Rahil Patel

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Category Archives for: Film Reviews

Examined Life

19 January 2015 by Rahil

[todo: lots of old ideas came up here, that may be worth creating a post for, or maybe not, because they are old]

Notes taken during viewing and my current thoughts while going over them:

“The examined life is not worth living.”

great intro

Cornell West:
beam toward death

philosophy is critical of these things:
domination in institution
democracy is elites that are accountable for most people
of powers, which are not accountable to people
– ?, notes are quite unreadable

Current thoughts:
I like the guy because he speaks a common language and lives in New York, but everything he said was obvious.

Well, one interesting thing is “domination in the institution”. I don’t remember what he said, but the idea that all institutions are coercive, having a force. Chomsky and Assange say this too. Veblen finds the point where in the process of the development of society where force is first displayed: when the men of the amiable societies begin to war. That single force effects all of society. Forever! Well, until society learns to become amiable again. Naturally toward post-politics. Or some large-scale disaster.

But that’s hard when the rich are accustomed to be comfortably rich. And that the world has already been materially stratified, with slums to skyscrapers.

Maybe the problem is comfort. Travelers travel the world as if it were the apocalypse. The world is equally comfortable. The comfortably rich need to be shaken. If Katrina hit mid-town and Silicon Valley, maybe people would have woke up.

Avital Ronell:
This lady read way too much philosophy.

“the other” – can never understand others, so should not violate with my sense of understanding, let it live.
should always feel ethically, one does not do enough, never content

current thoughts:
The two points again is a kind of post-politics, autonomous society, where everyone is respected and appreciated.

The second point is nice to hear, and confirm, as I am never content, and try to never compromise. Is contentment synonymous to comfortable? Interestingly, she appeared quite content in her walk around the park.

Peter Singer:
developed city
– ethical issue of just living there. People should see moral problems.
– money, consumption, saving poverty (with money)
– “obligation to help people in starvation”
– can’t justify eating meat
– think of what to choose from another’s position
– neglecting not using money

current thoughts:
More obvious ideas.

I absolutely agree with the ethical issue of just living in a developed country. It’s probably why I watched so many foreign films when I was younger. Constant reminder is needed to keep life in check.

His resolution is naiive and possibly detrimental.

To think from another’s position, people have to live in a less developed society. After a certain time, people won’t choose to. Then they have to be forced to.

Kwame Appiwe:
think between evolve to globalization
– we are good at face-to-face stuff, family, few people, can we figure out how to be responsible to everyone?
– problem of globalizing cultures
– recognizing other’s moral values is having a moral nature
– not just responsible for zoo people (don’t quite remember what “zoo people” is)
– cosmopolitanism – can’t retreat to a few people and base moral on them, but also can’t abandon them, either learn to do both (or not?)

current thoughts:
Again, the question of politics vs post-politics, but phrased interestingly. [todo: think more]

The third point just boils down to appreciation, no forcing one’s values to another. This runs into the second point, that when the world globalizes, cultures face each other, and this is where complex interactions occur. Like when a person in a bamboo hut is introduced to modern technology, and media. Things in New York seem fine though. People sort themselves out with ethnic enclaves, or mold in hipper areas.

Cosmopolitanism is probably what every second generation child goes through with their parents, a la the film Tokyo Story, or just what every artist goes through when they move to a city. It fits my ethic of leaving traditional societies alone. But when the society to be left alone is wasteful, this poses another problem.

Martha Nussbam
foundation in Aristotle’s theory of justice
– job of good political arrangement
– to provide each person with what they need to become capable to live a flourishing human life; Supporting human capability.

social contract
– think about people with disabilities
– people get together out of love to create the world as good as it can be.

current thoughts:
Again, utopian post-politics. It’s a nice reoccurring confirmation. I really disliked this lady. Stereotype professor, no novel ideas at all. Her basic ideas are found in the most ancient of books. Not based on experience at all.

I agree, everyone should be provided the tools to do the best they are capable of. Someone said, perhaps Singer, that instead of thinking it as another person dying, think of it as lost talent, innovation.

The helping disabilities bit fits well with the first point: to make all people as capable as possible.

The third point is social construction based on utopia, which I agree with.

Cornell West pt. II:
Hah, I think I just like him because he’s conversational.

lover of wisdom
not school
to philosophize is to die
truth as way of life

listen to artists too
– aesthetic pleasure
*socially isolated yet more alive than the people on the streets

current thoughts:
I’m guessing the interviewer asked what a philosopher is.

“to philosophize is to die” is a phrase that comes to my mind too. It’s a social death. “socially isolated yet more alive than the people on the streets” was nice to hear while being filmed on the streets.

‘Listening to artists’ is something I didn’t realize ’til quite late in life. Probably because I didn’t socially die ’til a late time in life. I was the artist. I kept an eye on the forms and aesthetic of others, but didn’t see it as a way of something that people create as an action in life during a certain point in time and place.

Michael Hardt:
Democracy is rule of all by all
– age 20s in the 1980’s went to Latin America to see revolutions, politics, all he felt he could do was observe*
– better to revolt in the U.S.
– would U.S. lose or gain?
– Go to ??? and start an armed cell. Practically did not know how. Guns, etc.? Don’t know how to conduct a revolution.

current thoughts:
More post-politics.

The first point sounds like me in Taiwan.

The second point is really good. It’s better to revolt in the U.S. because it affects the rest of the world so much. [todo: lose or gain?]

After coming back from travel to the U.S., I had to make sense of the world. The idea of having such a guerilla-style revolution doesn’t seem right in a developed country because it contradicts it so much. Whereas if one were closer to nature, on a farm, it feels more possible. It’s a problem of adaptation. It’s like creating a very weird art that no one understands. The problem isn’t the idea, it’s that it deviates so far from current societal norms, and that makes it more difficult to make reality of.

My favorite. He’s also quite popular, not complex, but at least his ideas are based on cognitive biases (“wired to act”, which leads to poor decision-making, especially in developed societies. It also feels that he’s got some experience traveling. Thus far, it seems all of the others are Americans that haven’t been outside of it. Zizek has the philosopher-traveler feel. A bearded friend on an old couch constantly disgusted at the world, and directly interacts with the world. Perhaps the least academic found in this film.

Problem with world. We don’t see everything, i.e. trash, (or people dying).

temptation for meaning
– natural to interpret to make something simple; but really it just happens

the existing world is the best possible world

against science?

alienated from natural environment

Know, but not act upon it. Should visit sites of catastrophe.* It’s unimaginable we are not wired to act on it. Should learn to love the artificial, love trash, oil, animals, etc.

current thought:
The first thought is the core of all social problems. Related to the distance between humans, it is a basic cognitive bias. Humans will take bad actions, even if they have the knowledge of it [todo: link zizek review, known knowns etc.]. [todo: requires a lot more thought]

Finally a little cognitive science. Indeed the brain tries to abstract detail into digestible ideas. [todo: think more]

This is the first time I’ve heard the third idea. This is very interesting to think about at any point of time, in history, present, and future. That humans overall try to create the best societies and altogether, the best world, and this is what has come so far. [todo: think more]

He’s against science? Did Zizek fail to notice the history of science (and technology) and how it affects the world? Or does he blame the hierarchy required to upkeep it?

I agree with being alienated from the natural environment. The suburbs is the opposite of nature, and this idea is the only reason I can think of people are able to live between house, office, and Walmart.

I agree with the catastrophe bit. People need to directly experience things to orient their mind correctly.

People should love trash, oil, animals, and the natural resources which are naturally dirty. Perhaps it is the adaptation of comfort when people being to fear “getting dirty”

Judith Butler:
Don’t think about ???
– SF is accessible, public transportation, curve cuts, buildings -> social acceptability*
– social repression of people: aversion to others, limited housing, carer(?), socially isolated*
– did not feel she could get coffee
– help is something we all need, though we look down upon it*
– what can a body do?
– where is the backlog(?) of human?
– human as site of interdependency
– want to organize the world based on all those things

current thoughts:
I really like that they are walking and rolling (I’m scientific) around San Francisco. Always good to think about urban planning for all people. This lead to my own ideas of how the material world can socially isolate or bring people together.

Far better than whoever that last lady was. Social repression is a huge problem often neglected. Not in the simple feminism, black people stuff, but the more seemingly slighter forms of neglect: being averse to others. To think that all of the blind and deaf people are in deaf and blind schools and probably rarely go far from it because they are socially isolated. I wish they pervaded society. San Francisco probably is the place where I encountered the largest range of people: several forms of disabilities, disabled veterans, bums in the tenderloin, along with the hippies, yuppies, and in-betweens. It’s indeed quite a refreshing place to be. New York can sometimes be ruthless in comparison.

“help is something we all need, though we look down upon it”. This is so true, and a core characteristic of community.

Lastly, again, confirming the social construction based on one’s utopia.

Cornell West pt. III:
Hi again! :)

– is harmony possible? Beethoven learned to look at darkness and still have it.
– Blues starts with not caring for harmony, ride on dissonance.
– Time is lost on romanticism, keep fairing(?), play, the experience, never reach meaning, die without meaning

current thoughts:
Philosophers’ aesthetic taste is as old as they are. None of them have seemed to experience modern forms of art.

I like the third idea. To just keep playing, progressively learning, in constant search for meaning, dying without ever finding it. This constant love for wisdom but inability to be content.

I think the film did well in it taking place in developed societies, to show the contrast of the philosopher’s ideal society and the world they live in.

I think all of the philosophers fail in bringing any complex (in art, science, or logic) or novel ideas up, including solutions, which is also where the film excels — I wish 10 minutes were give to every smart person so that one could easily gauge other’s creativity.

The film also works because all of their ideas point toward the same similar idea: post-politics (autonomy, etc.). The problem is that not a single one gave a solution. They didn’t say, displace the entire middle class of developed societies, trade office employees with people from developing countries, remove superfluous jobs in developed countries, assassinate business magnates and distribute the wealth, stop buying products, sit on the streets, disrupt society. And that’s probably what differentiates academic philosophers and artists or revolutionaries. They don’t even say, innovate, use science and technology to consume less and spread more knowledge. None used any kind of empirical science to deduce their ideas, though, I guess that’s what continental philosophy is. Philosophy is a temporary phase. They’ve all spent too much time in philosophy world. They’re out of touch. They don’t see the empirical data. Only Zizek seems to have empirically gathered enough data in his mind to create ideologies of human nature. Perhaps pop academic philosophers have a place, like Jon Stewart has his, but it shouldn’t be honored. Academic philosophers are oxymorons. They say that the ideal is a community, but they aren’t a part of it. They are neither scientists nor artists. These people are unimportant. Likable, but unimportant, in that, they have nothing novel to say, and more importantly, do.

Leave a comment | Categories: Film Reviews, Philosophy

賈樟柯’s (Jia Zhangke) Trilogy

21 December 2014 by Rahil

I recently watched Jia Zhangke’s trilogy on and off over the past few days. This includes 小武 (Pickpocketer), 站台 (Platform), and 任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures). I couldn’t stop myself.

I don’t know of many films that explore the transformation from traditional to modernity as these do. As a person who’s travelled to a few places where modernity shows it’s face in products, notably, northern Laos, I felt thankful for them helping me make sense of it.

I didn’t watch the films continuously. I’d watch half, stop, watch another half of anther film another day. It’s all a mix in my mind.

I currently am at an all-time low, so my philosophical inquiry is equally so.

Table of contents:
小武 (Pickpocketer)
站台 (Platform)
任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures)

小武 (Xiao Wu)

As I said, I’ve been brain dead lately. Watching what other people do, how their minds work, is infinitely interesting.

At the initial bus stop scene I already feel I’m taken to another world. A world during my travels, away from the sedentary life of a knowledge society influenced by written and video-related media.

The bus reminds me of India, Laos, and Nepal. A little dirty, poor, and the people inside aren’t so intelligent.

At this point I already felt the film was amazing. Perhaps it’s because there are so few narrative films that take place in this setting. I was also quite glad to see a film to make sense of undeveloped societies, such as those I saw in Laos.

The people stare. It’s true. It’s quite uncomfortable in reality, but it’s quite normal. It’s similar to the way I may stare at films.

Smart people don’t know what to do in this kind of society. There’s no science, art, or technology. No hope. They either must create their own organization (grassroots) or leave.

Again, rituals such as marriages make people do irrational things.

It really felt like a rural, undeveloped society, similar to those farms I’ve seen in India. It’s so rare to see a film take place in such a place, and furthermore, have characters that are from that place. Perhaps it’s because it’s difficult to have those people to act, or, it’s difficult to have actors act such parts.

The main character really doesn’t know what to do. He has free time, but just has no direction, motivation, creativity.

He doesn’t have a teacher. He also doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Too smart to communicate to normal people? He has no life, but do others?

The protagonist must be the director’s image. Also, the town must be where the director grew up.

Praising the marriage of a rich person is really strange. Loyalty for a rich businessman? Why?

I watched the second half at another time and I didn’t write much. It was late, and I just soaked it all in.


Again, when less intelligent people stare at you, it can be quite frightening. In the last scene, shame is added. It’s a strange phenomenon. If one acts in a way different from what a society expects, people are bewildered by the action. Save, perhaps, in cities, where people have gotten used to differences, and generally don’t have time or care to stare.

站台 (Platform)

The protagonist is definitely the director.

When the director was young, he watched films. It inspired him, gave him knowledge.

The effects of modernity and consumerism are apparent here: people study art, watch films, buy new fashionable clothing, smoke (well, people did that anyway out of addiction). There’s also the one-child policy. All of this is introduced to a rather undeveloped society. It’s a step toward modernity from the last film, in which these influences did not exist, or, at least, it was not a focus of the film.

With modernity comes aesthetic; The desire for aesthetic leads to consumerism? — fashion, films, smoking. Knowledge and hedonism seem associated.

It is so rare to have a film that explores the first effects of modernity. With modernity comes knowledge and consumerism. It’s quite difficult to separate them.

If something exists, of course people will want it. The existence of new objects gives knowledge of their existence, and with knowledge of it, people will desire. If in the Western world, or somewhere in the world, fashionable people, smart people, people with technology exist, and one learns that those things they exist, it seems natural to desire those things.

Without the knowledge of them, one lives unknowingly. Avoiding them is asceticism.

The boom-box really interests the protagonist. He’s never experienced it before. It’s portable; It plays music; It’s an amazing invention. Shortly after, a dance party becomes possible because of it’s existence.

Watching the protagonist act within a society of which he is much smarter is really interesting. He only reacts to new things, consuming them quickly. He does the least amount of work to survive. In one scene, he casually grabs hold of a truck for free transportation. He’s in control of everything.

Only new things, knowledge is his interest. Otherwise, a simple life is enough. There isn’t much consumerism in him. Just a pair of bellbottoms, and perhaps in the next film, eating at a restaurant, of which it is his mother’s first time.

It’s just amazing to see a film taking place in the lowest class of society. For me, there is quite a large difference between blue collar workers in America and those people in northern Laos. The people in Laos just have a lot less things. Their house would maybe have a less than 50 items in total. There’s far less stuff, and in my mind, it makes a large difference in society, no matter the social class.

The only options in the people’s minds are going to school or going to the coal mine. Nothing else to life. No other way to learn. No other way to live. Society has narrowed life down to two choices.

In the first film, society urged the protagonist toward business. In the third film, the mother urged a character to join the army; That character felt he had no other choice, and just felt hopeless after he found out he was unable to join.

It really reminds me of Laos. I guess I haven’t seen a film with this kind of society after going to Laos. It’s all I could really compare it to.

At least people without money (at such a low level of society) value school over the coal mine. It’s always astonishing people know dangerous coal mines exist, yet are unable to do much about it, except, make art about it. How can people continue living in wealth without at least giving coal miners helmets?

The father doesn’t know where his daughter is. An effect of modernity? Kids go about doing what they want, a generation different, unable to understand, manage, or stop them. The next generation is smarter. What can they do? The whole Tokyo Story conundrum again.

Artists discover themselves. It’s quite beautiful to see this in such a rural society. That even artists exist there. Their aesthetics are ancient as the the media that reached them, yet they are the most intelligent people in their society. It gives some direction. It leads to traveling to consume more art. In turn it leads to more performances, incorporating the things they learned.

Haha, there’s a scene where the artists go to a shady place to experience art. It reminds me of shady art venues in American cities. It’s more lovely here because of the contrasting setting. The artists depicted in this film feel no different than the most creative artists in Brooklyn. It’s quite unbelievable to see it.

The modern dances must look strange to the audience. Showing any kind of art to the general public must be similar to showing fine art to the general public of America: people don’t understand nor know how to react.

This dance reminds of quite a few times during my travels when I didn’t quite understand art in less developed societies. In Penang, Malaysia, I went to a restaurant, and there was a performance of a transsexual singing old pop songs. In Baroda, India, there’s a school that runs old plays. All over Taiwan, there are plays, Chinese classical music, and even puppeteering, The aesthetics are ancient, non-progressive. Art departments still teach them. It was always quite an oddity to me, as a person who lived in New York and experienced current art. It’s understandable for old societies, but for any society that has an internet connection, it’s very a very strange experience.

His father works opened a business on the highway. He feels like an intermediary step of modernity between the protagonist and the mother. The father doesn’t come home often, a characteristic of modernity. Three generations in one family.

任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures)
Hah, something looks really gaudy. That’s the word that comes to mind when seeing modernism in less developed societies. Especially seen in Modernist architecture — those tacky large museums with no actual inside of them. Those large housing projects with no humanity. Those performances done without knowing why, just mimicking another society and failing to do so. It’s a really odd sight.

I’m still just amazed at how well the director portrays the influences of modernity.


There was an opera singer singing Western songs. Perhaps the existing aesthetic of Chinese opera helped understand Eastern opera.

One of the characters mother tells him to join the army. For money or for “honor”?

One of the characters live in a housing project, or it seems.

There’s a room where couples watch television. It’s quite strange, but perhaps an early form of karaoke. I guess television is the new media of the time, more easily accessible than books, and therefore able to convey ideas to less capable people better, especially apparent in conveying aesthetics.

I think I recall in one the films, perhaps the first, that the smart character read some Marx. So, books do exist. Even in this film, the smart character asks his friend for some high-art films, finding none he wanted, but still buying one.

More influences of modernity: the smarter characters just watch more traditional people live and work, no interest in joining their traditions. This occurs in several scenes. The main character mostly just rides his motorcycle watching the world go on.

The less intelligent people react so strangely, yet accurately from my experience: slowly. Though in the film it’s quite strange to see actions be repeated five or more times. This occurs when hitting the main character in the club, pushing the girl down when she found out, the girl biking in circles, and some more times of which I don’t quite remember. It’s like watching a rat being conditioned. If one is accustomed to people in a city, these people may even seem inhuman, lacking life.

In Laos, I experienced the slowest people I’ve ever encountered. Everything runs on their own peaceful time. I quite enjoyed it, but there was definitely a lack of reaction whenever one desired something. It seems desire can be associated to intelligence.

It seems rational, smarter people, can only live in such a traditional society for a short period of time. They find that they can’t really engage in society, so they leave, to join other more intelligent people, and do whatever they do.

I don’t know what scene provoked this thought, but in one of the scenes from Platform, there was a guy who left the troupe to go home, but came back because there was nothing to do at home, alone.

Though, I think an intelligent person can do a lot, just in a more political way. The characters from Platform were artists, so it’s quite difficult to share ideas when there is a gap in the knowledge of aesthetics.

All of the modern-affected characters can do is look at traditional society.

Modern people are valued. The girl is valued because she acts modern — she dresses with modern clothing, she sings and dances modern songs. Somehow, traditional society values that, without really understanding it. Why is modernity valued? Because it is simply different from traditional society?

After working for twenty years the mother decides to use some of the money to renovate the house. That’s what a good mother in a traditional society does with money. All there is left to do is make a better house. Her notion of work is simply something that makes money, or ‘honor’ in the case of telling her son to go to the army. It doesn’t seem to go much further than that.

Many Indians have this idea in their minds. They survive, make money, but after everything, there is little charity, or putting money back into the world, instead, they just build a large house, of which no one benefits from, not even its inhabitants.

A highway opens. In another part of the film Beijing wins the Olympic bid. More hints of modernity. Highways, at the time, were the only link to more information.

Looking at synopsis on Wikipedia, it becomes much easier to see actions. Here were some observations, and pieces copied from it:

Aimless people, because there is no hope in the society. No empowerment, art, or science.

One event sets the characters into action: the explosion of a textile mill.

Gift-giving is the largest use of money, even going into debt and taking a loan for. After buying a gift, the character has to sell DVDs for a few yuan each to make that money back.

Zhangzhi philosophized that we should do what feels good. Again, hedonism and materialism are associated with modernity.

Feeling of no future after getting denied by army. Joining the army was the only action to make his mother happy, and therefore him.

Learned to rob a bank from American films? Too much Quentin Tarrentino? Sadly, could have ended in death penalty.

“At first it was the bleak and lonely buildings that attracted me. When I saw the streets filled with lonely, directionless people, I became interested in them.” When I travel, I normally pass by such places, uninterested. There are many failed cities the world, especially in India and China, where modernity shows its ugly side. It really does feel as if there is no hope, just people mimicking others. No creativity, poor urban planning. Cities with the value of survival when cities are supposed to represent self-expression.

‘Unknown Pleasures was filmed using digital video in only nineteen days, as a result of time and budgetary constraints.’…’Jia was able to begin shooting a mere three weeks after developing the idea for the film.’

‘This generation is often detached from reality, filtering their experiences through the internet, television, and other media.’ It is quite an alienating experience when one grows up with media as a source of knowledge, but it’s up to the person to be able to turn ideas from media into conversational language. Though, when people only have television, no people or books to talk with, these people are left detached.

“the attitudes of these kids are almost completely derived by the electronic mass media that they consume and that consumes them.”

‘In Unknown Pleasures, young people lack discipline. They don’t have any goals for the future. They refuse all constraints. They run their own lives and act independently. But their spirit is not as free.’

For Jia, the story of the Monkey King “reflects the fatalism of [Unknown Pleasures]” in that unlike the Monkey King, these characters “struggle desperately. They pull themselves out of difficult situations, but they always fall back into new problems because no one can escape the rules of the game. True freedom doesn’t exist in this world.”

‘That year, reality was more theatrical than anything we could see at the movies. It even leaned toward surrealism. The entire population got worked up. This strange excitement gave me a worrisome feeling. The anger of society’s inner layers was beginning to come out and show itself.’

Leave a comment | Categories: Film Reviews


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.


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.


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.


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.

Leave a comment | Categories: Film Reviews, Films

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Solidarity. Do something that is right and people will follow.

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.

Using the blog as a documentary tool. And later, Twitter, which enabled social gatherings.

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.

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.



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.

:). It seems New York served as a place of freedom for him.

It seems quite true in his life; After New York he has never acted anything close to a slave.

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!

Learning from contemporary history in a progressive manner.


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.

Leave a comment | Categories: Film Reviews, Films

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.


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.


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.

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


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.

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.


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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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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