Posts Tagged ‘akira kurosawa’

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Films Of 2011

Posted 01 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Artist is a relentlessly entertaining love letter to silent film and cinema in general. Well, it’s that time once again, and as always, I didn’t get around to a lot of the films I would have liked to see – as I write this, a DVD of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris sits on my desk, glaring at me – but there comes a time when every movie lover has to call it a year. I have somewhat arbitrarily picked today as that time, so here now are my top 10 favorite films of 2011:

 

# 10) MELANCHOLIAanyone with whom I talk movies already knows how much I love Lars von Trier, and though this is definitely not my favorite of his films (2003’s Dogville still takes that honor), it is nonetheless a striking and powerful depiction of the nature of depression, as well as a highly unusual and compelling look at what the impending apocalypse might feel like. The stunning opening and closing sequences alone make this film impossible to ignore, or to forget.  Read More

13 Assassins

Posted 08 May 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 13 Assassins kicks mountains of ass!

13 Assassins, Japan / UK, 2010

Directed by Takashi Miike

This movie kicks mountains of ass! From the opening scene, which depicts the ancient Japanese ritual suicide method known as harakiri or seppuku, Japanese provocateur Takashi Miike’s latest film is clearly not screwing around. The opening scene is a textbook case of the effectiveness of sound design in film: we are mercifully spared the visual details of the disgraced samurai slicing open his own belly with his sword, instead focusing on a long take of his agonized face with the hideous squelching sounds of the violent act filling the soundtrack, an effect that is arguably even worse than onscreen violence. I remember being surprised to hear that the latest film from Miike (Audition, Gozu) managed to get an R-rating, and the fifteen minutes cut from the original Japanese release for the international version probably accounts for this, but I have little doubt that this scene has been presented exactly as Miike intended. It is a brutal beginning to an extremely violent film, a scene that really lets the audience know what it is in for.

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Seven Samurai – The Rites Of Spring Of The Japanese Soul

Posted 29 Apr 2011 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

Akira Kurosawa's Seven SamuraiBy Frederic Erk

Seven Samurai, Japan, 1954

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is a masterpiece of harmony and artistic accomplishment, brought to life with the vivid and forceful genius of a director at peace with himself and his performance. A true work of art, it is a carefully and methodically adjusted masterwork, based on a classic story of war and justice, of struggling humanity and survival, pregnant with a Shakespearian conception of nature, revealing the generosity of well-tilled earth or magic spell of silent forests, where visual symbolism paves the way for metaphysical redemption.

Though simplistic in appearance, this story of seven samurai hired by farmers to defend their village and crops from rampaging bandits has universal, even mythological, significance. This is the story of mankind, always at struggle with itself for survival, and yet also looking for metaphysical redemption, which is, according to Kurosawa, only to be found in powerful harmony with nature. Kambei (Takashi Shimura), the older samurai, a self-described veteran of many lost campaigns, has the wisdom to recognize that only the farmers will eventually win this fight, because their relationship to life (and nature) is a fundamental one still unsoiled by social considerations or obsession for personal accomplishment, which is sadly the case for the samurai. Although farmers and samurai share the daily burden of fighting for their lives, only the farmers can provide the necessary condition for a lasting and constructive prosperity in the troubled and violent time of feudal Japan, whereas samurai have to find redemption through stoic balance, or put their sword to the worthy cause of social justice. Read More

The White Ribbon – Chaos In The Order

Posted 06 Dec 2010 — by Jason A. Hill
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Jason A. Hill

The White Ribbon, Germany / Austria / France / Italy, 2009

Written and Directed by Michael Haneke

The White Ribbon movie poster movies i didnt getOften in film, story becomes the magical thread that keeps us involved; story usually consists of questions and answers that create conflict. In Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, the questions we receive indeed create conflict, but the film also puts into view how far we will go to find the answers. Many have tagged this film as being a glimpse into the ideological beginnings of German fascism, or Nazism. I would agree with that notion, but what makes the film so interesting and gives it its true power is its transcendence across national, cultural, and even temporal divisions to examine that all-too-human need to understand its own basic horrors and needs for safety.

The film is set in rural Germany just before World War I. The story takes place in a village where life is as simple and common as an early 20th century village gets. The Baron (Ulrich Tukur) owns the land and provides employment for over half the people living in the area. The town is small enough that there is a single Pastor (Burghart Klaussner), Doctor (Rainer Bock), and School Teacher (Christian Friedel) to accommodate everyone. Everyone plays their assigned roles in clockwork-like rhythm and the slightest variance echoes like a bomb. From here it wasn’t clear to me if the patriarchal nature of this village was a detail of this time and place or if the authoritarian setting was acutely unique to this village, but this is just another layer in the film’s rich mise-en-scene.  Read More

Ikiru – To Live Under The Psychoanalytic Lens

Posted 26 Oct 2010 — by contributor
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Corey Birkhofer

Ikiru, Japan, 1952

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Spoiler AlertKanji Watanabe in to live movies i didnt getWhat does one do upon learning they have just a few months left to live? Akira Kurosawa gives an answer to this question in his film Ikiru. Telling the simple story of a Japanese city official, Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura), and his efforts to see that a park is built in a waste-ridden empty lot, we the viewer are given an insight into the final task of a man living with terminal gastric cancer. Setting the pace of the film to slowly recount the struggles of seeing this final task through, Kurosawa ultimately conveys through Kanji the beauty of life, as well as the urgency that inevitable death instills in us all. It is because of this limited amount of time that terminal cancer allows one to live that a psychoanalytic focus on Ikiru seems almost natural to me. With an analysis looking toward death and the psychological ramifications it imposes on not only Kanji, but the rest of the characters as well, the question of why he is so driven to build the park before his death becomes that much more profound. When analyzing Ikiru under a psychoanalytic lens, the most logical aspect to focus on is not only death, but the influence it has on a person throughout their entire life. In the case of Kanji Watanabe, a man who is so engrossed in his work that he has lost touch with reality as a result, death and its inevitable influence are nothing more than some mythical, far-off event that he doesn’t have to worry about. Read More

Vantage Point

Posted 20 Aug 2009 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

Vantage Point, USA, 2008

Directed by Pete Travis

vantage point mosaic

I’d like to start this review off with a question: Does anyone even know about this film? The reason I ask is, for those of you who don’t know, I am currently living in Gifu, Japan, where the selection of films from the west that make it to rental here are not always the most well-known or popular back home. Having only read Wikipedia’s plot description of Vantage Point to refresh my memory, I saw there that the film got a 95% at Rotten Tomatoes and was overall a box office success when it was released in February of 2008. Though after seeing the film, I am unable to fathom how that could be the case, why was I suckered into watching Vantage Point? Two words: Matthew Fox.

For those of you who are fans of Lost, let me just tell you, it’s even bigger here in Japan. So if any Lost fan sees Matthew Fox’s face on a DVD cover at the store here, they’re going to rent it. Being a die-hard fan of Lost myself, I got suckered in by the same Hollywood tactic. Although the premise of the film is a little too reminiscent of 24, I liked the idea of a film that employed Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon effect of showing the same event from multiple perspectives, giving the viewer the responsibility of sifting through the facts and coming to their own conclusion. Vantage Point tries to one up Rashomon, however, in that it gives us eight different perspectives of an assassination attempt on the president while he speaks at an anti-terrorism rally in Spain. Now that you know why I gave Vantage Point a chance, let me get to the real heart of the matter. Why didn’t I get this film?

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