Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kagemusha/Ran, live via remote

Posted by: Geoff

Geoff was sick this weekend, but he watched Kagemusha and Ran from his apartment via live feed. By that, I mean that he rented both films, and via cell-phone global-link hookup, he synced his start times with Stiff-Leg Central's own rigid schedule. His comments on these two films appear below:


Maybe Kagemusha and Ran weren’t the best two to jump in on. I read in Chris’s write-ups that Kagemusha is often considered a dry run for Ran, and maybe that explains some of the repeated motifs of the two. The ill-fated cavalry charge against entrenched positions, dreams of pursuit by enemies, the failure of real-world shadows to live up to their mythical predecessors, etc. I’ve gone ahead and rented a copy of Ikiru to round out the remote participation phase of this Stiff-Legged adventure, and to guard against forever identifying Kurosawa with the Man with the Flute.

Seriously, it was only regular doses of acetaminophen and chloraseptic that managed to suppress my gag reflex when big-butt Tutsumaru (sp?) blindly stumbled up to the precipice and accidentally dropped the Buddha image over the side. Did AK see that commercial of the Indian shedding a tear as garbage blows across his once-beautiful hunting grounds? But really, when we’re dealing with such epic and mythical productions, I shouldn’t fault steamrolling symbology. Sometimes you just gotta pull that sword out of its sheath and slide it right into your belly. And I’d watch Tutsumaru over and over on loop for an hour just to watch Kaede lick the blood off Jiro’s neck one more time. What’s that on your collar? Lipstick? A little blood?

Was it only me, or did the musical score kind of remind anyone else of music from Star Wars? Like, not the bombastic Darth Vader themes, but the parts when the droids are wandering around in the desert. Simple musical accompaniment – solo bassoon or trumpet or something, punctuated by quick trills on a flute or something. Maybe that’s just me. I’d be interested to know whether that musical style was in The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, etc. Did George Lucas steal that from Kurosawa as well, or did John Williams and Lucas loan out an orchestral sweatshop to Kurosawa? As an aside, I did a little net-searching on what good buddy Lucas was up to at around the time as Ran – turns out he was executive producing the Paul Schraeder-penned Mishima, itself something of an exploration of myth-making and real life. Oh, and he was also producing Howard the Duck.

I’ll have to rewatch the middle third of Kagemusha today or tomorrow – I drifted off to the land of winds and ghosts somewhere between the Noh theater and that dream sequence with the purple and pink backgrounds.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dersu Uzala

It was good, from what I could discern. However, I needed to sacrifice this film to the higher power of being rested enough to make it to 3 a.m. yet again tonight. Bits and snatches from a horizontal position on the couch. The assaultive color scheme in the previous film gave way to a beautifully muted tundra palette. There's a big to-do over the Russian-ness of it (obviously, it's entirely in RUSSIAN), but it doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me. Tarkovsky did a Swedish film (The Sacrifice), Woody Allen did a Bergman as well (Interiors). Why can't Kurosawa do something in/from a country so obviously close to his heart? It works on its own merits, even if the theme/plot (the "true man" aka mountain man, aka man of nature, can never feel welcome in "civilized" society) is a bit slight (Herzog did it better with Kaspar Hauser). It's hardly a disgrace, though...I'd dare say it's even worth multiple viewings!

Also, be on the lookout for remote live-blogging from Stiff-Leg regular Geoff, who's watching a remote feed of Kagemusha in Wicker Park. As for the rest of y'all, YOU ARE MISSING SOME SERIOUS SHIT HERE.

Dodes 'Ka-den III

Okay, so the film settled down quite a bit, giving itself over to a morose yet detailed set of character studies of life at the fringe. Less Tati as time goes on, and more like a sympathetic harbinger for Altman's take on Raymond Carver, Short Cuts. It's pretty grim, and again, color is used in it like an assault weapon, but the individual stories grew on me over time, and for the most part, I was pretty invested in each person's delusional grab for happiness, even if it was nowhere to be found. I guess that's the '70s for you. Good work, sir!

Dodes 'Ka-den II


That's the vibe I was getting on this that I couldn't quite pin down in the previous post. Jacques Tati.

But Tati with mental illness and prostitutes. Therefore, not Tati at all.

Dodes 'Ka-den

There's something so unsettling about this film, and it's not just that it's the first Kurosawa film we've seen in color. It's the color itself. Ultra-saturated, flat, convervatively-framed. Music that's sounds like the "feel-good" music in a million "foreign films" that folks go to in droves to the Music Box, inoffensive but just "different" enough to feel like exotica. But really, it's the flatness of the picture, the sudden two-dimensionality. I can't believe it's JUST the color. It's the same cold-water rush of horror I got when watching Herzog's Where the Green Ants Dream. Feeling like the best times were behind, and only slight films were ahead.

(this, of course, is not true in the case of either director, but impressions are impressions)

Credit must be given to Kurosawa for dusting himself off after so many letdowns and disappointments, but really, the crazy man walking through the rainbow while pretending to be a train...rather insufferable.

And honestly, WHO WAS THIS FOR? This was supposed to be "light entertainment?" IT'S A CITY OF MENTALLY HANDICAPPED PEOPLE, LIVING IN GARBAGE. Really? You thought this was going to be a big hit? Was this sort of movie all the rage in 1970? I must've missed that.

I want to believe, though, so I'll keep with it.

Red Beard, on the other hand, is beyond reproach. Like Seven Samurai, it's hard to believe how effortlessly three hours go by, or how invested you get in characters with "literary" character traits. Maybe not a life-changer like Ikiru, and certainly not as innovative in terms of structure, but one to take with you on your journey.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Revenge is sweet...and The Bad Sleep Well

Amazing images/conceits in The Bad Sleep Well:

- Leaping into a volcano (?) to cover up corporate malfeasance
- A giant wedding cake shaped like a seven-story office block
- An ingenious car window/tape recorder set-up to reveal the "bad guys" and their interior motives

And there's still an hour to go!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 2 complete

Posted by: Chris

Far too late to do a full recap, but briefly, Ikiru was the movie where you really felt Kurosawa full firing on all cylinders. Even more so than Rashomon. So sez me, anyway. More indelible images throughout...shots, compositions, performances that are hard to forget. Mifune may be Kurosawa's Kinski, but Shimura was, without a doubt, the Bruno S. of the canon, capable of deep, subtle, near-inaudible epiphanies (granted, the metaphor doesn't hold up perfectly, as Shimura was in more of Kurosawa's films than any other actor, including Mifune, and Bruno S. only acted in two films EVER. Still...).

Strap in, folks, Seven Samurai first thing tomorrow! Oh, and congratulations to Phineas, who won a copy of I Live in Fear, and Andrew, who won the Rashomon script book. Nice job, guys! You're ineligible to win any other nightly prizes, but you're still in the running for the Donald Richie book at the end of the festival. C'mon out, everybody! People really DO win at Stiff-Legged Film Festival dot com!

G'night! More soon!