January 2008

Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence

Red Princess Blues Animated: The Book of Violence is an animated short film prequel to Alex Ferrari’s upcoming feature film Red Princess Blues and provides some of the backstory of “Princess” - the main character in both films – as well as giving us an opportunity to see some of her world. And what a world it is.

The story centres on the 12-year-old Princess (voiced by Paula Garcés) who – following a violent incident - finds herself in a foreign country trying to find her father. Here, she encounters Nino (Larry Robinson), who tells her that her father is dead and that he had promised to take care of her.

Nino puts her to work in his book shop and its here, while cleaning the back room, that she discovers The Book of Violence. On learning that she has found the book, and seeing that she has some talent, Nino agrees to give her some training. The results of this training, of course, will be seen in the upcoming feature.

Alex Ferrari and Dan Cregan have worked together on several films all of which are very striking visually, and this film is no exception. The hand-drawn animation is beautiful to look at and very detailed, but quite static. This approach works very much in the films favour by creating a mood of barely suppressed emotion throughout and the suggestion of the violence to come – something made explicit in the films final shot.

Paula Garcés puts in a stunning performance here as well. Even though most of the dialogue is in the form of a voice-over narrative she still manages to draw the audience into her character so that we really do want to know how things will pan out for Princess.

Red Princess Blues Animated is an exceptionally stylish film harks back to the sort of anime that many of us grew up with. It can currently be seen online at Latino Review (until February 7th), after which it will its festival run. The film is well worth seeing and I cant recommend strongly enough that you do so.

Desmond Coy

One of the most rewarding parts of running a site such as this is the number of short films that come my way. There are some incredibly talented people out there turning out superbly focussed pieces of twisted brilliance that really do deserve to be seen by a much wider audience. Desmond Coy is just such a film.

In the opening scene we meet our protagonist, played by Kerr Hewitt. Hes bruised, battered and bloody and pleading for mercy. And, just for good measure, whoever has kidnapped him had decided to hold him in a bathful of water. The film then goes on to reveal how he came to be in this position.

Writer, Jeff Spriet has managed to pack a surprisingly large amount of plot into the films short running time, and the story is very efficiently told. There is no padding here and everything that happens has a narrative value. Because of the way that the film is structured, this is not always immediately apparent but, by the end of the film, everything has been neatly slotted into place to ensure that the conclusion of the film is suitably satisfying.

Kerr Hewitts performance also deserves a mention. His character goes through a lot over the course of the film and Hewitt does a great job here of taking us from a mild dislike of his smug yuppie to genuine sympathy for the brutalised victim he becomes.

Visually, Desmond Coy is very effective indeed. There are basically three sets and, in each case, the design and the lighting perfectly captures the mood of the events – from the height of overconfidence to very low indeed. And when things do go wrong for our hero, the stylishly grimy violence of the film becomes almost painful to watch.

Desmond Coy is an exceptionally stylish film that tells a very solid story, and tells it well. The film is about to start its festival run and is well worth seeking out.

The Ninja Always Rings Once

Lance (Gabriel Leon) wants to be a ninja. He also, desperately, wants a girlfriend and this is quite excruciatingly apparent to every woman he meets in the course of his job – a pizza delivery boy for Ninja Pizza. Well, where else would you expect him to be working?

Unfortunately for Lance, his desperation to meet women lands him in trouble – repeatedly – until he finally hits rock bottom and loses his job. And its now, while alone and pondering his options that he – rather improbably – encounters a real-life ninja, Takeshi Banzai (Seiji Kakizaki). Banzai is getting on a bit, and being hunted by another group of ninjas, but also considers himself to be in debt to Lance who accidentally rescued him from his enemies.

Consequently, he agrees to take the younger man on as a student. This is a decision that Banzai quickly begins to regret as he becomes aware of just how eccentric Lance really is. Still, the student does learn – slowly – and over the course of the training Takeshi starts to rediscover his own long-suppressed ambitions.

Inevitably enough, once Lance starts to pick up some ninja skills his attention returns to his amorous ambitions and, once again, his dorkiness lands him in trouble, this time putting both Takashis and his own life in danger

The Ninja Always Rings Once is a very funny film. Obviously, it is a ninja film and it is both a spoof of and a homage to the many direct to video examples of this genre that were churned out in the 1980s.

We have the cod philosophy, the manic chases and the over-the top fight scenes, all of which are very well choreographed. Although there is a jokey sense of humour present throughout the film, director Christopher Genovese clearly knows and appreciates the genre for what it is.

Part of the appreciation of the ninja genre, of course, includes recognising the absurdity of many of the elements in these films. And Genovese not only recognises this, but takes full advantage of it to deliver a deft and very funny comedy which works well even if you have never seen a ninja film before.

The acting in this film is very strong throughout and both Leon and Kakizaki do a great job of bringing their characters to life and generating some real sympathy for both. Also worth mentioning is the soundtrack which, as with everything else, really fits the spirit of the film. And I loved the Ninja Pizza uniform.

Overall, The Ninja Always Rings Once is a solidly entertaining film that has plenty to fans of both action films and comedies. But it goes beyond that and also has a great deal of fun with the ninja genre, making it doubly entertaining to anyone who remembers the films its spoofing.