Posted 25 September 2010 - 10:17 PM
Posted 25 September 2010 - 10:50 PM
Masahiro Shinoda usually takes a backseat to his contemporaries Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima, and I won't engage in any meaningful comparisons of quality here, but he has quite the diverse body of work. So far, two of his films are in the Criterion Collection (Double Suicide and Samurai Spy) and another two have been released by the Masters of Cinema Series (Assassination and Silence). He told the audience at a screening of Pale Flower this evening that it too was headed to the Criterion Collection - previously it got pawned off on Criterion's now-defunct sister label Home Vision. And he told me personally that Samurai Spy was his favorite, for what that's worth (a lot to me at least!).
I do love Pale Flower. It's quite different from the other Japanese yakuza films that I've seen and that Criterion has put out. If pressed, you might try to equate it with a mix of Jean-Pierre Melville and Seijun Suzuki but that probably leaves far too much unaccounted for in the film. There's an element of jazz to the feel of the picture. It takes its time as necessary. Some humor pops up too, particularly regarding a severed finger. The protagonist has the existential presence of many a great film noir character. Then there's the wide black and white frame and the abundance of deep, nighttime shadows. It's a fine movie to immerse yourself in but maybe not the ideal choice if you're just looking to knock out an hour and a half of free time.
Shinoda also introduced the film tonight with the help of an interpreter. He's been interviewed a few times for DVDs and, though I've seen them all, I can't remember everything he said so there might be some overlap between his comments tonight and those DVD pieces. Regardless, I'll share what I can recall from his introduction. To start, he was impeccably dressed in a dark suit and with his white hair cut neat and short. He seemed to get around well for a man who's close to 80 years old. His comments began by mentioning that he was born in 1931 and then stating that that meant he was 14 when our country defeated his country in WWII. He had previously considered the Emperor like a god and would have gladly died for him in much the same way fundamentalist Muslims look at their leaders today. The end of WWII changed this, with the Emperor stating (I believe this is what he said) that he was basically just a man.
Allied troops, including Americans, moved in to occupy Japan. At some point, western censors told Japanese filmmakers that the lack of men and women kissing and embracing in films was indicative of feudalism and that the Japanese needed to add scenes like this. Shinoda here, as an aside, noted that Yasujiro Ozu never did show such scenes and that perhaps that was Ozu's way of rebelling against western influence. The young Shinoda balked at the idea that Americans would tell the Japanese how to make films because they had developed their own style over several years of quality moviemaking. He then went on to mention an incident when he was out in a city - he didn't say which one - that the Allies had leveled with bombs and he happened to hear "Moonlight Serenade" by Glenn Miller and his band. He quite enjoyed the song and, if I understood him right, warmed to western culture and its influences as a result. Thus, Shinoda said, it was kissing scenes and Glenn Miller that made him decide to be a filmmaker. Then he introduced Pale Flower by teasing us that it had one kissing scene in it.
Posted 25 September 2010 - 10:52 PM
A brief list of region 1 releases would be appreciated by at least one person.
It has to be brief since I believe there are only three of them - Pale Flower, Double Suicide and Samurai Spy.
And to further add some gloom, Pale Flower is getting that re-release at some point, Double Suicide is significantly shorter on the Criterion DVD (103 mins.) than the 142 mins. being advertised for this Shinoda retrospective's new print (which could simply be a mistake), and lots of people find Samurai Spy incomprehensible.
Posted 25 September 2010 - 11:01 PM
Posted 26 September 2010 - 09:21 AM
Posted 26 September 2010 - 07:36 PM
Shinoda nicely weaves his story to create feelings of anxiousness in the viewer, if not necessary suspense. The film actually doesn't seem interested in being suspenseful or emphasizing a thriller element. It instead dabbles in very serious questions about the past. There seems to be an underlying interest in whether cold revenge has the same satisfaction as its warmer blooded counterpart.
The location shooting and corresponding cinematography of the film really stand out. I'm not accustomed to seeing the green grass and blue water of Japan's islands in Scope. So often Japanese films of this decade are in black and white but the use of color here is impressive. One image that comes out of nowhere is a shot of a little girl in a field of vibrant yellow flowers. Shinoda's visual style was really top notch, and that's something I'd appreciated less before seeing this and Pale Flower over the last two days.
Posted 02 October 2010 - 09:29 PM
There are about three songs with bizarre, corresponding lyrics. Unreal colors that are as bright as candy. Weird costumes including one hit man who inexplicably dresses as an American football player. A plot that's totally convoluted and ridiculous. I couldn't figure out whether this would be considered a satire or something else, but I had a blast. No one involved seems to be taking themselves seriously. I was reminded of the Batman television series.
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