Third Window Films

Milestone, Flicker Alley, Oscilloscope, Cinema Guild...they're all here.
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colinr0380
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Re: Third Window Films

#126 Post by colinr0380 » Sun May 04, 2014 5:41 pm

Spoilers:

Isn't Anyone Alive?, the first film in over a decade by Sogo Ishii (sorry, Gakuryu Ishii!) was really great, though I could see how it could infuriate a lot of people. Imagine the general apocalyptic plot of Kairo (there appear to be a couple of obvious allusions to Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films, particularly in the filmic techniques used in specific scenes of the Kairo-motif of panning across from a two shot to an isolated character just outside of frame and then back again; or the Doppleganger-motif of arbitrarily breaking a scene apart with windowboxing and letterboxing, then even further down into diptychs or triptychs to suggest certain characters communicating or isolating others) crossed with a bit of the steadily dwindling characters of something like Battle Royale (albeit without the literal onscreen text keeping score!), crossed with a Samuel Beckett style absurdist comedy of characters waiting for an arbitrary end to come, with a final scene that really channels Melancholia! Although despite both this and Melancholia including scenes of birds dropping out of the sky, Isn't Anyone Alive? is much more obviously comic in its approach to the situation compared to Melancholia's more blackly comic depressive funk!

Isn't Anyone Alive? is picking up and then discarding genre tropes (of deadly viruses run amok from secret US labs hidden in Japanese University hospitals, human experimentation in immortality gone awry, urban myths and so on) left and right in such a way that I think anyone approaching it as a kind of horror film or thriller is going to have an extremely negative reaction to it from having such ideas toyed with then dropped. Rather the film is much more the Samuel Beckett-style absurdist comedy of relationships, as we get introduced in a detailed manner to five or six groups of two or three characters in three or four separate locations and then juggle between them in a very impressive manner. Suddenly characters start to arbitrarily start choking and dying and the bulk of the film is simply that: characters watching other characters inevitably dying without being able to do anything about it.

I must admit that the film did make me wonder whether anyone in Japan knows how to do CPR, compared to just standing around waiting for the person to stop convulsing on the floor! At least one of the characters, the mother, tries it out but much too late and in kind of a half-hearted way! The one other character who vaguely tries CPR (a doctor at that, although "just an ENT doctor" as a couple of the other characters note disappointedly!) even seems to be pumping someone's stomach instead of their chest! I like to assume these complete lack of skills by the vacant characters surrounding the dying ones are meant to have a satirical point, but I'm not entirely certain of this!

I particularly liked that the film in its initial half hour sets up various kinds of 'human activities' or conflicts, such as a chap having a meeting in a café between his new girlfriend and his pregnant ex-girlfriend about abortion and/or child support and who is going to have access to the baby; or the trio rehearsing a musical number in a lecture theatre (actually for the guy in the café and his new girlfriend, though none of those groups interact in the film itself); or the trio having a meeting in a park about their 'urban legends' university project in progress; or the brother and sister conflict; or the mother and son issues; and so on. All of these various plot strands are presented as narratively interesting for the first half of the film but become completely useless by the end, and I think that they are presented in such a way to emphasise the arbitrariness, and eventual pointlessness, of human existence in the face of inevitable death. I think the dawning realisation that none of these plots will actually develop into any kind of narrative salvation for the characters is kind of the entire point of the work - I loved that realisation that for me came about halfway through the 'corridor scene' in the hospital, but I could imagine that it might upset other viewers who could feel that the film was just messing them about, even laughing at them, for trying to get involved with the plot of the film.

The comedy of this film really comes in the way that the death scenes are handled, as a lot of the themes of the film come about by the way that the characters meet their demises (I particularly like the scene where one of the girls returns to the park location to find her final friend dead, breaks down in tears over the body, and then when comforted by one of the other students recognises him as the Japanese pop star who has been making quite an impression with all the girls on the campus and cannot stop herself from involuntarily snapping a picture of him on her mobile phone! Then breaks down into tears again when she realises that she has got no friends left to text the photo to!) There are a few quite disturbing scenes at the start when the film is still in 'thriller' mode, but as the film goes on and narrows down into the few groups of characters left things become much more absurdist. I particularly like the extended sequence (albeit intercut with other ones) that I'm going to dub the 'Bunuelian corridor of death' sequence in which seven of the characters meet their ends in different kinds of ways, from actually rehearsing their own death scene, to stealing someone else's last words, to having too long a final speech that they die in the middle of it(!), to a person begging for a date getting the "not even if you were the last man alive" response in the middle of a woman's dying gasps; to someone dying leaving a tape to their unrequited love that turns out to be a recording of them singing an awful song really badly which is still going on when someone else then starts dying, begging that the awful song be turned off so that they don't have to die whilst listening to it! (Like the lack of attempts at CPR, instead of actually turning the tape recorder off for this other person to die somewhat peacefully, they just leave the hideous music running whilst standing around watching the guy die in aural agony!)

The 'corridor of death' scene(s) are also beautifully staged, with the corridor being half glass walled and bright and half enclosed. At the end of the sequence the camera and the final character are both situated at the mid-point of the corridor, with three bodies in the enclosed section and three in the glass walled section. The last character standing is sort of trapped between an equal number of bodies on either side of them (as is the camera in the shot-reverse shot cutting) and ends up dying alone as sort of the ironic remainder in a balanced equation.

This more broadly comic sequence inside the hospital corridor is then immediately juxtaposed with the final sequence in the natural world that brings to mind Melancholia in its setting (as well as in its special effects laden ending) but also gets far more interestingly philosophical than Melancholia did - one of the remaining characters is a terminally ill girl who speaks of how terrible it is to die knowing that the world will go on without you, and that in some ways she will be happy if the rest of the world dies before she does. She also 'mercy' kills a couple of people during the course of the film! So this turns morality on its head - the pregnant mother dies on a pavement in the midst of a pointlessly futile attempt to escape (from what? Death itself?) apologising to her unborn child, while the girl who murdered the other woman in the café love triangle only did so because the woman didn't want to leave her dead boyfriend, calling him her husband at the very end. Ironically the terminally ill girl doesn't get to be the last one to die either. Is being the last person alive in a world where everyone else is dead a form of death in itself? At the very least abandonment! The theme seems to be that eventually everyone has their plans, their ideas, their hopes, frustrated by absurd and illogical circumstances completely out of their control and the film beautifully expresses this.

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Re: Third Window Films

#127 Post by Adam Grikepelis » Mon May 05, 2014 2:54 am

I'd actually decided from what I've read that Ishii's new film wasn't worth buying to check out, but your review has definitely got me convinced otherwise now.
It sounds like a real love/hate kind of film. Thanks Colin. Or hey, maybe not, I might end ip disliking it after all.

I still wish it was possible for Third Window to release more of his films, but it doesn't sound like there's much hope of a lot of these sorts of films getting a release anywhere outside of their own country.

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Re: Third Window Films

#128 Post by colinr0380 » Mon May 05, 2014 6:32 am

I'm afraid that I haven't yet seen enough of Ishii's earlier work to be able to compare and contrast. This is broadly comic but seems more low key than something like Electric Dragon 80,000v.

You've really got to be fine with there being no resolution to a plot to speak of (early on lots of little groups chattering about a diverse range of subjects, Robert Altman-style) and the mid-section being one scene after another of people sitting on the floor looking vaguely concerned next to people inexplicably convulsing, which gets steadily more comic (one particularly annoying character gets two death scenes, as it turns out he was just rehearsing the first one!). I could maybe have done without the J-pop star having to awkwardly deal with what seems to be a prolapsing rectum throughout his scenes, causing him to dance about in panic as if he is about to go to the toilet and constantly saying he is on the verge of dying but annoyingly never doing so throughout his scenes, but he is the most extreme example of absurdist comic antics on display!

It is said to be based on an acclaimed stage play which seems very apparent in the way that the action is played out over a few key locations, but as I really like films based on stage productions that do not attempt to widen their action out too far, I was fine with that! It also helps to keep a sense of claustrophobia, and I also like that occasionally characters from one group will wander through other locations and encounter some of the bodies from the other groups - they do not interact but it is a nice touch that the filmmakers do not forget to keep the location of the bodies scattered about the place consistent even when the other characters are not really thinking about them. In addition to the framing of the end of the corridor scene that I mentioned above, I particularly like the end of the final nature sequence in which the one remaining character is perfectly framed in the centre of the screen flanked by two bodies symmetrically laid in the grass on either side of them! (I actually find this image more powerful than the special effects shots that follow! Things really should be narrowing down at that point, especially following the philosophical conversation about the death of the individual meaning the end of the larger world for them, so the shots that follow this that widen things out again go against the grain a little and might have been better placed at any earlier point in the film) It might have theatrical origins but the material is still treated in a very filmic manner throughout.

I quite liked it as an fascinating take on an apocalyptic story, and think it certainly bears comparison to Melancholia, or something such as The Bed Sitting Room. Though skip quickly past Third Window's main menu screen, as it spoils the entire final sequence (although the trailer and the DVD cover do that too, so there is no escape I guess!)

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Re: Third Window Films

#129 Post by zedz » Tue May 06, 2014 7:06 pm

I actually thought Isn't Anyone Alive? was incredibly weak after the marvels of Ishii's 90s output (e.g. Angel Dust, August in the Water, Labyrinth of Dreams). Even Electric Dragon 80,000V is a bit of a step down from that level, but it's got so much energy and goofy oddness that it doesn't matter. The latest film is still interesting enough, but it's no substitute for a great modern director at the height of his powers.

His very commercial 2000 feature Gojoe is also readily available on DVD, but again, it's not representative of what makes Ishii so special.

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Re: Third Window Films

#130 Post by repeat » Wed May 07, 2014 7:07 am

Very excited to read in the TWF newsletter that they're bringing out Yoon Sung-hyun's Bleak Night (Pasuggun, 2010) on DVD later this month. The film got very good reviews on the festival circuit, and Bong Joon-ho has championed it as well!

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Re: Third Window Films

#131 Post by manicsounds » Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:10 am

Third Window Films are pleased to announce the acquisition of Tetsuya Nakashima's dark and violent mystery THE WORLD OF KANAKO from Wild Bunch.

After working with Nakashima since the beginning with Kamikaze Girls, Memories of Matsuko, Lalapipo and Confessions, we are incredibly happy to continue distribution and promoting such a unique and brilliant talent from Japan to the UK.

The World of Kanako opens in Japanese cinemas on June 27th and we will bring it to UK cinemas at the very beginning of 2015
Just watched this today. It's one grizzly, disturbing, violent, and stylistically incredible movie.
Think "Mad Detective" mixed with "Mother" directed by Quentin Tarantino.

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Re: Third Window Films

#132 Post by antnield » Fri Jul 18, 2014 9:29 am

Third Window have a Kickstarter campaign on the go.
Third Window Films have always tried hard to bring a wide variety of films from the Far East to the West, from big studio productions to minor indie masterpieces, and this project is another step in our goal to open up the West to what's so great about Asian cinema!

This project, hopefully the first of many (depending on its success!), is focusing on young and unique directors from Japan whose films have not received any sort of distribution in their own or any other territory. We want to focus on supporting young talent and making their names recognisable so decided to create this 'NEW DIRECTORS FROM JAPAN' release which focuses on individual directors and their work.

Third Window Films has always tried to find directors and films that are both 'unique' and 'entertaining' and we feel that these three directors fit into the Third Window Films brand perfectly, so we are incredibly happy to present:

Nagisa Isogai (磯谷 渚 - Aged 28) - 2 films: My Baby (わたしの赤ちゃん - 16mm / 16mins) / The Lust of Angels (天使の欲望 - HD / 40mins)

Hirobumi Watanabe (渡辺紘文 Aged 31) - And the Mud Ship Sails Away (そして泥船はゆく - HD / 88mins)

KosukeTakaya (髙谷監督 - Aged 27) - Buy Bling, Get One Free (シャレ番外地 - 35mm / 27mins) - (This film is part of a Japanese government initiative from an organisation called VIPO who run a project called 'New Directions in Japanese Cinema'. Every year they work with 5 first time directors and make 30 minute films on 35mm! As part of this release we will also interview producers of VIPO in order to show the explain more about their project - http://www.vipo-ndjc.jp/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;)

This release will be a limited edition set of only 1,000 copies. To cover both our blu-ray and DVD customers, the release will be a DUAL FORMAT release and include BOTH a BLU-RAY and a DVD of the films, as well as a separate extras disc (on DVD) which will include interviews with all the directors involved.

This KICKSTARTER campaign is to setup the initial costs of creating this release. Due to the number of films, interviews as well as the fact that we are putting both a blu-ray and 2 dvds into the box with a slipcase it is a very expensive project, so we want to raise the initial funds by pre-selling the first 250 copies at £16 each (the retail price will be £22.99) and the added bonus of pre-ordering is that each of the 250 copies will be signed by all 3 directors!

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Re: Third Window Films

#133 Post by EddieLarkin » Fri Jul 18, 2014 10:14 am

I'm all for them going to Kickstarter for something like this, and will happily support them, but I'd rather see my pledge (and a much bigger one at that) going towards the creation of a new transfer of some long unavailable catalog title with significant art house/cult rep (à la Arrow's Kickstarter) instead of a grouping of unproven directors and unheard of films (most of them shorts). Maybe it's my own biases at play, but I would think something like that could be far more successful.

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Re: Third Window Films

#134 Post by repeat » Fri Jul 18, 2014 10:50 am

Jesus, this is exciting - TWF taking up Kickstarter might be the best news for English-friendly Asian cinema in a long time!!

EddieLarkin, while I have pretty much those same biases and preferences, I think this project (if successful) might be the first step towards Kickstarting some catalog titles as well: and I think the Watanabe film is a good choice to test it out, as it's certainly not entirely unheard of (did well on the festivals, is probably on the radar of many TWF fans, and I suspect will appeal to a good deal of them)... And although I'm dying to see them extend this experiment to some of the results of the 2012 poll, there's also a shitload of highly interesting titles from the past few years that might be suitable for future installements of the "New Directors from Japan" concept (for example, and just off the top of my head, the films of Nami Iguchi, Koji Fukada, and Kazuyoshi Kumakiri)

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Re: Third Window Films

#135 Post by repeat » Sun Jul 20, 2014 4:33 am

Kickstarter goal reached in five days - and still 18 limited edition signed copies left, so at least a few people have pledged more than the minimum amount. Congratulations to TWF!

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Re: Third Window Films

#136 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jul 20, 2014 5:05 am

I pledged without any hesitation - this is exactly the sort of initiative that Kickstarter was designed for, and it looks as though it's paying off for them.

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Re: Third Window Films

#137 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 20, 2014 3:41 pm

Already all gone-- that was quick!

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Re: Third Window Films

#138 Post by EddieLarkin » Sun Jul 20, 2014 4:40 pm

I expect their next one will be a bit more ambitious after such a great performance.

I'm not sure why they limited it to 250 copies anyway; they surely could have offered non-signed copies for a few quid less so that their total donation could go beyond the £4,291 it's essentially going to be stuck at for the remainder of the Kickstarter period.

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Re: Third Window Films

#139 Post by What A Disgrace » Sun Jul 20, 2014 5:19 pm

Yeah, I'm not gonna do the Kickstarter, but I'm definitely pre-ordering it, and I've never even bought a Third Window release.

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Re: Third Window Films

#140 Post by EddieLarkin » Sun Jul 20, 2014 7:40 pm

The release itself will be limited to 1000 copies, minus the 250 for the Kickstarter and another 50 for cast and crew etc. So once it's available for pre-order it might not last long.

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Re: Third Window Films

#141 Post by EddieLarkin » Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:36 am

Third Window Films wrote:Dear all, amazon seems to be selling the NEW DIRECTORS FROM JAPAN release AT A LOSS so if you want to grab a ridiculously low price on it I'd pre-order it now at their mentally cheap price of just £10.25!
I'm sure that the price won't be there long as it's a bit of a mistake, but if you missed the kickstarter here's a chance to grab it now. Remember only about 700 copies available in total of a 3 disc dual format release!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00L9CSGRM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Also, due to a manufacturing error the BD disc will be region free. Future pressings will be region B locked.

edit: ignore my addition above, TWF were talking about their upcoming release of Lesson of Evil. The New Directors disc is region free already!
Last edited by EddieLarkin on Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Third Window Films

#142 Post by Dr Amicus » Mon Jul 28, 2014 10:03 am

Thanks. Ordered! I managed to miss the signed copies on Kickstarter so this is a nice consolation.

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Re: Third Window Films

#143 Post by Emak-Bakia » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:26 am

Yeah, thanks, I can't pass it up at that price! Also, it's worth noting that it looks like two Kickstarter backers have pulled-out, making two of the signed copies available once again.

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Re: Third Window Films

#144 Post by Grand Wazoo » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:50 am

Thanks for the heads up on the Kickstarter copies. I just grabbed one of them.

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Re: Third Window Films

#145 Post by domino harvey » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:28 pm

And thank for the heads-up for the Amazon deal. At less than $20 US shipped, it's a price I feel more comfortable with for the unknown factor of this release

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Re: Third Window Films

#146 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:51 pm

The Kickstarter copies have just been sent out. I received mine today and took an extremely poor quality cameraphone picture of it for ThirdWindow's twitter:
Image

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Re: Third Window Films

#147 Post by What A Disgrace » Sat Nov 22, 2014 11:39 pm

Mine shipped today. Can anyone who already received their Kickstarter packages comment about the release?

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Re: Third Window Films

#148 Post by domino harvey » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:47 pm

Got my copy from Amazon and while it looks nice, DVD-sized packaging?! Bush-league, Third Window

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Re: Third Window Films

#149 Post by EddieLarkin » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:52 pm

On Blu-ray.com they excused it by saying it was so they could fit in their catalog, which are presumably all DVD sized. Because apparently those who go out of their way to support obscure Blu-ray crowd funding campaigns are the ones who need to learn more about Third Window product!

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Re: Third Window Films

#150 Post by swo17 » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:27 pm

I don't get it. My Tetsuo set from them is BD-sized.

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