Mamoru Oshii  

A pioneer in the anime genre, most famous for Ghost in the Shell. Generally directs melancholy, slow, dreamy, philosophical, existential, enigmatic but emotionally detached movies, both animated and live action. His works include several philosophical and somewhat enigmatic animations, but he also directs some live surreal experiments. Recently he has shifted focus towards more conventional, action-oriented, albeit meditative anime sci-fi movies, both animated and live-action.

Of Some Interest

Angel's Egg  
Oshii is no stranger to enigmatic anime animations but this unique entry goes way beyond into the surreal and bizarre. It is also as punishingly slow as a slow Tarkovsky, which means many meditative scenes of nothing happening for many minutes. A young girl in an alien landscape is protecting an egg. She meets a soldier, they wander around for most of the movie, wondering about each other's identity, and the soldier seems to have a hidden agenda. They wander through bizarre structures with skeletons, machines of war roll by, a strange spaceship lands, they talk about birds, Noah's flood and existential questions, and the locals run in a frenzy to hunt huge fish-shadows. What does it all mean? Who knows.

Nowhere Girl  
Mostly a subdued drama about a girl in high-school with some kind of PTSD, whom the teachers treat with special care while her co-students bully her. But some things don't feel right. What is her strange art project about? Why does her art teacher treat her so strangely and cruelly? What does she dream about and why is she here? The explosive surreal action ending comes out of left-field and is a wonder to watch, and the twist is one of those things that change everything in a reality-bending way, but at the same time, it also makes the movie unwatchable the second time around.

Red Spectacles, The  
Categorized as live-action anime but is a Godard-like mix of minimalist anime, old-school slapstick comedy, absurdist humor to the point of surrealism, and some drama. Three law-enforcement officers try to escape charges of revolt when their special armored unit is ordered to disband. One survivor is pursued by strange government-agent caricatures (who occasionally dance), and fights explosive diarrhea while trapped in a new world order where ramen eateries are outlawed, and everything is branded with the ominous cat-brand and pervasive pictures of a certain female. Quirky, obscure, bizarre and stylish, but like most anime, doesn't add up to much.

Talking Head  
If Japanimation would have created a self-referential '8 1/2' mixed with Godardesque cinematic deconstruction, minimalism, meta-plot and some absurdist humor, this may have been the result. The little plot there is involves an animation director who is commissioned to save a movie project that is about to collapse after weeks of inactivity and disappearance acts of the previous movie-maker. While he tries to get things back into shape, he interviews the crew who one by one get killed. The various aspects of movie making are meditated on and long lectures are given on the philosophy of cinema and its technicalities while the crew behave strangely in a minimalist but bizarre set where people travel in a stationary van, the color-people are drowned in tiny bottles of paint, and a special effects person removes his head and pulls out sausages as his intestines. Overly talkative and meandering but somewhat interesting.

Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer  
The second part of six animes, this one directed by Oshii and it shows. It's all silly and slapstick comedy with absurdities involving a cheery flying alien her human boyfriend and their group of eccentric friends who get worked up over a crazy school festival, until things start getting weird. A tank somehow appears inside the school, then events start repeating themselves in a loop, they find they can't go anywhere except the school, space starts losing its coherency as they get lost in Escher-like space-warps and endless loops, and when they try to take off in an airplane, they make a bizarre surreal discovery about their reality. Oshii injects his usual existential musings in this mostly whimsical oddity.


Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters  
Bizarre mockumentary on food freeloaders in Japan, with miles of narrative that dives deeply into the fictional artistry, sociological background, history, philosophy and poetry surrounding such people. From the pioneer who freeloaded by posing deep existential questions about the status of food in Japan, to a mysteriously seductive smile from a female freeloader, to more modern punks who managed to overload the fast-food hamburger joints by asking for too many burgers, to a poser Hindu who fakes otherworldly excitement over curry. The movie itself is a curiously unique form of animation called 'superlivemation' which consists mostly of stop-motion photographs in 3d and sometimes brings to mind Gilliam's work in Monty Python. I suppose the Japanese would have the necessary background to appreciate all the jokes, but I felt it was mostly a one-joke overlong experiment that wore out its surprise welcome after a few minutes.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents