Shin-Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden (Japan 2007)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: Women Of Fast Food (?)
Review Date: 7/31/10
Director: Mamoru Oshii and others
Cast: Miki Mizuno, Yuko Ogura, Hinako Saeki

What the hell?!? Here's another Japanese oddity that's completely incomprehensible to Western audiences, but not in a good way. It's a collection of six short stories by several directors, including "Ghost In The Shell" director Mamoru Oshii. All of the stories feature women and food, but none of them make a damn bit of sense. Of course, without subtitles I was at a disadvantage, but I suspect they wouldn't have helped any.

"Princess Goldfish" is a long and ponderous story about a photographer who takes pictures of a woman with several goldfish tattoos on her body. "The Drunk And The Dead" is an Old West tale set in Arizona JapTown featuring action star Miki Mizuno as a gun-slinging bourbon seeker. It has some nicely staged action sequences, but even its twenty minute running time is about ten minutes too long. "Dandelion" is a depressing tale about a man who accidentally kills the woman he loves. It's probably the most coherent story of the bunch, but it's a serious downer. It also takes place in a Japanese Big Boy restaurant, which I found extremely bizarre. "Whispers In The Grass" is an eerie tale about a girl who lures men into a corn field, presumably as the result of some childhood trauma. There's an old man, acupuncture, and at least one murder involved. "The Pop Music Angel" starts out innocently enough with the impossibly cute Yuko Ogura visiting a crepe stand and asking the proprietor to take pictures of her eating crepes (more Japanese wackiness, as their culture seems fascinated with watching girls eat). Then it takes a dark turn as she gets chased by a bunch of suits and goes on an extremely long-winded monologue about Japanese history, World War II, American influence, the invasion of television, and god knows what else. If nothing else, it proved to me that Ms. Ogura is actually a pretty decent actress, and not just a super cute, mentally vacant teen idol. Seeing her in action was actually quite alarming to me, as her presence is intoxicating and her eye contact is unnerving. She's a very talented and dangerous young woman... The final entry is Oshii's "Assault Girl" featuring an appropriately rugged Hinako Saeki. This may be his first live action work since "Avalon" (2001), and is stylistically very similar. As the only soldier to make it past the enemy's defenses during an orbital drop assault, her combat robot is disabled by a gigantic sand serpent and she ends up wandering a desert wasteland in search of shelter and rescue. What she ends up finding is a giant statue of Colonel Sanders in the sand. The end. Huh?!? Baffling to say the least.

Overall, this collection of experimental films is just too weird and too long to really enjoy. Apart from "Assault Girl", the production values are on par with low budget TV programming, and the execution feels a bit amateurish. The soundtrack features some nice melodic music, which helps set the melancholy tone that runs throughout the entire production. Not one of Oshii's better outings, and I hope that his feature length "Assault Girls" film fares better.