Rightwing Film Geek

A break in the system


GHOST IN THE SHELL 2 (Mamoru Oshii, Japan, 4)

Probably not the best choice for me to see, as I’m neither much of a science-fiction hound nor an Anime fanboy. This film retells the BLADE RUNNER/ROBOCOP premise of humans being replaced by androids and the existing humans often being part-android, with a plot already familiar from this summer — slave robots rising up and killing their masters (wasn’t Will Smith available to do the voiceover?). GHOST IN THE SHELL has mostly evaporated from my head just three days later, but it had such eye-rollers as namedropping Descartes’ daughter in an effort to put some intellectual whipped cream on what is really only two scoops of 1980s cop-buddy movie (their boss even calls them on the carpet, the bachelor has a cuddly dog … dude-san, please). The sci-fi trope of “questioning reality,” as usual, did nothing for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why Japanese animation, even Miyazaki, has mostly left me lukewarm or cold — it would say it has something to with the flatness of the visual field, except that I love SOUTH PARK and BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD; it could be the overserious subject matter or perhaps the uninspiring, unmemorable voice characterizations (I didn’t care for SHREK, but Eddie Murphy was brilliant)

September 13, 2004 Posted by | Mamoru Oshii, TIFF 2004 | Leave a comment

A guy named Joe


TROPICAL MALADY (Apichatpong Weerasethakul aka “Joe,” Thailand, 7)

TROPICAL MALADY bifurcates itself into two “halves.” The first hour or so is basically a hanging out “City Symphony” movie like MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA or PEOPLE ON SUNDAY (though eventually two central characters do emerge); the second segment, with an all new set of credits no less, adapts an allegoricized short story involving the same two central characters, a jungle hunt, subtitled monkey-chattering and a tiger looking directly into the camera. This is a loosely structured “arty” movie, obviously. But this is where a critical distinction must be made. This film hardly has more a plot than AFTER THE DAY BEFORE, in fact it has considerably less of one, and it sometimes doesn’t make much sense. For example, is the second half a recapitulation of the first, telling the same story in a different style, or is it a narrative continuation? Either is possible; in fact the first half ends with a feeling of jealousy that could signal a “break” in the natural world and the conceit of naturalism in favor of stylized allegory (think how PERSONA “breaks” upon the shard of glass for a sense of what I mean.) But in this case, I frankly don’t care, because TROPICAL MALADY never bored me. It was so nice to look at, had so many goofy interpolations and what WAKING LIFE calls “holy moments,” that it’d be churlish to complain. The conversation between the guy in the truck and the guy on the bus; the scenes of people cutting ice; hanging out with the two ladies who ran a store; the acted-out parable of the monk and the two farmers. There’s so much to enjoy on the fly (and the characters aren’t dour-faced depressives, which helps enormously) that the fact the film doesn’t seem to hang together doesn’t matter. In fact, I hereby formulate Victor’s Art House Rule #1: “If you make a slow movie where not much happens — thou shalt keep the overall tone light, airy and silly-comic, and maketh thy shots almost delectable.” Contrary to my usual custom, I could hardly describe my reactions when the lights went up and everyone started looking at each other, saying “well, what did you think of that.” The ending is the truly gripping conversation with the heart of a tiger and I let out a breath at the closing credits, sure that I had enjoyed what I had seen at some level, but unsure of myself. But TROPICAL MALADY has stewed wonderfully in the head and I already am eager for a second look and for a first look at the other films by “Joe” (MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON and BLISSFULLY YOURS) — and there’s just no arguing with those reactions.

September 13, 2004 Posted by | Joe, TIFF 2004 | Leave a comment