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02/03/2016

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I watched the movie this weekend. It's interesting what you say about the humor because I've watched three Japanese movies lately, Departures which I wrote about on my blog, and The Bird People in China, and Yojimbo, and all of them had this humor in places which in American movies would be dark and serious. I was wondering if it was a Japanese thing, but maybe it's just a coincidence.

It did not strike me until you mentioned the comedic characters that what they reminded me of was characters in The Mikado. Did one the men remind you of Elvis in a bathrobe?

Now I'm thinking I'll have to watch Fistful of Dollars.

BTW, I really liked Princess Mononoke.

AMDG

Oh, and the music. I kept thinking it sounded more like a 50s detective movie than a samurai film.

It was certainly very different from I Live in Fear.

AMDG

Oops, I got that wrong when I posted this on Facebook--I said it was the model for Once Upon A Time in the West.

"Did one of the men remind you of Elvis in a bathrobe?"

Well, no, but I get what you mean. A few of the baddies look like they may have wandered in from the set of a 50's "rebel" film and given historical garb!

This sounds interesting. All of the Kurosawa films I've seen have been serious; I'm finding it a little hard to imagine him making a comedy. I'm putting this one on my list.

I wondered about that Mac but I thought there must be some deeper reason for the disparity which I failed to appreciate

No, unfortunately it was just pure brain malfunction.

I intend to watch this one, but not the 14 other ones proposed to me by the PhD student who saw the article on my facebook!

"I intend to watch this one, but not the 14 other ones proposed to me by the PhD student who saw the article on my facebook!"

I've seen a lot of AK's films and would recommend these as his top five (no particular order):

Ran
Seven Samurai
Ikiru
Rashomon
Yojimbo

Ran is on my top five all-time list, as was Ikiru, until it was recently knocked down a slot by Malick's The Tree of Life.


A friend of mine gave me a copy of Seven Samurai several years ago and for I don't know what reason I have yet to watch it. He said once I did I should then watch Yojimbo. I said, "Yojimbo?" and he replied, "yes, like Yo, Jimbo!" This is something that makes me laugh every time I think of Curt saying it!

I love The Tree of Life.

Ikiru is a favourite of mine too, Rob G. The other ones not so much, although I saw Ran only once, many years ago, and I would probably be better able to appreciate it now.

I'm working on my write-up for The Tree of Life now. It should be ready sometime in the next ... 10 months, for sure. The anticipation is killing me.

I just put Seven Samurai at the top of my Netflix queue. As I think I mentioned before, I watched it on videotape some years ago, and the main thing I remember is trying to stay awake toward the end. That was when I still had children at home and my wife and I were watching it after they'd gone to sleep.

I'm looking forward to what you have to say about Tree of Life, too, Craig.

Seven Samurai runs about 3 1/2 hrs. I think it has an intermission, so you could watch it in two parts.

At least. Actually I've taken to watching a lot of movies in half-hour segments while I eat lunch. It's not the experience the filmmaker had in mind, but I find that it works pretty well, especially for "thinky" pieces. It's like putting a book down and reflecting on it for a while before taking it up again.

Seven Samurai is a great film. I used to think it was unrealistically long, but these days my students will happily watch 7 hours of a Netflix series at one go, or all the Harry Potter films over a weekend.

Just got two early Kurosawa films from the library -- Drunken Angel and Stray Dog, both crime stories from the late 40s. Will report in due time.

Watched the above-mentioned films over the last week. Liked them both, although I'd say that Stray Dog is the better of the two.

Drunken Angel is about a young brash gangster who comes down with TB and is treated by a brusque, alcoholic, but ultimately good-natured doctor. The doctor tries to convince him that his disease will kill him unless he ceases his fast living, but the patient is resistant.

Stray Dog concerns a rookie detective who loses his pistol to a pickpocket, then becomes obsessed with finding it when it starts being used in crimes. After being suspended for losing the gun he's paired with an older, wiser detective who tries to help him keep things in perspective while they work on the related cases.

Both films star Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, and both are interesting for their views of post-WWII occupied Japan. In fact Kurosawa got in some trouble with the American censors in Japan for some of the things in Drunken Angel. In both films he paints much of the Western influence of the occupiers in a negative light.

Although D.A. has elements of the crime film it's really more of a drama. S.D. on the other hand seems to be credited with being the first true Japanese crime film.

I'd recommend both to the Kurosawa aficionado, but Stray Dog is probably the better film for the merely curious.

My question at the moment is whether to watch Rashomon, which is sitting in front of the TV or Crouching Tiger . . . in preparation.

aMDG

I'm watching Seven Samurai and finding it much more interesting than I did the first time around. As I've noted before in discussing Japanese films, though, especially older ones, I find the acting style a little difficult to connect with.

I watched Rashomon and really liked it, although there is that problem of the strange acting style--especially a lot of seemingly maniacal laughter about things that aren't really funny.

Bill said it was Bergmanesque, and so I looked up Bergman and Kurosawa and found a page on the Criterion website that says that Bergman chose Rashomon as one of this 11 favorite films and that, "Ingmar Bergman included a sequence in The Virgin Spring (1960) strongly reminiscent of Rashomon's most memorable sequence--the woodcutter's walk through the forest."

I said a bit more about the film on today's quote from the Holy Father--Feb. 13.

AMDG

Rob, You mentioned that the music from Yojimbo had a slight nod toward Bolero. I don't remember that, but the music at the beginning of Rashomon is very like Bolero. It's unmistakeable.

Bill mentioned that right away.

AMDG

I really need to see this, obviously. It will be a couple of weeks or more, though.

Re the strange acting style: there's a lot of screaming in Seven Samurai that seems well over the top for what's happening, and even non-screaming conversation is often done in a sort of barking style that's, to be blunt, ugly. I don't think this is the normal mode of speech in Japanese. The characters in Tokyo Story, for instance, which was made around the same time as SS but is set in then-contemporary Japan, don't do that.

Oops, I just realized, that I've seen Rashomon, and as with SS I didn't really get it. It was probably 15 years ago. Deserves another try.

I think you'll definitely get it.

AMDG

I think that the demonstrative, less-restrained acting style in A.K.'s historical films may have something to do with the influence of classical Japanese theatre. That style of acting isn't as prominent in his contemporary films.

Right. I hadn't thought about that. It's more like Kabuki?

AMDG

I've wondered if the exaggerated acting style in the early movies was not just a result of their being silent, but also some kind of carryover from the stage acting of the time. Maybe that was done to communicate emotion to an audience that mostly didn't see the actors close up. Or maybe it was just the style that was prevalent at that point. At any rate it often seems ridiculous now.

"It's more like Kabuki?"

Yes, I think so. I remember reading somewhere that many of the actors in that era were Kabuki-trained. It's something that the Japanese audiences would get, but Westerners might misunderstand as simple overacting. There's a true cultural disconnect there.

Also, Kurosawa put great stock in telling his stories visually. There's an interview where he says that he always imagines his scenes first as they would be in a silent film.

Laurence Olivier seems to ham it up horribly on film but was renowned as the greatest stage actor of his day.

I've had a similar thought about most acting in movies prior to maybe sometime in the 1960s as compared to the present day. On the one hand, there's often an elegance about the older style. On the other, it does often seem...hammy. It could just be a relative lack of skill in most cases. Not Olivier's, obviously.

I think it depends on what you've cut your teeth on. In a very real way Brando was the game-changer. If you've grown up with post 60s acting, the older stuff can sometimes look a bit forced.

True. I was wondering when the change happened. Bonnie and Clyde (1967 iirc), which is definitely in the newer style, jumped out at me, but I think it was more or less established by then--if it even makes sense to distinguish them clearly.

Olivier adapted, didn't he? The only post-60s instance for him I can think of is Sleuth. Although I don't remember it very well, I do remember thinking that it was very well acted.

Michael Cain immediately comes to my mind as acting in an entirely different style from Laurence Olivier. Which is not to suggest he was a major innovator, just that the 1960s do indeed seem to be something of a watershed.

Speaking of Michaels, has any more been heard of the Michael who offered to write a piece for the 52 movies series?

He's my friend on Facebook.

AMDG

Funny y'all mention that. I emailed him a little while ago, as he was actually on the schedule for last week, though I'm not sure he was aware of it. The schedule btw is up to date to the best of my knowledge right now.

I skimmed Olivier's Wikipedia page earlier today and it looks like he was a stage actor above all.

I didn't even know there was a schedule.

AMDG

I guess I forgot to mention it. It's on the sidebar.

Mac, put me on for March 30. Haven't decided what I'm doing yet, however.

It looks like March 23 is the next space. Put me there.

It also looks like there is no one for today. I might be able to do something if you need it, but let me know soon.

AMDG

Ok, the schedule is updated. Thanks. As for today, I have not one, but two(!) pieces submitted way in advance by Paul, and one of those will appear today.

Paul is an invaluable gift to the proprietors of the 52s.

AMDG

You can put me down anywhere you please, Mac. I will probably write about Howards End with Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter. I will need a little time to re-watch film before writing.

Ok, I put you in at the first open slot, which is all the way to April 6. I put in Howard's End but obviously you can change your mind if after watching it you decide against writing about it.

I'm concerned about a couple of people who may be offline for Lent and may not realize that they're scheduled for specific dates. Louise, are you there? You're down for next week. I can substitute one of mine if you can't or don't want to do that.

You can email them, right? They've emailed you stuff before.

AMDG

Yes, and I will. I guess even those who are off Facebook for Lent will still read email.

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