Author Topic: 1SO vs. The Directors of Shame  (Read 43551 times)

1SO

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Re: 1SO vs. The Directors of Shame
« Reply #190 on: July 25, 2011, 09:54:23 PM »
Great review, you should watch The Burmese Harp by the same guy, its alot more uplifting.
Good news, that's up next in the lineup.


@Antares. I thought it might be something like that. I'm very used to Japanese films I watch starting with a scroll explaining that during the ____ dynasty there was a bad guy killing innocent people and a disgraced samurai who the villagers hoped might protect them. I believe 13 Assassins even starts that way. Unusual that Ichikawa puts this into a monologue spoken by someone on camera.
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MartinTeller

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Re: Directors of Shame: Kon Ichikawa – Fires on the Plain
« Reply #191 on: July 25, 2011, 11:19:30 PM »
Martin, I know how much you value Kon Ichikawa and Fires on the Plain, so I will start with the most basic of comparisons.

Come and See < Fires on the Plain < Aguirre: The Wrath of God

Well, I'd rank them the same way.  Aguirre is a no-brainer top 100 film for me, while I'm still debating whether or not to include FotP.  (Come and See is nowhere near either one of them)

I think Aguirre's similarities to the other two are tenuous at best, though. 
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Bill Thompson

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Re: Directors of Shame: Kon Ichikawa – Fires on the Plain
« Reply #192 on: July 25, 2011, 11:24:41 PM »
Martin, I know how much you value Kon Ichikawa and Fires on the Plain, so I will start with the most basic of comparisons.

Come and See < Fires on the Plain < Aguirre: The Wrath of God

Well, I'd rank them the same way.  Aguirre is a no-brainer top 100 film for me, while I'm still debating whether or not to include FotP.  (Come and See is nowhere near either one of them)


Personally I think Fires on The Plain is great, but not at the master work level I found Aguirre and Come And See to be at.

1SO

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Directors of Shame: Kon Ichikawa – The Burmese Harp
« Reply #193 on: July 27, 2011, 06:12:10 PM »
Marathon Update



The Burmese Harp
Quote from: MartinTeller
A Japanese soldier separated from his troop in Burma after the end of WWII finds himself confronted with the aftermath and embarks on a journey of soul-searching.  This isn't so much as anti-war film as it is a film that simply mourns the consequences.  Death and the rituals of putting the dead to rest are themes that are repeated throughout, from different viewpoints.  Death connects all of the involved parties, as does music... especially the harp music that serves not only as a beautiful soundtrack, but also a major plot device.  Very moving and expertly crafted.
Kon Ichikawa certainly has enough good work to warrant a marathon. I've seen three films by him, each one distinct but with a solid understanding of the humanity of people in emotional, physical and spiritual crisis. Fires on the Plain is my favorite, though Revenge of a Kabuki Actor is interesting enough to warrant a rewatch down the road. (I talked about adding Tokyo Olympiad, but the movie is very difficult to track down.)

So while The Burmese Harp is my least favorite film by Ichikawa, it's still very well made and quite effective in places. There's a perfect dramatic confrontation towards the beginning of the film when our lead soldier, Mizushima, tries to convince a group of Japanese soldiers who are still fighting on the mountain to surrender. The commanding officer dresses down Mizushima as a disgrace to those who've died. ("A coward like you can't be Japanese.") I know it sounds like hyperbole, but I was reminded of the climax of A Few Good Men. The debate is that good.

Harp makes a nice compare/contrast to Fires on the Plain, but where that movie presented hell on earth, this one offers a possible calm oasis in the atrocities of war. It's gruesome in places, but overall the tone is uplifting and gentle. Where Fires was a Herzog-ian portrait of man and nature, this is more akin to Malick. I'm not a Malick man, and I grew increasingly disinterested in The Burmese Harp. (Fire burn > Tree Pretty)* There's also a bit with a talking parrot that for a subtle movie was unnecessarily heavy-handed.

Time for a little "Yeah me." I find I've become a lot better about not checking out on a film I'm not enjoying. With 40 minutes to go, I was pretty disengaged in the drama, which could be labeled simple, but I think it's more apt to call it really thin. (This is 10 minutes longer than Fires on the Plain, but the substance doesn't justify the running time.) Then at the end we get a really, really good scene that puts a bow on Mizushima's journey. Had I been enjoying the film even more, it probably would've gotten a little weepy.
RATING: * * 1/2

I'm moving away from Kon Ichikawa, but will be happy to watch more from him when the time comes. Next up is Threads from a personal favorite director of mine, Mick Jackson.


*Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 06:14:31 PM by 1SO »
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1SO

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Directors of Shame: Mick Jackson - Threads
« Reply #194 on: July 29, 2011, 06:09:52 PM »
Marathon Update



Threads
Quote from: MartinTeller
Britain's answer to The Day After and Testament.  It out-bleaks both of them, but the voice-over narration doesn't work very well.  It also seems to lose the plot about the emergency government.  I suppose it's to be assumed that they all died eventually, but it would have been nice to get some closure on that.
Mick Jackson was my pick, someone I added to the marathon this month. Most people know him from L.A. Story, The Bodyguard and Volcano, but he is possibly the finest director of television movies. If any of you want to Marathon a great director then watch Indictment: The McMartin Trial, Temple Grandin, Live from Baghdad and Threads, his breakthrough BBC film from 1984. (For a longer marathon add Tuesdays with Morrie, The Race for the Double Helix and Yuri Nosenko, KGB).

Mick Jackson's great films are similar to Paul Greengrass. He brings the same high energy and "you are there" docudrama quality, but without the reliance on handheld cameras that annoy some of you. Threads is practically a blueprint for Greengrass' Bloody Sunday. Both films cover tragic events following various groups of people, both never feel less than absolutely real and both have a habit for fading to black between scenes, sometimes even in the middle of dialogue. Strangely, I noticed a lot of Jackson's Volcano here. Again, we're watching events happen among locals and civic leaders, though Volcano is a campy, tongue-in-cheek approach while Threads is uncompromisingly Grim.

I deliberately capitalized 'Grim', because the last hour of this film is unrelenting. It starts bad and only gets worse as doctors quickly run out of medical supplies and there isn't enough fuel to incinerate the millions of dead, let along power up bulldozers to dig graves. There's no hope or false happiness. No need to put any positive spin on nuclear annihilation. Mankind doesn't persevere and only the ones killed immediately in the blast get a happy ending. Yet, it doesn't feel like manipulation or being depressing for the sake of bumming us out. I didn't feel an agenda being pushed here, even though it clearly wants to suffocate you with the negatives of nuclear war.

I also really liked that the film is set in Britain, instead of America or Russia. Like Johannesburg-set District 9, by avoiding an obvious location it brings the story immediately to a more personal level. (This isn't even London but the working class area of Sheffield.) We start with a pair of young lovers and an unplanned pregnancy and while the escalation of war plays out on the news, we never go any higher up than a local Emergency Operations Unit.

This is where the negatives begin, because Martin is absolutely right. That group is dropped from the film. In fact the two families from the beginning of our film are missing, presumed dead or unimportant after the bomb is dropped. It's quite a messy screenplay, jumping much too quickly into the future and ending many years after the destruction. The day after, which could easily have gone on for 30 minutes, is only 1 scene and then we go to 3 days after. It takes on a different, but equally effective tone. Through stock images, still photos, narration and title cards the story jumps all around. We lose focus of the characters completely, but the impressions of life after nuclear holocaust are shocking and sad. (Do not eat food with this movie!)

Mick Jackson deserves a lot of credit for being so effective within obvious budget limitations. There are a few fakey effects and some of the photos and stock footage shots cannot be part of the overall vision, but filling in gaps he wasn't able to film. They're taken from other terrible events and don't blend in well with the footage. This isn't his best work as a director - that would be Indictment - but it still holds as an excellent film.
RATING: * * * 1/2
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1SO

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Directors of Shame: Miklós Jancsó – The Round-Up
« Reply #195 on: July 30, 2011, 11:09:05 PM »
Marathon Update



The Round-Up
Quote from: MartinTeller
In 1860's Hungary, outlaws (and suspected outlaws) are rounded up, encouraged to rat each other out, and discarded for the merest reason.  I hate to keep throwing around the word "Kafka-esque", but ... the term definitely applies here.  It also calls to mind Sergio Leone, and all those barren landscapes blasted by the sun.  And also another Jancso film, The Red and the White, where neither side of the conflict is worth rooting for... not to mention more of that impressive, fluid camerawork.
The Round-Up is clearly an influential film. I was also reminded of Leone (my favorite director), both in some of the compositions and with how much drama is pulled from the barren landscapes. The stark lighting and fluid camera reminded me of Bela Tarr. Since there is so little Leone and Tarr out there, I have to be glad that Jancsó satisfied my cravings a little bit. Only the style and storytelling are so much better in the hands of the later masters, it's hardly fair to make the comparison. It's like deciding how much Christopher Nolan needs to credit Adam West for Batman.

I wish I had read some kind of warning about the way this film develops its story and characters. There's a brief preface about a crushed rebellion and the remaining rebel leaders, but it sailed right over my head and the film plunged directly into Act 2, leaving me to figure things out as events were unfolding. For a lot of The Round-Up, the interesting camera technique was all I had to hold my interest. A few characters had identical haircuts and facial hair, further confusing me. I could tell what I was watching was more interesting than what I was actually getting from it and would probably enjoy a 2nd viewing considerably more. Fans of the film are certain to be extremely passionate about it.

I keep talking about the way the camera is used, but I have to pull back and say there's nothing here that comes close to Andrei Tarkovsky or Bela Tarr. There are some good moments and an amazing composition towards the beginning involving an execution, but nothing like the poetic long takes I've seen in much better films. The emotional punch is missing (something I got aplenty from Theodoros Angelopoulos' Landscape in the Mist).
RATING: * * 1/2

I'm glad that I also have The Red and the White, so Jancsó has a 2nd chance to prove he just as good as the filmmakers who've found inspiration from his work.
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MartinTeller

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Re: Directors of Shame: Miklós Jancsó – The Round-Up
« Reply #196 on: July 30, 2011, 11:14:52 PM »
Only the style and storytelling are so much better in the hands of the later masters, it's hardly fair to make the comparison. It's like deciding how much Christopher Nolan needs to credit Adam West for Batman.

This is a flawed analogy because Adam West Batman is way, way better than anything Christopher Nolan ever did.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: 1SO vs. The Directors of Shame
« Reply #197 on: July 30, 2011, 11:23:52 PM »
WHAM! BAM! POW!

1SO

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Re: 1SO vs. The Directors of Shame
« Reply #198 on: July 30, 2011, 11:32:48 PM »
I originally wrote "It's like deciding how much credit to give Dark Star for the greatness of Alien," but I figured most people don't know what Dark Star is.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: 1SO vs. The Directors of Shame
« Reply #199 on: July 31, 2011, 04:25:59 AM »
It's the film O'Bannon wrote before Alien, right?