The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai was not, I regret to say, all that or a bag of chips. The lighting and camera work were great, by 70s grind house standards, which is unfortunate, because this movie was made sometime after 2003. The action sequences were really bad, to the point that I started to wonder if they were intentionally bad, and the sex scenes looked like people always fear they look having sex rather than anything you’d want to actually see on screen. This was definitely intentional. The metaphysical commentary didn’t make any sense at all, although in all fairness that could be down to the translation. The political satire was kind of clumsy.
On the plus side, It was pretty funny all the way through, and the actress that plays Sachiko gave performance that was spirited, if not a whole lot else. It was definitely also surreal, and gets some points for sheer craziness value.
In case anybody’s wondering (I know I was) what the Monday-night audience at the Drafthouse downtown looks like for Japanese existentialist-surrealist-action-comedy-satire-pornos, it’s this: all white. Like all white. The guys were roughly equal parts movie geeks (small, stylish sunglasses, clean clothes, combed or at least finger-combed hair, a few extra pounds, and frequent girlfriends) and geek geeks (small, unstylish sunglasses, ripped and/or stained t-shirts, uncombed hair with dandruff, and an utter lack of girlfriends). I wore contacts and have no hair, so I don’t know what group I fit into. I wore a holey T-shirt underneath a clean Brooks Brothers shirt, so that’s a wash too.
About 1/3 of the audience were women, mostly there with the movie geeks. There were also a few scattered women who’d come with other women, and virtually no women that came alone.
All in all, I think it was probably the Monday night Drafthouse that determined the demographics more than what was showing.
On a side note, I watched The Island today, because I was sick and at home, and it was a lot better than I expected, a stylish sci-fi action flick that starts out all THX 1138 and ends up all The Rock. It’s a Michael Bay (Armageddon, The Rock, Pearl Harbor) flick, so a lot of things blowing up and miraculously failing to kill our erstwhile heroes is to be expected, but the action sequences, while improbable, are imaginitive and well-executed; the CG blends seamlessly with the live action footage. The production design is pretty damned awesome, with lots of shiny metal and glass lighty-uppy future stuff, although, inexplicably, a lot of 2000-era cars appear to be driving around 2050-era Los Angeles. At least they chose for one of these vehicles the Cadillac Cien; although it is referred to in the movie as an antique, it’s quite possible that this is the only car Cadillac’s ever made that can claim to look futuristic, and it’s pretty to watch on the big screen. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson give simple but effective performances that bring a lot of life their characters, and do a down-pat job of the most frequent task asked of them, which is to look pretty and run really fast while things blow up around them. It’s not a movie with a lot of nuance, but it is in the end at least something more than it should have been, and only slightly less than it could have been. Even Stephanie Zacharek, who was just making up reasons not to like it lest somebody in her weekly movie critics circle accuse her of failing to look down her nose at Mr. Crash!BOom!, seemed pretty halfhearted in her dismissal.