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Showing posts from August, 2013

Key Films #23

Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute [Shôhei Imamura, 1975]: The voice of the director establishes context.The film we're about to see is a documentary.The subject matter, the story of Japanese women forced into prostitution during the first half of the twentieth century, is told by the women themselves.Imamura's camera records the still life of the Malaysian waterfront as the voice of a woman - our guide to this eventual narrative of recollection - introduces herself, and in the process, sets the scene.The age and deterioration of the voice is mirrored by the dereliction of the boats and houses that we pass by on our voyage.People stop and wave to the camera, acknowledging the presence of Imamura and his crew, as well as the actuality of the film itself; the authenticity of it.These images, in contrast with the interviews that follow, are intended to establish the world of the film (as it existed in 1975) against the nostalgic recollections of the women, and how the physic…

Key Films #22

The Pornographers: An Introduction to Anthropology [Shôhei Imamura, 1966]:
In titling his film 'The Pornographers', Imamura is not only introducing the clandestine profession of his central character - the hapless but well-meaning entrepreneur Mr. Ogata - as an important part of the plot, but is also implying a more balanced commentary on the themes of abuse and degradation as shorthand for the general brutality of the way people live.If pornography, as both an industry and a human need, exists to satisfy our own basic curiosity regarding the most private and personal of human relations, then it also seeks to exploit this necessity; turning the act itself into a spectacle and the participants into willing performers; commodities for our viewing pleasure.It also forces the audience to confront their own role as the spectator.The collective witness, intruding upon these private scenes made public for our amusement and in a way becoming complicit in their creation; 'compelling…

Boorman on-hold

Exorcist II: The Heretic [John Boorman, 1977]:
A few months ago, I promised a series of notes on the films of John Boorman, using quotes from the man himself.My thoughts on Catch Us If You Can (1965) went up almost immediately and were supposed to be followed, a week or two later, by a similar post on Leo the Last (1970).Although I do intend to complete this series eventually, I'm just not the mood to continue with it at the present time.When I started the project back in June, I felt as if I'd hit a wall with my own writing, which I'd never been very happy with in the first place.As an alternative, I decided to transcribe the Boorman reflections and to translate the French article on M. Night Shyamalan, just to keep the blog active.Over the last two months, I've gotten back into the habit of writing for myself.I've seen a lot of great films in the last few months, and I really want to commit my considerations on these films to the blog, while I still can.I know thi…

Key Films #21

Teodors [Laila Pakalniņa, 2006]: An elderly man rides his bicycle through the countryside.He stops off in a village.He drinks beer, chats with some friends and passersby, and watches the world turn.Later, he collects some books from the local library and cycles home.This is essentially the entire narrative of Pakalniņa's film - an observation of a man (never formally introduced) just going about his day - but the effect is riveting.Eventually the seasons change, but the actions remain the same.The ground may be white with snow, but this life continues, ever onwards.The daily routines - rituals even - providing respite from the loneliness and the tyranny of old age.The result is both epic and intimate.Using direct sound and a static camera framed mostly from a distance, Pakalniņa effectively reinvents neorealism, the documentary and the character study; capturing without criticism a series of interactions and encounters that become like moments of still life.The cutting of scenes di…

Key Films #20

The 'Burbs [Joe Dante, 1989]: The film Rear Window (1954), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, has always been something of a key text in my approach to understanding the nature of film criticism and the relationship between the audience and the work.While on the surface a taut, gripping thriller, Hitchcock's film is one that also deals, theoretically, with the voyeurism of the cinema audience.In particular, the way the audience, as a kind of collective witness - safe behind the screen - observes the various clues to understanding the development of events, while also allowing themselves to be led - emotionally at least - by their own subjective thoughts, fears and prejudices, which colour their investigation; creating a misunderstanding (or miscommunication) that can be exploited by the filmmakers to create tension and suspense. Although played as more of a screwball comedy than a genuine mystery, The 'Burbs could (and really should) be seen as a continuation of the same hypothe…

Key Films #19

Emitaï [Ousmane Sembène, 1971]: In the first scene of a pre-credit sequence that runs for almost twenty-minutes in duration, a group of 'Jola' villagers from the Casamance region of Senegal are rounded up and detained by a black militia working under orders of the French.This is the first of many instances where the oppression of these characters is depicted by Sembène both as a reconstruction of actual events and as a more figurative commentary on the nature of Colonialism; where the flow of life is physically disrupted, or overturned.As the action unfolds, two children hiding behind trees or in the thick rushes of the long grass become the eyes of the audience, on the outside, looking it.In depicting the scene, Sembène uses documentary techniques to give us a sense of urgency.Shooting unobtrusively from the sidelines, his use of the long lens flattens the depth of field, imprisoning these characters even further, cinematographically, against the backdrop of the land.For the m…