Rahil Patel

| (• ◡•)|/ \(❍ᴥ❍ʋ).

Category Archives for: Film Reviews

Babel

15 December 2014 by Rahil

The film was great, but the winter blues got me down, so my brain isn’t firing nearly as much.

Morocco

This country is near the top of my list to go to because it retains such a strong street culture, and therefore high happiness index.

Farm-life

Agricultural society?

Innaritu understands multiple cultures and lifestyles, the similarities and differences in ethics. He probably traveled much in his life.

Why not celebrate together? A problem with houses.

Never-mind, the maid actually took the kids to Mexico. Nice!

Kid’s don’t learn from television.

Tourist shot. It’s plausible. More likely to get in a car crash though, but that wouldn’t have blown up in American media.

Framing.

Japanese deaf volleyball player.

So much to be learned from deaf people.

This film is fucking amazing because of the constant switching between societies.

Hah, chicken leg broken.

Reminds me of the time I created the belief that one must be able to kill what they eat.

They had fun catching chickens though.

There’s a nice sensual pleasure in Mexico, one they were probably deprived of.

Oof, such ethical conundrum. The older female indegenous-appearing person stopped pressuring the wound.

Or maybe it was done?

The deaf is shunned from society. Yet wants to be a part of it; Societal norms disregards them.

It’s so rare that I encounter deaf people. Perhaps they are less willing to come out to the public, and stick to institutions and home.

Societies are too distant to face emotions for(?), only real experience can give to feelings.

Perhaps this thought came when a television showing media appeared. Media just can’t compare to reality in inciting action.

An aside: The director travelled at ages 17 and 19 via a cargo ship to work across Europe and Asia.

Only because an American died such value is given.

They even sent a helicopter!

All to go for a marriage.

Traditional values make people do crazy things. Even now, I have a cousin who’s wedding is in India. The cost is at least the cost of displacing 20+ Indian-Americans via a round-trip flight across the world.

Hah, the marriage in Mexico reminds of those in Southeast Asia and India.

They just seem odd.

The scenes of the Mexican marriage and park in Japan are beautiful.

Cops shoot without care for the villagers.

I didn’t quite understand why the cops were so angry. Do they care for Americans that much? Weren’t they Moroccan?

The edge of civilization is near, especially as the world becomes more connected with transportation. The effects of societies clashing is inevitable.

It’s surprising how close (in proximity) these events are. The Mexican border is perhaps 12 hours away by car, or an hour flight. One could experience a completely different society in a matter of hours. As budget airlines increase, people do. The effects of this, I am unsure.

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艾未未:道歉你妹 (Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry)

28 November 2014 by Rahil

This is a review of my thoughts during the viewing of the film.

他也有被遺棄的工廠。
Living on the edge of society to create art. People who are closer to or are idealists must live on the edge of society for their mind to be able to maintain such ideas. Living inside of a city doesn’t allow the space to think such a way. There are so many ideas in cities that are different than one’s utopia that one must step back, or in this case, out.

在奧林匹克的時候他感覺他做不好的東西。他的作品換新中國的政治學,他知道後果。
I think this point was pivotal for him. He came out of college in New York with design and art on his mind. He participates in a grand project. But aware of the consequences, he became more political after this point.

他每天寫博客。
For the sake of confirming beliefs or dissident documentary? Looks like there’s a book that contains his blog from MIT Press now.

如果藝術人沒做事,他寫事。
Seems common of any artist. One has to keep creating! But any other form of art is superior to writing. He did well in New York, meeting people, creating exhibitions. Perhaps it is best to be part of society.

「一共的做事。」
Solidarity. Do something that is right and people will follow.

「不是藝術的關係,是每一個人的關係」。
More solidarity. It’s interesting to try to find a point where political art divides into art and politics. Many artists act with great political knowledge.

他用了博客跟紀錄片記錄事。
Using the blog as a documentary tool. And later, Twitter, which enabled social gatherings.

「網路有力,因為給人機會改變人的意見。」
The internet enables common people to change the opinion of people.

It’s interesting that people didn’t use the internet to simply gain knowledge, say reading Wikipedia, instead rely on artists to feed the information to them in a more amusing form. One could easily read the Wikipedia article of the earthquakes in a minute, but it took an hour-long documentary to shove the same information in the minds of people. Though, I’m one of those people. Is it the pathos? Is it because film as a medium offers more information (visual data)? The closer to real experience, the more powerful the reaction.

藝術是今天的語言。*
Art is modern language. This was quite profound to me. I struggled in the past having learned art in New York and then being unable to talk about art in other countries. I will talk more about this when he moves from New York to China.

At another point he upholds the common view art is communication. Artists communicate by creating art. It is just a form of communication, like written, verbal, and body languages.

Why does it take a modern artist to be listened to? So many say and write the same things a modern artist says, yet the modern artist gains the power and attention. From Tate to a person with several followers. Again, the artist’s form of communication is more powerful than data. The experience of reading 5000 people are dead in a paper is different from walking around 5000 dead bodies.

If art is a way more powerful way of communicating, then it may be true that an artist who constantly creates art is more influential than one who does not.

「你得表現批判。」* 看的好容易。
By simply documenting the simple, rational actions he took, he makes strong criticism of society.

得開始理想的社會。*

他說他是永恆樂天派。

他只要教人。
He’s very ideal. I think one has to construct an utopia, then try to shape reality toward it. It’s a conscious effort among those with sufficient knowledge. But it seems that the creation of art is kind of unconscious.

In his reactions to police and reporters, he acts no different than as if it were a friend. He behaves as if he would in his own house, and expects others to do so too.

He even later says he’s an “eternal optimist”. He feels positive changes are possible and happening.

He just wants to teach people. The world is his students. In his documentaries people refer to him as 艾老師, Ai teacher. It’s a fundamental desire to want to teach people.

他也愛紐約。
:). It seems New York served as a place of freedom for him.

自由很怪。經歷自由你不可能忘了。個人非常強,比較國家強。
It seems quite true in his life; After New York he has never acted anything close to a slave.

在紐約他十二的年做難。
He even worked at Second Avenue Deli!. He must have spent quite a bit of time exploring those streets. Oh man, now I want to go back to a city!

他抗議,也看了Iran的審訊。
Learning from contemporary history in a progressive manner.

中國沒有藝術。

如果沒有人做藝術,你得創造藝術的社會。 總是有藝術人。你得跟他們說話,較。
He struggled going back to China because there was no modern art, especially not near modern as New York. But artists exist everywhere. One just needs to create a community, and they will come. One needs to educate them, then continue talking about it.

Now that there’s internet, it would seem that this is a moot point, but it is not. In my experience, many countries still uphold very traditional arts, which is promulgated by universities, which itself is likely promulgated by government. Even now in Taiwan there are universities that hold traditional arts higher than contemporary. Though, that is not a criticism of Taiwan, as it has only recently been lifted from martial law.

Whereas Ai was able to create a community and continue creating the way he did in New York, I was unable to create a community of the art I enjoyed (games), and instead diverting my attention toward more universally appreciated modern arts (HONY). I did this because I couldn’t stop I had to keep taking action with the knowledge I had. I had to keep creating, and consuming, and the people around me must be able to understand it. Why spend the time to educate people people on modern art? I could have gone back to New York, or they could use the internet to see it. I didn’t understand why Asia’s aesthetics were so far behind the experimental communities of New York.

“Why spend the time to educate people people on modern art?” is a good question. Is knowledge of aesthetics necessary to create something new? No. I often feel that if one doesn’t know what modern art is, one is likely going to be even more creative. Though, from my experience, I don’t remember any time where I saw an amazing art by a person away from modern society. The concepts are ancient: writing, painting, crafting, plays. Though, traditional games are awesome.

「藝術是方法發展新的意見。 是藝術人的職責保護。」
“Art is a way of developing new ideas.” I think he meant, art is a way of expressing idea, as opposed to developing new aesthetics.

“It is up to artists to protect freedom of expression.” That makes sense. Artists need to express themselves, and if they encounter a situation where they can’t, they fight for it.

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I think of Dean Moriarty

14 November 2014 by Rahil

aka Dean Moriarty ethics
aka On The Road (film)

a thought from the next day:
I was thinking about the scene where Sal parts from Dean in New York, how their lives departed, one toward intellectual pleasures within society, the other, the same old kicks. Who’s life is better? Dean is more free, Sal is constricted to society. Dean struggles with money, Sal, maybe less so.

I didn’t mean to write a film review, I actually thought of Dean Moriarty.

Are his ethics wrong?

Dean is embodies hedonism, yet, he is the main subject of interest. He leads Sal and other artists on adventures. He is the reason the book exists. He may have contributed to the electric Kool-aid experiment too. He continually experiments. He’s constantly acting. Though his actions and the consequences of his actions are uneven, he learns more, and acts with that knowledge.

What’s great about Dean is that he never settles, never gets old. He continues to explore. His understanding of the world and people is immense.

I think Dean is able to bear fruit in experiments because his daily life involves the use of various skills and constant cognitive action. To take trains through America, work part-time jobs, understand modern aesthetics, understand current psyche, naturally leads to dissident thoughts, but it also leads to having great knowledge, and a great mind. A mind quite far from the society shaped by written language, yet living in the heart of society, New York. He is a genius inside the body of a working machine. Scientists should have been asking him for answers.

I think of Dean because I was very close to being or even was Dean.

What the difference between Dean and Christopher Doyle, Kevin Kelly, or any other hippie who’s partial to the sensual nature of street cultures? Chris picked up a camera and Kevin picked up a pen? Maybe Dean just needed an outlet for creativity, to be taught how to channel his energy. He even asked Sal how to write.

Dean isn’t bad. If Dean didn’t have kids or ditch friends, he’d be great.

There are many Deans that live in cities, usually aged less than 35. They’re not terrible people. For some people, a city is enough.

Thoughts during watching:
Perhaps can have the same experience as the book, in a much faster time.

It already has a better gestalts. Books are so dead. Even if this film is inferior to the book, it’s a faster way of gaining knowledge and experience.

Third in jail, third in a pool hall, third in a public library. Not a bad division of time. Think, play, and learn.

Mmm, same problem. One has to live to create. No one creates anything worthwhile while living in isolation, unless that person has experienced much. All that can be written is introspection.

The characters live so much life, yet, they create so little, because their art form is so far from experience. Unlike Banky, who can create new art, object or experience, they are limited to writing. How ancient.

Hmmm, picking cotton. Not much different from Woofing.

Mmmm, dean can’t stop living, even rather die than stop. “It’s good to have a family, isn’t it?”

Haha, no care for the law.

To life.

The dance is great, hah.

Dean gets angry whenever someone stops him.

Hah, Ed Duncal marries for gas money. Such simple causation.

Dean doesn’t know the concept of responsibility.

Hah, the daughter is so traditional.

Only Sal sees the positive influences of Dean?

Was benzadrine that popular?

Marylou wants something normal. Normal being house, work, family.

Hmm, this film is so old aesthetically. Can’t compare to Hanneke, Farhadi, or other contemporaries.

Hmm, Camille is the best actor. Similar to Melacholia.

Mexico City is indeed heaven.

And Dean ditches him.

Hah, Sal’s such a good boy.

Reading Cassady’s Wikipedia article:
This is far more informative and real than the film. The facts are so much easier to determine a person. Father was an alcoholic, was on the streets of skid row, improsoned many times, was intelligent and helped by an educator who may have had sex with him, had several sex partners, one gay, 4 kids by two girls.

His hedonistic ethics aren’t too bad. He inspired a book, was far more interesting than anyone else. The only lawless thing is having kids and not supporting them. Which he eventually did.

Hmmm, His wife divorced him to help him, but felt that was a mistake as the family was the last pillar of his self-esteem.

“Twenty years of fast living but there’s not much left”

Hmmm, regrets his wild life, yet, the people around him love him.

I googled up this analysis from gradesaver.
of the parting scene and end:
The close of the novel finds Sal beginning to settle down with a new love and a new life. Remi Boncoeur’s offer to take Sal out on the town in a Cadillac suggests the alternative of a respectable, conventional life. But as Dean shows up with no other intention but to see Sal, Sal wrestles with the feelings of being torn between the two worlds. In the end, Dean cannot enter the Cadillac to go to the opera, just as Sal can no longer follow Dean on the road. Sal has made his choice. As Sal and Dean recede out of one another’s vision, one might recall Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, the postmodern “angel of history” as described by Walter Benjamin. This figure has great resonance with Sal’s experience.

The novel ends with Sal contemplating the passage of time on a river in New Jersey. For Sal, no ultimate understanding of what “it” is has been accomplished. Sal finally understands that there is no such understanding except that of time moving by and people growing old and fading away. As for Dean, only his memory remains with Sal.

of Mexico City:
To Dean and Sal, Mexico seems to be the promised land that they were looking for on their many journeys. For Sal, Mexico represents the best way out of the conventional white American life. The beer and cigarettes are cheap, they can smoke huge amounts of dope, and they can visit whorehouses anytime they wish. All of this costs little money, and even more importantly, the police and the citizens of Mexico only watch, enthralled by the behavior, allowing it and encouraging it-perhaps because they are Americans. This culture has its own norms, and it is unclear why the travelers should be expected to worry about or even to know about conventional Mexican life.

[Mmm, Taipei also has cheap vices. My vices are just simple pleasures: cheap food, tea, housing, and access to city and nature. But aren’t those what everyone wants from a place they live in? The police in Taiwan also don’t care, for different reasons, and it does make one feel more free, to be able to sleep anywhere, without a worry for crime. But Taiwanese people also live the same way, they’ll sleep anywhere too, if they’re tired, or if it’s just too hot outside.]

Sal and Dean seem to have no knowledge of Mexican culture and instead see the land around them only in terms of their own situation. The people’s poverty, instead of a hardship, seems to be complete freedom. Just as with African American culture, Kerouac’s characters again invert the traditional understanding of the repression of racial marginalization and poverty, instead presenting the life of these Mexican people as being gloriously free from the pressures of work and money that are experienced in America. For them, the primitive nature of Mexico is its best feature. Unlike their American journeys, Sal and Dean see their trip to Mexico as a trip to the source of life. Mexican culture seems not to have been touched or corrupted by modernity. In Mexico, there is nothing to run from or to. It is only a culture to be embraced because it seems to stand outside of time and history.

[in Taiwan, it is also difficult to see the hardships, because people are so friendly. I still don’t think much of it is hardship, as everyone is educated and fed well, perhaps more so than America. Of course they work, many doing service work, and when I asked them solemnly of they are happy, they said yes. I completely agree with the last sentence. Taiwan and perhaps Mexico are closer to life, as are other happier, island nations. There is a real discontent from developed countries, especially in the middle class. To be near people who are happier is all one really wants, isn’t it?]

The culture that Dean, Sal, and Stan experience in the mountains of Mexico stands outside of anything they have ever seen. Realizing that the road they are on is itself a modern construction just ten years old, however, Dean begins to understand that even wilder forms of life live beyond the highway. Yet, because they are still white American men, they may not be able to leave the highway to discover the Mexican subcultures. There remains a divide between what they want to experience and what they are able to experience. Sal despairs in his realization of what the road might mean for such seemingly pure cultures. He thinks about the invention of the atomic bomb, a symbol for the great destruction that modernity has brought, and despairs that one day the roads and bridges of culture will be destroyed along with the possibility of a pure and free existence.

[Mmmm, adaptation is not so much a problem now. There are methods to learn a language easily. And culture too is not difficult to assimilate to.

Where modernity is going is indeed uncertain, especially when one compare happier cultures. People live longer, but do they still live happily?]

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, Film Reviews, Films

Wolf Children

05 November 2014 by Rahil

Though Wolf Children (おおかみこどもの雨と雪, Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki) isn’t on the the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury list, it was on my personal list, because I loved Mamoru Hosoda’s last two films, Summer Wars and the Girl who Leapt through Time. And after watching the film, I think it belongs to that list. Watching this film and Like Father Like Son is good for the brain.

During the viewing of this film, I was sleep deprived, perhaps on my 22nd hour of the day, and in a terrible state: I’ve imprisoned myself in a house for three months now and lost weight [underweight]. Perhaps because of this long-term isolation, the viewing was more immersive. I left relatively few thoughts.

Surprisingly, there were many thoughts on human nature. The main plot device is a symbolism of two kinds.

Thoughts:

Scenes of different places from different lengths and angles go by quickly to show routine life. Such simple yet powerful technique.

The scenes here are of the mother’s life. It showed contemporary city life in Japan really well. It reminded me of how in five minutes or less Pixar films accomplish the same feat, especially that in the film Up and the short film (not Pixar) La Maison en Petits Cubes. It only takes a few minutes to show an entire life and grab the viewer in a somewhat romantic way.

Japanese people, so proper.

Hah, it’s always interesting to see how formal, rational, Japanese people are. I imagine this is the general view from Western civilization.

“Overcoming obstacles”, instead of just feely saying or doing something.

This is another observation of Japanese culture. Perhaps the translation just sounds funny and sticks out because of it, but in many times in other Japanese media, people use “overcoming obstacles” to many very dire situations, especially when coming of age. It sounds trite to me, but it also fits the trend of parents in Japan over-worrying about their kids.

Such a lonely life: Living in an apartment. The father dreams of having a bookcase in a tiny apartment. Their only satisfaction of desire comes from home-cooked food. No fun? No family? No friends?

Another observation of how rational Japanese culture is. The mother’s life seemed so robotic. Home, work, cook, read. It showed very little irrational satisfactions. It’s possible some books were hentai, but even then, it’s so controlled.

The law isn’t friendly to animals, people are afraid of breaking rational social norms, which animal’s actions do.

and a later thought:

Wolves can be a symbolism for any kind of problem unusual to society.

The law represented in the film by some health department checking children’s shots. The mother is pressured by the law to leave society.

Also, then neighbors are don’t accept the barking noises.

There’s a great scene where the mother wants to hide her kids from the public. I made me think of how mothers with handicap children feel.

Environment, city versus nature.

and

One more human, one more animal

Obvious, but nice to see the spectrum of rational versus irrational (passionate, creative, etc.) in both humans and environment.

[Update:] I just had the thought: it’s interesting that they partially grew up in the apartment. The boy desired home for many of his young years because he grew up in a home environment, only adjusting later. The girl grew up a wolf. It seems the boy represents nurture and the girl, nature.

Cause and effect.

I often think about cause and effect more nowadays. How seeing a guy led to a baby, led to being shunned by society, led to living a hard life on the farm. The mother’s actions were very rational, a grand success. At no point did the film turn malign. The mother didn’t abandon her children as shown well in Nobody Knows and from a different cause in Grave of Fireflies. The film never explores nuances in reality, where small decisions and actions have huge effects. Overall, it just follows an optimistic path of a normal good life, a life we are familiar with through most media.

Spending so much time building a home, oh the joy of simple living.

This may have been two separate thoughts, I can’t tell by my handwriting.

The mother spends a lot of time cleaning the house the first time, and several times after the children mess it up. I often feel people spend too much time cleaning the house. If the kids spend more time outside, in nature (or cities) or school (or work), the house shouldn’t matter much. People in America spend a lot of money renovating their houses or apartments. Often, it’s just a past-time. There isn’t a real reason behind it. One can survive with a lot less. So, it’s alway weird for me to see how much time people spend on houses, as opposed to experience. Though, in this case, the mother spends the right amount of time.

Books for education.

Though one can learn from books, the film must take place at a time where computers were less prominent. It’s interesting to see how the mother is able to stick to a rigid routine of learning through books, an outdated form of education. If it were taken place in modern times, one could easily just have used a smartphone and do research on wolves and local fauna and plants, and farming. Earlier in the film, they were learning Greek philosophy. Though, I really loved the book truck that came later. That’s a new concept to me!

All education from mother.

Well, I guess not all, as the daughter does go to school. But in the primary years, all formal education comes solely from the mother, and nature. For the son, all of his form education is from his mother.

I always felt nature should be a large part of early education. There’s a lot that can form in one’s mind given time to play in nature.

It seems like quite a lot of burden from a mother to be the sole human of all education for her children. It’s just wild to think that all human knowledge is passed down from her to her children. It’s normal, but here it feels primal. Also, I feel Japanese families are generally more nuclear, perhaps reinforced by the small apartments. More emphasis on the nuclear family as opposed to public societies.

It’s also nice to see the boy not attend school at such an early age and go into nature. In America, the normal age is after high school, or after college. I always felt sometime after elementary school seems to be right. A good symbolic nod for progressive education, if the child feels so.

Instinctual pleasure from manual labor.

An effect of living closer to nature. It’s nice to see the children have pleasure running in the wild near their farmhouse and the mother working hard, though, seemingly, enjoying it. It harked the thought that humans desire direct pleasures often, which can be as simple was walking in nature, and how middle class society denies them of it, especially the city culture of Japan. A representative scene was in the city apartment, when the daughter would get angry (and therefore turn into wolf) when she wanted to go walk.

After an education from home,

Four years, no people. Amazing.

It’s astonishing to see how the kids, well, at least the daughter adapted to society after four or so years of living only in the company of their family. In most societies, there are at least one of the following: extended families, kids on the street, friends. But there are those more sheltered households, so I guess it’s not so bad. During the viewing, it was astonishing for me, to see so many people, and to see the artificial environment it took place in. Not as frightening as a city though, as the pre-school was not far from the farmhouse. A good step.

Hah, was nice to see that the daughter started as a wolf, then grew more human, and the son the other way around.

This is probably common; I may have fit the boy’s fate.

Though often over-dramatic similar to the director’s previous works, it does explore human ethics, especially the theme of rational versus instinct [irrational], and I imagine this is more difficult in a megacity of Japan, the heart of middle-class discontent.

This thought was followed by:

A great plot device. It enabled the film to explore the core theme through several situations.

And lastly:

It is frightful how I die / do nothing without social stimulus. Without the city, without a need for money, I stop. With travel and civilization, I thrive.

I am not sure if these were during the film or at the end of it. For the most part, as I said, I watched without thought, without any deep analysis.

I agree, the film is aesthetically the same as the last two: anime. It even had a few scenes that reminded me of Akira, when 3d-generated thingies were new and cool. They were rather weird, unfitting to me. Nothing new in aesthetics. Though, there were some beautiful scenes that depicted contemporary life in a Japanese city. In animations, I often think how odd it is to put so much work to mimic real life; I mean, if one spends the time to make an animation, then it should explore some fantastic element that a real production can’t, to further aesthetics. Hosoda’s films do this, just slightly, perhaps just right, making the films still feel real. A lot of work put into the animation, as usual.

The film is indeed over-dramatic and therefore feels inauthentic. I feel the worst was done with the blaring dramatic music. That’s a shame.

It is interesting to see how Japanese people constantly churn out media that explore the nature, not human nature, but natural earth so much. Surely this must be a yearning from living in such artificial places.

The plot device indeed is great. I’m sure it was used in past media several times: man as animal, but I don’t remember it being used this well, in contemporary society, as opposed to some wild fantasy or science fiction.

The last thought, as I said, represents my current poor state. I’m currently in a suburb, not even represented in the film, and not worth being. The city provides people, the farm provides nature. The suburbs provide neither.

I remember watching The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, twice. Once the next day. I even spent some time looking at other people’s timelines. I wanted to spend more time with the film. I loved it. Similarly here, I want to watch it again. There is something alluring about Hosada’s films. Is it because there is more to learn from it? Is it because it contains ideals, which helps me make better current decisions? Or is it the simple pleasures of life that I desire? I don’t know, but it’s an exceptional thing. I’ve only watched a handful of films twice, and Hosada has accomplished in creating this feeling, thrice.

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Caché

23 October 2014 by Rahil

It seems I’ve transformed into a house and computer person who can consume films now. Some people think if one doesn’t have the attention to read a large book that the person is dumb. I contend, one who experiences media and reflects on it, as opposed to reality, has no life. Currently, I have no life.

On to the film.

I will first go over my thoughts [in square brackets], and afterwards some afterthoughts.

My thoughts:
The camcorder in the beginning will look like my cheap camcorder. :(

The neighborhood reminds me of the neighborhood of the hostel in Seoul.

The couple spends a lot of time inside the house. They cook at home with an expensive kitchen. They have a huge library of books, and perhaps film.

They drink red wine. Do they think about what it took to make it?

The family reminds me of that one in Like Father Like Son. Their house like a hotel. The kid must be schooled in geometry and swimming. What use? Habit?

Hah there’s a TV show. Why take the time to create such a superficial room? Quite similar to the couple’s living room.

The interaction between neighbors is missing. Perhaps they don’t even know their neighbors.

A magnificent scene with a dark skinned guy with ambiguous fault. [Equally ambiguous is Georges reaction, whether he reacted that way because the other guy was dark or not]

This kind of paranoia occurs in the western, isolated world.

Perhaps France still has these kinds of problems, of hate, racism or whatever else, but after it developed, they still occur, so these problems seem a bit more odd, and scary [Whoa, I think I nailed it here. Clearly a post-colonial stigma.]. The neighborhood is normally empty, the opposite of villages.

Such a simple action, a tape, letters, provokes so much emotion [I was thinking compared to happier countries or denser cities where one may just disregard it and trash it. It’s just material, not a person, sort of thought.]

Fear broods in spaces without people and light.

Such small details in this film and Certified Copy and A Seaparation count, and become exacerbated.

All of these lives, in houses, so odd. They experience so little, except perhaps through books.

Overworking in a developed country, seems to be the trend.

“Isn’t it lonely if you can’t go out? Is it less if you can sit in a garden?”

“Do you feel less lonely at the metro than at home?”

Oh man, such ethical inquiry. My parents live in a rich neighborhood in the suburbs where they don’t know the neighbors. Though not an estate, to me it’s a prison compared to a city. Ive asked these same questions to my mom. She didn’t retort as successfully as this. I personally feel less lonely in the public.]

“Anyway, I have my family friend. With a remote control. When it annoys me, I shut it down.”

Television replaces human interaction. Or any interaction, TV is still a one way communication.

His father played piano. His son prefers to hang out.

A criticism of modern times, and the lack of attention, and rigorous practice.

“Getting old… Lights off? No.”
Hallucinatory visions?

Even the mother lives in a lonely place. Such craziness only exists without much people.

Hah the use of camcorder video intertwining with the real film is so good. Perhaps horror has done this before, but not this well.

Hmm only VHS tapes, and no GPS to check the street name. Perhaps the film can only exist 10 years ago, like No Country for Old Men. Making a film now is too complex [to get around technology].

What makes these films so great is that the characters are smart, complex. They know justice. [They know human values.]

Revenge? And on the other side, guilt. Such a simple concept that harks the mind even at such late ages. [At the time of thinking this, I also thought about New Guineans exacting revenge in tribal warfare because I was reading a book about it.]

Only a guilty person would have gone to the room.

Hmm, another film that deals with the Algerian War, the other being Of Gods and Men I saw within the past week, though, this is only referenced as something done in the past. Perhaps French filmmakers have experienced this themselves and feel strongly about it. [Haneke is indeed quite old and lived during the time. From the Wikipedia article of the mentioned incident in the film, The Paris Massacre of 1961: “After 37 years of denial, in 1998 the French government acknowledged 40 deaths, although there are estimates of over 200.” The theme of denial is alluded to.]

Oh man, such good comparison to invasion [colonization?] of Iraq. [Mmm, another colonization thought. Well, this one was an obvious allusion via televised news. As an American-born watching this, it did make it feel more relatable, modern.]

“We will ensure greater homogeneity.”
This is frightening. Not just this line, but the film. [Was that news report real? Homogeneity in Iraq?]

Only in Western countries does so much paranoia occur. Though part of he film is to build horror, knowing where the child is at all times is probably their [the couple’s] normal routine.

So much work (bills) for the father, and junk (media, toys, posters) in the child’s room.

“If you’re alone you’ll imagine the worst.”
That’s a good friend. She did immediately think of her son getting hit by a car.

Whoa, this film…

It’s so good that the film takes place while the characters maintain a normal life, or try to. Work is shown. Raising a child. So much going on.

Rimbaud
An allusion I’m unaware of, but like Watchmen, every frame of this film matters.

Rimbaud was a poet in his teens, then stopped [making poems], considered a libertine. A Libertine is one devoid of most moral restraints, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals. [Now that’s a frightening concept!] Libertines put value on physical pleasures, those through senses. [hmm, that’s fascinating, to see where senses and rational must be balanced]. It grew adherents in 17th, 18th, and 19th century France and Great Britian. France sure was a fucked up place. In French novel Dangerous Lessons, the term a dish served best cold was coined, and is considered an early example of Libertine literature. The genre ended with the French Revolution. [what a frightening time, need to Wikipedia Napoleon]. Back to Rimbaud: “Rimbaud was known to have been a libertine and a restless soul. He traveled extensively on three continents before his death from cancer just after his thirty-seventh birthday.” Ooof, reading Rimbaud’s biography on Wikipedia, there are some comparisons of a strict childhood. “I’m now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I’m working at turning myself into a seer. You won’t understand any of this, and I’m almost incapable of explaining it to you.”…”The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It’s really not my fault.” Whoa, what a fascinating life. Lots to learn in his actions.

Orphanages breed hatred? Explains revenge.

Those early scenes of guilt and conscience were brilliant.

His mother sleeps with the lights on, but he doesn’t.

Meh, these films are too serious. I’d rather chill in Taiwan, without a worry in the world. Except finance and my Chinese. [lol, I was quite scared by the end of it.]

I don’t think it’s healthy for any life to be solely based on media. It really could damage a formative mind. Good thing I rode my bike all day and still do.

Oh man. The screenplay. Christ it’s brilliant.

The father sleeps, a scene plays in which his parents send Majid to the orphanage, for which most of the time I had mistaken it for the protagonist and his wife.

The end, also brilliant, not in a cheesy way in which films revolve, though it does. Masjid’s sons tells the protagonists son something, perhaps placing a conscience on him about his father.

After the film:
I was just amazed at how tight the screenplay was, reminding me of A Separation.

Even more, I was amazed by the allusions all over the place. Allusions not just from the television news or even the dialogue about Rimaud, and all the other allusions I missed — I didn’t quite fit in the dog story in my head at the time — but also the allusions of standard dialog from characters. Every piece of dialog in the film had reason to be there, held weight, symbolism, constantly richening the experience.

The deep, slow shots allow the mind to take in more content, allowing the eyes to wander, whilst reflecting.

Just in my last blog post, I mentioned the criteria for what makes a classic classic, and this not just meets those, but exceeds them.

I’ve mentioned before a comparison to Watchmen. Watchmen was a powerful piece of media for me, with its abundance of allusions in every frame, on the frames nearby, symbolism in the chapter, and in the entire novel, constantly interacting with other parts, the details form complex ideas over time. This film similarly accomplishes that, with its allusions, aphorism-filled dialogs, symbolism, interacting and fitting any part of the film, ignoring time, transcending.

Interpretations:

I instinctively read Roger Ebert’s review, which lead to his in-depth answer to the film.

Upon reading his review, he mentioned Tuberculosis being a disease in which people cough up blood. I did not know that, but fits. And I wondered, what if the person coughing blood was Georges, making him have TB. I read Wikipedia, and one has “fevers, chills, night sweats, fatigue.” All of which Michael had during the film. Well, that’s ambiguous, he could have just been in a poor mood. Anyway, it just made me think, Georges had TB, and through guilt, his hallucinatory visions put Majid in his place. Furthermore, his mother is dying too, perhaps of latent TB? A fun thought.

Upon looking at a scene around where Ebert mentioned, after the coughing blood scene, when Georges and his son go to the car, the son waves some plants out of the way, or, does he place a camera? Hah, then I’ve become paranoid, over-scrutinizing.

After reading the more in-depth review, it makes a lot of sense that the two sons knew each other. At first, I thought Majid’s son intentionally met afterward, now I’m going toward the former.

In the comments of the reviews, others have formed their own great ideas:

an example:

Did anyone notice the movie posters/ads at around 01:26 into the movie? Ma Mere (My mother)& Deux Freres (Two Brothers)? Was Majid G’s half brother? Were M’s “parents” sent away at a convenient time in France’s history so his real mother could adopt him without raising questions.

When G visits his mother she pretends to not remember M. She is visibly upset. M knew G’s mother was ill. M had contact with her.
M says later “WHAT WOULDN’T WE DO NOT TO LOSE WHATS OURS”. G to go from single child to have to share. W to be an outsider and to do anything to please. G exploited M’s need to belong to be rid of him. How much did G hear when he was a child? Enough to know M was more than adopted?

Majid is forgiving Georges.

M just wants his family. G can’t let go of the lies and may believe them. Is G racist? A snob?

Majid’s son must have contacted P. They both planned to reunite their fathers. Their grandmother is dying? Majid’s son and P tried to bring some peace to both brothers. G refused to see. W would never have his family. So much denial and sadness. No peace for G without the sleeping pills. No family for M ever.

A more encompassing example:

Okay, I think I have figured out Ebert’s “Shooting Gun” based on POV, as well as an ALL ENCOMPASSING solution to the mystery (until you all put a dozen holes through it).

The POV in the shot at about the 20 minute mark before the ‘boy with blood’ memory has two characteristics: 1) It is a still shot, implying that is is the objective perspective from someone filming, and 2) It is from a second story level at the street leading right up to George’s front door.

Therefore, Ebert is implying that the person making the tapes was taping from the second floor of George’s house (i.e. Pierrot).

Additionally, even if it a Subjective POV shot, it is still coming from a member of George’s household and aimed directly at the spot from which the opening frames of the movie are being filmed. In other words, Pierrot is looking from his bedroom window at the spot from where they are being filmed and knows where the camera is before his parents tell him of the tapes.

(However, unlike Ebert I am not convinced that POV is the solution, because anyone could have been looking from out of that window, out of pure fear, not neccessarily knowledge. They know they are being filmed from that general direction. And if Ebert means the POV of the person seeing the bleeding boy, it seems to be the POV of someone the height of age six, so it had to be George’s POV from memory and no one else.)

One issue not discussed anywhere of vital imprtance to solving the mystery is that George is a dedicated liar and never reveals what actually happened between him and Majid, although there are two hints: 1) After killing the rooster Majid appears to approach George with violent intent holding up the axe when the scene suddenly ends, and 2) George tells Majid something to the effect of “You were older and stronger than me, I had no choice”. Therefore, what did George do? Was it much more violent than what George finally admits to his wife at the end of the movie? It had to be when he says he was older and stonger and had no choice. George probably beat the living crap out of him and caused him to bleed for days on end, which he has suppressed in his memory as “spontaneous bleeding”. George doesn’t appear to admit to much and is obviously hiding a lot more as implied from the two scenes just mentioned, which is why it is such a painful memory for the Grandmother. It must have been a lot more violent and the family had to send Majid away for his own safety after brushing the family violence under the carpet, and bringing a doctor in to check the boy after waiting for exterior wounds to heal. Kid’s skin wounds heal fast, it could have been a wait of only one or two weeks.

One other issue not mentioned by bloggers which is part of the solution is that Majid may actually be George’s brother conceived through an affair between the Grandmother and the Algerian farmhand. This would explain the desire to adopt him and the guilt caused by exiling him at a young age and the mysterious dissappearance of both parents. This theory is based on the fact that Waleed (Majid’s son) appears to be in touch with the Grandmother and knows about her health. Why if he is he in touch with her does the Grandmother claim to have no memory of him? Something stinks there to high heaven. The only reason they would be in touch is due to a blood or a continuing adoptive relationship.

In any case the story George tells is very very innocent and could not be the cause of so much trauma on Majid’s part and so much guilt on George’s part. His only admission is that he said “I saw him bleeding” and “I told him to kill a rooster”. Hell, on a farm there is a lot of chicken killing going on.

Majid would only kill himself in that gruesome fashion due to very serious childhood trauma, not just being sent away to boarding school.

I don’t think we can say who sent the films, but we can determine who made the films for one good reason: No one had access to Majid’s house to film the confrontation between George and Majid except Majid’s family. Therefore, Either Majid made the tapes, or his son did (independently or in cohoots with Pierrot, it doesn’t matter)

Finally, the second generation seems to know each other based on the closing shot. Majid’s son and Pierrot have some kind of positive relationship. Perhaps Majid’s son approached him at school and made friends with him. Whether they are in league with one another or not is not important…

For a film to form interpretations of what happened in its entirety is a feat, even more so than Certified Copy, in which one turns into the other.

At the end of the same comment:

…The point of the movie is that there is a silver lining on the history of violence betwen France and Algeria, led by a new generation that is able to look past racial differences. Pierrot’s hero is none other than Algerian Zinedine Zidane who led France to its last World Cup and has his poster hanging on his bedroom wall. This generation can look past racial differences; Pierrot can have a good relationship with Majid’s son, although we cannot imagine that George’s generation can have an honest relationship with their colonized neighbours.

And for a film to simultaneously hold these symbolisms with strength is an unimaginable feat.

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Des hommes et des dieux

14 October 2014 by Rahil

After watching a recent film by my favorite film director, I found on Wikipedia it was commended by the jury that awards the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It is one of the juries of the Cannes Film festival with an objective to “honour works of artistic quality which witnesses to the power of film to reveal the mysterious depths of human beings through what concerns them, their hurts and failings as well as their hopes.”. From my experience of the few films I’ve seen in the list, and of the many directors of films who’ve I’ve seen, it seems this is a great source of philosophy in film. After finding that, I decided to print it out and plaster it next to a few other syllabi I have for my temporary self-education.

I hope to continue to watch the rest of the films in the list, thinking deeply of the actions people take, how they came to decide it, the effects of external forces, and whatever other questions may arise.

Continuing the trend starting from the last film I had watched of posting my thoughts, as opposed to reviewing a film, and forcing me to review my thoughts, edits appear in square brackets “[]”, what follows are my thoughts during the viewing of Des hommes et des dieux (Of Gods and Men).

My Thoughts:
How do people form convents? Need a source: evangelists. Is just finding the bible enough for people to teach it? [Reminds me of a short story by Borjes in Ficciones]. This surely must have died in developed countries where internet is prevalent.

The priests read religious texts (Quran, St. Francis de Assisi, etc.), absolutely naive to dogmatic material.

The framing the in this and Like Father Like Son are varied. Sometimes faces takes a fourth of the screen. Sometimes the camera moves with transit or people walking. [Zoom is necessary. Stabilization not so, but nice to have.]

Life would have been quite different without the internet, and Wikipedia.

Religion and culture is always weird to me because they are dogmas. They don’t make practical sense. Senseless traditions. It’s amazing how much time people have to spend on these things. Neither have monetary value. Neither is real work: the movement of objects or knowledge [science].

These things (religion, culture, government) form because people are social [Aristotle], which later leads to the formation of laws.

The priests do their work, ignoring the world, like the father in the last film did his — without play, following dogma. [Priests are like strict parents]

Film could be a great way to make an argument!

The priest choses not to take action (via reaction). A passive life?

So much time wasted while working [in the field or praying]. They could be listening to audiobooks!

If a religious armed person shares your own religion, you might be okay [safe], it seems.

This is another very good film of ethical decisions.

Both films do often use depth of field.

A progressive character in a convent? Interesting. I guess it’s because he’s the youngest. [It takes a habitual life over time to lose sight of progressivism]. Also interesting people sometimes desire to live outside of the convent, or at least the thought comes about during a dangerous time; During an earlier time in life, they decided to leave their homes to live a life “for Christ”.

If one lives in such a style for 60 years, would one change to another? Only if one is forced to, or comes across some serious event to change one’s mind.

Technology won’t arrive there any time soon, neither would have many books.

The priests are very familial, caring for each other like mothers.

As a kid the youngest priest wanted to be a missionary. He must have been exposed to missionaries really early.

I read that these kinds of priests rarely idly talk. I think that adds to their conduciveness to dogmatic beliefs. Dialogue, is the social way of gaining intelligence, with peers, not ancient authorities.

Getting sleepy here…

It seems the main priest entails a bias in his speeches. Saying their actions [to stay at the convent] now matter, because their incarnations [does Christianity even have incarnation?] depend on it. Even another priest says it’s okay to die — “who ever saves their life shall die, whoever shall lose it preserves it”. Well, I guess people use prayers to justify their actions?

They only give into pleasure when nearing death: wine and music. Such an awful life — the disciplined one. [Perhaps it is only possible to live such a dull life with abstinence. And, perhaps, the abstinence of pleasure leads to a passive life, a lack of reaction, and therefore, action.] There are no bad effects to several kinds of pleasure. They react profoundly. So much emotional response from the music, an artificial stimulus.

The film gives good insight to the lives of these kinds of lifestyles though. [Buddhists may be compared to them.]

Remote communities give opportunity to remote [guerilla-style] crimes. Guerrilla warfare almost requires far flung groups of people: easy targets.

Why don’t people travel to cities? Some travel there for goods [one priest brought wine and cheese from what I believe is a place of higher population]. The priests wouldn’t be needed if the village just transported to the city. Does this village provide goods for the city? Farming? Yeah, I guess that’s the reason.

With the internet, farms must be an okay place to live now, maybe even nice for people who enjoy a quiet life. Still, a dangerous choice in life, and narrow in knowledge. Even with the internet, people are social animals, and if one limits their social life with people in their village, it limits their knowledge — such an absurd phenomena. [todo: explore reasons for differences in amount of knowledge, if any, between cities and villages (I consider suburbs a contemporary form of a village)***]

The film is horrendously slow. Though, some ideas do require a lengthy experience to really digest. I could have read the synopsis of the film, but would I have similarly digested it? Perhaps I can try afterward. Perhaps it’s similar to reading a book and it’s synopsis: one doesn’t have much material and time (pacing), to formulate why things happened.

The subject of the film is why each priest made the decision (if any) to stay. What’s not shown is the other side of decision-making: the insurgents. Did each of the insurgents decide to follow people who making unethical killings? Perhaps there was even less brain activity on their side.

Though not much communication exists between the priests, they are intelligent, especially found in the testament by Christian given at the end of the film. He knows how discrimination lead to conflicts; He loves the country and it’s people, even if they kill him. Perhaps an exemplar of non-violence. [the first communication between the insurgents was a very good example of non-violent communication, and it was successful]

Hah, Amadee lived for another 12 years, indeed outliving them all.

Further watching: Battle of Algiers.

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Like Father Like Son

12 October 2014 by Rahil

My favorite film director, Hirokazu Koreeda, film from 2013, Like Father Like Son, continues his consistent master-craft.

I personally have not seen a film in many months because I was living a very social life, and it had become quite difficult to become engaged with a video from a screen.

I’ve been in my parent’s house for more than a month, slowly transforming from a manic to a sloth, from peak creativity to hibernation. Finally, I gave in to watching a film, allowing some one else to direct my thoughts.

Instead of giving a review, I’ve decided to just post my thoughts during the film. I watched it in two sessions, the first, actively philosophical, and the second, more similar to my college days — absolutely mesmerized. And so, my thoughts are divided as such, unequal in length.

My Thoughts:
session one:
It’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to watch a film, and even when I did, the content of the film matched the lifestyle I was living in, for example, Tsai-Ming Liang films while living on the streets of Taiwan.

I can’t help to philosophize while watching, not of art aesthetic, but of knowledge.

Japan, school and work is so artificial: both appear like offices.

It is always more interesting to watch films of places one is unfamiliar with. If one watches films that take place in corporate America, one doesn’t realize it’s even there.

An old thought: to choose media is uncreative. Why consume it in the first place? Does it really substitute an experience?

The family lives in a house, and schedules life by time, and forcing a schedule on their child. No external stimulus is at play. No time to play games.

Watching the life of house people is odd. What are they really doing? Following something they practiced, that society taught, or parents taught? How did they choose their current daily actions? Japanese people are so robotic. I wonder, did they always live in sepearate housing? Whereas South Asians lived together in large families? [I googled a good article to read]

Japanese people sure do have giant libraries. Perhaps the reason why their culture is so insular is because their consumption is so [harks negative affects of suburbs thought]. If one lives in a suburban house, one consumed what’s in the house, not outside. What’s inside is media: manga, cute books, Japanese movies, etc.

My view of life has quite changed. As I watch the film, I notice more. I see that the house exists. It’s artificial. Their lives are determined by social interaction. Like watching people as I travel, I watch this film, the people at the wedding, my family. It is interesting to see what actions people take, rather than take action myself.

The family has an expensive DSLR, and the kid knows how to use it, without thinking of its affects or it’s existence.

This film is fucking great, in pacing, tracking shots to provide thinking time, gestalts, setting.

The wife’s mother highly regards people with money.

An idea from another person affected an individual, greatly.

It’s quite similar to A Separation, in that an ethical argument is given, and portrayed realistically and masterfully.

Education, knowledge, social determinism, it’s all here.

Which education is better? Planned or playful. Clearly playful environment. But the father shouldn’t always act so childish to the kids, should he?

The grandmother feels the home is like a hotel, as do the other couple’s kid. The amount of knowledge that pours from this film is more vast and succinct than that of most writers of the Western Canon.

“Don’t you think that, for kids, giving them time is everything.”

The father only realizes this now, after being raised in such a competitive society, he forgot the value of spending time. So isolated from life, so robotic.

Classic nature vs nurture debate.

The father is taking more part in the decision, although he spent far less time. A problem of gender inequality.

session two:
I just watched it as I did films in college, without philosophical analysis, profoundly.

“Spending time” is experience. Is it because I had little experience with my family, neither parent, I do not feel my parent’s house is my home? My parent’s first house was home because my friends lived on the same street. My parent’s second house is not.

after the film [at a suburban home, alone]:
After watching the film I had a long dream of treating mom and documenting it. “Taking Mom to Taiwan”. I would just record times I spend with her, showing a slow recovery from the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and later piece then together with some transition scenes for time to contemplate between, like Koreeda’s films. I was quite successful in the treatment, as she then lived a healthy life in Taiwan, with her own Indian food shop. We both went to some film festival and won. I hadn’t told her about the film, and we just had fun and talked over the mic. I asked her a few serious questions for the audience, and she answered them. After that, I thanked a few Asian directors for their contemplative films, and Koreeda for being the impetus for the film, and Taiwan, for showing me life.

It seems, in the suburbs, I constantly substitute action with daydreaming.

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河流

06 February 2014 by Rahil

I watched 河流 (The River) in a still funky mood, unable to respond to external stimuli, isolated from the world.

The more films of Tsai Ming-Liang I watch, the more I feel similar to him. Or is it, because my current state of depression that I feel similar to the feelings his films express?

Like Tsai’s other films, it contains common themes: extreme isolation, water leaks, a slow, contemplative pace, and even similar characters. After watching a few of his films, one starts to believe that the main character is based on him, and perhaps the family is based off his own. Maybe his films are the extremes of his family.

When I started traveling, I had fascination with what people do, especially craftsmen that could be seen on the first level of buildings, or on streets of Asia. Similarly, I feel Tsai has this fascination as the processes of a chiropractor, acupuncture, prayers, and other traditional ceremonies are shown. He also has an eye for unseen places: a traditional bathhouse, a temple, old apartments, a river. Tsai sees the world as a traveler, a foreigner, and therefore it is interesting, because everything feels new. As Jenova Chen states in one of the three ways games could effect adults as they do children, the film “intellectually, whereby the work reveals a new perspective about the world that you have not seen before.”

A random note: Media is always shown on the side in his films. It seems he feels media is not real. It shouldn’t affect the lives of people so much.

Kang’s character is selfish, independent, yet needs help, nurture. When near his father he doesn’t feel hungry. He’s not experiencing life during these times. He needs be on his own.

The film is overwhelmingly bleak. Although there are very tension-ridden scenes, I didn’t feel as much drama here as his first two films because of the bleakness. Still there are very strong scenes.

After a male Oedipus Rex plot twist, there’s an image of his father, black and blue hues with a speck of white light in his eyes that haunts far after, which segues into the main character going into the light, unwittingly.

The strongest scene for me was the mother’s reaction after seeing her son in the hospital. She leans in an elevator, pressing the close button and random floors, unable to make her next move. Actually, the scene sums the film. All of the characters suffer like neck pain from extreme isolation, a lack of nurture, and love. Out of desperation, they look for nurture in wrong places, unable to move on, stuck, in an elevator.

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幫幫我愛神

01 February 2014 by Rahil

I coincidentally watched 幫幫我愛神 (Help me, Eros) directed by 李康生 (Lee Kang Sheng) and produced by long-time collaborator 蔡明亮 (Tsai Ming Liang) during a depression.

Similar to Tsai Ming Liang’s films, it’s minimalist, containing four characters, all of whom suffer from city isolation.

Compared to Tsai Ming Liang’s early films (Rebels of the Neon God and Vive L’Amour), Help me, Eros has more fantastic elements. It contains at least one dream, and the sex scene is quite dreamy too. The eccentric costumes of betel nut girls, the neon lights of the stand, the upscale apartments, all add to the fantastic atmosphere.

Yet, it is nearly all naturally shot in some random city in Taiwan. The blend of contemporary realism and fantasy forms a dark reality. The call center and stock market provide a good view of underrepresented occupations at the time. Betel nut beauties are real too [I live in Taiwan]. Technology is included, with the use of instant messaging, even more specifically a situation where the profile picture is used, and even the Asian-necessary selfie. Another great example of the blend: brand printed logos (think Gucci) are shot across the bodies of the characters during a threesome.

The isolation here is possibly even more extreme, perhaps at the sacrifice of realism, than Tsai’s early films. A tub full of eels, an ostrich omelette, fucking three girls simultaneously, marijuana plants, millions of dollars wasted, a carp being scraped alive, an ostrich fetus. Gluttony of extremely isolated people in Taiwan. Something that probably has never been shown before.

Yet, despite the extremes, the characters feel real. Betel nut beauties derived from a marketing campaign in a farming area in Taiwan. At one point the Betel nut girl goes back to farm, crying, missing a moment she had, only to come back and proceed to sell Betel nuts. The chubby character Cupcake is fat because her boyfriend is in the army, and later found dead by poison. The main character is a trope, but even I’ve experienced a few people like him in my life: rich and lonely.

The film plays fine throughout at a familiar pace. I didn’t have to take a break.

Still, for some reason, perhaps it was the fantastic elements, or the lack of dramatic elements, or even my own state of depression, the climax of the film didn’t have a profound effect on me as Tsai’s earlier films have. The characters are there, but I cared less for them. Perhaps it is because the characters are older, already transformed and fallen into their occupations. In Tsai’s earlier films, the characters are younger, the arcade street kid in Rebels… and a masturbating teen in Vive L’Amour are relatable. Help Me, Eros felt more like an observance of underserved people in extreme states. There is little transformation of the characters. Actually, now that I think about it, there is none. All of the positive actions failed; Nothing changes. All of the characters continue on their initial path, deceived by hope during loneliness.

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Distance

17 January 2014 by Rahil

Prologue:
I didn’t know about the event it’s based on, just as I didn’t know about the event Nobody Knows was based on.

Body:
Distance by Hirokazu Koreeda is powerful because the psychology of the characters feel real, and it questions the differences between perpetrators and non-perpetrators.

The film starts with a sci-fi plot. A cult-titled group of people poisoned Tokyo waters, which kills and injures many. Gladly, it’s not a sci-fi flick either.

It quickly jumps to real characters shown in their natural settings, a glimpse of each character’s lives. Each character with a different personality and time in life.

They meet in pairs. Then, altogether, they embark their journey, and it feels like a travel film, one of a group of friends who haven’t met for quite some time. A hand-held camera follows the action, by car and by foot. As they meet each other, we (the audience) also meet them, understand them, and feel for them.

Once the car is gone, a sense of horror emerges. Gladly, it’s not a horror flick. Although, the rest of the film remains haunting.

After mourning the group’s car gets stolen and they meet with one of the remaining cult members and sleep at the cult’s hideout. It becomes night. The camera gives a beautiful dark hue. The character’s emotions are mirrored by their dark images, splotches of black across their face.

Flashbacks of their cult counterparts string more bits of story, before and after they joined the cult. Before, they are shown in a mystic atmosphere, appearing quite normal. After, quite crazy when in contact with normal society.

Flashback interviews of each relative at a previous time, probably real interviews of each actor as Koreeda conducted for After Life and previous documentary works, adds even more realism and character.

As with watching any of Koreeda’s films, one deeply contemplates. The film’s lack of action and consistent display of characters asks for contemplation. About the character’s lives (the family’s relatives), their cult siblings, and how the average person can be swayed into doing something wrong without feeling one is doing something wrong. The difference between good and bad is a state of psychology.

As the relatives sit in the living room or around a fire, and contemplate about their siblings, god, and life, one can imagine them as a cult. How are the different from their siblings? If they stay in that room for a long period of time, would they begin to develop certain values different from the norms of society? How do societies develop? If any group of people is stuck in a room, what are the chances of the outcome being wrong?

Instead of directly showing motives, who, what, or why something wrong happens, we take a moment to conjecture how something wrong forms, and in doing so, it provides a more truthful answer.

Epilogue:
It’s been 1 year and 3 months since I left the States. This film strikes the first moment I’ve spent hours afterwards in wonder.

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