Thursday, 21 July 2011

Shion Sono: The Saviour Of Japanese Cinema?

There have been those recently that have spoken of the decline of modern Japanese cinema over the last few years. At last years Mumbai Film Festival, Takashi Koizumi (assistant director for 20 years to the master himself, Akira Kurosawa) said “contemporary cinema I am sorry to say is not in a good state. I am alarmed by Japanese cinema right now”.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa hasn't made anything since the excellent Tokyo Sonata (2008) and I have failed to find any evidence of any new productions on the horizon. Takeshi Kitano has only torn himself away from TV work once since 2008, and while Outrage (2010) was fun in a nostalgic way it showed little of the brilliance we have come to expect from Kitano. While I will always watch with glee any new Shinya Tsukamoto release, has he really made anything truly vital since, well, Vital (2004)?

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Suspiria The Technicolor Nightmare


Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper), arrives in Germany from New York to attend a famous dance school in Freiburg. Mysterious situations abound until Suzy discovers the dark secret at the heart of the dance academy, and that's about it as far as story is concerned. Dario Argento has never been one to pay much attention to story, in his later works this has led to many a narrative muddle. However the basic story here is wholly appropriate, Dario using a simple folkloric tale as a frame for his most pure horror movie. So often technically gifted horror film makers force themselves into a corner by sticking rigorously to narrative structures that have nowhere to go, with Suspiria Argento is only concerned with using the tools of the medium itself to terrify us.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Originality and The Remake Factory

The image above expresses how some of us felt upon hearing of the proposed Spielberg remake of Park Chan-wook's Oldboy (2003). Many breathed a sigh of relief as this remake seemed to be resting for good in development hell, perhaps this modern masterpiece would remain untarnished by a generally unwanted rehash. However, it seems Spike Lee has agreed to take this challenge on, and what a challenge it is. Oldboy was one of the most original and exciting cinematic experiences of its decade, it has since acquired admiration and love from cinema fans around the world. It also played a big part in introducing many of us to the wonders of South Korean cinema, a country that still produces some of the most interesting cinema in the world.

The Tree Of Life

“Talking about dreams is like talking about movies, since the cinema uses the language of dreams; years can pass in a second and you can hop from one place to another. It’s a language made of image. And in the real cinema, every object and every light means something, as in a dream.” - Federico Fellini

Ostensibly a tale of growing up in small town America in the 50s, The Tree of Life shows an adult Jack (Sean Penn) attempting to come to terms with the many events in his past that have shaped his present self, including the death of his brother and his shaky relationship with his father, played by Brad Pitt (who is excellent here) . However this is no Stand By Me. Terrence Malick has no interest in using the adult Jack as a mouthpiece to explain his past and the events shown to us. In fact Malick dispenses with classical narrative techniques altogether, even more so than his previous movies. His mission statement here is not so much to tell a tale, but to explore the concepts of life and death in a cinematic poem.