Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

First: puzzlement, then: delight.

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

This is why one should have student or university film clubs: to be pointed to movies that are really good, but that you would normally not see. Last week I’ve seen one of these pearls, again presented by the Studentischer Filmkreis Darmstadt. Radio no Jikan is set in the studio of a radio station and revolves around the many mishaps, mismanagements, misunderstandings, small favors, flirtations, frustrations, and other human flaws that make life interesting. First, I was a bit insecure if this movie is meant as a drama or as a comedy – and I am still not totally sure – since Japanese customs are unknown to me, it took me a while to adapt to what was going on and who might be good or bad or nice or unfriendly. However, I guess much of this movie’s high quality stems from the fact that this really remains a bit in the dark. Most of the characters have their charming sides, and almost all of them annoy you too. Excellent ensemble movie with a totally chaotic, dramatic and hilarious ending. To be recommended. As should be the folks from the Filmkreis, who even prepared a small introduction in Japanase (I think).
IMDb entry

A new generation?

Friday, February 20th, 2004

Two weeks ago Kerstin and I went to the movies to watch Lost in Translation. Of course, we have seen the Golden Globe Awards before, and we met a ton of people who recommended the film. The honors are justified. I will only focus on two things: face the one real challenge I have encountered regarding the quality of this movie and tell you why I think and hope that Lost in Translation might mark the beginning of a new generation in Hollywood film making.

The challenge: this movie is presenting an overly stereotypical and one-dimensional perspective on contemporary Japan. There are quite a lot of scenes in this movie on which this critique can be built, for example the karaoke scene, the cartoonish talk show episode, and perhaps even the meeting in the decadent table dance location. However, I would argue that this movie focuses on the particular experience of two US-Americans in Japan; what is displayed is their view on this culture. It is their perspective which is, of course, not free from stereotypes. Furthermore, the heroine (most beautifully imperfect: Scarlett Johansson) gets into two quiet encounters with Japanese culture. One is the visit two the Shinto temple during the beginning of the movie, the other is her trip (by train – yeah!) to Kyoto where she wanders through a park.
The hope: Sofia Coppola evades two traps into which many Hollywood movies have fallen. She neither goes for the boring (though still sometimes nice and somewhat charming) romantic comedy scheme with which the average movie theater customer is bombarded during the period from September until March – happy ends might make you smile, but they also tend to leave a somewhat bland taste: you don’t really believe (in) them… Nor does she dance the postmodern cinema dance, only offering episodes and clips of people’s paths crossing each for some unknown reason and fading away, probably with some sex and bloodshed happening at the crossroads to prep up the story and generate spectacular movie trailers. Instead, Sofia Coppola offers a toned down, plausible and still extraordinarily attractive, humorous and intriguing story about two people who meet each other under circumstances not under their control. Both trying to make something of the time they have, not really succeeding, but trying very hard; falling in love, being torn, but still not doing things I would not believe someone in their position would at least try to do. I do really hope that the better US cinema of the coming years takes this as an example, trying to create beautiful, intimate, and believable stories which still seem to have something to do with everyday experiences of (ok, in this case it is certainly not lower class) people in the western or northern hemisphere.
Check out the trailer.

Monday in Japan.

Sunday, June 15th, 2003

Sabu. Know the name? I didn’t know it but I will try to remember it from now on (his real name is Hiroyuki Tanaka, probably too complicated to remember for my measly mind). Thursday at eight p.m. I went to the Audimax of the TU Darmstadt where the university’s filmclub shows movies every Tuesday and Thursday for only € 2. The screen is big and the quality of sound and picture nice enough. The movie itself was very good. Slow shots but a lot of crazy content that develeops it’s own speed. I’m not too much into the content summary business. As I myself prefer to not know much about a movie before I watch I won’t say too much about the story and events in this movie. (Trailer)

There are a lot of tragic and funny ideas in this movie and the way tragedy and humor are handled reminded me of a good article I read in the May issue of Le Monde diplomatique (in Deutsch, in English). In this article, Milan Kundera (I didn’t like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, sorry) writes about what tragedy and humor in a novel could (or should?) be like – what he describes is similar to what I enjoyed most about the movie. Why the change of mind about Kundera’s writing, you might ask… he likes and cites Cervantes’ Don Quixote. This ensures my sympathy for his text. It’s quite easy to satisfy my intellectual expectations ;-)