The Films of 2011 – #10 Bunraku
I’m no doubt laying myself on the line here, but one year later, I still find myself conflicted about Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim Versus The World.” Whilst hailed from most quarters for its blipvert-style editing, its relentless torrent of pop culture references and all sorts of other technical marvels, for some reason it still just sort of fails to connect with me personally – which is a shame, as it really is an excellently well made film and really does deserve all the accolades & superlatives that people hurled at it. The reason I bring up a film from 2010 in my rundown of 2011 is that BUNRAKU is an equally ambitious visual feast, clearly curated by geeks who live waist-deep in pop culture, and personally I think it is a far more engaging film.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trolling for the sake of antagonism and page hits – there is a chance the fact that I prefer Bunraku is testament to me showing my age.. Perhaps the editing is less frenetic & more suited to these eyes. Scott Pilgrim fans, I still think it’s great, let’s all get excited about Edgar’s next effort together.:)
Set in a fantastic, post-apocalyptic realm, pretty much every action movie cliche is invoked in Bunraku when a nameless gun slinger comes to town, befriends a lone samurai warrior, and the two of them team up to defeat the criminal overlord who keeps society at his mercy, oh and they have to liberate a prostitute with a heart of gold from him too. As you might guess, plot isn’t Bunraku’s strong point, but in all honesty, it never pretends otherwise.
What really sets the film apart from similar ilk is the beautiful & unique production design, attention to detail, and (like Scott Pilgrim) reference-heavy playfulness with familiar tropes of modern action cinema. From the opening frame of the film, we are presented with a world that is not unlike an origami replication of Sin City – landscapes, sets, props, vehicles, pretty much everything on screen is crafted out of paper (or made to appear so). Whenthe narrative jumps to another locale, the landscape folds away like a complex pop-up book, mirroring the not-Spiderman story that Woody Harrelson’s barman character tells. One notable action sequence appears to be a riff on the Oldboy corridor fight, only to then have the heroes climb down ladders at each end of the screen and make you slowly realise that they are fighting their way through an 80’s computer platform game.
Funnily enough, words cannot begin to convey the visual splendour to hand, suffice to say that my co-watcher and I were laughing with unadulterated glee at some of the tricksiness and wit displayed onscreen.
Bunraku is a knowingly simplistic, profoundly nuanced action movie that will appeal to the cult & geek film cognoscenti (and perhaps alienate anyone outside of that exclusive set). It is a film that deserves recognition and wider acclaim, oh and I nearly forgot – it is incredibly, relentlessly violent & chock full of stylised battles the likes of which you haven’t seen before. Watch the trailer below and then go and rent it immediately.
If all of the above sounds like a load of old twaddle, then i’ll just leave you with this – Ron “fucking” Perlman.
Please come back at the same time tomorrow to see my pick for Film #9 of 2011. I can assure you that some of my Top Ten Choices will almost definitely focus on plot or acting, probably.
The Clockwork Shorts 2011 retrospective can be browsed for your pleasure right HERE