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September 28, 2022, 01:53:30 AM

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Messages - dave jenkins

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Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: Yesterday at 11:53:14 AM »
What Did the Lady Forget? (1937) - 6/10. Amusing in places. Not as good as the remake.

Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941) - 7/10. Japanese family dynamics, nicely observed. Mieko Takamine was once incredibly beautiful.

Kill!/ Kiru (1968) - 5/10. Kihachi Okamoto tries his hand at a remake of Sanjuro, but, despite great photography and editing, it doesn't come off. Too many characters, no one to root for. Nakadai plays the lead, but it's impossible to know if he has a plan or if he's just making things up as he goes along. After a while, I just stopped caring.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Walter Hill's Movies
« on: Yesterday at 05:34:23 AM »
Dead For A Dollar trailer:

The dialogs are terrible.

Wow, Giorgia Meloni quotes Chesterton! I say we do whatever it takes to make her the next pope.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 26, 2022, 06:06:23 AM »
Ten to sen / Points and Lines (1958) - 7/10. Great color police procedural with a very clever murder plot (involving train timetables). Also with a pre-Scorsese use of multiple voice-overs. Those Japs sure love those double suicides, eh?
2nd viewing. I'm raising my rating to an "8."

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 24, 2022, 07:14:38 PM »
Ten to sen / Points and Lines (1958) - 7/10. Great color police procedural with a very clever murder plot (involving train timetables). Also with a pre-Scorsese use of multiple voice-overs. Those Japs sure love those double suicides, eh?

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 24, 2022, 11:59:26 AM »
The Munekata Sisters (1950) - 5/10. Lesser Ozu. With Kinuyo Tanaka and Hideko Takamine, but even so.

Kiga kaikyo / A Fugitive from the Past / Straits of Hunger (1965) - 6/10. According to Kinema Junpo (in 1999), this is the third greatest Japanese film ever made, making it the greatest crime film in Japanese cinema. And yet, it is a tedious three-hour sit. A fugitive escapes to Tokyo from Hokkaido; the police take ten years to catch him. The confession scene, with its attendant flashbacks, goes on for thirty minutes. Filmed in 16mm b&w and blown up to Cinemascope proportions, this is one very grainy movie. A film by Tomu Uchida.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 22, 2022, 02:29:16 PM »
Equinox Flower (1958) - Because it's in glorious Agfacolor, has an amusing plot, and was, I've come to learn, released in Japan on the day I was born, Equinox Flower is now one of my favorite Ozus. Apart from everything else, the film is known for a red teapot that makes several appearances in the living room of the featured family. It's been said (by me, anyway) that that pot is another character in the film. And like any good character, it's unpredictable. Each time we visit the family we're never quite sure where it will pop up. Will we find it sitting on the tatami? Beside the kotatsu? On the other side of the room? It is a game Ozu plays with his viewers, moving it about between scenes, but in the end he pulls a fast one, directing the pot to purposely miss its final cue. (The gag works because in addition to the pot a red cushion has also been present throughout; because of the teapot, however, the cushion goes unnoticed until the final scene: the absence of the pot renders the cushion suddenly conspicuous).

The point is, the red pot is just a red pot. Its symbolic function, or its potential to function symbolically, has been emptied out. We are free to enjoy it (or not enjoy it) for exactly what it is rather than for what it means.

There's also a story about a father who disapproves of his daughter's choice of fiance, but that's less interesting.

The most interesting human character in EF is the mother, played by the great Kinuyo Tanaka. She is essentially passive, doing little more than registering her anxiety over the conflict between her husband and her daughter. By the end of the film, she is worry-free, as calm as the red teapot.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 22, 2022, 07:48:58 AM »
Mirror (1975) - 7/10. Impressions of A.T.'s childhood, presented either as memories and/or dreams. Beautifully photographed by Georgy Rerberg, the use of Margarita Terekhova as Alexei's mother was the greatest casting decision of the 20th Century. The documentary footage interspersed throughout the feature was, though, a mistake--we never want to see anything but Rerberg's images--but it may have been a necessary concession to get the film made. I like the fact that the "memories" never signify more than what they mean on the surface (except maybe to Tarkovsky). We are free to interpret them as we see fit or, as I choose to do, view them without interpretation. A very lyrical film (this is not for anyone requiring a story), where poetic images are sometimes counterpointed with actual spoken verse (from the director's father):

We were taken who knows where:
Cities built by miracles
Would melt like mirages,
Mint was crushed beneath our feet
And birds accompanied us,
Fish leaped, swimming upstream,
The skies parted as we watched . . .
When fate followed our footsteps
Like a madman with a razor.

The film's largest failing is that it isn't long enough--it should run about 4 hours. The new CC home video edition is an impressive package, with wonderful PQ and enough extras to require a second blu-ray disc.

After another viewing, I'm raising my score to a "9".

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 20, 2022, 06:50:52 PM »
Tokyo Twilight (1957) - 9/10. This has got it all: family strife, an abortion, a mother who once abandoned her children, a police station visit, mahjong, an accidental death (or maybe suicide), lots of smoking and drinking, and finally at the end, an intolerably sad train-platform departure. This is an Ozu film?
What certainly attracts me to Tokyo Twilight is its position as an outlier. It's not just that the film isn't one of the typically "sunny" ones (although that would be enough), but the fact that the world of the film is less insular than usual. What we get in the typical Ozu family drama is a focus on a few characters and their problems and the almost total exclusion of the outside world. At several points in TT, however, Ozu breaks the hermetic seal around his principals and lets in a little air.

My favorite example of this is the episode in the late-night kisaten where Akiko (Ineko Arima) is waiting for her boyfriend who never shows up. In terms of narrative development, the scene runs for the purpose of showing the woman's growing desperation and her eventual conflict with the authorities. Ozu could have accomplished the same thing with an empty coffee shop and an officer who walks in, but he chose instead to populate the scene with a real crowd. This perhaps makes the scene more authentic (I take it that such places were popular because nothing else was open during those hours), but it also allows Ozu to give us glimpses into the lives of others who, except for their brief appearance here, exist outside the film.

The scene begins with a young couple at the bar, the man smoking, the woman leaning on her hand with her eyes closed. The man touches the woman to get her attention but she doesn't react. Who are these people? We will never learn. We cut to an older gentleman, alone, stirring his coffee, thoughtful. He stops stirring, and takes a sip, then a second one. The camera lingers on him just long enough to make us wonder what's on his mind. We cut to a man in a booth who appears to be sleeping (the scene will end on him for its pillow shot). Then we see a woman by herself, smoking. She too is lost in thought. We cut to a couple in a booth sitting side-by-side, and finally hear some words of conversation. The man speaks: "So, what's wrong? Well?" And then, imploringly, "Tell me!" The woman looks at him but says nothing. Cut to the front door: a man enters, looks around. He hails the smoking woman, breaking in on her reverie. She looks up, stubs out her cigarette, walks to the cashier, pays, leaves with the newly-arrived man. Finally we cut to Akiko, also in a booth, smoking. Until this moment, we didn't even know she was in the scene. We go back to the side-by-side couple. The man says, "And what did you say?" Woman: "Nothing." Man: "Like hell." They get up to pay and leave, and it is at this point we first see the plain clothes cop, already in the room, checking people out. Focus returns to the central narrative, but the presence of the background characters has been so well detailed up to that point that we can't help thinking about the fact that we are in a world, that there are many stories, that what we're seeing in the film is one of a multitude.

Following Akiko's apprehension, the next scene is in the police station. Again, we are introduced to several characters that we will never meet again. There is not time or space to do more than to suggest the stories that belong to each. We've got to stick with Akiko's story.

This kind of thing occurs throughout the film. At different times we see groups of people playing mahjong. We get glimpses, hear a phrase, see a reaction. Characters and their lives are no more than suggested. And we move on.

There is also a wonderful moment near the end of TT when Isuzu Yamada and her man are waiting on board the train at Tokyo Station to depart for the north. Yamada is hoping Setsuko Hara will come and see her off but she will be disappointed. Meanwhile, a cheer group from Hosei University has come to wish someone else bon voyage. We don't see them so much as hear them, but the goodbye cheering goes on and on. Of course, this is an ironic counterpoint to what Yasuda's character is experiencing, but at the same time, as a viewer, I keep wondering, Who is this person who is receiving such an effusive send off? What's his/her story?

I don't say that Ozu never has examples of such things in his other late films, but in TT he employs the approach relentlessly. After a while, you have to conclude there's some point he's making. Maybe it's as simple as this: "There are 8--9, 10, 11--million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 20, 2022, 03:38:24 PM »
3 by Ozu

Late Spring (1949) - 9/10. The film begins with a tea ceremony scene in which we are introduced to the heroine, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), who, if she doesn't wed soon, will have passed her sell-by date. We learn that she lives with her father in Kamakura, a suburb so distant from Tokyo it's actually a suburb of Yokohama. One morning we see Noriko accompany her father on his commute. The train journey from Kamakura to Tokyo, an hour-long trip in real time, is presented in a three-minute sequence. Significantly, all the station stops are elided, so that we get the illusion of a continuous journey without pauses. Yet those missing stops are still implied. The train is crowded, and the pair at first have to stand. Later, after a cutaway to the exterior of the moving train, we see that the father now has a seat--someone got off somewhere--but Noriko is still standing. Another cutaway, and another shot of father and daughter, now sitting side-by-side--there's been another stop. In this way, Ozu announces his technique of narrative through indirection.

Late in the fim, this technique provides a huge pay-off. During a trip to Kyoto, a final father-daughter outing before [SPOILER ALERT] her marriage, Noriko has a kind of epiphany--or apotheosis or catharsis or moment-of-true-feeling or something--as she lies on her futon, beside her father, waiting to doze off. The scene is edited thus: She asks her father a question; he does not answer, and then we see a shot of the father asleep; we get a shot of Noriko looking at him; then we cut to a shot of an empty vase in the alcove; then another shot of Noriko that lasts almost ten seconds; then a cut back to a long shot of the vase; then back to Noriko, with a new look on her face, almost in tears. A change has occurred, but it happened while we were looking away. And somehow the editing communicates the intensity of the moment to the viewer (this viewer, anyway).

The only thing about the film I don't like is that on occasion Setsuko Hara seems a bit more hysterical than is credible.

Ozu sometimes has trouble knowing when to end a film, but not here. A bit of meticulous fruit-paring provides a wonderful final image.

Early Summer (1951) - 10/10. We are introduced to the heroine, Noriko (Setsuko Hara), who, if she doesn't wed soon, will have passed her sell-by date. Hmmm, where have I seen this plot before? This is the better picture, though, because it has so many characters: there are parents, and a brother and a sister-in-law, and nephews, and even a distant uncle who appears briefly at the beginning and then shows up again at the end. Everyone contributes to the plot, some in surprising ways. There are lots of episodes, many of them LOL funny. Did I mention this is my favorite Ozu?

The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952) - 8/10. It is generally acknowledged that this is a loose retelling of an earlier Ozu, What Did the Lady Forget? (1936). But has anyone considered that it might also be a response to George Stevens' Woman of the Year (1942)? Consider: both films feature an older married couple who, in spite of genuinely loving each other, have relationship issues due to the fact that they are socially incompatible. In both cases, the woman is the upper crust snob, the fella is the down-to-earth boob who nonetheless loves her. Also, both films place their climactic scenes in kitchens. In Woman of the Year, Kate Hepburn tries to cook Spencer Tracy breakfast and fails. In TFOGTOR, the couple try to find fixings for a meal after their servants have gone to bed and finally succeed. In both cases, the attempt at food preparation and/or consumption is the occasion for rapprochements. The following year, Ozu would steal the premise of Tokyo Story from Leo McCarey's Make Way For Tomorrow (1937). Raiding Hollywood for ideas was an Ozu specialty, it seems.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: RIP Henry Silva
« on: September 19, 2022, 05:47:42 PM »
I like (but don't love) Johnny Cool, but I agree that it's one of his best performances.
It must be, because for once he was the lead.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 19, 2022, 05:46:06 PM »
Eddie Constantine is an iconic piece of work. He's got a puss for the ages with a perennial cigarette jutting out of his mouth.  At times there is almost an reptilian quality to some of his dead pan stares. You expect a giant forked tongue to shoot out towards the screen. Too bad he was not better known to American audiences.
And yet we didn't need J-LG to make the introductions. Each of the Lemmy Caution films that preceded Alphaville are more entertaining.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: September 19, 2022, 09:09:25 AM »
You're welcome to 'em. I've about exhausted my patience.

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