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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

More film watching

Monday, May 11th, 2015

I’ve been naughty and have been rewatching some films. I can’t always get myself to watch new movies — I don’t know why!!!

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The Age of Innocence (1993)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Geraldine Chaplin
Country: U.S.A.

First of all, I did like the film, but there were things that I felt were slightly off because of the casting of the main characters. Day-Lewis, Pfeiffer, and Ryder are great actors but I guess that I imagined these characters a certain way that I couldn’t get passed the cast. However, I do think that it says something about how great these actors are because I started seeing why these actors were chosen for their parts. Pfeiffer was graceful, the way I imagined Ellen to be; Ryder occasionally looked so sweet and innocent, which is how I saw May; and I started to get over Day-Lewis’ hair because I always imagined Newland to have a more slicked down hairdo. My ideal cast would have been John Barrymore for Newland, Mary Astor or Vivien Leigh for Ellen, and… oh May is such a hard one! Maybe Lana Turner? Joan Fontaine? Ooooh maybe Lillian Gish?!?! I think Lillian is the one I’ll stick with for May!
Because I have such an immense crush on Winona Ryder, I just have to say that the sweetness of May came through in the scene when she is reading (narrating?) the letter to Newland about agreeing to hasten the wedding. Also, she did a perfect job in the scene when she tells Newland that she is pregnant.
The only major complaint I have is the use of voiceover even though I know why it was used — I knew that voiceovers would be inevitable for this film. I wondered how in the world anyone could film this book due to how descriptive it is and how much of it is based on Newland’s perception of New York society, but I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up enjoying the film even though I hoped that Scorsese would find a way around voiceovers. I honestly was a bit wary to watch the film because I imagined that anyone who attempts to film The Age of Innocence would fail.
Beautifully shot film (especially the ending!!!) and I loved all the food porn. I still stand by that this is Scorsese’s Barry Lyndon because I didn’t expect either Scorsese or Kubrick to make the films.

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Chaplin (1992)
Director: Richard Attenborough
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd
Country: U.S.A., Japan, France, Italy

Since I do not know much about Chaplin’s personal history, I don’t really have anything to compare this film too, which I am actually glad about because knowing too much about Chaplin could have made me dislike the film because all I would be doing is moan about inaccuracies or wonder why they left certain things out. But maybe the film isn’t riddled with inaccuracies since Chaplin’s daughter is in the film and I doubt she would have been in it if she strongly disagreed with it. I don’t think the film itself is made well (it is ok but I had some issues with the way they edited it), but the acting was phenomenal!!! I also loved Mary Pickford’s hair in the film and even though she wasn’t portrayed in a good light, it is true that Chaplin and Pickford did not get along so I wouldn’t be surprised if Pickford was nasty to Chaplin.
Geraldine Chaplin and Robert Downey Jr. shine in this film and seeing their performance was a joy to watch. At first I was like, “Robert can’t get away with this. He can’t be Chaplin.” but I was proven wrong because his performance was so convincing that it was as if he became Chaplin. I wouldn’t mind rewatching this movie to watch Robert Downey Jr.’s performance again because it is just that good.

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Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Actors: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Cyd Charisse
Country: U.S.A.

I’ve wanted to rewatch this movie for some time and I finally got around to it! The last time (and only time) I watched this was in 2007 or 2008 and my mom told me that she enjoyed this movie a lot and that I should watch it. I loved this movie back then because I thought that it was hilarious and fell in love with Gene Kelly’s dancing. I still love the same scene, which is when The Dueling Cavalier‘s sound synchronization goes out the window; it is one of the most hilarious scenes I have seen in any film that I’ve watched.
The reason why I wanted to rewatch this film was because I remembered enjoying it but didn’t remember why I liked it so much nor did I really remember much about it. After rewatching it, I found out that I still love the movie because I find it funny, but I now love it because of all the references to film history. When I first watched it, it was when I was getting my feet wet with film history, so I knew about silent films but not much. Now that I am more aware of film history, all the scenes related to the silent-to-talkie transition resonated with me.
It was rewatching this movie that made me keenly aware of Gene Kelly’s athleticism in regards to his dancing. In the “Moses Supposes” number, seeing Gene dancing next to Donald O’Connor made me think of Fred Astaire because O’Connor is slim and his dancing isn’t as full of power and energy like Gene’s. O’Connor is a great dancer but his style is different than Gene’s, just like how Fred and Gene are very different too. I saw so much power in Gene’s dancing that I was blown away.
I still can’t get over the beauty of how that long veil moves in the “Broadway Melody” sequence — Cyd Charisse looked awesome in it! The whole “Broadway Melody” sequence also made me think that Hollywood films can be very avant-garde and artsy-fartsy too because there were times when it looked very surreal. I actually find all of Gene Kelly’s ballet sequences to be really surreal and it takes the musical genre to a whole ‘nother level. Fred and Ginger tell a story through their dancing and Gene Kelly does the same thing too, but by taking the viewers into a whole different realm than the location of the story is a bold thing to do. I guess it isn’t as jarring in this film because Gene Kelly’s character is telling his idea for The Dancing Cavalier, but it was rather surreal in On the Town and (if I remember correctly) An American in Paris.
Also, does anyone think that Gene Kelly is not a very convincing silent film actor? I don’t know what it is about him but he just doesn’t look like one!!! I know that makes no sense whatsoever because there is no “look” when it comes to an actor in a silent film. I kind of felt that way about Jean Hagan too. Don’t get me wrong though because this movie would not be the same without them and I love them in it.

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On the Town (1949)
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Actors: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Alice Pearce
Country: U.S.A.

Around 2008 or so, I did a Gene Kelly marathon where I would hunt down as many Gene Kelly films as I can and watch whatever I could get my hands on. After several years passed, my memory of these films waned but I remember that back then, there was a film that I considered to be better than Singin’ in the Rain in Gene’s oeuvre. The thing is, I don’t remember what the movie was called but I thought that it was this film or It’s Always Fair Weather because I remembered sailors, Frank Sinatra, and Cyd Charisse.
Now that I watched this film, I don’t think this is the movie I was thinking about but at least I know which movie has Frank Sinatra and sailors — I hope that I don’t forget again. I wonder if my taste and perceptions of movies have changed so much that I won’t know which film I preferred back then. This film was fun to watch but I didn’t think it was anything special and I don’t think I’d watch it again because there isn’t even a scene that would draw me back to this film. Oh wait, I will rewatch parts of this film because I want to learn how to do the Charleston and I think that this film shows off the dance quite well! I wonder what I thought of this film when I first watched it; this is why I need to be more vigilant with my blogging!
Between the time I first watched this film and the time I rewatched it, I was on a Bewitched kick so I was so happy to see Alice Pearce because I love her as Gladys Kravitz.
Now I need to get my hands on It’s Always Fair Weather!!!

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Mr. Skeffington (1944)
Director: Vincent Sherman
Actors: Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Walter Abel
Country: U.S.A.

This is the first Bette Davis film that I’ve ever watched and the first time I watched it, I hated it! I hated the film, I hated Bette Davis, and I was a raging madwoman and didn’t understand the hype about this film or Bette. Well, things have changed over many many years and I think I’ve watched more Bette Davis films than Joan Crawford films >_>; I used to say that I love Joan more than Bette but I’m not too sure anymore!!! I now love them both and they’re brilliant in their own ways.
Anyway, I rewatched this film a year or two ago and I really enjoyed it and found it so touching. I don’t know why I hated it so much when I first watched it and why I found it to be such a bore then, but when I rewatched this film once again, I enjoyed it once more. When Job comes back and Fanny accepts him, my heart was wrung dry and my eyes watered from emotion.
I believe that I read this in Bette’s memoir when she said that she bluffed her way through this role because she knew she wasn’t the most beautiful woman. This film shows off Bette’s acting chops because she is totally convincing as the most desirable woman. I also find Bette to be pretty and wouldn’t mind if I looked like her at all — Warner Brothers knew how to make her up! Maybe all I need is a studio makeover?
I know I’m babbling a lot about Bette BUT HOW CAN WE FORGET CLAUDE RAINS’ PERFORMANCE? Jesus christ that man can act!!! He is so touching as Job and when Fanny keeps on mentioning his eyes, you completely understand what she means because Claude Rains is SO GOOD.

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Robin Hood (1922)
Director: Allan Dwan
Actors: Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Beery, Sam De Grasse, Enid Bennett, Paul Dickey
Country: U.S.A.

I know the basics about Fairbanks due to reading a bit about Mary Pickford but I never watched any of his films because I had this odd abhorrence towards them for no good reason. I think it’s because I felt as if the kinds of films he was known for wasn’t my type but… I WAS WRONG! My reluctance to watch a Fairbanks film ended up being the way I felt about western films: my feelings towards them were completely irrational.
I have to say that this film is something special because no other film has drawn me in that I started to whoop and holler while watching it. Without knowing, when Robin Hood was kicking some booty, I was shouting, “YOU GET THEM!”, “HOORAY!!!”, and other related things. I was laughing, squealing, and rooting for Robin Hood and this is something that I’ve never done in my entire life. I can now understand people who shout at bars while watching sports. Because no other film gave me such an interactive experience, I have to think highly of this film and put it in a special place. It’s rather odd since it’s not really a film I would watch on repeat or whenever I want to cheer up, but I can’t disregard the experience that this film gave me. I wonder if contemporary moviegoers also rooted for Robin Hood while watching this film.
Fairbanks was so charming in the role of Robin Hood. He was ok as the Earl of Huntingdon but he truly blossomed when he portrayed Robin Hood and I wanted to see more of Fairbanks and didn’t care for any of the other actors because he was a joy to watch. Kind of random, but I was surprised to like Wallace Beery in this film because I usually don’t care for him and always see him as a douchecanoe (I don’t know why), but I did like him as King Richard.
The film was shot beautifully and I couldn’t get over the gorgeous sets and elaborate costumes. Also, SERIOUS HAIR INSPIRATION IN THIS FILM. If anyone says that old films weren’t polished or as great as modern films or talkies, they need to watch this film because it has the finesse of films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Did anyone else think of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in the scene where the court jester is murdered? Another thing that surprised me was that people getting hanged and hanged people were shown in the film — isn’t that a bit disturbing?!
I need to make a gazillion gifs from this film because there were so many great moments.
I’m glad that the ice is broken and I look forward to watching more of Fairbanks’ work!

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Ninotchka (1939)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Actors: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach
Country: U.S.A.

Before I start rambling about the movie, CAN WE PLEASE DISCUSS BELA LUGOSI AND ALEXANDER GRANACH BEING IN THIS FILM?! I was working on my “art project” (paper chain) while watching this movie and when the film started and the credits came on, my eyes went straight for Bela Lugosi’s name and I was like, “WTFBBQQQQQQ?!?!”, because I’ve watched this film probably 10+ times and I never noticed. When the credits came on at the end of the film, my eyes went straight for Alexander Granach and once again I had the same exact reaction as I did to Bela Lugosi’s name. HOW IN THE WORLD DID I MISS THIS THE LAST BAZILLION TIMES THAT I HAVE WATCHED THIS FILM? HOW?! I always associate Alexander Granach with German silent films (never forget the pig exit in Schatten) so to see him in an American film (and a talkie at that!) had my head reeling.
I haven’t watched Ninotchka in awhile and decided that this time around, I’m going to be a more active viewer and try to find Lubitsch’s brilliance because as much as I love Lubitsch, I also question why he is so great. Sometimes I wonder if Lubitsch is great because of the great scripts he has (I’m focusing on the sound picture era here) or if he’s great because he really brings out the greatness of a darn good script. I need to read some academic works on Lubitsch to help me out… but I should do that after I do another Lubitsch marathon! After rewatching Ninotchka, I think that maybe Lubitsch’s brilliance is that you forget everything and become a passive viewer; I just take in the jokes and have a good time. I guess that’s some dangerous filmmaking though… I think this is even more apparent in To Be or Not to Be because I always feel reluctant recommending that film because as much as I love it and find it hilarious, some people might find it offensive. I wonder how Russians would see Ninotchka, especially people who lived much of their life in the USSR.
I have a love/hate relationship with Greta Garbo but I absolutely LOVE, LOVE her in this film. I wish that she did more comedies because she is brilliant in this film. Her deadpan face expressions are perfect but she is also great when her character loosens up too. It’s a real shame that her last film, also a comedy, was kind of a dud. I remember not enjoying it when I watched it… or maybe I’ll change my mind like I did with Mr. Skeffington?

Tanin no kao (The Face of Another) ; 1966

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Posted by Maddy

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Machiko Kyô, Mikijiro Hira, Kyôko Kishida, Eiji Okada, Miki Irie
Country: Japan

Of the various films Hiroshi Teshigahara adapted from novels by Kobo Abe, The Face of Another is his most visually recognizable. The story of a Japanese psychiatrist (Tatsuya Nakadai) who, after an accident in a factory, has his face burned off is a film ripe with ethical implications. Feeling alienated from his wife and society Okuyama seeks the help of a young doctor specializing in constructing fake limbs for amputees. Together they create a mask so realistic that it might as well be real flesh. With this new face, and new identity, Okuyama wishes to seduce his wife believing he will be able to exact his revenge upon her for when she rejected him with his previously scarred face.
Throughout the film the young doctor voices his worries – what kind of society would we have if these masks were massed produced? Anyone could have an entirely new identity and the possibility of infinite freedom is at hand. All desire could be met; all crimes could be committed without the slightest implication. Okuyama also faces the dilemma of losing his original self to the identity of the mask. He changes his style and mannerisms and gives into temptations that his previous self would not.

Okuyama is a complex character. With his face rapped in bandages he feels that the world sees him as a monster and pushes everyone away, believing they all scorn him. But does society and the people he cares about really feel this way or is he too self absorbed to see those around him? When the seduction of his wife backfires upon him he sees, with horror, the error of his ways and delves deeper and deeper into the new identity the mask has given him.
Teshigahara also intersperses the film with a film within a film. A young Hibakusha girl and her brother live together. The girl, whose face had been burned by the atom bombs, goes throughout her daily life. She is approached and then scorned by strangers and makes guns with her brother. She asks him if there would be another war soon. He answers honestly not realizing that what they are doing, creating weapons, could create more people like her. In the novel her story is deliberately shown to be a film that Okuyama had seen in the theatres having gone there to find comfort in the darkness. In the film it cuts back and forth never making it clear what her story had to do with Okuyama’s. Both have been horribly scarred, one by industry, the other by war.
Teshigahara fills this film with spectacular visuals, particularly those in the doctor’s office. Another visual highlight would be the way he focuses attention. In the scenes where the doctor and the newly masked Okuyama go out to drink at a German bar Teshigahara slows down the crowd behind them, quiets the music and alters the lighting. These subtle touches go unnoticed until he returns the bustle and noise of the crowd. The conversation is one that the audience, and the men involved, become so involved with that the crowd fades away behind them.
Brilliant but far from upbeat, The Face of Another highlights the moral ambiguity that rests within society. Teshigaraha’s outstanding cinematography makes the film one of a kind. The Face of Another, which would make an excellent double bill with Seconds, is a dark moral tale about alienation and identity. What kind of reaction is an audience supposed to have when all of Okuyama’s attempts to rejoin society that only push him further away?

IMDb Link: Tanin no kao
Where to buy: Criterion