With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, January 24, 2011

ACF 860: Sabu film retrospective at Japan Society, NY, January 26 - February 5, 2011

America’s First Major Retrospective of Japan’s Explosive Film Auteur
Features 6 Films with 1 International Premiere

Run, Salaryman, Run! A Retrospective of Sabu’s Film Works
When: January 26-February 5, 2011
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street New York, NY
(between 1st and 2nd Avenues)

** With Live Appearances by Sabu **

Japan Society will be presenting an intriguing mini-series of six films by the talented and iconoclastic film director known as Sabu. So far I've watched screeners of Monday and Non-Stop, and highly recommend both. I hope to get reviews of these and some of the other films posted soon. Meanwhile, here's complete information about the series:

Born Hiroyuki Tanaka (1964), Sabu is the cult auteur of "punk n' roll," alternative comedies, often imitated, never equaled, and far too rarely shown in the U.S. since his 1996 feature debut, Non-Stop a.k.a DANGAN Runner.

Japan Society’s Film Program now breaks the barrier with America’s first major retrospective Run, Salaryman, Run! A Retrospective of SABU’s Film Works, featuring 6 of Sabu’s 11 feature films, (a twelfth is due in 2011) from January 26 through February 5.

In addition to Non-Stop a.k.a DANGAN Runner, Run, Salaryman, Run! includes Monday, Postman Blues, Postman Blues, Drive, The Blessing Bell, and the big screen International Premiere of Troubleman. Sabu makes live appearances to introduce Monday, Postman Blues, and Non-Stop, and take part in a Q&A following each of the three films.

Smart, fun and explosive, Sabu delivers the high speed, high style, hard luck, and quirky lusts and lunacies of post-Bubble Japan. In a world of hazards and happenstance, he zeroes in on blue and white collar everymen tossed into dangerously absurd situations from which they desperately try to run. Speeding along at breakneck pace, Sabu brings a fresh and frantic twist to traditional film genres (the yakuza film, the thriller, etc.), juicing their lean, clean-cropped premises with electroshock cinematic style and über edgy music scores.

“Sabu has drawn comparisons with Buster Keaton, Johnnie To and Doug Liman,” says Samuel Jamier, director of Japan Society’s Film Program. “His debut was definitely a precursor to Run Lola Run, and his innovative use of music could easily be described as Tarantino-esque. But his satirical jamborees, more than just friendly black comedies, are unlike anything else on the silver screen: they are stamina tests, survival riffs, and victory rolls. His work is the embodiment of the waning days of ‘Cool Japan’, and an important marker of the vibrancy and vitality of contemporary Japanese cinema.”

Tickets are $12/$9 Japan Society members, students & seniors. Members can purchase the Sabu Series Discount Pass and receive passes to all 6 films for $40 (limit two passes per member). For trailers, tickets or more information, visit www.japansociety.org/film. (You may need to click on "Upcoming Events" in the right-hand sidebar.)


- Wednesday, January 26, 7:30 PM
** Introduction and Q&A with director Sabu **
** Opening screening followed by an afterparty **

2000, 100 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles.
Directed by Sabu
With Shinichi Tsutsumi, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima, Tomorowo Taguchi
Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation.

It is the mother of all Mondays for salaryman Takagi (Shinichi Tsutsumi), who wakes up fully clothed in a unfamiliar hotel room, with a massive hangover and no recollection of the past 48 hours and how he got there. As an envelope of purification salt (used in Japan to ward off evil spirits during a funeral) falls out of his pocket, memories blood back. From a funeral wake that literally ended with a bang, to a deplorable date with his girlfriend, and a drunken descent into a nocturnal world of scowling yakuza and hostess clubs, the increasingly consternated salaryman wonders exactly how wrong things went during his lost and found weekend. Winner: FIPRESCI Prize at the 2000 Berlin Film Festival, "for its austere, dark wit and keen eye for human foibles."

Postman Blues
- Friday, January 28, 7:30 PM
** Introduction and Q&A with director Sabu **

1997, 110 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by Sabu
With Shinichi Tsutsumi, Keisuke Horibe, Ren Osugi, Keiko Toyama
Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation.

In this wacky comedic thrill ride, both a superb parody of the gangster genre and a masterful exercise in style and storytelling, Sawaki (Shinichi Tsutsumi) is an ordinary postman whose unassuming life takes a strange turn when he crosses paths with his old high school buddy Noguchi (Keisuke Horibe), now a low-level yakuza drug mule, just as he finishes cutting off his finger as an apology to his boss. Unbeknownst to both men, Noguchi's freshly chopped-off pinky rolls off the table and into Sawaki's mailbag. The chance encounter and missing pinky land the postman in hot water when the police mistakenly identify him as a schizophrenic-paranoid drug dealer, sadistic murderer and terrorist working for the yakuza. Things get more problematic when the unwitting postman befriends two terminal cancer patients: a lone hitman called Joe (Ren Osugi) and a pretty woman named Sayoko (Keiko Toyama).

Non-Stop a.k.a. Dangan Runner (Dangan Ranna)
- Saturday, January 29, 7:30 PM
** Introduction and Q&A with director Sabu **

1996, 82 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by Sabu
With Tomorowo Taguchi, Diamond Yukai, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Akaji Maro, Ren Osugi
Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation.

Sabu's 1996 debut feature, a wild forerunner to the German arthouse smash hit Run Lola Run, by Tom Tykwers, features Tetsuo star Tomorowo Taguchi as a down-on-his-luck would-be bank robber, whose desperate plan to retrieve cash and a semblance of dignity quickly go south. Caught red-handed stealing a gauze face mask to conceal his identity, he is given chase by a strung-out convenience store clerk (played by real life rocker Diamond Yukai), who happens to be a washed-up drug-addled rock singer. In turn, the irate employee is chased by his drug supplier, Takeda, a third-rate yakuza (Shinichi Tsutsumi). As they run for their lives and each other, their stories flash back and forth, continuing a strange chain of events that only gets stranger while the three-man race continues at full speed into the night and through the streets of Tokyo. "Effortlessly clever."--Scott Tobias, The A.V. Onion Club

- Wednesday, February 2, 7:30 PM

2002, 102 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by Sabu
With Shinichi Tsutsumi, Ren Osugi, Kou Shibasaki, Susumu Terajima, Masanobu Ando.

Salaryman Asakura (Shinichi Tsutsumi) is having a rather ordinary day, parking in the same spot from where he watches every day, at the same time, the fantasy figure of Kou Shibasaki as she walks around the corner, when an unwanted trio of bank robbers barges into his car, interrupting his reverie. Doubled-crossed and left stranded by one of their own, they hijack the unfortunate salaryman and order him to drive after the stolen loot. As it turns out, they didn't quite pick up the ideal joyrider for the lam: the stressed white collar Asakura, first seen being diagnosed for hypertension, refuses to go over the speed limit. The gang quickly grows frustrated and decides to stop at a café to formulate a plan. More bad luck ensues, involving an edifying run-in with a punk rock band, more twists and turns, and angry ghosts.

The Blessing Bell (Kofuku no Kane)
- Friday, February 4, 7:30 PM

2002, 87 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by Sabu
With Susumu Terajima, Naomi Nishida, Seijun Suzuki, Reila Aphrodite.

A lyrical and meditative tale that is often reminiscent of both Mike Leigh's Naked (1993) and Takeshi Kitano's early yakuza films, The Blessing Bell follows the wanderings of its blue-collar protagonist, Igarashi (Susumu Terajima) through the 24 hours that follow the closing of the factory he works for. After a fruitless job hunt, the newly unemployed man walks into other lost souls: a yakuza boss who has literally been stabbed in the back, a man who murdered his wife's lover (but not his wife), a hopeless single mother, the ghost of an elderly man in a hospital (played by director Seijun Suzuki) and a suicidal salaryman. Coincidentally, he also runs into a burning building, gets hit by a car and wins the lottery. Winner: Netpac Award, 2003 Berlin International Film Festival; and Grand Jury Prize, 2003 Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Troubleman (Toraburuman)
- Saturday, February 5, 5 PM
** International Premiere **

2010, 180 min., HD Cam, color, in Japanese
Directed by Sabu
With Shigeaki Kato, Terunosuke Takezai, Mayuko Iwasa, Riju Go, Susumu Terajima

Sabu's latest work, written for TV and presented for the first time outside Japan, stars Shigeaki Kato as Kazuo Tokuda, an insurance agent whose life is turned topsy-turvy when he gets thrust into a web of mystery and intrigue involving murderers, would-be rapists and a gang of angry yakuza! As things turn out, trouble is nothing new for this man, who might just be the very embodiment of bad luck.

Sabu (Photo courtesy of Sabu)

Hiroyuki Tanaka, better known as Sabu, is an award-winning Japanese director/screenwriter/actor born in Wakayama, Japan in 1964. After appearing in several gangster-type roles, he wrote and directed his first movie, Non-Stop (a.k.a Dangan Runner), in 1996. Having completed 9 features, his films often star the actors Shinichi Tsutsumi, Susumu Terajima, and Ren Osugi. Two of his films, Hold Up Down and Hard Luck Hero, starred members of the boy band V6. Awards from the festival circuit include the Bangkok Film Festival for Postman Blues, the Fant-Asia Film Festival for Drive, and the Berlin International Film Festival for Monday and Blessing Bell.

Reviewers often compare Sabu to Takeshi Kitano, lumping him with other “Kitano-generation” directors like Hiroshi Shimizu and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Though many of Sabu and Kitano’s films share themes and actors, Sabu is a versatile and creative director in his own right. He started to branch out from his customary comedy-crime niche with the introspective Zen film The Blessing Bell, and again with the thematically and intellectually dark Dead Run. He continued to work as an actor for some years after his directorial debut, being cast in Takeshi Miike’s famous Ichi the Killer, among other films.

Recently, Sabu returned from his 5-year hiatus with The Crab Cannery Ship in 2009, a politically-charged remake of the 1929 proletariat novel. In a recent interview about the film with Screen International correspondent Jason Gray, Sabu said he doesn’t read manga and isn’t influenced much by novels, but he cited music as a major source of inspiration. “Yeah, music's really important to me” Sabu told Gray. “When I write a script, it's always while listening to music. And when I use it in a film I like music playing on a car radio, or the sound of a train, or the noise of a city rather than background music.”

Crab Cannery opened to widely positive reviews. Following Crab Cannery, Sabu wrote and directed the television series Troubleman in April 2010. Currently, he is working on the post-production of a comedy titled Usagi Drop with superstar Kenichi Matsuyama.

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