a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In which Mikio Naruse bewitches me, body and soul...

If you travel in the circles that I do, perhaps you've heard of this guy Mikio Naruse. If so, then you know that he's an Acknowledged Cinematic Titan, and, because he was also from Japan, he is considered every bit the equal of Kurosawa, Ozu, and Mizoguchi. (Take that, Imamura, Suzuki, Ichikawa, Teshigahara, Kobayashi, Miike, K. Kurosawa, et al.) This is corroborated by everyone who has seen anything from him, which, if this were September 2005, would be very few. But last month up in that movieopolis called Gotham, where the Cinemaniacs™ from Cinemania run free, the first sizeable Naruse retrospective in 25 years took root during a continent-sweeping run. (Boston! NY! Ontario! L.A.!) Thus, the number grew exponentially, since previously Naruse The Acknowledged Cinematic Titan had also been Naruse The Last Acknowledged Cineamtic Titan Almost Entirely Absent From American Video Shelves.

For reasons that have to do with a combination of near-poverty and a persnickety kneecap, I did not make it up to this Naruse retro. Not a once. Should the DVD revolution not kick in in this case, I'm sure I will be kicking myself for decades on. When I have started going grey, I will surely shed an aging tear that I did not catch Floating Clouds when I was in my mid-20s, 'cause I will know then that I could only have fully understood its fatalism when only four years into paying back my student loans.

Luckily...well, remember how I used the word "almost"? If not, go find it; it's there somewhere. Anyway, it happens there are currently two Naruses one can find on American video shelves: 1954's aging ex-geisha* pic Late Chrysanthemums and 1960's Ginza** bar hostess study When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. Both are on VHS. Neither are on DVD. The latter has its Tohoscope ratio preserved, hopefully accurately. The former was not shot in Tohoscope, though it's B&Ws are faded somewhat on the badly-subtitled transfer.

I say that because I just watched this Late Chrysanthemums movie and have decided to jump on the shark, which will (in all likelihood) not be jumped from. Essentially, this guy is fawesome. Basically, he is my kind of director. En totale, I am smitten, and will use terrible lines that screenwriters dreampt up for Jane Austen adaptations starring Keira Knightley to describe my crush. Later, I will hopefully gain the required distance to impart some insightful comments on his unforced naturalism, his way with actresses and their accompanying female characters, his unshowy way of turning the inconsequential into the consequential, his lack of sentimentality, and his general smoothness. And that day shall come. Till then, I shall be up on a high mountaintop, spinning round and round, reciting his name over and over and over still at the top of my lungs. Finding a new filmmaking crush? There's nothing like it.


Weekly shit goes thusly: reviews of After Innocence and Protocols of Zion, as well as...oh, do I tire of typing out those three letters that have long served as abbreviation.

* A "geisha" is a Japanese artist-entertainer, usually female though at one point male, and they are not prostitutes, as we will all discover when Rob Marhsall's Triumph of the Cinema du Film Memoirs of a Geisha lands in all its inexplicably English-speaking glory.
** "Ginza" is an upscale part of Tokyo (the name translates into "silver mint") and one of the city's best places for entertainment and shopping. Sadly, there is not a Rob Marshall movie set to arrive at Award Time to tell us this. But there's always Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Knowing Me, Matt Prigge, Knowing You, Terribly Valued Reader. A-ha.

Lots of stuff, which is weird, in this pre-Thanksgiving issue of The Weekly, including mucho words on The Passenger reissue, two regular-sized reviews of Just Friends and The Ice Harvest, and a Holiday-ized Rep (i.e., not much is happening 'cause no one is here).

(And is it true that I simply wrote off The Ice Harvest, about which the great Dave Kehr said "I don’t think we’ll be seeing a better movie this season" and "is almost certain to be overlooked"? Yes. Maybe it warrants another look.)

Also, if the header sounded familiar, you already suspect I've finally become dumbstruck by Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge via Knowing Me, Knowing You, so far the only AP adventure available (legally) to us Region 1-ers. More, please, especially since the clips I've seen are something else.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, UK) [B]

Could you guess that I’ve never read the book? Most of the attention this has accrued -- at least round these parts -- has had to do with the shocking news that it doesn’t in fact suck, a development they might as well brag about in the adverts. Unfortunately, Matthew MacFadyen, as erstwhile chick magnet Mark Darcy, does, doing what I can only assume is a shoddy Colin Firth impersonation. Luckily, he’s the only major misstep as far as I can tell. Even Keira, while still not proving that she’s an actress, uses her college-age gawkiness to her advantage. I have no clue what and how much was shorn from the source (let alone its much beloved 1995 BBC miniseries), but the film, to me, never felt rushed, and proved capable of replicating many of its presumed riches without breaking a sweat. Things rarely feel dilluted or made easily digestible. For one thing, Keira is never simply an Independent Woman Before Her Time, and nor is eldest sister Rosamund Pike ever punished for being the most attractive of the five sisters, as would be fashionable virtually anywhere else. (Which, okay, I’m sure is in the book. Still, it’s a nice touch.) Essentially, it manages to be passably deft without ever being self-satisfied about same, and the performances (excepting the aforementioned) are uniformly fine. Donald Sutherland, for instance, comes off as the coolest dad to five girls ever, and with only maybe ten minutes of screentime, if that. (As for Wright's cinematic fillips: they're welcome without ever feeling ostentatious, which is saying something considering the miraculous tracking shots.) Also, guess what? I’ve never read any Austen. This film, or at least the in-the-know discussions held by my peers, made me want to belatedly correct that.

I'm so, so sorry I've been avoiding you

Regular updates to recommence awfully soon. Till then, here's what I've been doing over at Da Weekly: a review (second down) of the dire The Aryan Couple and my old standby. Philly to be invaded by the Southerns!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Next up: Homeopathy Invades Kansas Medical Schools

Just as I get all buzzed from the eight ID-lovin' Dover school board members who got ousted, I discover that Kansas has decided it's peachy keen to be the laughing stock of the planet. You just build me up to bring me down, don't you, you neo-creationist bastards?

Not quite on that note: in today's Weekly, I penned a review of the insanely ambitious mixed-method doc Writer of O and Rep.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Oh dear, I'm slow

Still working my way through a leg injury -- my feeble excuse for not alerting stray readers to this and this. Get this: I haven't stepped inside a movie theater in two weeks. Very strange.