Monday, October 21, 2013

Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2013)

The Big Switch

Hirokazu Koreeda is one of contemporary cinema's great magicians. His basic premises are typically familiar, simple, occasionally contrived. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, they could easily, perhaps even inevitably, emerge as eye-rollingly trite and aggressively sentimental. Yet through a singular vision and peerless craftsmanship Koreeda-san has emerged as the successor of Japan's great classicists. A review of a Koreeda film will typically reference Ozu at least once, but the comparison should not be considered a reductive simplification of a man with a cinematic control all of his own. That he justifies such high comparisons is testament to his abilities. Like Father, Like Son is further evidence he is a talent we should yell about with the greatest enthusiasm, less his films fail to attract the audiences they so absolutely deserve.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Battles Without Honour and Humanity (Kinji Fukasaku, 1973)

This article is part of a year-long feature - watching and blogging about twenty acclaimed, cult, challenging and rare films over the course of 2013. The full list of films (and links to other completed posts) can be found here. Fifteen: the opening chapter of gangster epic Battles Without Honour and Humanity (aka Yakuza Papers Volume 1).

Aside from its immediate effects - such as the temporary closure of major studios such as Nikkatsu - the Second World War sent shockwaves through Japanese cinema. Of course, it goes without saying that the Second World War also irreversibly and radically changed Japanese society generally, and cinema was only reflecting that. Nevertheless, for decades filmmakers were provoked to explore the war and its aftermath. The great auteurs did it: whether that was Kurosawa's explicitly post-nuclear-bomb I Live in Fear, Ozu's acknowledgment of a changed society throughout his post-war work (often with trademark subtlety, as in Late Spring), or the astonishingly rich films of Mikio Naruse that explored the places and people of occupied Japan.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)

Y'all don't know what it's like...

Woody Allen: the great chronicler of the white middle-upper class. There are exceptions to that rule - say, the era-hopping 'early, funny ones', the depression-based Purple Rose of Cairo or his recent European excursions (some sort of people, different continent). But a lion's share of his masterpieces are proudly concerned with the plight of the American middle class. This isn't meant in a necessarily disparaging way: while critics of the man have frequently pointed to his less than diverse filmography, the man has stuck with what he knows, with regularly peerless results. It's not like his films have been blindly celebratory, either. As much as he has frequently shown affection towards his characters, Allen is every bit as able to single out their hypocrisy, privileges, neuroses and naivety (of course, for Allen this is often an endearingly self-depreciating act of social & personality deconstruction). It would be nice to see Allen experiment, of course, but he has worked wonders in his niche, even if said niche was not exactly culturally or socially all-inclusive.