Monday, July 26, 2010

Another bus trip

Criterion released Hiroshi Shimizu's prewar works, including "Mr. Thank You (有がとうさん)". This is very exciting, since Hiroshi Shimizu, contemporary of Yasujiro Ozu, is not well-known even in Japan and this release will inspire many people to watch his films and enjoy his humor and relaxed atmosphere. "Mr. Thank You" is probably the most accessible to modern viewers, being a road movie in the countryside of prewar Japan. There is another movie on the bus by Shimizu in 1941, called "Akatsuki no gassho (暁の合唱)". It is not a road movie like "Mr. Thank You" made five years earlier, but it tried to capture its moments.

Tomoko (Michiyo Kogure) pursues to become a female bus driver in a rural area of Akita prefecture instead of going to the college. She experiences many aspects of the job, such as a bus guide, and the life, including an accident while learning driving a car, flirtation with a man next door, confrontation with "another" woman and so on. The film was released in the wake of the war in Pacific, but there is absolutely no reference to it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Error of objective fact

Over at Roger Ebert's blog, he contemplates about the film criticism and Rotten Tomatoes. It is very interesting reading and makes you think about how you appreciate films, as always.
Especially, I find two passages very interesting. Mr. Ebert writes: "I've taught both ("Citizen Kane" and "The Rules of the Game") shot-by-shot and had many students who confessed they didn't feel the greatness. " Even though I admire both films, I can understand many people, even those who are conscious about visual aspect of the film art, find them boring. Is it because passing of time made their "greatness" mundane ? Or is it just so distant, many people find few things in common with the stories told, characters involved ? Or is it simply because they are in B&W ?
Another quote: "When you said 'The Valachi Papers' was better than 'The Godfather,' that was an error of objective fact." Ummm, this one is hard. I don't find anything wrong with the statement, but somehow I feel uneasy. Maybe because I am a scientist by training, the very word "objective fact" clicks. How objective ? Can you describe quantitatively ? What is the metric ? and so on.

Then again, what is the metric of "greatness" in film art ?

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Monday, July 19, 2010

There was a war...

"There was a Father (1942)" (父ありき, Chichi Ariki)
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

One of the recent releases from Criterion Collection is "The Only Son/There Was a Father: Two Films by Yasujiro Ozu", two of the Ozu films rarely seen by western audiences. "There was a Father" was released during the Pacific War, and whenever this film is discussed, its aspect as a war time propaganda is always a topic. There is a very good essay on the film by Tony Ryans, which discusses the ambiguity of the message in the film.

It may seem strange by today's standards, but this film was a propaganda. Office of Intelligence awarded this film as "People's Cinema", the highest award given to cinema in Japan at the time. Another film awarded the same year was "General, Staff and Soldier (1942)" (将軍と参謀と兵, Shogun to Sambo to Hei). Tsumasaburo Bando starred in this film as the General commanding the fierce battle in China (Strangely, this film is not listed in imdb).

Judging from the reviews about this DVD (here and many others), the print Criterion used is the 16mm reduction print (National Film Center print) made after the war. Audio quality of this notorious print is horrible, and it is said that there was a spec of dust stuck on the machine during the reduction process. For a long time, NFC print was the only available print of this film, but another print surfaced after collapse of Soviet Union. After the war, Soviet Army confiscated many cultural artifacts in Manchuria, and brought them back to Moscow. As a result, Gosfilmofond (I don't read Russian, but this seems to be its web site) had a large collection of Japanese pre-war and war-time films, which were rediscovered during 90s. One of the films discovered was "There was a Father". It is a 35mm print, 15 minutes shorter than the NFC print, with the better audio track. It also contains the footage not available on NFC print, since Occupation Army in Japan made the cuts. (In his book, Ryu mentions his singing scene being cut.)

There will be a screening of this Gosfilmofond print at MOMAT National Film Center (Tokyo) in August.

Copyrighted materials, if any, on this web page are included as "fair use". These are used for the purpose of research, review or critical analysis, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let's see ....

This is the first entry.

Films, mainly classic films are the topic of this blog.

And you have millions of blogs on movies already. Why do you need another ?

If some of the stories may interest you, then that will be enough for now, don't you think ?
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