films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


Hakuchi: The Innocent

1999 / 146m - Japan
Drama, Fantasy, War
Hakuchi: The Innocent poster

Spectacular mix of fantasy, drama and war. A unique blend of pop elements, poetic drama and urban fantasy that feels like a breath of fresh air. Asano and Hashimoto are spectacular, the drama is on point and stylistically this film is like no other. Liked it better the second time around, one of Japan's hidden gems.

Black Kiss

2004 / 133m - Japan
Mystery, Thriller
Black Kiss poster

A dark and mysterious thriller about a serial killer trailing a model with a hidden past. Tezuka's visual style is slick and colorful, the murders are gruesome and trippy, Ando and Hashimoto are great and the final reveal is quite something. Tezuka is a very stylish director, it's a shame he didn't direct more films.

Tezuka's Barbara

2019 / 100m - Japan
Tezuka's Barbara poster

I won't lie, expectations were pretty immense going into this film. I liked Macoto's Tezuka's earlier work a lot, Christopher Doyle's an amazing cinematographer and Fumi Nikaido is one of the best actresses working in Japan today. And while the result is definitely intriguing, this wasn't the masterpiece I'd hoped it would be.

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Mikura is a well-respected author. While the public adores him, he is starting to doubt his writing skills. Right then a mysterious woman shows up, unabashedly dishing out critiques about his work. Mikura finds himself uncontrollably drawn to her, as she slowly drags him into a destructive downwards spiral.

Macoto is adapting his father's manga here. I never read the comic, but I did find the "author doubts himself and hits lows to draw inspiration from them" thematic a bit underwhelming. The jazzy soundtrack doesn't really work, Doyle's cinematography isn't on point, and I've seen Nikaido do better work too. There are still some memorable scenes, the mystery is quite fun, and it's certainly not a dull film. It just can't live up to the potential that was clearly there. I'd still recommend it, only don't go in expecting to see a masterpiece.

Experimental Film

Jikken Eiga
1999 / 40m - Japan
Romance, Mystery
Experimental Film poster

What a nice little surprise. Tezuka is a pretty interesting director, so I kind of expected Experimental Film to be worth a watch, I just didn't expect it would've been this good. If only it had been a bit longer, this could've been a strong personal favorite. For once, the (very) short runtime works against the film, but it's definitely worth seeking out.

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The plot is extremely minimal. A director is hired to shoot an experimental film. He has to shoot a young woman who lives in a remote house. He can't shoot anything else, not even the rooms of the house. Without uttering a word to each other, the two begin their strange assignment. The longer they stay together, the more awkward the situation becomes.

The setting is lush and stylish, Nagase and Hashimoto have superb screen presence and Tezuka makes very good use of the score to add to the atmosphere. The tension between the characters is tangible too, sadly, the film is over and done when things start to get really interesting. It's rare for me to be let down by a short runtime, but that just hints at the quality of the film. Very cool.

Monster Heaven

Youkai Tengoku
1986 / 51m - Japan
Monster Heaven poster

A short horror anthology by Macoto Tezuka, son of the infamous mangaka. Tezuka has already proven himself a talented director, but doing horror on a TV budget isn't easy, and Monster Heaven occasionally struggles to make the best of its limited finances. Tezuka isn't one to let that stop him from going all-in though.

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The shorts vary in length and don't always make a lot of sense, but people familiar with Japanese horror (and the yokai - ghosts and spirits - in particular) won't have too much trouble keeping track of the often strange and puzzling narratives. There are kappas, ghosts and disfigured folk inhabiting these stories, and their appearances tend to spell trouble.

Performances are rather weak, and the special effects are very bare-bones. But Tezuka's creative cinematography and a little well-placed comedy help to cover up some of the film's weaker points. It's short, there's more than enough variety and there's plenty of weirdness to keep things from becoming boring. It's certainly not his best film, but Tezuka fans won't be disappointed.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers

Hoshikuzu Ky├┤dai no Densetsu
1985 / 100m - Japan
Comedy, Music
The Legend of the Stardust Brothers poster

Crazy and absurd musical comedy that doesn't score many points with its soundtrack or technical qualities, but wins you over with its completely mental absurdities. The film is pretty loud and hysterical, but from that spring a lot of insane jokes that make sure it never gets boring. You have to be able to appreciate the Japanese-ness of it all, but if you do it's a real killer.

Monster Heaven

Youkai Tengoku: Ghost Hero
1990 / 75m - Japan
Monster Heaven poster

Though Macoto Tezuka will forever be "the son of legendary...", he did manage to grow out of the shadow of his illustrious father. At the start of his directorial career, he spent most of his time making quirky, anime-like features, Monster Heaven is a perfect example. It's far from his best work, but if you're looking for something short and kooky, this is a pretty good fit.

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The plot is pretty nonsensical, but that hardly matters. We're following a head scientist who is working with his team on some kind of hyperrealistic 3D CG projection system. One day he gets a document that outlines his family history. He learns that he is part of a long line of yokai hunters. Cue a bunch of yokai who will be making his life quite a bit harder.

The characters are familiar caricatures, the horror is played for giggles, and Tezuka has some fun with the costumes and cinematography. The pacing is snappy, the runtime is short, it's just that the film feels a little too flimsy and inconsequential. Tezuka never goes all out, and films like this need that extra bit of commitment and enthusiasm to truly shine. It's decent enough, but only if you appreciate this type of cheese.