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Toshiaki Toyoda: The Early Years (Pornostar, Unchain, 9 Souls) Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
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LIMITED EDITION OF 2,000 COPIES! 3 films from cult Japanese director Toshiaki Toyoda - Pornostar (1998) A young man gets off the train in the morning and wanders the business districts aimlessly. He runs across some yakuza gangsters, whom he despises, and goes on a killing spree, but soon becomes involved with a subordinate gang. / Unchain (2000) - Documentary on the Japanese boxer Unchain Kaji, who retired from the ring at the age of 30 with an eye injury and a losing record. He then tries to start a new life as a civilian. / 9 Souls (2003) - Nine convicts escape from prison; most are convicted murders. They commandeer a van from a strip club. Their plan is to find a stash of counterfeit money that a deranged cell mate told them about, divide it, then part ways. They make it to the site where the money is supposed to be hidden, and then one by one, each seeks out the place he wants to be, a version of home, somewhere to connect. Will it end well for any of them? SPECIAL FEATURES New audio commentaries by Midnight Eye s Jasper Sharp and Tom Mes New interview with Toshiaki Toyoda Making Ofs, Deleted Scenes, Music Videos
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Despite the title sounding like some kind of documentary on a 1970’s Pink film star, this plays out similar to a typical yakuza flick. The story follows a young man who brutally attacks a Yakuza, he soon becomes mixed up with a group of men who work for said Yakuza’s boss. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. It’s expertly directed regardless of the obvious low budget and has a feeling very similar to a Takeshi Kitano Yakuza film. There’s some real depth to the story and Toyoda uses some cool imagery, making this standout and rise above similar movies in the genre.
Probably the reason why most people are buying this boxset. I’m sorry to say that this my first viewing of this film, for some reason I never got around to purchasing it before. The story follows 9 convicts escaping prison and living life on the run. As the film progresses you learn more about each of the convicts and what made them into the person they are today. There’s an underlying theme of trying to escape throughout the movie; literally on the run, but also from their own personal demons. The ending brings everything together so well, with a final scene that is left to viewer’s interpretation. The performances are spot on and the direction shows Toyoda’s absolute mastery of style with substance.
Although I was unsure of this to start with, the more I watched the more I was drawn in. It’s a documentary about an unsuccessful boxer called Unchain Kaji and his life after a reluctant early retirement. As well as Kaji, the story features his friends who fight in similar disciplines of the sport. The events are told through a mixture of interviews, archive footage and narration, all perfectly mixed together with an awesome soundtrack. It does lose focus on the odd occasion, but achieves an excellent job of representing the less glamorous side of boxing and the battles these men face both in and out the ring.
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed all 3 of these movies. 9 Souls is by far the most accomplished of the set, but the other two films stand up on their own merit and are well worth the purchase. The discs have some great features (such as the audio commentaries) with excellent picture and sound. Obviously Unchain doesn’t have the greatest of picture quality, which is understandable since most of the movie is made up of old footage filmed in the era of VHS, but personally I found this added to the films charm. Overall anyone who calls themselves a Japanese film fan should own this boxset.