Gate of Flesh

Last night I finally got to watch my latest NetFlix arrival, Gate of Flesh, by Seijun Suzuki.  Now, I can already hear the gasps among some of my friends who will read this and think I’ve descended into genres heretofore “taboo”.  Gate of Flesh is a 1964 film from the famous Nikkatsu studios of Japan.  The script was originally intended to be a low budget, semi-erotic flick (ok, I admit it) about a sisterhood of prostitutes surviving in postwar Tokyo and the drama ensuing when a former soldier joins their family.  The script was handed to contract director Seijun Suzuki who turned the script into a surreal drama with the visual and psychological aesthetics that have made him an undeniable rock and rebel in cinematic history.  (other notables I’ve commented on in the past are Branded to Kill – which got him fired from Nakkatsu and Tokyo Drifter)  [ Wikipedia does a much better job extolling the merits and history of Suzuki; his article is located here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seijun_Suzuki). ]

Gate of Flesh plays the hands of innocence vs experience, love vs. lust, sacred vs sacrilage, and freedom vs occupation by the United States.  Suzuki evokes these ideas within a simple plot of a young woman named Maya who becomes a street worker.  As she descends (quite literally) into the ruins of Tokyo and into the dark underpinnings of her own desperation, she assumes a family of like women.  It becomes quickly apparent that the big sisters who should be her supports are more childlike than herself, and when a man named Shin joins their world, already tenuous relationships break and Maya falls further into her descent.  The outcome and the meaning I think are best left for you to experience first hand, but needless to say, the best parts of the film will be left untold here.

Having read that, you’re probably thinking this isn’t the feel-good movie of the season.  It’s not.  It is gorgeous.  It is moving in its sheer brilliance and depth.  The cinematography and the sets are so well married it is astounding to realize Suzuki had only 10 days to preproduce and 25 days to shoot (according to interviews with the director himself on the Criterion Collection DVD).  The performances are each individual and supberb.  Suzuki’s production designer Takeo Kimura comments in the interviews that Suzuki did not direct for reality but his own surrealistic vision of the characters.  

If you have a penchant for artfilms, the time and an open mind, you should really sit down and watch this film.

 

Las Vegas – “Unreal City”

It’s quiet in my room at Bill’s Gambling Hall on the Las Vegas strip.  I’ve been in town for a little over a day now, preparing for the Digital Signage Expo which opens tomorrow at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  I just got back from the opening reception / dinner at a place in Caesar’s.  As I was walking back to the hotel, this phrase popped into my head: the “unreal city” from T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland” which I intend on recording on my website, sometime, if copyrights permit. 

I’ve seen too much of Vegas.  In the past few years, I’ve been here almost two months in sum… too much for most.  I think the first week is the eye opener.  The next few, I walked the strip with my camera and tripod, the last two weeks have been fairly low key.  Don’t get me wrong: I have my camera ready to go, probably tomorrow night, but for now, I want to get some rest and do some graphic “playing” before bed.

I hope you are well, whoever you are, reading this.  

Goodnight.

Heroes : Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper is an American realist of the first half of the 20th Century.  You can read up on him here via Wikipedia.

I’m not sure when I got into him, but I’m glad I did.  I identify with his work in a very similar way to that of Gregory Crewdson.  There’s the evocation of loneliness, introspection, voyeurism, mystery, and character depth by depicting (in many cases) these isolated people painted in harsh contrasts framed, or often contained, by some larger construct.

To the left, I chose to paste in “Nighthawks” because it’s one of the iconic images by Hopper, and from it, one can also see similarities to the works of Lynch, Scorsese, and Crewdson reminiscent ofTaxi Driver, or below, “Summer Evening”, which feels of Twin Peaks or Blue Velvet. 

I have a fascination with night and the way light can create these pools of contrast and drama.  In nighttime, we choose what to light and therefore what to see.  We also choose what to keep concealed, what to leave for the imagination to consider and maybe even obsess over.  I think that mystery of the dark areas is a beautiful thing and that depiction of the light areas, the way we choose to throw the light, really paints the story being told.

A friend of mine gave me the quote once by Leonard Misonne “The object is nothing; the light is everything.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was trying to find some interesting Hopper video on YouTube.  Maybe some footage of him working, but didn’t have any luck.  This is kind of an interesting clip someone put together of his work against “Town Without Pity” by Gene Pitney.  I don’t necessarily like the idea of listening to music when looking at paintings because I think it messes with your own interpretation, however, in this case, I do think this is an interesting work worth the few minutes.  (and if you want to just watch the slide show, hit mute).

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Vanity Fair Portraits: Photographs 1913–2008

I revisted the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this past weekend and had the opportunity to see the Vanity Fair show I refered to in my previous post.  AWESOME!  Honestly, this was my favorite exhibit of any show I can remember in recent history.  There are some permanent collections at the Met that I love, but this show was just the best all around photo exhibit I’ve seen.  Of course, in my mind, Annie Leibovitz’s work dominated the more recent era.  (You can read about her here on Wikipedia).  Most of these shots encompassed film celebrities, however, there were also some ones that I didn’t expect.  There’s a shot of Bush and his advisers in the Oval Office ca. the invasion of Iraq that looks eerily comfortable but has the undertone of “We just went to war.”  There’s also a shot that hit me, that I think was hers, of Ronald and Nancy Reagan dancing.  It was just this very poignant and tender moment.

In the earlier photos, there’s a shot of Monet months before his death… DH Lawrence, Picasso, Gloria Swanson, Hugh Grant.  I know I’m not hitting on the best, because all the photos were the best and I just can’t recall them all.

Anyway, if you find yourself in LA, go!

Here’s the link to the show: http://www.lacma.org/art/ExhibVF.aspx

Over and Out.

Rainy Streets – look at the pic for a few seocnds

 

 

Last night, I was walking with my brother to his car, and saw this light refllecting off the pavement around me.  After he took off, I grabbed my cam and tripod, and began a short adventure around my neighborhood. I got a few looks (some amused).  I think I’m going to turn this into a series.  I need to do a little technical thinking about how to present these.  More to come.

Review : The Dark Knight

Saturday evening, some friends and I saw The Dark Knight.  I had been excited to see what Ledger would do with the ultimate villain.  I’ve been a comic book fan since I was 12, and the Joker is just one of those truly infectious criminals.  Of course, there was the syndicated Cesar Romero interpretation, as well as Jack Nicholson and even the cartoon on FOX, but what would Ledger do?  Would it be like the graphic novels?  Less the smile and more the madness? – a man so twisted  there is no reason behind the sociopath, he just is a sociopath.

With absolute certainty, I saw the Joker last night.  The scars of his grin caused him to lick his lips as if incessantly tasting exhilaration.  The vision is revolting, the experience: captivating.  My brother and I talked into the morning about  several things including an actor becoming a villian.  It was Adam who brought up the idea of guilt at experiencing something so incredible that costs a man so much.  I’m not out to imply becoming the Joker killed Heath Ledger.  I do think it’d be naive to imply it didn’t hurt him.  I am a believer the best actors become their character.  If I am watching Ledger become evil, am I enjoying his pain?  

But then, that opens a whole other discussion about what motivates a great actor.  What highs does s/he attain when an actor of moral fiber becomes a sociopath of anarchistic aspirations?  My feeling is there is a similar “thrill” underlining the actor and the motivation of the character.  It all boils down to the thrill, the experience.  It’s my motivation in the audience, enjoying this second hand thrill, from the safety of stadium seats.

I won’t put The Dark Night among my favorite films, yet.  I have to watch it again.  I think Ledger was the jewel.  Very early in the movie, I didn’t feel the craft of the film met the performance of the man.  There were a few odd cuts where someone’s head would be looking down, then suddenly up and it just felt like something obvious had been overlooked.  Stuff like that wakes me up from the dream.  Though, those interruptions were fairly few and only in the first half hour.  I can let them go.

Outside those moments, the film was mesmerizing.  One of my top criteria is an unbroken experience.  My experience was broken over the last hour, but it wasn’t the film’s fault.  I kept having to reposition myself in the low-backed chair.  Therefore, I’ll need to watch this one again in the comfort of my home before really evaluating where it sits in my list of films.  Regardless, if you get a chance, see it.   Right now, I’d give it a 4 of 5.  Thunderous, dark, exhilarating.

 

Reach out and make a friend