Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two Stars in the Milky Way (1931)

Two Stars in the Milky Way (1931)

March 29th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

The complexity of Chinese silent cinema remains little known in or outside of China. This is truly a shame. In its themes and technical sophistication is was a match for Hollywood or Germany, if initially somewhat less prolific. Few films demonstrate the richness of themes better than Two Stars in the Milky Way (1931.) It is a film about film making, but it focused as much on a discussion of the societal responsibility of the art as it did on a pure expose on the medium.
Superstar Violet Wong plays a young woman from a conservative family who encounters a group of film makers conducting location shooting. She catches their eye, or rather their ears and if offered entry into the heady world of Shanghai cinema in all of its art deco glory. Despite a predictable pattern of events involving her exposure to the excesses of the city and its modern age, the film asks meaningful questions about how Chinese intellectuals viewed the arts at this formative period.
China, Director Tomsie Sze, Cast Violet Wong, Yeh Chuen Chuen, V.K. Chung and Kao Chien Fei, 86 minutes, Silent with English and Traditional Chinese inter-titles

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rika (1972)

Rika (1972)

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

When a young woman is raped by an American serviceman the result is Rika. Born into a world of vice and corruption, Rika is a one woman army. When she isn’t running her own all girl gang she GoGo dances for Japans mightiest crime bosses, fights against a social system in which she has no place and takes down anyone who gets in her way.

Rika is one entry into the popular Pinky genre of Japan. These films dealt with strong willed, violent female protagonists who take nothing lying down. The particular hook of this character is initially her Eurasian status, making her an other within Japanese society. The original US release title captures this more bluntly, Rika The Half Blood Girl. In this way the character is somewhat similar to 1973’s The Street Fighter starring Sonny Chiba. Also like it, Rika would spawn two direct sequels as her insane exploits only grow.

This film shares many of the hallmarks of Japanese 1970’s exploitation cinema. It is violent, sexualized, stylish and schizophrenic. Politics are thrown into the mix in the most general way, especially relating to the American forces stationed in Japan. An example of this is the relationship of another wayward young woman, the result of the relationship between a black serviceman and a Japanese woman. In her quest for identity, she falls in love with a Vietnam war deserter.

Even among Pinky films, Rika over the top and this is in a genre that would produce titles such as Terrifying Girls High School - Lynch Law Classroom. Rika is one of the most individualistic of them all, relentless in its oddity and proving popular enough to generate two sequels.

Japan, Director Ko Nakahira, Cast Rika Aoki, Kazuko Nagamoto, Masami Souda and Michi Nono, 92 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles