It was a pretty hectic year for a lot of us here at The J-Film Pow-Wow, Bob Turnbull included; but Bob wanted to weigh in on his top DVD releases of the past 12 months. Time to get our your credit cards and go shopping!
1. Cold Fish (Third Window Films)
As great as it was to finally see Sion Sono's "Love Exposure" hit Region 1 this past year, I'd had it in my hands since the early days of 2010 due to a Region 2 release. So my top DVD of the year goes to another Sono film - the daring and fearless "Cold Fish". It was fantastic to see it hit Region 1 during the same calendar year as other regions (J-Film Pow-Wow friends Third Window films released a spiffy 2-disc version this past year as well), but I was just happy it was in circulation - it's not a film that will be embraced by everyone, but I've rarely seen a movie pulse and progress in the way "Cold Fish" did. Just when you think Sono has pushed his story and his presentation to the edge, he pushes even harder and ends up taking you right over that edge. I was happy to make the plunge with him. 2. The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara (Eclipse)
Given the precedents that have been set, I can't imagine a year in the near future when there won't be an Eclipse box set on this list. There's almost no end to the treasures that could be unearthed, but you get the feeling that they are more than happy to keep digging and digging and digging. Previous to this box I was only familiar with Kurahara's entry in a previous Eclipse box - the terrific "I Am Waiting" from the Nikkatsu Noir set. I took a leap of faith that an entire set focused on some of his work from the 1960s would be worth it. I was repaid straight out of the gate with "Intimidation" which was a 65 minute blast of energy and fun wrapped in a solid crime drama. Given the variety of moods and scope within this set, it's easy to see that Kurahara had a restless need to experiment and likely hated to stand still.
3. Branded To Kill / Tokyo Drifter (Criterion Collection)
Two of my favourite films from one of my favourite directors were re-released just before the end of the year in brand spanking new BluRay editions so that each carefully composed frame could be displayed in every shade of grey imaginable ("Branded To Kill") and in every hue your biggest box of crayons might contain ("Tokyo Drifter"). Though Seijun Suzuki has a raft of examples of his ability to take a B-movie script and distill it down to its essence in order to tell the story visually, these two are recognized as the prime pieces of evidence. They're both stylish, fun and bordering on lunacy. If you haven't had the chance to catch up with these classics previously, NOW is the time to do it. I'll wait. 4. Confessions (Third Window Films)
Third Window Films has quickly built up an impressive stable of titles, not the least of which is Tetsuya Nakashima's wonderfully intense "Confessions". The opening 30 minutes is essentially a perfect short film as a school teacher delivers a monologue to her mostly inattentive class detailing the death of her child and the blame she puts on two students. My initial feelings about the film were mixed, but it's grown in estimation since I first saw it at TIFF in 2010. If the rest of the film doesn't quite match that opening, it moves relentlessly towards more and more confessions from its characters and has wound up digging itself into my brain.
5. Still Walking (Criterion Collection)
What a joy it was revisiting this gem from Hirokazu Kore-eda. It wasn't easy picking between this and the gorgeously spooky "Kuroneko" (either way, Criterion was gonna get this spot...), but the loving portrait of the family in "Still Walking" and the oodles of humanity the film exudes give it the nudge. I believe this also made my 2010 list as I was anticipating it so much. My thirst has been quenched.