore," and adopts (I liked this) a "texture" that is "damp and cold." Refreshing on a hot day! Maher describes the sensory atmosphere of the movie admirably : "Shrill strings, wailing winds and melancholy music are heard while cobwebbed corridors, abandoned abodes, decrepit danchis and the mouldy dance hall provide the settings." There are several supple ballet sequences too, by the way.Ghost-communication scenes are in black and white. Maybe it doesn't all hold together because there are so many disparate genre elements. But if you hang on for the ride, fun is to be had.

Dancing Mary ダンシング・マリ, 96 mins., released Japan Oct. 2019, Imagine Film Festival (Netherlands) Sept. 5, 2020. Screened for this review as part of the virtual 2020 New York Asian Film Festival.

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