At Venice two “Midnight screenings” under the sign of Zebraman

The superhero Zebraman will be the protagonist of two Midnight films at the 67th Venice International Film Festival: Zebraman (2004) and the highly anticipated sequel Zebraman: Zebra City no gyakushu (Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City) (2010) from visionary Japanese director Miike Takashi.

The first of two films Zebraman, released in Japan in 2004, will be screened Out of Competition on September 8th (at 00:15 am, Sala Perla), the second, Zebraman: Zebra City no gyakushu (Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City) will be screened Out of Competition on September 9th (at 00:30 am, Sala Grande) following 13 Assassins (world premiere screening in Competition), closing therefore an entire evening devoted to the genius of one of the most innovating directors of world-wide cinema.

Miike Takashi’s work, is very characterized by the excessiveness of courageous cruelty (like Audition or Ichi the Killer or the censored Imprint) and exemplary in its sole fecundity (more than 70 films a twenty-years career), it is not new to Venice.

Five years after attending the Venetian festival out of the competition with the “fantastic” The Great Yokai War (Venice 2005) a bizarre story that can immerse itself in local legends of eternal struggle between good and evil, and three years after presenting at Venice the unrivaled Sukiyaki Western Django (Venice 2007), a unique example of “macaroni westerns in Japanese sauce,” Venice could but enter again Miike’s universe.

Miike’s is an extravagant universe dominated by a grotesque and anarchic style, which shows absolute indifference to both film genres – he experimented with them all “subverting” and “reinventing” their rules – and to the hierarchy between A and B movies. A totally free area of expression, the birth and definition of which is undoubtedly one of the defining moments in recent years cinema.

Takashi Miike has made genre films differently from any other director, and the superhero genre is no exception. The two Zebraman films fall into this category and in contrast to Hollywood films, they do not have a dark nor a metaphoric tone, but are noisy, impertinent, overflowing with imaginativeness and mystery, dominated by mutant creatures, gags, references to the culture of 1970’s with spicy choreographies or, more explicitly sensual. Both Zebraman, scripted by the eccentric Kudo Kankuro, tell the story of an everyman’s victory over evil, a high school teacher who’s fascinated by the tv-series, “Zebraman”, finds out he possess the same magical powers of his television idol (to fight the aliens) wearing his costume.

In the second episode, Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City, set in 2025, the protagonist (the now hoary Aikawa Show) wakes up after 15 years in a new Tokyo named Zebra City. In this city on the border between good and evil, the powerful ones at force have decided that for five minutes twice a day, in “Zebra Time”, the police masked and dressed in leather can kill anyone on the streets as “prevention” of crimes. It’s in this apocalyptic scenario that Zebraman will begin the counterattack.

With the screening of these two Zebraman films at Midnight, the bound between the Venice Film Festival and the Udine Far East Film Festival has become stronger. A bound that had previously resulted in the night screenings of two surprising Asian genre films: bizarre and parodying Guilala gyakushu – Samitto kiki ippatsu! (Monster X Strikes Back: Attack The G8 Summit!) from Japanese director Minoru Kawasaki and epic “Salgarian” pirate film Puen-yai-jom-sa-lad (Queens of Langkasuka) by Nonzee Nimibutr, the most ambitious (and onerous) Thai film production over the past years.

Miike Takashi has been one of the most acclaimed guest at the recent editions of the Udine Far East Film Festival.  In 2002 with Ichi The Killer, in 2003 with Shangri-la and Graveyard Of Honour, in 2006 with Imprint, an episode from the Masters of Horror series, and in 2009 with Yatterman, the adaptation of popular cartoon Yattaman.