Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three Films Make A Post: See King Tyrant Lizards In Deadly Combat!

Okinawa Ten Year War (1978): Matsuo Akinori's jitsuroku-style yakuza movie is predominantly interesting as a demonstration of the theory that you can take all the surface elements of Kinji Fukasaku's directorial style for one of these films, and have the typically pretty great Toei stable of actors (including Sonny Chiba, with facial hair) to your disposal and still not get much of a film when your script (by Ichiro Otsu, also responsible for the equally disjointed Legend of Dinosaur and Monster Birds) is as unfocused and oblivious to the thematic potential of its own set-up (like for example the Okinawa/mainland Japan divide Fukasaku and other directors have explored in much better films ) as that at hand. Scenes seem to belong to about three different films - one of them as sentimental as the hoariest of ninkyo eiga - and though many of them are perfectly fine to look at independently, they never cohere into a whole.

Le Samourai (1967): I'm pretty sure nobody's burning to hear my verdict about a well-known classic of cinema like Jean-Pierre Melville's film, and since every film critic, amateur or professional, clever, dumb or pretentious has written about films like it, I usually just watch and shut up, because there's not much of a chance I have anything to say about them that hasn't been said before.

But (and you knew there was a but coming) Le Samourai fits so perfectly into the school of slow and theoretically boring movies that turn out to be exciting and hypnotic through their slowness and lack of action I tend to swoon over in the realm of the cheap and the shoddy, I can't help but at least mention that fact. The difference between these schools is just that where Le Samourai reaches the point of excitement through minimal action by conscious design, your typical US local indie horror of the past reached it through disinterest, lack of talent or sheer luck. The outcome is pretty much the same, though. And so there truly is not much difference between arthouse and grindhouse at all.

The Endurance (2000): This documentary about Ernest Shackleton's failed Antarctic expedition impressed me as much as it annoyed me. There's obviously an impressive amount of research behind the film. Photographs, the expedition's own film material, and newly shot footage combine into something that's often visually magical, but for my tastes, the film too often becomes a hagiography for Shackleton whose every flaw is excused as belonging to "a great man", while the flaws of the equally heroic men around him are treated without any benefit of the doubt. History's obviously still made by great men and the backs of those they were standing on.


No comments: