Rahil Patel

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Category Archives for: Film Reviews

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.

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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Vive L’Amour

12 January 2014 by Rahil

I watched Vive L’Amour (愛情萬歲; Live Love) at a coincidental time. Just a few weeks ago, I was extremely social. I had class, friends within the locality, always eating with people, not spending more than an hour without talking to someone. Now, I’m in a large house, staying up late to take on personal endeavors, with no social life. The sudden change in social life caused bed-ridden depression instantly, but I eventually adapted to live alone, again.

In Vive L’Amour, there are only three characters. Nothing else. We just watch them, without distractions — sound and dialog. It feels as if so much time is going by in their lives without doing anything. Sometimes I felt as if I’m not doing anything. Yet, it is enthralling to watch, think, and feel. Although, admittedly, I took breaks to handle the extremely slow pace, I never fast forwarded.

The setting is naturalistic. One character sells coffins, another illegally sells clothes, and the last is a real estate agent. The rest of the world feels bleak. The bland side of Taiwan: ugly condos and cars. It’s how I feel whenever I think about the Xinyi district in Taipei.

The actions characters take are novel [to me], adding to realism. bowling a watermelon, stealing keys to an apartment and then sleeping in it. Other scenes are relatable. The younger male character (acted by Lee Kang Sheng) takes actions not uncommon during puberty: masturbating and wearing girl’s clothes.

The dramatic tension caused by the characters being close, yet anonymous, is great to experience. The climax is unbreathably tense and thrilling. The final scene ends it well, with a long shot of an desolate park, then the female character quietly uncontrollably cries, finally physically displaying the real emotion beneath all of the characters: extreme loneliness.

I felt that Tsai Ming-Liang [the director] figured out what worked in Rebels of the Neon God, and stripped everything else, which wasn’t much, out. The audience now focuses only on the action, often of just one character. It’s rather surprising to think how great a minimal film can be, and how few resources is required to make one. It’s a success.

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Cidade dos Homens

11 January 2014 by Rahil

I found the film from a stand in India. I bought it for a few rupees, along with a bunch of old Indian music. The cheap paper cover indicated that it was the TV series, with an episode listing on the back. I continued watching, unsure of whether it was a TV series or film, learning the truth half way.

Watching Cidade dos Homens (City of Men), which is based off of the TV series, which itself is a spin-of of Cidade de Deus (City of God), which I really liked when I saw it in high school, felt like a prolonged TV episode, as many TV show turned films do.

Perhaps I’ve been really high on life and barely appreciating even high art because I was not engaged in the film at all. It has a gritty setting: gangs, guns, local people ‘n all, but the dramedy elements just consistently destroyed the realism. In one instance, One of the main characters has sex on duty, and it trades scenes with his friend also having sex, funky brazilian music plays, it segues on to the next scene; It felt like a sitcom. It’s light-hearted. Yet, people have guns, people die, and I can’t feel for them because these elements distract me from the events that occur.

I thought about something Tsai Ming-Liang said: Films are not real. People shouldn’t have to get so engaged with a film. It’s only a screen. It’s weird that people go festivals, then go into theater rooms, just to watch something on the screen.

In another thought, I felt that there was a truth in feeling of the film. People in Rio de Janerio do have guns, yet people have to live on, and joy is part of life. During my second time in India, I’d walk down the street, past slums, still thinking about people suffering, but a bit less than the first time, focusing on something insignificant, like purchasing a bottle of Thums Up (an Indian brand of cola). People adapt. It’s only crazy from a foreigner’s point of view.

I started fast forwarding half way through; I can’t withstand TV shows. I’d watch the first few second of a scene and understand the rest, and continue watching with this method. At some points I’d peer into the setting, the favelas, wishing I could walk the streets, talk to people, and really understand life there. I felt that there was so much film in the setting that could have been made with just a few of the people. Closer to the people. With less dialog, less narrative. Maybe I just want to physically be there and not watch a film.

The film ended rather quick at an hour and a half, as much of it was fast forwarded. Maybe I’ve become an asshole critic who is unable to enjoy action films. Still, it’s only an action film.

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Aguirre, the Wrath of God

05 January 2014 by Rahil

I watched this during a depression, which turns out to be a very good time for watching movies, as I can easily focus on it. I watched it because the Wikipedia page of Edward Yang claims it rekindled his passion for film. He probably saw it in the late 70s.

Immediately, I was engrossed. The valleyside of mountains of Peru (or so it is told), people marching steeply down clouds, the contrast of spanish soldiers dressed for dinner and raw tribal people, a lack of reason why everything is spoken in German, modern music (timeless, even for 2014) that set the feel of a modern, non-sensical, anxiety-ridden epic.

I just watch in wonder, allowing the pagan theme to meander along with the river. The plot and decisions made by characters are nonsensical. It’s the feeling provoked by the realism of the setting: a forest which reminds me of my time flowing down the Mekong in Laos, The Deer Hunter, and obviously Apocalypse Now; tribal people and local animals are shown often. Also the stark realism of decisions that may have occurred in the past due to the lack of intelligence: placing the black man in front during battle because Indians might be scared of him, and later using similar reasoning to keep the horse, which when finally abandoned eerily stares back at the camera with a blue and white mask.

Action is rarely shown, and when it is, it’s quick, without drama. People die, but it doesn’t matter, nothing matters in this world. There’s just a feel of constant impending doom, like a shitty H.P. Lovecraft book.

There’s this random colorful crew of Spanish soldiers with two princesses, a monk, a silly man made emperor, a black man, a tribal man, a tribal prince all on a raft on a river in the netherworld, and the only thing the characters (and the viewer) can do is watch Aguirre advance them further into their doom.

Although nothing matters in the film, the film is somehow entirely enthralling.

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