Sunday, May 1, 2011

Birthday Boy - AKA: Death Spins A Web

It was my birthday the other day. Hooray!

Well, at my age, birthdays are no big deal. Besides, nothing will ever top my seventh birthday when my mom got party favors of Batman bubblegum cards for my friends and me. Try to imagine how every synapse of my brain fried upon opening my pack and finding "Death Spins a Web" inside. What boy would not stare in sheer awe and amazement upon seeing Batman caught in the web of a giant spider as he defends himself with nothing but a Bat-A-Rang? Sheer total bliss!

I looked around the web and, as you can see, I found a shot of the card. Is this or is this not one of coolest paintings ever conceived by the brain of man?

With a birthday experience like that under my belt, who can blame me for not getting excited when the so-called special day arrives nowadays. 

However, this year's turned out to be one of the best ever. For starters, the night before, I went to a stage show put on by my friend Yumiko, an action actress I affectionately call "the French Bread girl." This nickname comes from her role in the movie MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD. In it, she plays a baker who is sliced and diced until nothing is left but her bloody torso, which happens to resemble a large loaf of French bread. Sounds disgusting, but it's handled tongue in cheek and is quite funny, actually.

The show was unlike any stage play I've seen in Japan. Performed by an action team, it was more like skits designed to demonstrate their agility, strength and martial arts ability. It was a lot of fun and I was happy to see Yumiko do her patent 'body spin,' where she is spun around another person's body (as she did in MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD). She's fairly small and doesn't look all that heavy, so I guess that helps her pull this stunt off. I plan to see them the next time they perform. I'm including a photo of Yumiko (she's the zombie on the right) that I took on the set of HELLDRIVER last year.

After the show I gave my buddy Yoshiki a call. He was free, so I went over to Waseda station, a stop away from where Yumiko was performing, and the two of us went out drinking. 

Yoshiki is one of the best guys I've met in my eighteen years in Japan. We share a love of extreme cinema and since becoming friends have spent many long, enjoyable nights talking away the hours, covering things Romero, things bloody, and things I think normals would simply label perverse. Yoshiki also happens to be one of the most talented people I've met in my life - and I've met a lot of talented people. His poster work is, I feel, the finest poster work in Japan today. And his script for the Nikkatsu film "Cold Fish" displays a sensibility rare in these days of studio produced genre films that are made so as not to offend anyone. The only regret I have with my relationship with him is that I didn't meet him sooner.

After drinking up a ton of beer we headed over to his place where we drank champagne and watched BLACK SWAN on his large, Blu-Ray driven projection system. I didn't get home until around 4am. It was a great way to welcome in my new year.

The next day, my actual birthday, the fun continued with a set visit to my friend Iguchi's newest film. I can't comment on the film yet, but I can say I had a totally great time on set. The people working on the film are comprised of some of the most important friends I have in Japan, the people who have given meaning to my Japan experience.

The first time I met Iguchi was four years ago on the set of his film THE MACHINE GIRL, which was the film that pretty much set the tone for the current trend of FX-driven, over-the-top Japanese cinema. Oddly enough, my first film THE iDOL played back-to-back with his film SUKEBAN BOY at Fantasia in 2006.

Professionally, I've sub-titled several of his films, done promotional writing for his movies, and am currently in talks to do work on some of his newer material. I enjoy working for Iguchi. He gives me the freedom to use my own sensibility almost every step of the way. 

Oh, getting back to his new film, I think I won't get in trouble if I say that the actresses on set were all really cute.

In any case, I took some totally amazing set photos. (Can't share any, but I think no one will mind the one above of Iguchi laughing insanely. Yes, the set was that much fun.)

I'm happy, too, because while on set, I cast the second lead to my upcoming film. I can't name names yet, but she is perfect for the role of an excessively sexually active woman. Her commitment was an awesome birthday present. Honestly, when I think of the people who help me without question, the kind of people who give me their precious time and talent, despite the few, inevitable rotten eggs, I consider myself awfully lucky to have the friends I do.

In any case, life in Tokyo is moving along. The aftershocks are getting less and less (or at least they register less and less as I notice that when my room shakes I don't drop what I'm doing any longer) and the shelves are fairly well stocked again.

The one thing, though, that bugs me still is how dark the trains can get. It's not uncommon for a train to stop in a shadow or pull into a station and be cast in total darkness. The reason for this is to reduce the consumption of electricity, so it's only done when a train is overground, once a train goes underground the lights are turned on.

Look at the photo to the right and you'll see what I mean. The worst is when a train pulls up, the doors open, and the train car before you is pitch black.

Well, if this is the worst of it, I'll manage.

Until whenever...