Vibrator on DVD

vibratorBeing the elitist that I am, there is sort of a part of me that wants to be greedy and keep this wonderful film a secret, but that is indefensibly unfair to the rest of you.

 

In early 2003, I paid a kind of ridiculous amount of money for a Malata 520 which, at the time, was about the best DVD player you could get anywhere in the world. It's a region-free DVD player that, among other things, was the only model player I could find anywhere in the world (and I had help from Seattle's excellent Scarecrow Video) that could not only correct the dreaded "PAL squish" (when region-free DVD players convert NTSC, the American standard television signal, to PAL, the European standard signal, or vice versa, they often screw up the aspect ratio, which results in widescreen movies being squished into fullscreen, or fullscreen movies stretched to widescreen), but also switch its own output from NTSC to PAL and back with just a couple of button presses on the remote, which proved very handy when I moved to England and brought the player along with me later that year. And aside from the region-free deal (meaning, though it seems to be relatively common knowledge now, that DVD players can only play DVDs bought in the same region; i.e., DVD players bought in America can only play DVDs bought in America (Region 1), DVD players bought in Western Europe can only play DVDs bought in Western Europe (Region 2), etc.), which allowed me to play whatever DVDs I wanted from anywhere in the world, it also consistently played DVD-Rs and VCDs, which was a rare feature at the time.

After this purchase, I got a little trigger-happy on importing films instead of waiting for their U.S. release-I'm still stuck with a British copy of the British version of The Office's Christmas specials, a British import of Talk to Her, and a French copy of Irreversible, that I impatiently bought before their U.S. releases and now can't loan to friends. After being burned by this a few too many times, I really decreased my import DVD buying, although I still do it from time to time (a recent amazon.co.uk purchase had me buying Derailroaded, an American production which, as far as I know, has yet to secure a U.S. distributor; Princess Raccoon, the wonderful Zhang Ziyi–starring musical from Japanese legend Seijun Suzuki; a two-disc set of Celine and Julie Go Boating, Jacques Rivette's 3 ½ hour long masterpiece that American distributor New Yorker doesn't seem to want to release on DVD; and Cinema 16's disc of short films from famous European filmmakers). One DVD I imported that remained one of my secret weapons of great, almost completely unknown films was Ryuichi Hiroki's Vibrator, which I first saw in the London Film Festival in 2003 and eventually imported (for quite a lot of money, unfortunately) from yesasia.com late in 2004. Everyone I showed Vibrator to had both never heard of it before and absolutely loved it.

Vibrator is based on a Mari Akasaka's famous Japanese feminist novel of the same name, and involves a woman, Rei (Shinobu Terajima) getting picked up by a trucker, Takatoshi (the charismatic bleach-blonde-haired Nao Omori, best known for playing Ichi in Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer). Rei and Takatoshi spend most of the movie riding around in Takatoshi's truck, playing games on the CB, talking and having sex. It's a low-key movie that is of the rare sort that might not immediately bowl you over with how wonderful it is, but is easy to watch and comforting in the rare, ethereal way that only the best movies are.

Although it probably means that I will have to sacrifice it as a secret weapon in the obscure film category, I'm very happy to report that on February 6, Kino is giving Vibrator a proper U.S. DVD release (it never received a theatrical run in America, and only played in a handful of film festivals here), so you will no longer need to rely on a silly DVD player and a ton of money to import the disc if you want to see the film. Even better, Kino is releasing two more Hiroki films, I Am an S&M Writer and Tokyo Trash Baby, on the same date, both of which I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing (in fairness, the only other Hiroki film I've caught was It's Only Talk, which screened at Sundance last year; it had its moments, but was ultimately disappointing). Being the elitist that I am, there is sort of a part of me that wants to be greedy and keep this wonderful film a secret, but that is indefensibly unfair to the rest of you. Or maybe this feeling is a result of losing the single best justification I had for owning such an over-the-top DVD player—because being able to see films like this made it worth it. | Pete Timmermann

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