Sogo Ishii  

A pioneer in Japanese experimental cinema and an inspiration for other film-makers like Shinya Tsukamoto. Started as a punk out of film-school and made gritty, violent and energetic films, then, after a hiatus, became softer and sleeker, touting higher production values and style, but still experimenting with cinematography tricks and energetic, technical flourishes. Since then, he continues to reinvent himself, directing period-horror, action, drama or mystical movies, and often takes a hiatus only to come back with slightly different approach to cinema and life. Recently he changed his name and has been occasionally directing new-age soul-searching nature-loving mystical claptrap (Mirrored Mind and August in the Water) in direct contrast to his wild punk films from his younger days. Reviewed until 2016.

Of Some Interest

Angel Dust  
Sogo Ishii's comeback and reinvention featuring a surprisingly serene and smooth but stylish and inventive approach to film-making. A serial killer is stalking the streets, killing women with needles and baffling the police. They make use of a woman with unique mental powers of empathy and she, in turn, tries to get the help of her inscrutable ex-boyfriend who works at de-brainwashing cultists. Lots of mind games, strange visions and confusion follow, with Sogo throwing brief references to everything that has to do with mind games including sensory deprivation, mind-control, hypnotism, hallucinations, brainwashing and extra sensory powers, but doesn't bother to tie it together with insight or a coherent plot, resulting in a visually stylish but very empty movie. The follow up, August in the Water, is equally empty, but slaps together a bunch of nonsense to do with new age mysticism, mother nature, water vs. stone, supernatural powers, and astrology.

Burst City  
An early but definitive cyberpunk release. Assorted punks, the Yakuza, Mad Max like freaks wearing scraps, useless but violent cops, and assorted weirdos with insane costumes live in a nihilistic 'city' where life consists of punk music, concerts, endless fights, fast car and motorcycle rides, more fights, Yakuza power-games, general animalistic behaviour, girls that are forced to service the local violent thugs, lots of screaming and yelling, riots and more fights until it all ends in chaos. It doesn't contain much plot, but the film grittily and effectively captures the energy of punk anti-aesthetics and philosophy, a city gone nihilistic with hyperkinetic camera work and energetic atmosphere. It gets a little over-long during the middle but overall, this is a must-see for any punk aficionado

Crazy Family  
Absurd black comedy that can be taken both as crazy entertainment and a symbolic social satire on Japanese people. A family moves into a new home but soon catch a disease called 'civilization'. The son becomes obsessed with studying himself to death, the girl practices acting and singing in order to be the biggest star, the mother cooks and strips her clothes for guests, the grandfather goes back to his army days and the father tries to keep the family together by digging a basement in the living room and exterminating white ants. The insanity reaches a climax where everyone tries to kill each other.

Dead End Run  
An experimental teaser containing three related shorts where someone runs into a dead-end and confronts his violent adversary with unexpected results. The confrontations are filmed with dizzying camera-work and experimental technical cinematography to attempt to capture the moment. The first features a mistaken shooting and bizarre musical episode that is redeemed by its poetic ending. The second is dull and goes on endlessly. The entertaining third takes place on a rooftop and features a strangely suicidal hostage who changes the confrontation into unexpected and energetic chaos. Interesting, but not too rewatchable.

Electric Dragon 80,000V  
A revisitation of the cyberpunk craze with its fetish for metal and industrial power, only instead of going for an intense and gritty violent atmosphere as with Tetsuo, this flick goes for humor. One boy is hit by electricity from a pylon and grows up violent, the lizard rage within him only soothed by the electric guitar and daily jolts of electricity. Another is hit by lightning and works as a vigilante, mastering electronic surveillance and weaponry. When they meet, more than sparks fly and they soon find themselves in a battle to the death. Loud, over-the-top, blackly bizarre, stylish, and somewhat amusing.

A short, much rawer version of Dead End Run featuring only an extended chase sequence with wild music and cinematography. Cop chases a punk who had a violent fight with his girlfriend through every kind of urban setting, going on so long the punk starts hallucinating. Stylish, energetic, nerve-wracking.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents