Archive for March 21st, 2009


by Jennifer Boulden

Much to my surprise, the magic of Watchmen never happened for me. It did not happen for me with the graphic novel, and it most definitely did not happen for me with the film.

I was sure it would, for one of them at least. I’ve read so much about what a dizzying accomplishment the graphic novel was, marrying hard intellectualism to dark artistry, subverting every superhero-or even regular hero-cliché it could find to subvert, broaching topics from rape and torture to geopolitics and nuclear proliferation with an unflinching eye, and weaving together a piecemeal narrative from wildly disparate and unconventional elements in a startlingly complex feat of structural engineering. It sounded great.

I’d read this, heard this over and over. I’d known dozens people who loved it and I knew of countless critics’ praise and hushed respect for Alan Moore’s groundbreaking accomplishment, named one of the greatest novels ever written. The implication surrounding it often seemed to be that if you didn’t enjoy it, you were superficial, shallow, naïve, sheltered, stupid, or else just not paying close enough attention. I definitely didn’t want to be among those; I wanted to be one of those geeky gals who got it.

When I started reading Watchmen, I was indeed amazed at how well it was drawn and how confident the narrative voi ce was, especially as it veered off in unpredictable directions each time I started to get comfortable with a segment. I liked the idea of superheroes as just ordinary people with skewed self-identities and a penchant for dressing up to fight crime. I appreciated the inevitable and unenviable ethical quandaries that would ensue with a rash of masked vigilantes doing law and order’s dirty work. I was somewhat puzzled by Moore’s need to also integrate Dr. Manhattan, the godlike once-man with a supreme command of physics and a supremely detached view of humanity-into a story that already seemed to have enough meat to chew on, but, whatever. It’s his story. I can let him tell it. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1952 141m) DVD1/2

Swing low, sweet Kanji

d  Akira Kurosawa  w  Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa  ph  Asaichi Nakai  ed  Akira Kurosawa  m  Fumio Hayasaka  art  So Matsuyama

Takashi Shimura (Kanji Watanebe), Nobuo Kaneko (Mitsuo), Kyoko Seki (Kazue), Makoto Kobori (Kiiche),

Ikiru is probably Akira Kurosawa’s least typical film, the sort normally associated with Yasujiro Ozu.  Yet this is not a film wrapped up in Japanese custom; Kurosawa’s western influences are well in evidence and it’s not Chishu Ryu playing the lead but Kurosawa’s own Takashi Shimura.  Arguably Kurosawa’s greatest achievement, it allows its narrative to unfold slowly non-linearly, and doesn’t feel a jot too long at well over two hours. 

            Kanji Watanabe has worked in the same governmental department for thirty years without getting anything out of his job.  He is ridiculed by his underlings, one of whom innocently enough nicknames him The Mummy, as he’s acted dead for twenty years.  Then, after a routine check up at the doctor’s, he comes to realise he has stomach cancer and that he has well under a year to live.  At first, he goes off with a bohemian author to get drunk, and then spends another day with a young girl in his office who has just resigned.  But neither give his life meaning or satisfy him and, realising his son no longer has love or respect for him, he contemplates his life and its worthlessness and tries to make a difference in his last remaining months.  He uses his job to obtain a plot of land and turns it into a playground with swings for children.  Upon its completion, alone on his swing, he dies peacefully in the snow. (more…)

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