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DigitalDjigit
28-03-2005, 09:58 PM
I got "Oldboy" from a local rental store and it had a sticker on the box from the staff "The City of God of 2004". I think they were comparing the grandiosity, or level of achievement there rather than any thematic or stylistic similarity but it made me think anyway. I really enjoyed "City of God". It is a very conventional type of storetelling, very straightforward and realistic. On the other hand "Oldboy" I found difficult and not particularly rewarding. I find the same thing with a lot of new japanese movies (I know Oldboy is Korean but it feels very Japanese), in particular Takashi Miike (Gozu, Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q).

They don't communicate very directly, I feel like I am always behind, trying to catch up to what is going on. The characters are very out-there, bizzare, almost like a comic book. The situations are non-ordinary. Take "Shaun of the Dead", while zombies are clearly a product of fiction, the events, the characters and their reactions still feel quotidian, familiar and that is why I enjoyed that movie. You cannot say this of Miike's movies. It's like they are trying to be intentionally difficult and weird.

I still watch them because you never know what you are going to get but I wonder why they are so highly rated. It can't just be that either you say you like them or people will think you don't get it. What do people find in these movies? Why does Miike use this style, what is the history of it?

Thinking about it, not all new Japanese movies are like that, I guess it is mostly Miike, but there is a much higher tolerance for the weird/freaky (for lack of a better word) in mainstream japanese cinema. They stand very much apart from films from other countries in this respect.

There's also a similar thing with Anime ("Akira", "Jin-Roh", "ghost in the shell"). It kind of makes sense until the last half hour. Then all kinds of things happen for no reason with no explanation or logic that can be discerned. It's like "2001" but worse and that at least had the book to explain it. Is it obtuse on purpose or does it just seem that way to me, am I missing someting?

martin
28-03-2005, 11:03 PM
Thinking about it, not all new Japanese movies are like that, I guess it is mostly Miike, but there is a much higher tolerance for the weird/freaky (for lack of a better word) in mainstream japanese cinema. They stand very much apart from films from other countries in this respect.

Is it obtuse on purpose or does it just seem that way to me, am I missing someting?

Yeah - insight into the Japanese psyche,most probably. But I don't know what that is either. I was even more confused after I went there. They place a massive emphasis on fantasy, to the point that it's perfectly acceptable to openly stock DVDs of little girls being tied up and raped, in department stores with families walking around looking for manga vids for their kids.

I really enjoy these films (the Japanese ones you're on about, not paedo-porn!), a lot of the time it seems like a triumph of style over plot, but I don't mind that. Maybe that makes me pretentious but I don't care. I agree with you on 'Ichi', I didn't get any of the last ten minutes. But 'Visitor Q' is amazing, easily his best! - I just wish British film directors had the bottle to make films like that one.

DigitalDjigit
28-03-2005, 11:11 PM
I like Audition the most, it is the most normal one I guess. The thing about Bizita Q is there's a bunch of great little ideas and images but it doesn't add up to a whole. Just as an example, what was the point of that woman lactating all over the floor and flooding the place? I don't even remember what the movie was about, just those freaky characters. It's like the whole point of the movie is to create the most over the top, shocking images possible.

Is he getting more unwatchable or what? Audition was fairly good, Visitor Q was still fairly enjoyable, Ichi the Killer less so and the latest one I saw, "Gozu", I couldn't even finish.

martin
28-03-2005, 11:28 PM
I think the lactating bits were her re-discovering her sexuality and domestic mothering role (God, I sound like some kind of arty chinstroker) but done as OTT as possible. The father eventually loses his cowardice, the bully son is tamed and the runaway prostitute daughter returns to the family unit - it's a bit like a pisstake of a feelgood family movie, with loads of toolkit violence, smack, breast milk and necrophilia thrown in. It's completely cartoon, and I don't think it makes any sort of deep point - is that what you find makes them slightly unsatisfying?

'Gozu''s a bit drawn out, I got bored during that one as well, I think that's just meant to be a bit of David Lynch (x10,000) style nuttiness. Then again, there may be all these inferences we don't know about - maybe the spurting milk or the slimey cow's head signify something relevant to Japanese audiences? Do we have any Japanese members on here who can explain this?

Omaar
29-03-2005, 04:53 AM
I am certain there was an old boy thread around here somewhere, I'm certain I've posted on it before. I just can't for the life of me find it. I'll keep looking ...

I really rated audition when I saw it, I remember liking the way it shifted from romcom to horror, in a way that didn't seem silly. The only other miike I've seen is one missed call which was pretty disappointing.

II've enjoyed a lot of other Japanese horror too, Ring, Dark water - I guess those 2 would be the best I've seen. I would also recommend Kwaidan which is a 1960s Japanese Horror which is fairly awesome. Ju-on wasn't brilliant but it was pretty scary.

I think the sound design in all these films is pretty choice too.

It seems that there is a different kind of 'uncanniness' in Japanese films, I think that's a freudian concept I'm using there, will have to look up that up and repost.

I guess a lot of Horror deals with concepts of the 'other' so in terms of westerners viewing Japanese Horror, there may be a multiple level of difference that multiply the freakiness of these films.

Melmoth
29-03-2005, 01:28 PM
maybe the spurting milk or the slimey cow's head signify something relevant to Japanese audiences? Do we have any Japanese members on here who can explain this?

My wife is from Tokyo and she didn't see any especial significance for the 'Japanese psyche', whatever that means. Miike is interested in parodying Western genres and their reception in Japan, and Gozu is obviously, as someone said upthread, a take on Lynch's suburban surrealism. You could argue that the cow and the milk refer to Lynch's typical tactics and so to American cinema and american culture rather than anything intinsically symbolic. THey are meta-referntial. On the other hand, this might be subtly reinforced by the fact that dairy products signify the west to many Japanese (apparently we smell of fat), so the cow and milk could also be referring to Western culture in that sense too. Miike's very smart, there's always a formal critique under the superficial Mondo aesthetic. Old Boy and City of God are very different in that respect. Although i loved them both, they pretty much appropriate recent US mainstream style without
defamiliarizing it.

DigitalDjigit
29-03-2005, 03:44 PM
Oldboy felt very Japanese to me, not at all American. Even if you look at the fighting, it's just done totally different. It kinda reminded me of those side-scrolling video games but that's not what I am getting at. It's not as hyper, in-your-face. There are many other differences too.

i don't like horror movies, I just can't get scared by ghosts and freaky spirits and phone calls. The horror movies I've seen from Japan don't really exhibit that "what the hell is going on" thing. I guess not many directors outside of Miike do, but I think "Suicide Club" was a lot like that and it wasn't by him.

How is City of God (or Oldboy for that matter) appropriating modern American style? It seems closer to Godfather to me than anything done recently. Maybe you are talking about the cinematography? I do not really pay much attention to it if it is not in my face, it requires training.

Melmoth
29-03-2005, 04:20 PM
Oldboy = Tarantino
City of God =Scorcese

Yes i was talking about the cinematography

ambrose
30-03-2005, 12:21 AM
no love for "the happiness of the katakuris"??????

awe-some

rewch
06-04-2005, 01:34 PM
I am certain there was an old boy thread around here somewhere, I'm certain I've posted on it before. I just can't for the life of me find it. I'll keep looking ...

it's been archived... there is a link at the bottom of the forum page or here (http://www.dissensus.com/archive/index.php?t-174.html)

Diggedy Derek
06-04-2005, 03:16 PM
I'm gonna chip in for Happiness Of The Katakuris too- a film that literally made me fall off my seat through laughter. My god it was brilliant.

Diggedy Derek
07-04-2005, 11:49 AM
It's difficult to tease out what's interesting about contemporary Japanese cinema- if indeed it can be narrowed down to one factor, which is doubtful. Psychological horror, gangster movies and anime are all quite different genres, with distinct histories. There's a hell of a lot of shit out there too- the Jap industry is so fragmented that inbetween the cracks there's all sorts of porn and action drudgery. Some of the rated films I think are pretty poor. Dark Water I thought was absolute rubbish- for a start there was only really half a story there (family is a bit haunted, turns out someone died, they then have an emotional confrontation with- it's at most a short story). Plus there's no real narrative tension, just an overreliance on heavy heanded water metaphors and endless "what's round the corner" scenes. The Ring was fantastic, natch.

With Miike, it's worth noting that lots of the projects he gets are modest budget scripts which he can then piss about with as he wants, with special emphasis on his particular themes (the body, outsiders etc). Audition started as a much more conventional remarrying conflict, where the woman felt inadequate compared with the previous wife- a big difference from the impervious, brutal character in the eventual version. Miike will often put mad ideas and garish themes into fairly conventional genre pieces- he's not quite like a western auteur, more like a remixer. Haven't seen his latest film yet, but I saw Dead Or Alive the other day and definitely dug it.

I don't think there's much in the way of a "national psyche" that you can talk about in Japanese films. There's actually rather little symbolism or "social unconscious" that you can talk about- perhaps because all the freudian sort of catagories don't apply to well here. Yet there#s definitely agree that there's a lot that's different about Japanese films, especially within a moral context. Morally, the Japanese audiences seem less shockable. I dunno why really. Perhaps morality wise, they judge content of moral ideas (eg murder, rape) less in terms of what it does than whether it fits into a sociological framwork. Judging morality by function (or disfunction) rather than obsessing over content. This means that extreme violence and absurd humour can coexist in the same film- because they are both just as much "outside" societies boundaries, they can exist on the same level. Whereas in a western mindset, the psychoanalytic content of such ideas is radically different, and they cannot be contemplated as part of the same narrative.

More interestingly though, there's a lot of overlapping themes in the the formal qualities of Japanese films which seeem "weird" to us lot.Characters are more theatrical for some reason, meaning less closeups and more long shots; the camera often feels more detached in Japanese films, perhaps because Japanese cinema borrowed so strongly from Japanese theatre. Overlapping with this, though, is the massive influence of music videos and computer graphics- it's stronger here than in the West as the film industry is much more fractured and less regimented, allowing for sudden influxes of video wiz-kids. Of course Japanese are arguably the most sophisticated consumers of visual culture in the world, so I guess they dig that stuff. Furthermore, Japanese are very good at assimilating Western ideas and twisting them to their own ends- this is a cultural trait arguably dating from the late nineteenth century, when a hitherto isolated nation suddenly had to deal with the outside world.

What you seem to end up with, then, is films that seem to operate as multi-levelled parables and analogies rather than straightforward narratives. And yet they do this fairly effortlessly. You get the same thing with Brazilian cinema for some reason- they love those analogies and myths down South Am. How did it come to pass in Japan ? Well, perhaps because there's less psychological identification with the characters, less psychoanalytical investment in them- overall there's less individualism in Japanese culture. When Japan first opened up to the world in the nineteenth century, the new Meiji era specifically encouraged stories that would explicitly encapsulate the nation's moral dilemmas- sort of in a Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom kind of way. Analogical stories were encouraged here, rather than the Western way of a national psyche becomes embedded as a subtext. I guess what we're saying is that the Japanese viewer is more attunded to learning rather than entertainment, and although Miike is entertainment in it's purest form, Japanese viewers can still read them laterally.

A final issue is that the Japanese seem to place an inherent value on "the absurd"; whereas Western film aims towards synthesis, resolution, Japanese seem to like ambiguity, juxtaposition. Perhaps it's something to do with Buddhism, and the value it places on confusion and finding your own solutions.

craner
08-04-2005, 07:41 PM
There's a copy of Audition going cheap in the Foyles sale RIGHT NOW. Come buy me a cake and I'll fish it out for you. I also got a half price monograph of Frank Lloyd Wright for myself. And I thought they'd just thrown a lot of shit into the sale.

cortempond
11-04-2005, 05:15 PM
Oldboy = Tarantino
City of God =Scorcese

Yes i was talking about the cinematography

One can look at City of God as being Scorcese-esque not in the way it was shot, because it uses too many framing and shooting techniques (whip-pans, 360-degree shots, etc. that are more tied to more recent directors because they create a kinetic sense designed to engage the audience. City of God is Scorcese in the way that it is scored with the music and the sense of it being a crime (or gang) saga told over an extended period of time, such as Goodfellas. In some aspect then, it can then even be compared to Leone's Once Upon A Time In America, only 2 hours shorter.

The Korean cinema is having a massive renaissance. Films such as JSA (made by same director as Old Boy), Shiri, Tube, 2009 - Lost Memories, Attack The Gas Station, Nowhere To Run and many others show that it is in the same league as the Japanese and even surpassing Hong Kong as the place to look for innovative, exciting film.

Regarding Miike - What about City of Lost Souls and Deadly Outlaw Rekka? Anything with Riki Takeuchi?