Monday, 23 August 2010

diary of a shinjuku thief (jff)

Seriously? I can't muster the energy to interact with a film so unrewarding, elsewhere called imprecise, this film was an exercise in contempt for the audience. I would happily be culturally ignorant of all things New Wave.. even as a commentary on the depravity of man and the absurdity of postmodernism, even as a frank portrayal of the emasculation of the late boomer male, even for its documentary realism as a portal into Japanese identity, even for its asking what is love? Don't waste your life.

blood thirsty (jff)

Another sex and death number from Japan, as I make my home in the NMS's basement. This was the blackest comedy I've possibly ever seen, it asks, with ironic humour, if we may yet come to a point in culture where we will market insurance by commodifying failed suicide? An elegant construction, pitting Japan's historic concept of honourable death against the contemporary reign of simulation and media and capitalism, which feed on such virtue in fabricating advertising's heroic narratives. I don't think the film goes so far as to explicitly ask, if whether, mediated consumer society is inherently suicidal, but at a jump.

Early on, in a cruel reversal, Kiguchi's wife challenges him to profit from his recent media-worthiness, suggesting that to deny such opportunistic materialism is cowardly. Cowardly, as the antithesis of all that is heroic, aspirational and marketable. Thus abetted, Kiguchi, and all of Japan's honour he embodied in his restraint, subjects himself to a gradually total prostitution. In stages we are shown the way the media adopts a certain embodiment of virtue and hollows it out to be injected with a brand, our protagonist, however, was fairly hollow to begin with – as hollow as this notion of 'meaningful death' is considered by the Yoshida as bankrupt perhaps.

In this tragic character transformation, I don't believe he simply becomes one who believes his own hype. I think we can observe these two: 1. When a cynical media makes out that all virtue by public figures is contrived, self-fulfilledly these figures will lose nothing by playing to our low expectations. 2. Equally, when a shepherdless public invest saving hope in the infallibility of public figures, that is an impossible burden of trust and moral responsibility which can only be borne by illusion. So, Kiguchi is shot from both sides, and we see the man-eating dynamic of marketing at work.

So, he who began in innocence as a 'modern miracle' for simply 'saying what he thought', allows himself to be sold into a landscape 'surrounded by mirrors', which gradually by impatience beats out of him any Hamletian critical reflection as 'out of style' to leave a man so parasitically dependent on the supposed trust of an abstraction, 'my public', as to kill himself a second time for lack of it. A thoroughly modern moral tale. It is a concisely cut, closely shot film, with a number of frames delighting in that strength of singular lighting made excellent in black and white. Recommended highly.

sing a song of sex (jff)

I can't bear to enter a film late, I did, by 10 minutes, it was free, as Singapore gifts me strange graces daily. But I was left never knowing the precise genesis of Oshima's picture of four young men in Tokyo. In all, a rewarding picture, not only for its rich, and now nostalgic, palette and its simply captured sea shanty acapella. But mostly those.

The films bears some comparison to A Clockwork Orange, both films prompted by sexual violence question what strength holds in place an emerging society's bounds of sexual propriety; both films concern men and the measures employed for their sexual restraint, and consequent repression. In Clockwork the strength of the state is called to restrain sexual desire of youth run amok, in Sing a Song, we see the fantasies of four such youth who would, were it not for the weight of tradition, education and class (?). Accordingly, we see these frustrated imaginations play out in Freudian gardens, locked manor houses, examination halls and coal mines.

Into all this, enter music, hence the title, and here used in a way quite other to Clockwork's Ludwig van therapy. Here music calls them out of captivity 'Youngsters can't even tell they are oppressed, this is why we sing songs.' Music assuages 'their misery'. And here where music is the food of free love, where 'love is the only behaviour of resistance', we see a confluence of imported Vietnam protest and Japanese New Wave sexual liberation.

Music brings meaning to death: 'His death isn't meaningful' … 'Yes it is, it is our duty to prove it.' Music seduces mischief's would-be widow, music hypnotises and kindles unity, music portrayed in such unadorned recording here celebrates thatcertain strength of spirit manifest in both sexual rebellion and political protest.

Monday, 16 August 2010


Oh genre movies and America's mythology. “We kill nine million people and anger billions of Muslims, and America suffers a painful death.” Seriously? Here the rather anachronistic Russian enemy gains post-Cold War relevance by wielding Muslim believers as his weapon of mass destruction. There are between 1.2billion and 1.5billion Muslims, 'billions' connotes 2 or more, to meet Noyce's scaremongering with pedantry to make a point. Interesting that Muslims are referred to as a threat by their global total (exaggerated) volume, rather than, as Russia might be, by its particular equipment of nuclear weaponry. The new paranoia fears less the professional mole but rather the civilian mole majority demonstrating the new power of ideas, belief and guerilla aggression in an age of cloud networks and radical islam?

Orphans and Superheroes. Salt is an orphan, joining a long list of Spidermen and Howard Roarks and Harry Potters before her. These orphan Types are not merely incidentally so for the convenience of concise casting, rather it is almost crucial to their superness: “The loner, cut loose from family responsibilities, is an inherent part of the romance of America, the myth of eternal fresh starts..” (Wirth-Nester).(via McWilliams) Protagonists command our attention and affection for reflecting the person we find ourselves to be, and, at the same time, embodying that person we would like to be. We find ourselves fatherless, practically, biologically and metaphysically, and from this conception, we aspire to the self-made independence and the unrestrained heroic of these orphans we would be. That is to say, we do not want a Father to the fatherless, we want to be Evelyn Salt, prodigally unobliged to none in no gift economy of upbringing, inheritance or apprenticeship. It will be interesting to see as this trilogy (?) plays out, how they account for her defection from her surrogate family of communism, where Winter etc do not. Relatedly, what is it of parents that Jesus would have us hate in his call to orphan heroism in Luke14?

Who is salt and why 'salt'? What's in a name? Salt in a wound, salt of the earth, assaulted and desalinated, short enough to be an acronym or an ICAO phonetic, the punning potential for flavouring review titles is endless. Interesting that a few verses after orphans we get salt in Luke14. Salt, like Bourne, is a pregnant word, catchy and allusive.

The female James Bond. So this part was written for Tom Cruise and then changed, what changed? Salt cross-dresses as a man to gain access the White House, is there a reciprocal to this anywhere in Bond?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


be the Christ's love enfleshed to Budapest
for her homeless seeking homeness, lest
unblessed, you know never life's zest
travelling life's mess with her best guests.