June - Part 2/2
It seems I haven’t picked up much pace with these reports. Let’s see what I can still remember about this trip.
My 2nd destination was Shin bungeiza
, who had a theater renewal last year (but I forgot to mention about it). They upgraded their equipment (sound system, 4K projector), set up online ticket store, and moved the cash register’s place. In practice the place looks much like before, and they kept their 16mm and 35mm projectors as well. The online seat reservation system is convenient, but takes something away from the more traditional theater experience, plus I feel bad for all the tech handicapped ojiisans. The program is the same as before: a mix of Japanese film retrospectives played in double features (mostly 35mm), special screenings of Western films (digital), and semi-recent films that have just left mainstream theaters (DCP).
I've never been a big fan of their lobby. It's functional but too modern and cold compared to something like Laputa Asagaya. Recently they've also started displaying less and less original posters, replacing them with self-printed copies. At least they have some movie books to browse and an ice cream vending machine!
The screening room however is great. The seats are very comfortable (even for an all nighter) and the 4.2 x 10m screen does justice to Hanzo's manhood. The photo really lies here: the screen looks small, but in fact if you sit any closer than row H (row 8) you won't be able to see the entire screen.
Bungeiza were doing a mini Shintaro Katsu retrospective with 35mm screenings of the Hanzo the Razor trilogy
, a couple of Zatoichi films
, as well as digital screenings of the entire TV show Keiji K
. I couldn’t afford to miss the Hanzo films since I had already done just that. About 5 years ago I had flights and capsule reserved for a Tokyo trip (Hanzo in Bungeiza, Sukeban films in Laputa) when I got sick just before the trip and couldn’t go. This time I was fine.
Not much to post here, just self-printed mini posters.
Hanzo the Razor is a film that just keeps getting better as the world around us gets more sensitive. Katsu is the Dirty Harry of Edo, who takes no shit from corrupt officials and uses his giant dick as interrogation tool against evil women (there are some great training sequences, too). All this via solid production values and master Kenji Misumi’s helming, set to blaxploitation inspired score (most likely inspired by the April 1972 release of Shaft. Japan didn’t experience much of a blaxploitation boom, but Shaft was influential, especially music-wise, and the theme song still plays on radio frequently). I wonder if any company in the West would dare to release these films on BD (Toho has HD masters ready). The 1st sequel is even better, adding ninjas and better (and bloodier) action sequences, and the 3rd film is enjoyable even though it brings little new to the table.
For some reason there were not many women in these screenings...
I also caught Zatoichi Goes to Fire Festival
... for the 2nd time. I had seen this before from Film Archive's dead drop gorgeous print. Bungeiza played the standard studio print which wasn't as good but still solid. Speaking of prints, the Hanzos varied from good to very good. The first film was missing some frames and was slightly murky but otherwise solid. The sequels both looked beautiful.
That was it for my Tokyo trip. Two days of Hanzo, Zatoichi, debut films, rare Chiba and crap pinku, all from 35mm prints.
And finally, here's a street snapshot with some suspicious business promotion activity in front of a girl bar and an adult dvd shop located across the street from Shin bungeiza.