First masterpece of 21 st century japanese cinema
Milos Tomin | Netherlands | 01/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The evolution of Shinya Tsukamoto from independent extremism of Tetsuo through his polished and festival acclaimed films like Gemini and A Snake of June, is an incredible phenomenon of a great talent developing right before a film fan's eyes.
Vital, at first glance is a dark and lurid tale of a brilliant young medical student suffering from amnesia after surviving a horrific car crash in which his girlfriend was killed.
After deciding to resume his studies and taking up an anatomy class in which dissection is performed on human cadavers his memories start coming back.
Hypnotized by the strange familiarity of the body before him the tale takes an unexpected twist and this film presents us with questions on the purpose of our bodies, memories and love.
Tadanobu Asano is perfectly cast in the role of the student supported by several other luminaries of current Japanese film industry.
Final revelation about the origin of body should come as no surprise to the attentive viewer but the thoughtful way in which this film deals with some very uncomfortable questions that seem to have been completely banished from the western cinema deserves a serious look even by those who might be put off by the subject matter.
I have never seen a film which completely transforms its story and subject matter from a taboo into bliss.
A cinematic experience to cherish!"
Profound and Moving
Miguel B. Llora | Bay Point, California USA | 06/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the director of Tetsuo - The Iron Man and A Snake in June comes a deeply challenging psycho drama.
Hiroshi (Tadanobu Asano) is a medical student bothered by memory loss after a road accident that killed his girlfriend Ryoko (Tsukamoto Nami). Coming home to his mom and dad's with his mind a tabula rasa, he exists through the days like a zombie. Finding an old anatomy textbook ignites/sparks his memories of his life as a medical student. Hiroshi recalls his girlfriend and things arduously begin to come back to him. He decides to re-enter medical school and take it from there - this is where the story really begins.
When the body in his dissection class turns out to be Ryoko, Hiroshi begins to unravel the shared past, in a way uncovering the "vitals" and piecing together the story of her death, but really more her life. Hiroshi rapidly regains his memory thereafter and surrounds himself in the escape of vanished love. For all intents and purposes, the viewer is allowed to share in an experience that is both profound and moving.
3.5 Stars - subtle and moving, but not a masterpiece
Steward Willons | Illinois | 01/06/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If "Vital" fails to find an audience, we can put the blame squarely on its marketing. When a film that can only be described as serene and introspective gets released by Tartan as part of their "Asia Extreme" series, you have to wonder what happened. I'm somewhat familiar with Shinya Tsukamoto and I've watched many of the Asian horror and suspense films that have made it to the USA over the last few years. Naturally, I was expecting something bizarre and freakish. I was about as wrong as I could possibly be.
"Vital" is a deliberately paced drama where the protagonist struggles to regain memories that he lost as the result of a car accident. He is, in essence, living in a state of suspended animation, unsure of the world around him. Needless to say, there isn't a lot of action or dialogue, not that one would expect it. The soundtrack is particularly effective in communicating the emotions and mental state that the protagonist is unable to articulate. The film lulls the viewer into a trance state, thus absorbing us into a story that isn't actually that original.
My main criticism of the film is that I felt Tsukamoto's talent was squandered. "Vital" is a very straight-forward retelling of an already familiar tale. What exactly is new here? Why don't we just watch Hitchcock's "Vertigo" again? Although the film displays beautiful craftsmanship, I don't feel that it successfully distinguishes itself from the array of similar movies, even within the realm of contemporary Asian cinema.
There are touches of Tsukamoto's unique cinematic approach. There is an absolutely amazing scene that opens the film where a row of four smokestacks shift in and out of focus, while the soundtrack presents a cacophony of aural terror. It's quite effective, although I never understood how it was connected to anything in the film. And, as I said, the soundtrack really pulls the film together and almost warrants a recommendation on its strength alone.
Overall, I can give "Vital" a limited recommendation to fans of this highly stylized contemporary Asian cinema, and to fans of slow, peaceful dramas. In that capacity, I did enjoy "Vital" quite a lot. However, there will be other viewers who can safely skip this title without too much regret. I suspect "Vital" will effect some viewers in a very personal and moving way (as certain other reviewers attest), but there will be other viewers who find the film tedious and lethargic.
I've done my best to give a sense of the tone of the film, without saying too much. My advice is to watch it if what I've described seems interesting. And again, let me emphasize that this is most definitely *not* a horror film, nor is it "extreme" in any manner. As long as you don't pay much attention to the marketing and you go in with the correct expectations, you're safe."
I liked it!
ThorBiddlesworth | 02/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"amazingly weird. weirdly amazing. i don't think it's exactly "horror." it is different. and for someone who has watched a bagillion movies, watching something different is a delight.
the acting and cinematography are excellent. just don't expect it to be a straight forward story that makes complete sense at the end."