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Shady (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000162054
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 1/4/2014 15:01
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    Review for Shady

    8 / 10


    It’s so easy to get jaded by cinema these days. It’s an industry that seems to self-regulate in favour of the big studios, studios which increasingly fail to take chances and innovate, instead opting to stick with what’s proven to sell, and in effect wind up making the same movie over and over again, albeit it with different actors and different settings. They also spend money as if they’re burning it to keep warm, with budgets these days regularly exceeding 9 figures, again, on films that you have probably seen just a few weeks previously with different faces. Then along comes a film that reaffirms my faith in the medium, a welcome reminder that there is still creativity, originality, and a true independent spirit still thriving among filmmakers.

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    I have to admit that I had my qualms when I read the blurb for Shady though, as prominent is the statement “The debut film of Ryohei Watanabe, made at the age of 24 with a budget of just £10,000!” That seems ambitious indeed, and I have on several occasions seen such similarly modest films from first time directors with first time actors fall flat, because of the constraints of the budget, and because they aimed unrealistically high. I needn’t have worried, as Shady is an astoundingly accomplished feature, overflowing with talent, taut and gripping, the best debut I have ever seen from a new director.

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    Misa Kumada is the isolated loner at school, introverted and shy, not particularly pretty, and a target for bullies, who maliciously give her the nickname ‘Pooh’. The only solace that she finds is in the biology club, of which she is the sole member, where she can take care of her goldfish Kintaro. That’s until she meets Izumi Kiyose, who is conventionally beautiful, but similarly isolated because of that, yet she is more outgoing and outrageous, especially considering how she gets her hands on the maths test a day early. The two may be outsiders in school, ostracised and bullied, but that commonality ensures that they become fast friends. But their friendship is founded on more than just common adversity. There’s something dark at the heart of it, as Izumi puts it, fear and interest, and what begins as the joy of two friends finding each other becomes truly ominous and terrifying.

    And remember to stick around until after the end credits...

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    Shady gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer in NTSC format, and it looks to be progressively encoded as well. It’s a smooth, clear transfer, a little soft, no doubt down to the digitally shot source material, and there is some shimmer on fine detail which videophiles might find niggling. The digital cinematography is subject to the usual drawbacks of low budget filmmaking, with most of the film shot with natural light, and low light scenes suffering from a lack of contrast and detail. That said, the locations and setups are such that they make the most of the medium, and there are some breathtaking images in this film, some very well scouted locations that really enhance the story.

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    You get a simple DD 2.0 Japanese track with optional translated subtitles. For once I really wished that a low budget film had a 5.1 mix, as the sound design for Shady is stunning. The music suits the film well, while the way the sound is mixed really does much to enhance the story, starting off perky and bright, and growing ever more ominous and unsettling as the film progresses. The ‘nabe’ scene is a case in point, a key moment in the film following an important reveal, where the true nature of one of the characters becomes clear, and the stew bubbling in a nabe pot is allowed to almost overwhelm the emotionally weighted dialogue. The subtitles are clear, accurately timed and are free of typographical error, although the song over the end credits lacks subtitles.

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    The disc presents its content with animated menus. On the disc you’ll find a useful 11 minute interview with the film’s stars Mimpi*β and Izumi Okamura. There’s also a 7½ minute interview with director Ryohei Watanabe. The final addition is a weblink on the disc for PC and Mac users.

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    What a stunning, breathtaking debut feature. Shady has the assuredness and confidence behind it of far more accomplished and experienced directors, and it’s shocking to think that this is Ryohei Watanabe’s first feature film, after merely a handful of five minute shorts. It bodes very well for his future output. Shady is an engrossing and thoroughly gripping thriller, deceptive and misleading too. It starts off as an outsiders against the world drama, an unlikely friendship forming against adversity, a hint of adolescent sexuality, some petty larceny, all comparatively innocent and unthreatening, despite the odd note of wrongness injected here and there. And then Shady takes a turn for the dark in an unexpected way, and that initial darkness begins to overpower and dominate the friends, and the story. Shady manages to wrong-foot the viewer on more than one occasion, something that very much adds to its freshness and originality.

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    Except that I didn’t quite find it as original as all that. As the film unfolded, I got that peculiar sense of déjà vu that comes with watching certain films, and the cogs in the back of my mind started turning, trying to place that sensation. It’s not that ‘Fatal Attraction’ moment that is the most obvious homage in the film; it’s something that’s far more encompassing. It took me a while before it clicked, but Shady reminds me strongly of a Mike Winterbottom from 1995 called Butterfly Kiss, which follows the friendship that forms between two outsiders played by Amanda Plummer and Saskia Reeves. Butterfly Kiss is a road movie, which admittedly is dark from the off, with little of the innocence and deceptive lightness of Shady, but Shady does feel a lot like Butterfly Kiss transposed to the high school milieu.

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    Live long enough, watch enough in the way of movies and television, and sure enough you’ll be able to make connections between films and stories separated by decades and by time zones. Shady’s director Ryohei Watanabe would have been six years old when Butterfly Kiss was made. That doesn’t at all detract from this rich and vivid debut feature, with assured and confident storytelling, excellently directed and edited, with two utterly engaging performances from its leads. It’s also a welcome reminder that in cinema, if you have the talent and the right story to tell, budget needn’t be a significant impediment to quality. Shady’s quality puts some big budget thrillers to shame, and if there is any justice, it should earn its modest budget back several times over in the UK on DVD sales alone.

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