Enter The Void: follows the final hours, afterlife, and reincarnation of a low-level drug pusher in neon-drenched Tokyo. If you’re unfamiliar with Gaspar Noe, you’ll learn pretty quickly that his film’s aren’t merely ‘movies’ or ‘stories’, but full-on immersive experiences – unique, ambitious, and experimental. The first, and second, minutes feel like 12-rounds with Tyson – click to see for yourself. if you can’t handle that, don’t go anywhere near Enter The Void. Everything ‘Noe’ is in here – long takes, disorienting audio and visuals, brutal and challenging scenes & stories, non-linear storytelling; not to mention explicit / sensational / controversial subject matter. Halfway through the runtime we get a recap of the beginning, and from then on the film seems to lose its way – filling the time with elongated CGI trips and floaty filler, overstaying its welcome, and pushing the viewers further and further from the story, until the final ten minutes, which is just gratuitous shagging, blowjobs, and cunni for no real reason (it did explain why I could only get this as a German import – classic Germany), topping out with a POV (Point-of-Vagina!) money shot. I don’t say this often, but there were waaaaay more nudity than required in this!! Technically it’s jaw-dropping and mind-boggling: the camera glides in / through / over any objects so fluidly – yet these astonishing feats are countered by overlong sequences of trippy, psychedelic, CGI visuals – one thing’s for sure, there’s no faulting Noe’s commitment to his vision. At just under three hours, this is simply far too long – there’s a stunning 80-100 minute film in here. Enter The Void is both immersive and repulsive: a well-realised idea, centred around an average story, with a divisive final hour, and trainwreck final 10 minutes… all told through an exciting, cinematic, and truly unique out-of-body experience that no other director would even dare to take on. I’m split right down the middle.
Game of Thrones (Season 1): several noble families with royal ties feud over the right to rule all seven kingdoms in a medieval-ish fantasy epic. One year prior, Spartacus was balls deep in rumpy–pumpy and graphic violence, which felt like it was pushing boundaries; then someone in HBO said had said: “lets take Spartacus as a starting point, then add as much over the top sensational stuff as you can. 3, 2, 1… GO GO GO!” GoT is loaded with full frontal nudity (sausages, chuffs, and udders), blood, gore, prostitutes, lesbians, and as much offensive language as censors allow; not to mention the taboos like breastfeeding and incest being pretty major plot points. Whilst these add to the show’s notoriety, it detracts from the Rome-like inter-weaving political storylines; continually reminding you that it’s actually being pitched at teenage boys. Other than the odd stinker (Arya Stark!!) the cast are generally decent; although different characters giving their roles different levity levels – from scenery chewing (King) to borderline comedic (Bronn). Peter Dinklage is the one actor that really sticks out from the vast ensemble – impressing and entertaining with his larger than life character. Due to the number of characters, families, locations and concurrent plots there’s a lot of dialogue-heavy slapdash whistle-stop history & exposition lectures between characters – some hit the mark better than others, but most are required. While there’s one big “Holy Shit” moment, Season One feels like a 10-hour teaser – promising better things to come; introducing white walkers (zombie-ish creatures), dragons, teeing up a war – but blatantly not following any of it through to anywhere near conclusion.
Lone Wolf and Cub #1 – Sword of Vengeance (子連れ狼 子を貸し腕貸しつかまつる, or Kozure Ōkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru): when his wife is killed by ninjas and he is betrayed by a rival clan, the Shogun’s lead executioner becomes an assassin for hire, wondering the country with his infant son. The film opens with the lead character beheading a child… which lets you know exactly what to expect from the film, and what the lead, Itto Ogami is capable of. Despite this, being played so well by Tomisaburo Wakayama means that you still relate to, and feel for the character and his situation, as he transforms from obedient executioner, to a masterless badass – even if he’s out-of-shape. He is another one of Japan’s surprisingly complex – well acted – anti-heroes. The action scenes are second to none; heads literally roll across the screen, limbs fall to the ground, jets of blood spray everywhere – it’s completely over the top, yet so ridiculously stylish and meticulously planed; it was the first of the more extreme, exploitative Chambara movies. There’s also surprisingly good period detail for an out-and-out exploitation movie; the weirdest part however is that there’s a strangely high volume of scenes involving suckling on teats (OK, only two, but that’s still two more than most films). Sword of Vengeance is over 40 years old now, but it’s crammed full of everything that most modern exploitation films can’t even do right – the main difference is that it’s filmed by an absolute auteur – the film looks like art at times, which is a testament to the story’s manga roots.
NOTE: Some people will be familiar with this from the Shogun Assassin movie – which takes the bloodiest bits from the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films and mashes them together to create an even bloodier samurai slasher film aimed at Western audiences. That banned VIPCO vault of horror DVD was my first exposure to the series, and god was it brilliant.