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Friday, November 07, 2003

The Burmese Harp(a.k.a. Biruma no Tategoto)/1956/Japan/116min. 

Putting history and politics aside, I found this film confronted some very human emotions involving war. No matter if this were a Japanese company of soldiers, or a British company, most war movies don’t touch on ideas like you’ll find here. The film follows a company of Japanese soldiers, with little or no supplies, attempting to reach the border of Thailand. The men enjoy singing wherever they go, and are quite proud of their abilities. It makes them think of their loved ones back home and gives them a sense of unity and hope…even as war pulls region, country, and people apart, music psychologically develops as a bringing together as one…One of the men, Mizushima, plays the harp with natural talent, having never studied music before joining the army…story centers on his spiritual captivity…The Japanese see British troops hiding in the forest, so they start to sing, tricking the British into thinking they are oblivious to their presence. When the British then start singing back, and both sides are singing together…the beauty of their singing provides the haunting solemn melody of an urgent personal indefinite journey…The British notify the Japanese men that the war ended three days earlier, when Japan surrendered. They are placed in a P.O.W. camp until it is possible to send them all home. The Japanese commander attempts to fill his men’s hearts with hope and pride, telling them that together they will rebuild Japan. Once told that nearby, a company of Japanese troops is in an ongoing skirmish with the British, unreachable and unaware of the war’s end, Mizushima demands permission to go and try to explain that Japan has surrendered, promising his company that he’ll catch up in Mudon…given permission to go about putting your life on the line… brief pause, they realize the chaotic, harsh fighting…This turns out to be a difficult job, as the commanding officer is into the whole “I’m not giving up until I die,” philosophy. Getting nowhere, Mizushima questions their logic, trying to persuade them their lives are worth saving…he sees no reason for the death of surrender and to a passive and spiritual lifestyle…The British only agreed to a 30 minute cease fire, and when that time is up, all the Japanese men are killed. Only Mizushima crawls out alive and is found by a Buddhist monk…arriving at a calling that leads him for isolation and the peasant village, further away from his suffering of the soul…While he is cared for by the monk, his company is miserable and anxious for his return. Once healed, his intention is to walk to Mudon and surprise all the men, so he sets out in Buddhist costume across Burma…witnessing the tragic unburied bodies in heaps and piles of rotting dead Japanese soldiers…and he feels it important to give them a proper burial…war movies don’t touch on ideas like live a simple life, honoring the dead… At first dealing with war and all those barbed-wire fences, he hides his eyes from its senseless tragedy…the functional purpose…putting your life on the line…becomes aware of the point in doing anything…notion of war as a waste of life…He is accepted by the Buddhist church and decides to stay and live a simple life, honoring the dead through prayer and burial…transcendence beyond spiritual crisis…His men try to persuade him using a talking parrot switcheroo, teaching a parrot to say “come home to Japan, Mizushima” and giving it to him. He, in reply, sends back his parrot, which he taught to say “no, I am staying here.” It is an anti-war film, a spiritual path through purposelessness framed behind a certain pacifist sentimentality.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Miami Blues/1990/U.S.A./97min. 

Before GTA: Vice City was ever around, this movie filled that gap in my life where I need to see someone destroying and stealing everything in sight...starts off on the wrong Krishna's foot...gun, badge with independent thought...stealing genre, and identities, staging impromptu heists and stealing like in Miami holdups...my problem is that I care about dying...Alec Baldwin is great as Fred Frenger...stab, shoot, a new identity.
Just out of prison, he goes on a crime spree in Miami, stealing luggage, killing a Hari Krishna...the airport crime wave giddily blithe.
He exploits all the dreams of a young hooker/student, having her cook and clean, feeding her bullshit left and right, effectively getting a free lay every day...cheap happy legitimate life wanting to commit to him...live out life as a cop AND a kid...she's so slow to matter anyway.
When he beats the crap out of the dim-witted cop who is on to him, he takes the badge, gun, and even the guy's false teeth...pretending to be a cop...fresh out of teeth...bust legitimate life...he exploits all the dreams about dying.
His mind is seemingly incapable of fathoming why a person would want to commit to a job or a legitimate life.
Of course, there is the cheesy happy ending...incapable of even I don't know what Miami crazy klepto cruelty, his teeth-life...he doesn't care about dying...and you have to look past all the really bad Miami Vice-like moments...but it's violently indulgent, almost pornographic...there is even some comedy amongst it all.
Best line: 'My problem is that I can have everything and anything that I want, but I don't know what I want.'...existence accidentally kills my life where I spree like an overgrown identity...

Monday, November 03, 2003

Fear, Anxiety and Depression/1989/U.S.A/85min. 

Todd Solondz’ first big movie...some scenes I’m laughing when I know I shouldn’t be...some scenes are so much like Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” it is unmistakable...Solondz himself plays the main character, Ira...a fearful, nervous playwright...whiny young dramatist writes a hopeful letter to Samuel Beckett...afraid of being considered a bad writer...his friends are afraid of being honest with him...“Life, Death, Eternity,” are the only words in his play...he considers Jack, a crappy NY artist, his best friend...“solid piece of work,” he tells Ira...people falling into input clinging...Jack uses words to take the easy way out, pretending his life isn’t what it really is...thinking he is the next Matisse...on good advice from Sheila, an art critic...on a visit to see Jack’s new work, Sheila tells him, “I hate to have to be honest with you, but your art is so cliché.”...he sleeps with her hoping she’ll help him to get in the upcoming Whitney Biennial...cheat on your girlfriend to get a chance to impress your girlfriend?...Ira meets Sharon, style and clothes from the 50’s and 60’s...a needy, ex-pill popper who becomes his girlfriend...wild-haired, whiny chubby mass of absence...feeling sorry for her, but annoyed by her constant clinging, Ira dumps her...the easy way out...while she is losing her apartment, her job, her mom...chases after Junk, a freaked out performance artist...Sharon starts popping pills again in her “I LOVE NY” t-shirt chugging back Jack Daniel’s...Ira finds her and drives her to the hospital...“Life, Death, climb high enough realizing she’s not really Eternity,”...having swallowed the actual bottle her pills were in...obvious cry for attention shocks Ira into writing a love letter for her...but he goes back to chasing Junk...the bullshit artist speaks this woman’s language better than stuttering Ira...Junk and Jack end up ditching him for a pretentious art discussion...Ira goes after Janice, Jack’s ex-girlfriend...start of a sexual relationship based on Ira reassuring her she’s pretty, only comforting her in Jack’s absence...turns out Janice thinks Jack is incapable of lying so when he comes back she forgets about Ira...Sharon has become a mime and is totally into Donnie, that kind of guy from your high school that always succeeds, who has everything, when you know he’s not a cool guy and he doesn’t deserve it...Ira realizes he let the girl slip through his fingers...it’s a fearful, nervous funny movie...explorations of the boundaries of honesty...more honest and dark than Woody Allen ever achieved on film.

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