Flick Clique: September 2-8
The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief (2006). Thought-provoking documentary that we caught on Netflix streaming follows a group of men in their 20s who work at the Rakkyo Café in Osaka, Japan. The café’s owner, Issei, is a well-dressed, cocky type who strings along his female clientele into thinking he’s in love with them. He also grooms the other café employees to do the same. The customers, mostly local prostitutes, keep coming back for more reaffirmation while Issei makes wads of cash on the bottles of champagne they buy. It’s an elaborate role-playing game, really (even the customers seem in on it), which makes this doc doubly fascinating. At times Issei and the men are so steeped in the ritual of primping themselves and flattering the customers that they wonder if real love is even a possibility for them. Certain elements of this doc are disturbing, such as the way the guys pressure female passers-by into coming into their club, and the pseudo-hazing rituals they perform to get the regulars to imbibe more alcohol. I wind up feeling sorry for the women – but on some levels, they’re playing the game, too.
The Grissom Gang (1971). A DVD that I picked up very quickly from the Big Lots $3 shelves, The Grissom Gang was the final film that director Robert Aldrich (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) made at his own studio before after a series of flops drove them under. It’s pretty much a sweatier, more violent Bonnie & Clyde cash-in with Depression-era heiress Kim Darby getting abducted by a twisted family with three lusty sons and an obnoxious, potty mouthed ma (Irene Dailey) who all have their eyes on a huge cash reward. Overly padded with draggy dialogue between Darby and Scott Wilson as the more fragile, brain-damaged son, this is mostly a sad and dull film. The most notable thing about it is how everybody sweats – a lot! This has to be the most sweat-drenched movie ever made.
Street Mobster (1972). Another violent early-’70s crime picture, but this one fares much better than Grissom since it is Japanese and has the stylistic stamp of its director Kinji Fukasaku (who years later did the faboo Battle Royale). This follows an excitable young punk, recently sprung from prison, as he and other cons start their own yakuza organization to take on the establishment. Sporting a kinetic, fragmentary style, the film is ahead of its time which makes up for the so-so story and drawn-out fighting sequences. The main character, Isamu, is supposed to be a likable cad, but they needed someone more charismatic than actor Bunta Sugawara to truly pull it off. Where was Jo Shishido when we needed him? At any rate, a fun, pulpy Japanese revenge flick to enjoy.
Man-Trap (1961). Another Olive Films disc which I am reviewing for DVD Talk, Man-Trap stars hunky Jeffrey Hunter as a Korean War vet whose routine existence changes when an old Army buddy (David Janssen) comes back into his life. A contractor stuck in a loveless marriage with a boozy, vindictive party gal (Stella Stevens), Hunter is approached by Janssen to help him abduct a suitcase full of stolen cash belonging to some Central American criminals. Since Hunter saved Janssen’s life, Janssen decides to return the favor by cutting his buddy in on the reward money. It can only work by executing a perfect heist at the San Francisco airport, however, and Stevens’ character is too hell-bent on destroying her husband to let him get away with it. An intriguing late-period film noir which counts as the only feature directed by actor Edmond O’Brien (D.O.A.), the film was interesting at times, absurd at other times with some decent work from Hunter and Janssen. Stella Stevens is pretty terrible, however (partially the fault of the script, granted, which makes her into a one-dimensional harpy). O’Brien’s direction is okay if flat and closely resembling TV dramas of the day. The most unique aspect of the movie is its depiction of Hunter’s suburban world, sunny on the outside, full of obnoxious, predatory moochers when examined closely. Mildly recommended.
DVD Talk reviews:
The Dark Mirror (1946) – Highly Recommended
2 Broke Girls: The Complete First Season (2011-12) – Highly Recommended
Tags: jeffrey hunter