Thursday, August 27, 2015

Scandal (1950 film)



Directed and edited by Akira Kurosawa and written by Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima, Shubun (Scandal) is the story of a painter’s supposed affair with a famous singer becomes scandal as he tries to fight the press in court where he deals with a lawyer who is forced to play both sides. The film is an exploration of the growing moral decline that is surrounding Japan in the early post-war years as a man tries to fight for his honor with an attorney pulled in two different directions to find justice. Starring Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Shirley Yamaguchi, and Noriko Sengoku. Shubun is a compelling and touching film from Akira Kurosawa.

A painter’s encounter with a famous singer prompts a tabloid magazine to make claims that the two are having an affair where the painter sues the magazine for telling lies as he hires a weak-willed lawyer who finds himself being coerced by the magazine’s editor. It’s a film that explores the world of post-war Japan where a painter and a singer find themselves caught in a lie made by a popular tabloid magazine as the painter wanted an apology. When the painter hires this aging lawyer who is known for having a lot of bad luck and has an ailing daughter, things get troubled when the lawyer finds himself being tempted by what the magazine’s editor would offer as a way to kill the lawsuit.

The film’s screenplay explores this growing sense of immorality as the painter only met the singer on a mountain road because she missed her bus and was going into the hotel the two were stating. They had a conversation where a photographer and a journalist would create a story and chaos ensues. Even where this attorney named Hiruta (Takashi Shimura) thinks he can help the artist Ichiro Aoye (Toshiro Mifune) but a meeting with the magazine editor Asai (Shinichi Himori) would create trouble by bribing the already unlucky Hiruta. Once Aoye discovers what kind of man Hiruta is as well as know about Hiruta’s family life which would prompt Aoye to see that Hiruta could do good no matter who severe his life is.

Akira Kurosawa’s direction is quite simple in terms of the compositions he creates as well as the intimacy he would maintain for much of the dramatic moments in the film. While much of it is shot in Tokyo and areas outside of the city, it plays into something that feels modern where Japan is caught up in the world of celebrity. Kurosawa’s usage of close-ups and medium shots help play into the drama as well as scenes set in the magazine office where the editor and his staff conspire to make money as it plays into this growing sense of immorality in Japan. Also serving as the film’s editor, Kurosawa’s stylish approach to transition wipes and a mesmerizing dissolve montage would play into this sense of cultural change where everyone is up in arms about reading Aoye’s supposed affair with the singer Miyako Saijo (Shirley Yamaguchi). The film’s climax revolves around this trial where it is clear that there is a circus atmosphere that plays into this sense of changing times but there is still a place where the old rules can make a difference as it plays into what Hiruta is dealing with. Overall, Kurosawa creates a fascinating and engaging drama about two men fighting for the truth in a world where morality is lost.

Cinematographer Toshiro Ubukata does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into the growing sense of modernism in Japan as well as some unique lighting schemes for scenes set at night where it has elements of film noir in some of the images. Art director Tatsuo Hamada does fantastic work with the look of the magazine offices as well as the dilapidated place where Hiruta does his work. Costume designer Bunjiro Suzuki does nice work with the costumes from the ragged look of Hiruta to the stylish suits that Asai wears. The sound work of Saburo Omura is terrific to play into the sounds of the city as the quieter moments in Aoye‘s meeting with Saijo at the hotel. The film’s music by Fumio Hayasaka is amazing for its score as it features some somber string-based orchestral music to elements of sweeping themes to play into the drama and sense of modernism in the film.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small roles from Fumiko Okamura as Saijo’s mother, Masao Shimizu as the trial judge, Bokuzen Hidari as a drunk Aoye and Hiruta meet at a bar, Sugisaku Aoyama as Asai’s lawyer, Noriko Sengoku as Aoye’s assistant/model Sumie, Shinichi Himori as the smug and vile magazine editor Asai, and Yoko Katsuragi in a wonderful performance as Hiruta’s ailing daughter Masako who is dealing with tuberculosis as she looks for her father to do something good. Shirley Yamaguchi is terrific as the famous singer Miyako Saijo who is someone that wants privacy as a simple picture would cause some trouble to her career as she would befriend Aoye and Hiruta’s family. Toshiro Mifune is brilliant as Ichiro Aoye as a painter who finds himself in a scandal as he fights for the truth while coping with his reputation and honor. Finally, there’s Takashi Shimura in a phenomenal performance as Hiruta as a down-on-his-luck attorney who is assigned to help Aoye as he struggles with his own debts where he is coerced by Asai to drop the suit for money as well as his daughter’s illness where he struggles with his own conscious to do what is right.

Shubun is a remarkable film from Akira Kurosawa that features great performances from Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura. It’s a film that explores the growing sense of immorality during the early post-war years in Japan in a world driven by tabloids and greed. Especially when two men are forced to fight against this new world order to maintain some decency that is left from the old world. In the end, Shubun is a sensational film from Akira Kurosawa.

Akira Kurosawa Films: (Sanshiro Sugata) - (The Most Beautiful) - (Sanshiro Sugata Pt. 2) - (The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail) - (No Regrets for Our Youth) - (Those Who Make Tomorrow) - (One Wonderful Sunday) - Drunken Angel - (The Quiet Duel) - (Stray Dog) - Rashomon - (The Idiot (1951 film)) - Ikiru - The Seven Samurai - (I Live in Fear) - Throne of Blood - (The Lower Depths (1957 film)) - The Hidden Fortress - The Bad Sleep Well - Yojimbo - Sanjuro - High and Low - Red Beard - Dodesukaden - (Dersu Uzala) - Kagemusha - Ran - (Dreams) - (Rhapsody in August) - (Madadayo)

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Magician (1958 film)



Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, Ansiktet (The Magician) is the story of a traveling magician who arrives into a small town where he and his troupe are asked to perform a sample of their tricks to disprove suspicions of the supernatural. The film is an exploration into a man who wants to perform magic as he copes with those who believe that he’s up to no good. Starring Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Naima Wifstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Bibi Andersson, and Erland Josephson. Ansiktet is a whimsical and mesmerizing film from Ingmar Bergman.

Set in the mid-19th Century in Sweden, the film revolves a traveling magician and his troupe who arrive in a small town where they have to contend with a group of town officials who want to prove that their so-called magic is nothing but a ruse. It’s a film that plays into the idea of what is real against what is fantasy as it is told in the span of an entire day where this magician has to prove to these men of science and facts to see that he is not a fraud as he is given a night to prepare for what he does. It’s a film with a simple plot where it is about the people living in this lavish townhouse in the middle of this small town as this magician named Albert Vogler (Max von Sydow) observes a lot of what is around him as he remains silent despite the attempts of intellectual doctors who think he’s faking it.

Much of the film’s two acts revolves around the preparation of the act as a preview while members of the troupe socialize with maids and cooks along with the people in the house. Its third act isn’t just about the performance but also the aftermath where it plays into this reality vs. fantasy idea and how science sometimes can’t prove what is real. Ingmar Bergman’s script also plays into the characters and the roles they play as Vogler is a very ambiguous character whose assistant Mr. Aman (Ingrid Thulin) is really a woman in disguise while those who want to discredit them include the house’s host Consul Egerman (Erland Josephson) and Dr. Vergarus (Gunnar Bjornstrand). All of which are playing into this game of who can outwit who.

Bergman’s direction is quite simple in terms of his compositions yet manages to find ways to inject elements of humor, drama, and horror into an entire film. Notably as he maintains something intimate for scenes set at the carriage or inside the house where there is a lot of things that are going on. Even as some of the comical moments involve one of the troupe members in Tubal (Ake Fridell) who spends his time flirting with women or somber moment where Egerman’s wife (Gertrud Fridh) is trying to seduce Vogler. Bergman’s usage of medium shots do play into Vogler’s stage performance as well as the approach to comedy and intrigue while horror would come later in the film to play into the idea of fantasy vs. reality. Overall, Bergman crafts a very delightful and mesmerizing film about a magician going into a battle of wits against a group of intellectual scientist and town leaders. 

Cinematographer Gunnar Fischer does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from his usage of shades and shadows for scenes at night including some rich interior shots with its usage of natural light as it is among one of the film‘s highlights. Editor Oscar Rosander does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s suspenseful moments along with its comedic moments. Production designer P.A. Lundgren does fantastic work with the look of the carriage as well as the rooms in the house where many of the characters converge to.

Costume designers Greta Johansson and Manne Lindholm do brilliant work with the costumes that play into the period of the 1840s from the clothes the men wear to the dresses of the women. The sound work of Ake Hansson and Aaby Wedin is superb for the sound effects that are created for some of the film‘s eerie and suspenseful moments as it plays into what Vogler is able to do as a magician. The film’s music by Erik Nordgren is wonderful for its array of music scores from whimsical numbers to more somber, string-based pieces to play into the drama as it is among one of the highlights of the film.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Axel Duberg and Oscar Ljung as a couple of servants where the latter would contribute to a trick, Ulla Sjoblom as a police superintendent’s wife who succumbs to a magic trick, Toivo Pawlo as the police superintendent, Sif Ruud as the house cook Sofia, Bengt Ekerot as a drunken actor named Johan Spegel Vogler would pick up early in the film, Naima Wifstrand as Vogler’s very brash and outspoken grandmother, Lars Ekborg as the troupe’s stagecoach driver, Ake Fridell as the troupe’s charismatic spokesman, and Bibi Andersson as a young maid named Sara who would fall for the stagecoach driver. Gertrud Fridh is fantastic as a consul’s wife who goes to Vogler as she is still reeling from the loss of her child while Erland Josephson is excellent as Consul Egerman who wants to discredit and disprove Vogler’s tricks.

Gunnar Bjornstrand is amazing as Dr. Vergerus as a minister of health official who wants to see if he can discredit Vogler while he attempts to seduce Mr. Aman knowing that Aman is a woman. Ingrid Thulin is brilliant as Mr. Aman as a woman posing as Vogler’s assistant in order to maintain a role that she doesn’t want to reveal while being Vogler’s conscious of sorts. Finally, there’s Max von Sydow in a remarkable performance as Albert Emanuel Vogler where it’s a very restrained performance von Sydow doesn’t say a word for most of the film as he presents someone that seems tormented and overwhelmed in what he needs to prove to these men who are skeptical of his work.

Ansiktet is a sensational film from Ingmar Bergman that features an incredible performance from Max von Sydow. While it is a film that mixes all sorts of genres as well as play into Bergman’s own views on skepticism vs. faith in the form of entertainment. It is also a film that has Bergman pay tribute of sorts to the world of magic and what it could be for those that just want a bit of escape. In the end, Ansiktet is an extraordinary film from Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman Films: (Crisis) - (It Rains on Our Love) - (A Ship to India) - (Music of Darkness) - (Port of Call) - (Prison) - (Thirst (1949 film)) - (To Joy) - (This Can’t Happen Here) - (Summer Interlude) - (Secrets of Women) - Summer with Monika - Sawdust and Tinsel - (A Lesson in Love) - Dreams - Smiles of a Summer Night - The Seventh Seal - (Mr. Sleeman is Coming) - Wild Strawberries - (The Venetian) - (Brink of Life) - (Rabies) - The Virgin Spring - (The Devil’s Eye) - Through a Glass Darkly - Winter Light - The Silence - All These Women - Persona - (Simulantia-Daniel) - (Hour of the Wolf) - (Shame (1968 film)) - (The Rite) - (The Passion of Anna) - (The Touch) - Cries & Whispers - Scenes from a Marriage - (The Magic Flute) - (Face to Face) - (The Serpent’s Egg) - Autumn Sonata - (From the Life of Marionettes) - Fanny & Alexander - (After the Rehearsal) - (Karin’s Face) - (The Blessed Ones) - (In the Presence of a Clown) - (The Image Makers) - Saraband

© thevoid99 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Blind Spot Series: The Human Condition Trilogy




Based on the novel series by Junpei Gomikawa, The Human Condition is a film trilogy that explores the life of a young man with socialist and pacifist views of the world who endures oppression and terror during the era of World War II Japan. Directed by Masaki Kobayashi and screenplay by Kobayahi and Zenzo Matsuyama, the film is set into three parts that plays into the journey of a young man who goes from labor camp supervisor to serving as part of the Imperial army in World War II and becoming a POW for the Soviet Union as he questions the journey of his life. Starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Iseko Ariama, Chikage Awashima, Keiji Sada, Taketoshi Naito, Minoru Chiaki, Yusuke Kawazu, Tamao Nakamura, Chishu Ryu, and Hideko Takamine. The Human Condition is an astonishing and tremendous study of humanity in the era of war from Masaki Kobayashi.

The film is a three-part story told in the span of nearly three years from 1943 Japan to early 1946 as a man named Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai) would endure a series of events and moments that would shape his view of humanity as he tries to hold on to his views of socialism and pacifism thinking that there’s some good in the world of war. Since it is a three-part movie with a total running time of 574-minutes (nine-hours and forty-seven minutes without intermission), it is a film that plays into Kaji’s view on the world from trying to change things and then be pushed to the edge over how the world works. In the first film, he starts out serving as labor camp supervisor in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in China where he is challenged by corrupt men who want to punish and rule over the Chinese. Due to his actions in trying to maintain some peace and civility, he would be punished into becoming a soldier in the second film where he endures brutality in his training and later tension with soldiers as he tries to train older recruits.

The third film would have Kaji trying to survive once his platoon has been overwhelmed where he is eventually captured by Soviet forces as he contends with everything he endures and encounters. The screenplays by Masaki Kobayashi and Zenzo Matsuyama explore not just Kaji’s evolution as a man trying to find some kind of hope and humanity during a horrific period of war. In the first film, Kaji starts out as a man of great intelligence as he is exempted from military service where he would take a job in Manchuria as a labor camp supervisor where he brings his new bride Michiko (Michiyo Aratama) as she tries to understand the work that Kaji is trying to do in his work where he has to deal with corrupt officials despite the support of a camp officer in Okishima (So Yamamura) and a young Chinese officer in Chen (Akira Ishihama). While he tries to appease prisoners including a few troublesome Chinese prisoners like Kao (Shinji Nanbara) as well as offering prostitutes to ease their troubles.

Things don’t go right because of the way the Japanese wants to control things and to ensure the increase production in ore as trouble would ensue where Kaji’s actions into helping the Chinese and ensure that they’re treated humanly would lead to his path in the second film. By being forced to serve in the military as punishment where there are those watching over him, Kaji would survive training though he longs to be with his wife. Yet, some of the tactics of veteran soldiers and such would create trouble and tragedy where Kaji tries to make things right as his actions would get the attention of his old friend Kageyama (Keiji Sada) who would have Kaji train older recruits during the final moments of war. Yet, his attempts to make things easier and deal with things behind the scenes only trouble him as Soviet forces would arrive. The third film would be about Kaji’s attempt to survive with the few allies he has left as he would encounter a group of lost refugees, soldiers without leaders, and eventual capture by the Soviets. All of which leads to him trying to comprehend the idea of war and what it means to live.

It’s not just the development of Kaji that is important but also in the environment and people he encounter in his journey from being this idealist pacifist with socialist views on the world to a soldier who saw a world that is very troubled and dark in the days of war. In some ways, it is an anti-war film that is being told but one that plays into a man trying to hold into the idea that there is good in the world of war as he ponders if the enemy are just as humane as he is. While there are those who are baffled by his idealism and determination, they would admire him for sticking to his beliefs as he would be tested. Even in moments where Kaji would be forced to see people who are good be harmed either by their own selfishness or by some event as it add to Kaji questioning his own ideals as his capture by the Soviet would only create more confusion from within.

Kobayashi’s direction is nothing short of grand in terms of its visuals as well as the length to tell the story with such ambition. For the first film entitled No Greater Love and its subsequent films, Kobayashi does maintain compositions and images that do play into Kaji’s struggle with the world that often include slanted camera angles as if Kaji is either walking up or down a hill or a mountain. Shot on location in northern Japan (due to strained Chinese-Japanese relations at the time), Kobayashi’s usage of mountains and barren landscapes play into the world of the labor camps where the Chinese are imprisoned along with these intricate usage of tracking shots that would become a prominent factor for much of trilogy. Notably for scenes in the second film Road to Eternity where Kobayashi would use these intricate tracking shots to play into the sense of tension that emerges in the training camps and at the barracks where soldiers sleep as it makes things uneasy.

The direction also Kobayashi maintain a sense of intimacy through his usage of close-ups and medium shots for scenes at the camp and brothels in No Greater Love and at the camps in Road to Eternity. Much of it would play into not just Kaji’s sense of longing but also his struggle to hold on to his beliefs and the semblance of humanity around him. The close-ups wouldn’t just play into Kaji’s own state of mind but also in the characters who would become attached to him as the final days of the war is emerging. In the second half of Road to Eternity where Kaji and his platoon would have to battle it out with the Soviets. It does become a very different film where Kaji is in the middle of a battlefield knowing that he might die but manages to survive but its aftermath would play into a growing sense of disillusionment. It then leads to the third and final film of the trilogy in A Soldier’s Prayer where Kaji and a few soldiers he had befriend are fighting to survive where they would encounter refugees and others on their way back to Manchuria. The third film does become much broader in terms of its visuals and in its suspense as well as the sense of drama where Kaji is trying to maintain some dignity despite the fact that he knows that Japan has been defeated.

Kaji’s encounter with different types of refugees would play into his own resolve where Kobayashi’s direction is quite vast in its compositions that include some very wide shots of the farmland where Chinese militia farmers are taking watch. By the time the film moves into the Soviet camps, it does become more grim where Kaji would endure labor work as punishment but also a sense of disillusionment in the way he sees the Soviet as who they really are from their view of socialism. It’s in these moments where Kobayashi would definitely heighten the tension and drama for an ending where Kaji and everything he had encountered would force him to make a decision for what is right in the world. Overall, Kobayashi creates what is truly an astronomical and gripping trilogy of films about a humanist dealing with war and inhumanity during one of the most horrific periods in world history.

Cinematographer Yoshio Miyajima does brilliant work with the black-and-white cinematography for all three films where he infuses a lot of unique images and lighting schemes with Takaskhi Kato providing some harsh lights for a rainy scene in the first film while Akira Aomatsu does some of the lights for scenes at night and in the interiors for the second and third film as well as some naturalistic images for the latter for scenes set in the woods as the photography is among one of the film‘s highlights. Editor Keiichi Uraoka does amazing work with the editing in not just creating rhythmic cuts for some of the dramatic and active moments in the film but also some dissolves and stylish cuts to play into the drama including the usage of flashbacks and freeze-frames for the third film.


Production designer Kazue Hirakata, with set designers Yoji Maru (for the first film) and Takamasi Kobayashi (for the second and third films) and set decorators Kyoji Sasaki (for the first film) and Seiji Ishikawa (for the second and third films), does fantastic work with the set design from the look of the Manchurian villages where Kaji and Michiko would live to the labor camps, training camps, and other places that Kaji would encounter throughout his journey. Sound recorder Hideo Nishizaki does excellent work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the labor camps and ore mines in the first film as well as the scenes set in the training camps, battlefields, and at the Soviet prison to play into the world that Kaji is at. The film’s music by Chuji Kinoshita is great as it features an array of compositions from somber string arrangements to play into the drama to bombastic orchestral numbers that add to the tone of war as well as cadence drum arrangements to play into that world of the military.

The casting for all three films are incredible as it is a large yet well-crafted ensemble in the many roles that were assembled for the film. From No Greater Love, there’s notable small roles from Nobuo Nakamura as labor camp manager, Akitake Kono as a camp captain, Eitaro Ozawa as a brutish camp official in Okazaki, Masao Mishima as the camp manager Kuroki, Seiji Mizoguchi as the prisoner Wang Heng Li, Shinji Nanbara as the prisoner Kao, Koji Mitsui as the abusive camp officer Furya, Ineko Arima as the prostitute Yang Chun Lan who falls for Kao, Akira Ishihama as the Chinese officer Chen, So Yamamura as the sympathetic officer Okimshima, and Chikage Awashima as the brothel madam Jin Tung Fu whom Chen would fall for.

From Road to Eternity, there’s small roles from Kokini Katsura and Jun Tatara as a couple of first-class privates, Michio Minami as the abusive private first-class Yoshida, Fumio Watanabe and Shoji Yasui as a couple of officers at the camp, and Susumu Fujita as an older recruit Kaji is training. From A Soldier’s Prayer, there’s noteworthy small roles from Tamao Nakamura as a refugee Kaji and his fellow soldiers encounter, Ed Keene and Ronald Self as a couple of Soviet officers, Koji Kiyoumura and Keijiro Morozumi as a couple of soldiers, Kyoko Kishida as a prostitute refugee that Koji meets, Reiko Hitomi as a young woman who joins the soldiers on a journey, Hideko Takamine as a woman in a refugee camp, and Chishu Ryu as an old man in the refugee camp.

From the second film, Kei Sato is terrific as the veteran recruit Shinjo who would make a drastic attempt to escape the military while Kunie Tanaka is superb as the poor-sighted and cowardly Obara who would endure horrific abuse in the hands of supervisors. Keiji Sada is excellent as Kaji’s old friend Kageyama who appears in the first and second film where he becomes a lieutenant in the latter who would appoint Kaji to train a group of older officers. Taketoshi Naito and Yusuke Kawazu are brilliant in their respective roles as the soldiers Tange and Terada who both admire Kaji for his determination with the former being the cynic and the latter being a young man. Nobuo Kaneko is fantastic as the corrupt officer Kirihara who would also be captured by the Soviets where he is able to sway things in their favor much to Kaji’s disgust.

Michiyo Aratama is amazing as Kaji’s wife Michiyo who copes with her husband’s activities and his absences as she would visit him during his training as a soldier while becoming an object of determination in the third film where she would appear as an apparition of other women to remind him what he needs to return to. Finally, there’s Tatsuya Nakadai in a performance for the ages as Kaji as an idealistic young man who would endure some of the most horrific events in history. It’s a performance where Nakadai maintains a sense of humility and drive into his performance where he starts off as determined to make a difference in a world that is very cruel only to be pushed and pushed to face the harsher side of reality. Even as he contends with some of the actions he had caused and his attempts to do good during the time of war as it is a very haunting yet exhilarating performance from Nakadai.

The 2009 four-disc Region 1 DVD set from the Criterion Collection presents the films in their 2:35:1 theatrical aspect ratio on an enhanced 16x9 widescreen format with 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono sound as both sound and image are remastered for this release. Three discs contain the three different films in the trilogy as well as a fourth disc of special features. The first is a fourteen-minute excerpt of a rare 1993 interview with Masaki Kobayashi by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda made for the Japanese Director’s Guild. Kobayashi talks about his collaboration with cinematographer Yoshio Miyajima and their methods as well as aspects on the production along with the first film’s initial reception, despite winning an award at the Venice Film Festival, where it wasn’t well-received.

The 18-minute interview Tatsuya Nakadai has the actor talking about the film and his performance where he was just a newcomer who had worked with Kobayashi prior to making the trilogy. Nakadai also talks about the production as it was a tough one that spanned over three years as only he and Kobayashi were the only ones that didn’t get sick throughout the production. Nakadai also talks about how some of his performance was based on Kobayashi’s own experience as a POW which he added into the film as well as talking about seeing the film over the years which he is proud of as he also thinks it’s one of the finest anti-war films ever made.

The 25-minute appreciation video about the film and Kobayashi by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda has the filmmaker discussing a lot of the film’s themes and how it would relate to the films Kobayashi would make throughout his career. Shinoda also talks about Kobayashi’s life as a POW which would reflect on some of the scenes shown on the film where Kobayashi wanted a realistic depiction of what it was like. Shinoda also talks about the novelist of the stories who, like Kobayashi, was also part of the military that refused to serve as an officer where the two both shared their own experiences of war which would play into the film. Shinoda also talks about the romantic elements in the film that he felt was overlooked as he revealed much of the influence of late 1930s French cinema that had an impact on Kobayashi as a filmmaker.

The DVD set includes the trailers for all three films which displays its sense of ambition and importance to the Japanese cinema. The DVD set also includes an essay by film historian Philip Kemp entitled The Prisoner where Kemp talks about Kobayashi’s film career but also the state of Japan during the time the film was made. One of which where Japan was struggling with the actions it caused as well as be in denial about what they did where the film’s release did spark some controversy despite the international acclaim it would receive. Kemp also talks about the film and its narrative along with some of its irony as it concerns Kaji’s socialist views which would add to Kaji’s own downfall and disillusionment. It’s a very compelling essay that serves as a fine accompaniment to a towering trilogy.

The Human Condition trilogy is truly an outstanding achievement from Masaki Kobayashi that features a spectacular performance from Tatsuya Nakadai. While each film do stand out on their own, it is far more powerful and exhilarating as one entire piece thanks to a great ensemble cast and amazing technical work. It is also an intriguing study about humanity at a point in time where human kindness and decency are swayed away by something as senseless as war. In the end, The Human Condition trilogy is a magnificent trilogy of films by Masaki Kobayashi.

Masaki Kobayashi Films: (Black River) - (Harakiri) - Kwaidan - (Samurai Rebellion) - (Hymn to a Tired Man) - (The Fossil) - (Tokyo Trial)

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Against the Crowd Blog-a-Thon



Wendell of Dell on Movies has created a blog-a-thon that is very controversial as it relates to films that are beloved by critics that not many people like and those that are panned by critics that audiences do love. It is essentially a me-against-the-world mentality in what Wendell has created based on the following rules:

1. Pick one movie that "everyone" loves (the more iconic, the better). That movie must have a score of at least 75% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you hate it.

2. Pick one movie that "everyone" hates (the more notorious, the better). That movie must have a score of less than 35% on rottentomatoes.com. Tell us why you love it.

3. Include the tomato meter scores of both movies.

4. Use one of the banners in this post, or feel free to create your own.

That’s not so hard. OK, here is what I’m offering.


I was one of those that never really warmed up to The Hangover. When I first saw it, I thought it was OK but not a big deal. Subsequent viewings however made me realize that everyone who thinks this movie is great is fucking wrong! How can anyone root for an immature man-child in Zach Galifianakis’ Alan who not only causes a lot of trouble but does stupid things as if people think it’s funny? Plus, you have Bradley Cooper acting like a smug asshole and Ed Helms as the moron who sings about the troubles they’re in and people think this is funny?

Can I also mention into how much I fucking dislike Ken Jeong? His Chow character is among one of the most horrific and loathsome stereotypes ever created. What is so funny about this effeminate psychopath who likes to sport around naked just so he can show off his tiny dick? The jokes aren’t funny while Heather Graham just appears as an excuse to show off one of her tits to breastfeed a baby. The fact that this film grossed a lot of money and won some awards while getting two very awful sequels is just mind-boggling.


OK, I understand that this is sort of a cult film that didn’t get its due when it first came out. Sure, it was a box office hit though anything the Wayans did afterwards weren’t that great. It is still a film that audiences watch and quote. While it is a very lowbrow and idiotic film, it is one that is still funny as it makes fun of stereotypes in the right way while the idea of two African-American FBI agents pretending to be young white women is gold. Especially in the Keenan Ivory Wayans portrays it with his brothers Shaun and Marlon playing the lead roles.

Yet, it’s not just the Wayans that stand out as Busy Phillips, Jennifer Carpenter, Jaime King, Brittany Daniel, and John Heard that get to have their moments. The MVP of this film is Terry Crews. A character like that on paper wouldn’t work but Crews manages to do so much with his charisma and extremely hilarious performance. Plus, how can anyone not like these moments… 








© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Trafic



Directed, co-edited, and starring Jacques Tati and written by Tati, Jacques Lagrange, and Bert Haanstra, Trafic is the story of Monsieur Hulot working as a car designer as he takes his designs to a show in Amsterdam where the trip goes horribly wrong. The film stars Tati as Hulot for the final time in an informal trilogy of Hulot dealing with modern society as the focus is on the world of cars. Also starring Tony Knepper, Franco Russel, Mario Zanuelli, and Maria Kimberly. Trafic is a whimsical and charming film from Jacques Tati.

The film revolves around a car expo in Amsterdam as Monsieur Hulot’s design for a camper is to be the centerpiece of the expo as he and employees of the company drive from France to Amsterdam for the show where the trip becomes a disaster. It all plays into Hulot’s attempt to get his design on the day of the expo where it starts off with a series of little incidents revolving around a very old truck that is carrying the camper. Things would get worse as Hulot, the driver Marcel (Marcel Fraval) and a publicist named Maria (Maria Kimberly) would deal with traffic and other crazy things. The film’s screenplay is very simple as it relies more on situations rather than plot and dialogue as the latter is used sparingly at times. Instead, the script comments on not just the craziness of these car expos but also cities that is dominated by cars where no one could really go anywhere or get out as traffic becomes overwhelming as Hulot would find himself stuck in these situations.

Jacques Tati’s direction is simple in terms of its compositions but he manages to create images that are quite exhilarating in terms of the set pieces and how he presents the car expos and the world of traffic in the city. Tati would create elaborate gags that would often involve Maria’s dog leaving the car to wander around or people watching the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV as it plays into a world where humanity’s emphasis on cars and new things start to become overwhelming. Especially as the Hulot character is the man who design a car yet is revealed to be someone that is more about the simpler things in life. The camper itself is a unique character in the film as the gadgets it has are quite appealing but also has this air of absurdity to it. Part of Tati’s own approach to comedy would also include intricately-choreographed sequences that involve accidents and the traffic jams to play into not just the craziness of the world of cars.

It is also a commentary of sorts on modern society and its reliance on cars which only makes things very uneasy when it’s surrounded by traffic. Notably the elaborate accident sequence where it is quite comical but would be followed by something that is quite endearing into how humanity would react to something like this. Even the expo would have something that is off-the-wall in Tati’s direction where his usage of wide and medium shots come into play where it is very chaotic as opposed to scenes outside of the city where it’s more quaint. Overall, Tati creates a very witty and mesmerizing film about a man’s disastrous trip to a car expo in a world surrounded by cars and consumerism.

Cinematographers Eduard van der Enden and Marcel Weiss do amazing work with the film‘s very colorful and vibrant photography from the usage of the locations near Amsterdam as well as the interior lights for the scenes inside the expo and scenes set at night including one memorable gag involving Hulot. Editors Jacques Tati, Sophie Tatischeff, and Maurice Laumain do brilliant work with the editing to create unique rhythms for its sense of comedic timing as well as straight cuts to play into the non-comedic moments. Set designer Adrien De Rooy does fantastic work with the look of the expo as well as the camper that Hulot designed.

The sound work of Ed Pelster and Alain Curvelier, with sound mixer Jean Neny, is excellent as it is among one of the film‘s highlights from the way gags are created through sound as well as elements that play into some of the chaotic events including scenes set at the expo. The film’s music by Charles Dumont is wonderful as it is a jazz-based score that plays into the whimsical tone of the film as well as some of the funnier moments and themes for some of its characters.

The film’s phenomenal cast includes some notable small roles from Honore Bostel as Hulot’s boss, Francois Maisongrosse as the boss’ assistant Francois, Franco Ressel and Mario Zanuelli as a couple of drivers Hulot would encounter, Tony Knepper as an eccentric mechanic who helps Hulot and Maria late in the film, and Marcel Fraval as the truck driver who would drive the truck carrying the camper. Maria Kimberly is fantastic as the company’s publicist Maria who deals with the chaos of being late and having to bring her dog to the event as things go wrong. Finally, there’s Jacques Tati in a marvelous performance as Monsieur Hulot where Tati would maintain that sense of pantomime physical comedy as it done in a restrained manner as it is a very fun performance from Tati.

Trafic is a remarkable film from Jacques Tati. While it doesn’t really say anything new about modern society’s fascination with cars and the world of consumerism. It is still a film that manages to have something say that remains very relevant in the modern world while also being very entertaining. In the end, Trafic is a sensational film from Jacques Tati.

Jacques Tati Films: Jour de Fete - Monsieur Hulot's Holiday - Mon Oncle - Playtime - Parade - (The Auteurs #49: Jacques Tati)

© thevoid99 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Film Emotion Blog-a-Thon




Conman of Conman at the Movies has created a new blog-a-thon that is inspired by Pixar’s Inside Out which is based on the five key emotions of the film. Here are the rules:


1. Pick five films to represent the five emotions in Inside Out. The criteria for choosing these films is listed below. I would be willing to allow a tie, if you couldn’t decide between two films to best represent one of the emotions.

2. Write out five paragraphs, (one for each film) talking about the movies and why you chose them.

3. Post them on your blog (or Tumblr or whatever).

4. Send me the link by posting it here in the comments.

What I’m looking for are five movies that make YOU feel a certain emotion. Here’s what to look for;

JOY: First of all, you want to pick a movie that makes you happy. The kind of movie that you put on whenever you’re in a bad mood that never fails to lighten your spirits. It can be a family film, a romance, a comedy – as long as there’s a smile on your face by the end credits, it should be fair game.

SADNESS: Now for the movie that made you cry the most. From Bambi to Titanic, there are plenty of tear-jerker movies out there. These are movies where you gravitate towards the main characters and really don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. Maybe a character dies, maybe the guy doesn’t get the girl, but your eyes should be pretty watery by the film’s end.

FEAR: This is the movie that gave you the most nightmares. Pretty self explanatory. There are plenty of classic horror movies to choose from, but it doesn’t have to be an out-and-out horror film. If the movie’s about a more subtle kind of fear, or if the movie just has a creepy atmosphere, that should work. Whether blunt or subtle, this is the movie that scares the shit out of you.

ANGER: This is a movie that you flat out hated. Not a movie that was dull or boring, but a movie that just fills you up with rage just thinking about it. Maybe it’s a movie made by a certain director that had so much potential, maybe it’s an adaptation or a sequel that just didn’t do the original justice. It could also be a movie where your anger isn’t directed at the movie, but at the characters. Ever wanted to scream at movie characters for making such incredibly stupid decisions?

DISGUST: This last one is a bit tricky, I’ll let you interpret it the way you want. It could be a horror film with a lot of really awful imagery that you don’t want to look at, it could be a comedy with a bunch of gross-out humor that you can barely listen to. It could even be a movie that you like, but your disgust comes towards the basic premise in a grander sense, like being disgusted by what you see in 12 Years A Slave or Schindler’s List. Either way, this film should make you cringe.

Well, that is a pretty simple idea. OK then, let’s get to it.


Joy



If there’s one film that will make me laugh endlessly and lift things up for me. Well, who better to provide it than Monty Python? For me, the silliness that is Monty Python is what makes everything funny. Their 1974 classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail is just silliness at its most absurd. Coconuts, flesh wounds, the Holy hand grenade, the Castle Anthrax, must ask three questions, silly k-nig-hts, and a silly place called Camelot. Those who don’t think it’s funny are a bunch of idiotic, brainless, snobbish, imbecilic hamsters. I fart in their general direction and their fathers smell of elderberries!


Sadness



The Trois Couleurs trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski is among one of the greatest trilogies in film but its first film Bleu is definitely one of the most devastating films ever. Though it is a story about liberation, it is a devastating one considering that Juliette Binoche’s Julie character doesn’t just lose her family in an accident that she would survive. The scene where Julie watches the funeral on a hand-held television as well as elements in the ending and several other scenes are true tear-jerkers that definitely earn these moments.


Fear



Horror is not a genre I’m really knowledgeable about but there are horror filmmakers that I do love as John Carpenter is among them. While he’s known for strange and eerie films like Big Trouble in Little China and They Live. It’s The Thing that is among one of his best films and certainly one of the scariest. Most notably as it has elements of distrust and paranoia where a mysterious monster tries to inhabit someone or something. It is a very scary film as it is about the sense of the unknown and it adds to the sense of being really scared which is the hallmark of great horror films.


Disgust



In cinema, there’s films that definitely test those in their stomachs and in the mind. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom is that film as anyone who made it through the whole thing definitely experienced something that they will never forget and probably never want to watch ever. It’s not just the scenes of torture and decadence but also scenes of explicit sexual content and graphic violence that will definitely test anyone who sees it. Oh, and there’s people actually eating shit in the film. That’s just a taste of the craziness that goes in the film as it’s really more of a study of a world that is removed from modern society during World War II as a group of people try to maintain something that is ceased to exist. For those that aren’t able to get through the whole thing. Well, who can blame them?


Anger



No film this year pissed me off more than Aloha as I would expect Cameron Crowe to do something different. Instead, he creates what is most definitely his worst film to date and one that he will probably never recover from. I wasn’t expecting much when I saw it though I was hoping that it would be decent or more watchable than Elizabethtown. What happens is a film that pretty much makes you realize what is going to happen and the secrets that are unveiled as it ends up being very stupid. It’s full of contrivances and moments where Crowe wants you to feel something. Instead, you just feel pissed off that you wasted all of your time watching this piece of shit and you wish that you would find Crowe and kick him in the nuts for making such an awful fucking movie!

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Intolerance



Directed, co-edited, and production designed by D.W. Griffith and written by Griffith, Tod Browning, Hettie Grey Baker, Anita Loos, Mary H. O’Connor, and Frank E. Woods, Intolerance is a multi-layered epic that cross-cuts different stories in different periods of time to display the concept of humanity. Set in periods from the contemporary world of crime in the early 20th Century, the story of Christ, a story around the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1752 in France, and the fall of the Babylonian empire. Starring Vera Lewis, Ralph Lewis, Mae Marsh, Robert Harron, Lillian Gish, Constance Talmadge, Josephine Crowell, Margery Wilson, Frank Bennett, Elmer Clifton, Miriam Cooper, and Alfred Paget. Intolerance is a grand yet exhilarating film from D.W. Griffith.

Set in four different periods of time, the film plays into some of the darkest moments of humanity as it cross-cuts from period to period to showcase the impact of intolerance. Among these stories involve the fall of the Babylonian empire in the hands of priests conspiring with Cyrus the Great of Persia where a young woman tries to help Prince Belshazzar maintain his rule. The second involves the story of Jesus Christ and the events that led to his crucifixion. The third is set in 1752 France as it plays into the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre where Catholic royals tried to wipe out Protestant Huguenots. The fourth and final story is set in the 20th Century as it relies on a young woman and a young man whose lives are ruined by a mill owner who tries to help his sister in her charity work in an attempt to do something good.

The screenplay takes in this back-and-forth cross-cutting narrative where each segment is often joined by an image of a woman (Lillian Gish) rocking a baby cradle which plays into the plight of intolerance. The stories about Jesus Christ and the St. Bartholomew’s massacre are the shortest as the latter would include a couple of characters who would become victims of this prejudice involving religion. The segment about the fall of Babylonia starts off with this mountain girl (Constance Talmadge) who is an individual that doesn’t want to do anything until she encounters Prince Belshazzar (Alfred Paget) whom she would worship and later fight for him against Persians though both of them are unaware of priests conspiring against the prince over him favoring the god Ishtar over Bel-Marduk.

The segment involving a young woman (Mae Marsh) whose life of simplicity and innocence is shattered by aging women reformists who want to clean up the world only to make a mess of things for her and her entire life that includes her husband (Robert Harron). It all plays into the idea of what people are willing to do to change things just because they don’t agree with a certain philosophy nor willing to share something despite difference of opinions and ideals. Things go into chaos as it leads to conflicts where many would suffer because of this as the script doesn’t try to go into anything heavy-handed though its narrative is at times a bit jarring due to how repetitive it can be.

D.W. Griffith’s direction is very vast not just in his presentation but also in the way he is able to capture moments that are exhilarating in its set pieces and drama. Much of it involves very extravagant shots to display the vastness of some of the period settings in the film as he and art director Walter L. Hall would do the set design for the film. That approach to large visual pieces would come into play for the scenes set in Babylon where it would include some lavish costumes designed by Griffith and Clare West as well as the settings during the final days of Jesus Christ and at the St. Bartholomew massacre. The usage of wide and medium shots are very prevalent in the film as Griffith isn’t just maintaining a look in time where things were big and new but also a world that is just evolving as everyone just wants to live together and love each other. Yet, there are those that don’t buy into that and ruin it for everyone.

The direction would also have these moments with some unique tracking shots and lavish crane shots to play into the action as well as scenes that are intimate and dramatic which involves the sequence set in the early 20th Century. With the aid of cinematographer G.W. Bitzer and some special effects work by Hal Sullivan, each segment would have a different look as the scenes set in France are often shot in green while most of it is shot in a mixture of sepia, black, and white. Some of it would include red and blue tints to play into some of the moments of the action as Griffith would edit the film with James Smith and Rose Smith to play into the intensity in some of the conflicts and heightened drama that occurs. Sullivan’s effects would come into play for the film’s ending as it has an air of sentimentality that Griffith wanted to show in a world that can be very cruel but also would have moments that are hopeful. Overall, Griffth creates a sprawling yet powerful film about the concept of intolerance.

The film’s music by Joseph Carl Breil and Julian Carrillo, with additional music by Joseph Turrin for its 2002 restoration, is among one of the film‘s highlights in terms of its diversity from bombastic orchestral arrangements for some of the more lavish scenes to the usage of harpsichord pieces for the scene set in France. Turrin’s pieces are more focused on synthesized orchestral music that adds some weight to the drama as well as moments where things do get really tough.

The film’s amazing cast includes a massive ensemble as it features appearances from Lillian Langdon as the Virgin Mary, Bessie Love and George Walsh as a married couple in the Jesus Christ segment, Frank Brownlee as the brother of the mountain girl in the Babylon segment, Carl Stockdale as King Nabondius of Babylon, George Siegmann as Persian leader Cyrus the Great, Tully Marshall as the corrupt High Priest of Bel-Marduk, Josephine Crowell as Catherine de Medici, Frank Bennett as Charles IX of France, Max Davidson as a neighbor of the young woman in the modern story, Tom Wilson as a kind-hearted police officer, Lloyd Ingraham as a trial judge, Ralph Lewis as the governor, and A.W. McClure as prison pastor. Howard Gaye is excellent in the role of Jesus Christ who displays the sense of mercy and grace that would raise the ire of those who saw him as a freak. Alfred Paget is fantastic as Prince Belshazzar of Babylon as the segment includes a wonderful performance from Seena Owens as the Princess. Yet, it is Constance Talmadge who is brilliant in her dual role as the Mountain Girl who fights for Belshazzar and in a smaller role as Princess Marguerite of Valois in the St. Bartholomew’s massacre sequence.

Margery Wilson and Eugene Pallette are terrific as a couple who would endure tragedy due to the St. Bartholomew’s massacre while Vera Lewis is brilliant as a former socialite who aids a group of reformists to clean up the city unaware of the damage she had caused. Sam De Grasse is superb as the socialite’s brother who would create a pay cut for the saw mill he runs as well as do things to ruin the lives of ordinary people. Miriam Cooper is fantastic as a woman in the modern story who would be the lover of a crime boss as she becomes integral to the film’s story while Walter Long is amazing as the crime boss. Lillian Gish is incredible in her small but mesmerizing role as the woman rocking the cradle as she is the link to all of the stories. Finally, there’s Robert Harron and Mae Marsh in remarkable performances as the young man and young women in the modern-day story as they both struggle to find good as the former would briefly turn to crime as the latter would display a sense of innocence into her performance as someone that just wants to be good.

Intolerance is a spectacular film from D.W. Griffith. Armed with a great cast, dazzling technical work, and a wondrous music. The film is definitely the true definition of an epic in terms of its vast visuals and compelling stories that play into the themes of humanity and its dual sides of good and bad. Even as it manages to create offbeat narrative structures to showcase how far the world has and hasn’t come in terms of doing good for a world that is often very complicated. In the end, Intolerance is a phenomenal film from D.W. Griffith.

© thevoid99 2015