Archive for September 28th, 2010

by Joel

#87 in Best of the 21st Century?, a series in which I view, for the first time, some of the most critically acclaimed films of the previous decade.

The movie opens with black dogs, growling, yelping, barking as they race down a busy city street – hounds from hell whose presence puts the lie to the calm bustle around them. They arrive at a certain apartment building, yelping loudly – and the man in the apartment knows they’re yelping for him. Then he wakes up. This sequence was a dream, one inspired by his recollections of shooting dogs during an Israeli commando raid back in Lebanon of the early 80s. Now those dogs haunt his dreams, and in a sense the dreams are more real than the memories.

There have been many films about memory, and plenty of films about war, but Waltz with Bashir takes a unique approach to both. Firstly, there’s the fact that it’s animated – not exactly rotoscoped apparently, but drawn in accordance with taped interviews (fantasies, dreams, and flashbacks are, of course, simply animated). Secondly, while the movie is a documentary, it often plays like fiction, partly because of the animation (which allows past sequences to play less like History Channel “recreations” and more like narrative sequences) and partly because of the tightly unwinding dramatic structure. Finally, there’s the conjunction of the two subjects – war and memory. The memory in question is individual, but it’s also collective, and it’s not just a matter of remembering the past but experiencing the present. When Ari Folman, the director and main character, returns to Israel on leave from the Lebanon War of the early 80s, he’s shocked to find his peers dancing away in discos and ignoring the fact that a brutal war is unfolding just next door – and that men like him, their neighbors, friends, and relatives are fighting it. This doesn’t have much application to Israel today, where the homefront has become the war zone, but it certainly applies elsewhere.


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(Mark Robson, 1943)

(essay by Troy)

I run to death and death meets me as fast, and all my pleasures are like yesterday

Bookended with that verse by John Donne, the rushing urgency of impending death is firmly in place over the scant 71 minutes of Val Lewton’s The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson acquits himself fine as the director, but the true auteur here is Lewton).  Proposed as Lewton’s shot at an A-picture, his insistence on keeping Robson on as director relegated it back to the ranks of B-movie and with that status came the shortened duration.  Perhaps that’s for the best, as the terse nature of what follows creates a palpable sensation that our time in life is short, each second bringing us one step closer to death.

The plot itself isn’t served terribly well by the short runtime, with subplots and character interactions that seem to start and resolve without warning.  The crux of the story concerns Mary, fresh out of boarding school, who is searching for her missing sister, Jacqueline.  In the process she meets up with three men who each hold a piece to the puzzle.  We find out that Jacqueline was part of a cult of high-society devil worshippers called The Palladists.  She has chosen to leave them and, as a result, they deem she must die.  In an odd twist, however, this happens to be a pacifist group of Satanists and thus, they can inflict no harm on Jacqueline and must instead attempt to coerce her into committing suicide.


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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1968 117m) DVD2 (Japan only, no Eng subs)

Aka. Koshikei

For all the Rs out there…

p  Masayuki Nakajima, Takuji Yamaguchi, Nagisa Oshima  d  Nagisa Oshima  w  Tsutomo Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Michinori Faukao, Nagisa Oshima  ph  Yasuhiro Yoshioka  ed  Sueko Shiraishi  m  Hikaru Hiyashi  art  Jusho Toda

Yun-Do Yun (R), Kei Sato (prison warden), Fumio Watanabe (education officer), Toshiro Ishido (chaplain), Masao Adachi (chief of guards), Akiko Koyama (Korean woman), Rokko Toura (doctor), Hosei Komatsu (District Attorney), Masao Matsuda (secretary), Nagisa Oshima (narrator),

A pivotal film in the Japanese new wave and in the career of Nagisa Oshima, Death by Hanging is also, quite possibly, his most political film.  Oshima was never one to shy from controversy, whether in his own films of the early sixties, Cruel Story of Youth, The Sun’s Burial and Night and Fog in Japan or in his support for censored filmmakers, such as the trouble Tetsuji Takechi suffered upon completing Black Snow.  He continued a trend towards the shocking in The Pleasures of the Flesh and Violence at High Noon, but his was a shocking meant to rouse Japanese audiences out of their complacency.  There are indeed comparisons to be made to Violence at High Noon in the fact that both centre around a murderer.  The earlier film detailed the actual rapes and killings of the so-called Phantom Killer, told from the point of view of the killer, his wife and his potential victims.  Death by Hanging rather tells the story of the consequences of the murders. (more…)

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