films seen
18
average score
3.77*
nationality
Japan - 63 years old
status
Alive and kicking
more info

The root of Japanese punk cinema, even more so than Tsukamoto. Gakuryu (aka Sogo) Ishii is one of Japan's greatest hidden treasures, a director with a wild and fierce oeuvre that also holds some surprisingly subtle and emotional films.

Beyond exceptional

Mirrored Mind

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Kyoshin
Specifics
Japan [2006] - 61m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
More info on
rating
5.0*/5.0*
toplist position
Mirrored Mind poster

A perfect score and absolutely stunning visuals transport you to a different world, only to let go of you 60 minutes later, comforted and touched by the film's protagonist's struggle.

Rare treats

That's It

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Soredake
Specifics
Japan [2015] - 109m
Genre
Crime
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
That's It poster

A blast. Energetic, mysterious, fun and wild, it's one big, entertaining mess. The film looks amazing, sounds great and the actors are all on top of their game. Up there with Ishii's best

Electric Dragon 80000V

by Gakuryu Ishii
Specifics
Japan [2001] - 55m
Genre
Cyberpunk
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
Electric Dragon 80000V poster

With only 55 minutes between start and finish, Electric Dragon 80000V is a quick watch. That said, if you don't appreciate what Ishii is doing here it might still feel like a two hour hell.

Dead End Run

by Gakuryu Ishii
Specifics
Japan [2003] - 59m
Genre
Drama, Crime, Musical
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
Dead End Run poster

Overall Dead End Run is a fun, varied and classy anthology film where Sogo Ishii allows himself to show his more experimental side while leaving room for some softer touches.

Bitter Honey

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Mitsu no Aware
Specifics
Japan [2016] - 105m
Genre
Drama, Fantasy
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
Bitter Honey poster

A mad mix of drama, fantasy and comedy. Gakuryu Ishii returns with a beautiful film that defies genre conventions and creates a world of its own. It's a handsome tribute to Ren Osugi and another stellar performance for Fumi Nikaido. Riveting cinema.

Isn't Anyone Alive?

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Ikiteru Mono wa Inainoka
Specifics
Japan [2012] - 113m
Genre
Comedy, Mystery
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
Isn't Anyone Alive? poster

Ishii truly reinvents himself here and comes with a film that's just as unique as his previous work, only very different in tone.

Labyrinth of Dreams

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Yume no Ginga
Specifics
Japan [1997] - 90m
Genre
Romance, Mystery
More info on
rating
4.5*/5.0*
toplist position
Labyrinth of Dreams poster

Those who really want to see the film will be required to be a little adventurous, but fans of Ishii and/or Asano would do good to go through the trouble.

The good stuff

Gojoe

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Gojo Reisenki: Gojoe
Specifics
Japan [2000] - 138m
Genre
Action, History
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Gojoe poster

August in the Water

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Mizu no Naka no Hachigatsu
Specifics
Japan [1995] - 117m
Genre
Mystery
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
August in the Water poster

Probably one of his most accessible films, though there is still plenty of wonder and authorship to be admired.

Burst City

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Bakuretsu Toshi
Specifics
Japan [1982] - 115m
Genre
Sci-fi, Action, Music
More info on
rating
4.0*/5.0*
Burst City poster

Solid pieces

Angel Dust

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Enjeru Dasuto
Specifics
Japan [1994] - 116m
Genre
Drama, Romance, Horror, Thriller
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Angel Dust poster

Tokyo Blood

by Gakuryu Ishii
Specifics
Japan [1993] - 37m
Genre
Drama, Experimental
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Tokyo Blood poster

A short but interesting anthology film where Ishii tepidly explores his more introverted self in 4 unrelated shorts. The punk influences are still there, but they flare up in short bursts and never truly climax. The quality is pretty consistent and there are moments of greatness here, but overall it's just a little too short and restrained to be truly impressive.

The Crazy Family

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Gyakufunsha Kazoku
Specifics
Japan [1984] - 106m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
The Crazy Family poster

Shuffle

by Gakuryu Ishii
Specifics
Japan [1981] - 34m
Genre
Cyberpunk, Short
More info on
rating
3.5*/5.0*
Shuffle poster

An Ishii short that feels like a prelude to Tsukamoto's Tetsuo. The camera work isn't as manic or crazy as Tsukamoto's early masterpiece, but the soundtrack is absolutely stunning and makes this a tense and riveting experience. If it had been twice the length this could've been a masterpiece, but fans of Japanese cyberpunk cinema should definitely give this a go.

The inoffensive

Crazy Thunder Road

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo
Specifics
Japan [1980] - 95m
Genre
Action
More info on
rating
3.0*/5.0*
Crazy Thunder Road poster

Worthy but flawed

Panic in High School

by Gakuryu Ishii, Yukihiro Sawada
Also known as
Koko Dai Panikku
Specifics
Japan [1978] - 94m
Genre
Drama
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Panic in High School poster

Charge! Hakata Street Gangs

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
Totsugeki! Hakata Gurentai
Specifics
Japan [1978] - 70m
Genre
Crime
More info on
rating
2.5*/5.0*
Charge! Hakata Street Gangs poster

Early Gakuryu/Sogo Ishii film. It feels a bit like a late 60s Wakamatsu feature, only sporting the first signs of the lively punk aesthetic that would come to define Ishii's work. It's nowhere near as impressive or effective as in his later films though, so this is mostly for those interested in Ishii's roots, or for people who think regular Ishii is a bit much.

Two homeless punks get themselves into trouble when they get a hold of a gun and get mixed up in criminal affairs. It doesn't take long before both the police and a local crime syndicate are on their tail, all they can do is run and hope they'll survive their ordeal. It's a pretty barren plot, then again plot has rarely been Ishii's main concern.

The camera work and editing are energetic, though they're nothing compared to later Japanese (cyber)punk films. The actors are mediocre and the soundtrack isn't quite as demanding yet. Ishii's style clearly had some ways to go, but fans will no doubt appreciate the first, tentative steps to what would be the prelude to the comeback of Japanese cinema.

Dubious filler

1/2 Man

by Gakuryu Ishii
Also known as
1/2 Mensch
Specifics
Japan [1986] - 48m
Genre
Documentary, Music
More info on
rating
2.0*/5.0*
1/2 Man poster

Pure Ishii punk. But also a lot of Einstürzende Neubauten of course. A peculiar project where Ishii takes a location and a band and tries to construct a visual poem with them. At times, it felt a bit too much like a stage performance (only without an audience), but when it becomes more abstract it does show a lot of potential.

Think of it as an Umfeld avant-la-lettre, only with a huge dose of 80s industrial and noize. The problem is that I don't have that much with the latter. The music was a little underwhelming, the vocals were just terrible and the impact wasn't nearly as impressive as it was clearly meant to be.

The location (an abandoned factory) was cool (though a bit predictable) and the industrial vibe comes across pretty well, it's just that it all feels a bit tame by modern standards. I'm sure I would've loved this 30 years ago, for its time it's also a very cool project, but give just me some modern-day industrial techno instead.