Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moon Over Tao (1997)

Moon Over Tao (1997)

September 15th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

The world of director Keita Amemiya is one of high fantasy, low budgets and of the everyman. While seemingly contradictory this strange mixture has created a genuinely unique filmography that is far beyond the recognition afforded him. Working his way as a character designer in the popular Japanese masked superhero genre of live action film and television, Amemiya developed an easy familiarity with the kind of intensive special effects, model work and prosthetics that is a challenge for anyone to use convincingly. But it was his talent as a storyteller that truly helped to make his name.

Moon Over Tao has all the hallmarks of a typical Amemiya film. It takes place in a foreign environment that none the less has the look of a slightly distorted version of the real world. And it centers upon the interpersonal relationships of a group of mismatched companions as they must come to terms with their own personal histories as much as it revolves around the central story of magic and aliens in feudal Japan. But the unique aspect is that it does so in such a convincing way.

Some of the plots of other Amenmiya films include an invincible alien trapped in a shadow version of Tokyo along with two ordinary electricians and a beautiful bounty hunter in Zeiram (1991,) and an amnesiac robotic man fighting Christian cyborgs in a dystopian future in Mechanical Violator Hakaider (1995.) If these sound somewhat absurd then the power and genuine feeling of the characters and stories may come as a surprise. Moon Over Tao is another example of this. On the surface it is about a reclusive monk and a sullen swordsman’s hunt for strange swords forged from an unbreakable metal. But it quickly comes to revolve around notions of family, abandonment and loyalty to ideals and their cost.

Japan, Director Keita Amemiya, Cast Toshiyuki Nagashima, Hiroshi Abe, Y√Ľko Moriyama and Takaaki Enoki, 96 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles

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