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Sunday, November 26, 2006

What Swifty Will Miss About Perth (1): His Flatmates

I'm currently chillin' in my friend, Amir's house after moving out from the Murdoch University Student Village, Flat 90, a place I've called home for the past 2 and a half years. And in less than two weeks, I will be leaving Perth for good.

The bitter and cynical part of me wanted to say 'GOOD RIDDANCE, I DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH AN OPPRESSIVE ENVIRONMENT WITH LIMITED INTERNET CONNECTION AND RUN INTO ANNOYING DUMBASSES WHO HAPPEN TO LIVE IN THE VILLAGE TOO!'. However, that's the only thing I won't miss about the place.

Everything else about it is almost great. Here's a quick list of everything I loved about staying in the Student Village.

1) My Flatmates

Unlike Justin, I am blessed with great flatmates. The kinds of flatmates which make my flat a place worth staying in. Despite whatever stress and anger and pressure I would endure from either my filmmaking endeavours, my studies, or, ah, girl problems, I always know that there's no place like home where I whine and bitch about my angst.

One is Duane, whom I've mentioned sometimes on my blog.

Duane, My Flatmate (for 2.5 years!)
Swifty With His Flatmate, Duane

Guy's been my flatmate ever since I came to Perth back in July 2004 (he arrived a semester earlier). Totally hardcore, goes to the gym and works out most of the time, knows kendo, and can definitely break anybody into half with his bare fists. Every Tuesday, whenever ticket prices are halved, both of us would go for a movie at the nearest shopping mall, Garden City. He drove, of course. In fact, he had always been only one with a car, and would very unfortunately transport me around for my grocery shopping and stuff. He was like Jason Statham in The Transporter movies, but more badass and cool.

Also a great supplier of anime.

Duane Is God.

The other two were Kyria and Simone, both moved into the flat this year.

Kyria and Simone, my flatmates for the past year
From left to right, Swifty, Kyria and Simone

Kyria, from Canberra, immediately brought changes to the flat. Prior to her arrival, most flatmates who stayed in flat number 90 were usually more withdrawn, constantly hiding in their rooms, having their own TV sets, and having their own bathrooms, so it had never been necessary to actually walk out of rooms to interact with others. Kyria wouldn't have any of that, her door was constantly opened, the entire flat was decorated by artwork, plants and many other things she bought. She turned the flat into her home, and with that, it became more of a home for us too. Friendly, outspoken, free-spirited, sassy and also kickassy. My attempts in cooking (which nearly set fire in the kitchen) had always been a constant source of exasperation for her. But she had always been the best person for me to whine and angst about, well, my constant girl problems.

Simone, on the other hand, had always been mysterious. Very quiet and introverted, shy and reserved, she was always in her room. Sometimes an entire week would go by when neither of us in the flat would see her around, only to realize all these while, she was, well, in her room. Never got to know her that much until, strangely, less than two weeks ago, when I was on the verge of collapsing from the stress and exhaustion I endured during the production of my film, Girl Disconnected. And I was in my flat briefly for a quick supper before returning to the editing suites in university to pull an all-nighter. She came out when I was preparing my cereal, and I talked, she listened. I needed to talk, to let loose of things. And without hesitation, Simone just said that if I ever needed help, just knock her door. I never knocked her door, because by listening, she had already given me more help than I've wanted.

All these years, besides them, I had other interesting flatmates from different places, Theo from Ghana, Sarah from USA, Marlin from Norway and the likes (all of them are females!), all of them simply rocked in their own manner, just that their stay in Flat 90 were usually very brief. Just a semester and they would leave before I could know them more, much unlike those I stayed with this year. Strangely, this time, Duane, Simone and Kyria will be remaining in the flat for next year, while I am the only one who makes a move.

While neither of them are aware of the existence of this blog, I thank them for the fine memories they gave me. From a fresh Malaysian student who was just enduring the fresh experience of living in a foreign country, to a writer filmmaker intending to make a difference, I've underwent some changes in the past 2.5 years, but the one thing that was constant throughout my stay in Flat 90 was that the place had always been great.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Blogging is depressing

Tifa Cosplayer 5


Justin says:
Blogging feels so hopeless
Swifty says:
Yeap
Justin says:
Dunno what direction to take it in
Swifty says:
I dunno anymore either
Swifty says:
maybe just write what you want to write
Swifty says:
Japan Probe linked to us
Justin says:
For what?
Swifty says:
20th century Japanese literature in Grade School Terms.
Justin says:
How did they find out about that?
Swifty says:
i submitted
Justin says:
Hm
Justin says:
Feels like a hollow victory, sorta
Justin says:
Yeah, should just start writing about what we feel, be more honest
Swifty says:
Yeap
Swifty says:
but alas, Japan Probe had already lost the momentum they got from Boingboing
Swifty says:
i mean, just do a commentary type blog
Swifty says:
instead of merely reviews, i guess
Justin says:
Yeah..probably the best idea
Swifty says:
i mean, comment on things
Swifty says:
make them know that we have an opinion about things
Swifty says:
or something
Justin says:
Seems about right...
Swifty says:
i mean, it's kinda hard for peple to form a community around our blog
Swifty says:
when we don't even seem to be part of anything
Justin says:
That's kind of what I liked, though
Justin says:
Like, the tone is more distanced and ironic
Swifty says:
and because of that, we'll have distant readers.
Swifty says:
can't really expect people to go all apeshit over us like they do for Xiaxue
Swifty says:
we reap what we sow
Justin says:
I dunno
Justin says:
I just hoped more intelligent people would catch onto it
Justin says:
Probably too much to hope
Swifty says:
Blog's considered inaccessible by most because entries are like essays.
Swifty says:
Not for your usual web audiences
Justin says:
They ARE essays
Justin says:
They're fucking CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Swifty says:
Sigh.
Justin says:
But they have funny comments in them
Justin says:
I just write the kind of shit I'd like to read
Justin says:
I feel a corrosive disgust when I consider most people's daily lives and their shitty writing skills of blogging about it
Swifty says:
Maybe the blog is too cerebral.
Swifty says:
It doesn't feel... us. Too impersonal? Hm.
Swifty says:
I mean, you're the writer, I'm the filmmaker. Why would they be here only to read about reviews and critical analysis when they can do it in other sites?
Swifty says:
Maybe they are more interested in the people behind the blog, and the things we write only matter because it's written, well, by us.
Justin says:
I don't like personality, hahaha
Justin says:
I dunno
Swifty says:
But unfortunately, we aren't really larger-than-life figures.
Swifty says:
Yet.
Justin says:
If I just gave my honest opinion, every entry would be like 'Listen to Morning Musume, I hate everything else.'
Swifty says:
Yeah, and I'll be voicing my personal dislike towards certain filmmakers and artists holding on too much on their cultures and traditions, faking the authenticity of their creative works by 'delivering' messages about their own 'cultural identities'.
Swifty says:
And by doing thus, I'll come off as an arrogant ass.
Justin says:
It would just end up in flames
Justin says:
I can't really talk about literature, all of it is too stupid
Justin says:
Dude, on that one discussion blog, I ATTACKED THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
Justin says:
That is pretty much the extent of my thoughts about current writing
Swifty says:
I mean, I would love to talk about films and films and films, not just my love for watching films, but films in itself, but then, unfortunately, people would never give a shit. I mean, see who cared about my Altman tribute, and that was a rare moment with me being my most sincerest.
Swifty says:
I can gush over my influences like Shunji Iwai, Wong Kar Wai, Aronofsky, Wes Anderson and most recently, Kubrick. But unfortunately, the majority of our readers probably do not really care about them or their films.
Swifty says:
I'm even a bigger film fan than most of my readers.
Swifty says:
Hell, are there even film fans amongst my readers?
Swifty says:
Yeah, sometimes, this blog is depressing.
Swifty says:
I thought it could help establish some sort of connection with people.
Swifty says:
But what connection is there? It's not as if I'm being a condescending asshole and not reply to comments. Hell, I LOVE comments.
Swifty says:
Just that, well, people lose interest in us easily.
Justin says:
All my posts are sincere
Justin says:
The only shit reading is books I talk about
Justin says:
And music, listening to
Swifty says:
Like I said, if we were cute chicks. This blog would've been so easily more popular. Haha...

Swifty's Production Diary: More 'Girl Disconnected' Production Photos From The Corridor Scene!

Based on the test viewings thus far (test viewings amongst my teachers, fellow film students etc.) The 'Corridor Scene' from my latest short film, Girl Disconnected, is one of the most well-received scenes of the film. Some called it the turning point of the film, where it just elevated to another level of filmmaking (compared to the first half of the film). Another friend of mine just shook his head and smiled, saying that it was certainly 'trippy'.

I've posted screenshots of that Corridor Scene before:

Production Photo 21 - Wiler Navigating Through The Corridors of the Moon

Production Photo 23 - Maya Smiles


It was difficult to find an outlandish-looking corridor, and while I initially wanted to shoot this at the University of Western Australia, the procedures to get their permission were too complicated, especially if it the shoot was only going to last for a few hours. So ultimately, I decided to do this in good o' Murdoch University instead, using an empty corridor in one of their buildings for the shoot as it allowed Brian The Cinematographer more freedom to experiment with the lights.

Anyway, here are the photos I took as we prepared for that scene, the production was nearing its end then. I have already forgotten about them until I checked my camera last night. Click for larger versions.


Assistant/ Production Manager Yun Chin Preparing The Set
My assistant/ production manager Yun Chin preparing the set

Brian the Cinematographer and Lead Actress Sarah
Brian the Cinematographer and Lead Actress Sarah

Grace The Rabbit Fairy Doubling As The Sound Person
Grace the Rabbit Fairy doubling as the Sound Person after Yun Chin left early

Brian The Cinematographer In Action
Brian the Cinematographer in action (or rather... undertaking another crazy shot which I needed him to stand on a table)



I had one hell of a cast and crew.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bye Bye, Robert Altman.

Robert Altman with his Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars


Legendary film director Robert Altman is not someone most casual Malaysian film fans would have heard of, his films, many lauded as classics, are unseen by most. Therefore, his death two days ago wasn't much of a news for most. On the other hand, many film blogs that I read everyday are writing their own eloquent tribute to him, they are the people whose lives were touched by Altman's films.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I have only seen three of Altman's films, with the exception of Gosford Park, neither of them are the much-lauded classics generally considered as his best, the other two are The Company and Popeye (which I watched when I was a kid). I have yet to see MASH, Nashville, The Player or Short Cuts (the first two selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry).

Why did I suddenly feel compelled to write about Robert Altman when I usually don't do anything after events like this? I'm not even an Altman fan, not being exposed enough to his films and all. Perhaps the more I am getting involved in filmmaking in the past year, the more I care. Besides, this really isn't the first time I've written about Robert Altman in this blog, I wrote about him on the 4th of March earlier this year (and two days before my birthday!), my entry, Swifty Stumbles Into The World of Robert Altman, was about my own desire to make an Altman-esque ensemble film that takes place in Malaysia, and also my thoughts about his second last film, The Company, which many would consider one of his lesser works (I agree with that). That entry I posted was for a Robert Altman blog-a-thon called by Matt Zoller Seitz to celebrate Altman's Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oscars.


Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin presenting the honorary Oscar to Robert Altman (March 2006)


His acceptance speech was memorable to me, when he revealed that he had a heart transplant ten years earlier, and saying that the Academy had recognized his body of work prematurely as he still had many years ahead of him to make more films. Sadly, I had believed that it would be true, when he was on the stage giving that speech, I definitely didn't expect him to not live past this year.

Altman's influence on today's filmmakers became increasingly apparent to me this year. The coincidences were simply weird. Magnolia, which I saw only a few days ago, was an ensemble piece which drew comparisons with Altman's works (although, in my opinion, the actors in Magnolia seemed to have more blatantly obvious 'Oscar moments'), and because of that, PT Anderson, director of Magnolia, was Altman's 'back-up director' for the very last Altman film that was released this year, A Prairie Home Companion. When I first read the news, I was mildly amused that the film studios had to resort to something like this for insurance, probably because I've never heard of something like this before (I'm not very informed).

Matt Zoller Seitz sent me his film, Home, earlier this year, which Justin and I liked very much, was an ensemble piece about a party on a hot summer night, lots of stories and substories about the different characters packed in an apartment. Matt had mentioned that it was a homage of sorts to Altman, yeah, it was one hell of a film too.

Robert Altman was a maverick filmmaker, the type who made the kind of films he liked without conforming for the sake of commercial viability or awards-baiting (despite being nominated five times by the Academy Awards, he had never won a single Oscar until that honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement). It's the kind of path I would like to take, but then, will circumstances allow me to do so, I wonder?

R. I. P. Robert Altman.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Swifty and Justin Reviews 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan'

Poster of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan


Swifty says:
Borat left me slightly underwhelmed.
Swifty says:
Too much hype.
Swifty says:
People calling it the 'funniest film of the decade'.
Swifty says:
Sure, it's revolutionary, with the use of actual people who didn't know that they were in some mockumentary.
Swifty says:
Watching them react to Borat's craziness was funny.
Swifty says:
Because it's all real.
Swifty says:
But it feels like a long skit.
Justin says:
It doesn't work as a film
Justin says:
It's really funny in some parts but that's about it
Justin says:
It's not actually worth paying to see
Swifty says:
I agree.
Justin says:
All of the funny parts combined would be about ten or fifteen minutes total
Swifty says:
Could've saved my money on The Prestige.
Swifty says:
Yeah, the rest would just make me smile.
Swifty says:
Or make me wait til the next outrageously funny part.
Swifty says:
Fillers.
Justin says:
Yeah, too much filler
Justin says:
Other recent neglected movies like Beerfest were far more consistently funny (Beerfest review here)
Justin says:
The Ali G movie was also much better, just so people don't think we're ripping Cohen
Swifty says:
I thought Cohen was funnier in Talladega Nights too. (Talladega Nights review here)
Swifty says:
"Hakuna Matata. bitches!"
Swifty says:
I mean, aside from the now-famous naked fighting scene.
Justin says:
The naked fighting scene is really the only reason to see Borat
Swifty says:
Yeah.
Swifty says:
I mean, it is a cultural phenomenon now
Swifty says:
With people often quoting its lines ("very nice, how much!")
Swifty says:
and it's definitely more deserving than Snakes On A Plane.
Swifty says:
But yeah, there are better comedies out there this year.
Justin says:
I think it'll probably fade like Snakes on a Plane did though
Justin says:
I mean there's just not that much really there
Swifty says:
Yeah, and it's unlikely to have a sequel.
Swifty says:
Now that his cover's been blown.
Swifty says:
So, how are we going to end this review?
Justin says:
Um
Swifty says:
It's a searing satire?
Justin says:
There's not much to say
Justin says:
I dunno, it's not that searing
Justin says:
'People are stupid'
Justin says:
That's not searing
Swifty says:
Yeah, common knowledge.
Justin says:
Anyone who doesn't realize that is a moron.
Justin says:
I'd give it maybe 4 or 5 out of 10
Swifty says:
Yeah. 5 out of 10 from me too. I just felt empty after watching it.
Justin says:
A lot of the scenes are strained
Swifty says:
Yeah, they do.
Justin says:
Like the scenes with U.S. college kids, who even found that funny?
Justin says:
I mean it might be funny in England or something but if you grow up with that stuff it's like 'So what?'


The Borat trailer that everyone has already seen


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Yukio Mishima - The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea



I can't be bothered to review this in any real depth, so I'll just excerpt parts of it and laugh at them. Much like the previous review, you're pretty much aboard the train at this point or you're not. Despite overseas acclaim (it was even made into an English movie starring Kris Kristofferson...what the fuck?), this novel, about a doomed romance between a sailor and a widow offset by evil kids, probably isn't one of Mishima's major works. It feels almost like a novella or really long short story, something that could have gone in one of the collections Acts of Worship or Death in Midsummer (discussed here)


What...the fucking...shit...

That morning, the boys had left the city with packed lunches and gone all the way to Yamauchi Pier in Kanagawa. For a while they had roamed around the railroad siding behind the sheds on the wharf, and then held the usual meeting to discuss the uselessness of Mankind, the insignificance of Life.

If you can't understand why the single word 'usual' in this passage makes it hilarious, you probably won't 'get' Mishima. I'm convinced that neglected children turning into dispassionate Nietzschean/Randian supervillains by reading a lot instead of just committing minor crimes or toking up is something that happens in literature a lot more than it does in real life, but let's let that one go.

There's a fun scene where these kids capture and kill a kitten by slamming it against a log, then play around with its internal organs. Mishima and Kobo Abe (trained as a doctor) actually did this in real life in preparation for this scene because Mishima claimed he couldn't write about anything he hadn't actually experienced. Imagine these two wandering around the countryside in the 1950's on this mission, Mishima absolutely not smiling at any time, Kobo looking like the Nutty Professor with his japfro and huge medical bag.



I wonder how they decided on the proper method of kitten slamming. I bet Shocotan read this when she was a little kid and it altered the course of her life.



The chief (head badass) is probably the best character, though. The relationship between Fusako and Ryuji has too much romance-novel prose in it (maybe the point, maybe it's a satire...certainly the contrast with the flat-out nihilism works to good effect...and for anyone like me who's read too much of this Mishima guy, I wonder if this Fusako is the same character as the Fusako who was Honda's cousin and a little girl in Spring Snow? Certainly some of their descriptions are similar...)

"How's that for a stupid, hackneyed moral! He just pressed a button and out came one of the things fathers are supposed to say. And did you ever look at a father's eyes at a time like that? They're suspicious of anything creative, anxious to whittle the world down into something puny they can handle. A father is a reality-concealing machine, a machine for dishing up lies to kids, and that isn't even the worst of it: secretly he believes that he represents reality. Fathers are the flies of this world. They hover around our heads waiting for a chance, and when they see something rotten, they buzz in and root in it. Filthy, lecherous flies broadcasting to the whole world that they've fucked with our mothers. And there's nothing they won't do to contaminate our freedom and our ability. Nothing they won't do to protect the filthy cities they've built for themselves."

Interesting to note that Mishima's father was a Nazi sympathizer who forced his son to go to law school and burned all his early writings. Vengeance!

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Swifty's Receives Some Awards Nominations for End-Year University Film Festival.

Two of the short films I wrote and directed this year, Vertical Distance and Girl Disconnected, have been nominated for a few categories in the end year Murdoch Film Festival held on the 3rd of December.

Vertical Distance, a comedic tale of a vertically-challenged dude dealing with the fact that his girlfriend is taller than him, is nominated for Best Year 2 Production (the film is done for the Screen Production 2, a second year unit, but I'm not a second year student, I'm a Graduate Diploma student, meaning I'm just a guy doing a one-year diploma that's like a crash course of what film students would need three years to do for their degrees). Screenshots of Vertical Distance can be found here.

On the other hand, my latest film, Girl Disconnected, a surrealistic fantasy tale of a girl who took a train to the moon seeking her love, the very film I've spent the entire semester talking about, has been nominated for the Best Script and Best Visual Effects awards under the Open Category (... meaning that, besides undergraduates, I'll also be competing against Honours, Masters, PHD students... some of them are actually tutors *gasp*) Just happy to have both of my films nominated and featured in the film festival. Screenshots and production photos of Girl Disconnected can be found here, here, here and here.

Overall, it seems like a pretty good year for Malaysian film students of Murdoch University since besides myself, a group of Malaysian girls, friends of mine (who also worked with me on Vertical Distance) have snagged numerous nominations for their crowd-pleasing short film, Mu Qin (it means 'mother' in Mandarin), a story set in early 20th century China, about a young woman going home to find her estranged son and dealing with the prejudice of conservative society. Other than that, their documentary, Virgin Tattoo, which chronicles a guy's journey to get his first tattoo, has also been nominated for Best Year 2 Production (competing against Vertical Distance).

Perhaps this is another sign of Malaysian productions gaining some international recognition. Haha.

So, here are a list of awards the aforementioned films have been nominated for: (note, Mu Qin is a third year production, so it is also competing in both the Open Category and the 3rd Year Category)

GIRL DISCONNECTED
(written and directed by me)
Best Script (Open Category)
Best Visual Effects (Open Category)

VERTICAL DISTANCE
(written and directed by me)
Best 2nd Year Production

MU QIN
(er, I lent them lights when theirs blew out, so I am involved too :D)
Best Script (Open Category and 3rd Year Category)
Best Cinematography (Open Category and 3rd Year Category)
Best Editing (Open Category and 3rd Year Category)
Best Female Performance (Open Category and 3rd Year Category)
Best Direction (Open Category and 3rd Year Category)
Best Script (Open Category and 3rd Year Category)
Best Drama (Open Category and 3rd Year Category)
Best Sound (3rd Year Category)
Best Set Design (3rd Year Category)
Best Graduate Production (3rd Year Category)


VIRGIN TATTOO
(Justin was one of the interviewees, and I got my flatmate, Duane, to serve as Narrator for the documentary, thus I have special thanks credit!)
Best 2nd Year Production


Anyway, run a search on either Vertical Distance or Girl Disconnected on this blog and you'll find numerous entries related to these two short films.

Gonna keep my fingers crossed.

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Swifty and Justin Review 'Drawing Restraint 9'

Bjork and Matthew Barney in Drawing Restraint 9


Watching Drawing Restraint 9, an art film by American artist Matthew Barney, is possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mainly because Barney's films are only available in festival circuits, there will never be any DVDs, and it will not even get a limited theater distribution.

The film (along with Matthew Barney's previous works, the Cremaster Cycle) was screened in Perth because of the 10-day Artrage Festival held few weeks ago. Desperate to witness the film ourselves, Justin and I went for the screening at the RMax theater. Initially hoping to be blown away by watching this film on a huuuuuuge Imax (the RMax theater is an Imax theater... whatever that means), we were disappointed that the film was only projected upon a portion of the screen. Bah.

Anyway, Justin and my thoughts of the film are illustrated in the following MSN conversation. The film stars Bjork and Matthew Barney himself.

Justin says:
Drawing Restraint 9
Swifty says:
Okay
Swifty says:
Matthew Barney's overindulgence and shoddy filmmaking left me perplexed that people would worship it as art
Swifty says:
Stanley Kubrick = Art
Swifty says:
Matthew Barney = Pretender
Swifty says:
Terrence Malick = (kinda pretentious, but still...) Art
Swifty says:
Matthew Barney = ... sigh
Justin says:
Terence Malick seems pretty bad too though
Swifty says:
The Thin Red Line is poetic.
Swifty says:
Days of Heaven, despite the kiddie voiceover... has STRONG visuals
Justin says:
I felt like Drawing Restraint 9 is still better than Hollywood films just because you haven't seen it nine hundred times before in your life
Justin says:
Like Bjork getting eaten and turning into a whale, that hasn't happened before
Swifty says:
something the GREAT INFLUENTIAL ARTIST Matthew Barney was incapable of doing
Justin says:
It's not worth paying money to see the same shit
Swifty says:
ideas mean nothing when execution is shit
Justin says:
They could have done Matthew Barney in half the time length but
Swifty says:
if you only have 10% of your writing skills
Justin says:
At least it has some kind of ambition
Swifty says:
despite having your current ambition
Swifty says:
no way am i going to respect your writing that much
Justin says:
My ambition is pretty much writing skill itself though
Justin says:
I don't have any social message or point or anything to reassure people
Swifty says:
Drawing Restraint 9 was entertaining because of its sheer overwhelming overindulgence
Swifty says:
where every Tom, Dick and Harry will interpret as if it's some kind of high art.
Justin says:
I think the film has an overall LACK of seriousness though
Justin says:
It's not serious enough to be truly affecting
Poster of l'age d'OrJustin says:
I feel like l'age d'Or is better
Swifty says:
L'age d'Or has better craftsmanship
Justin says:
I feel like l'age d'Or is better than like any other movie because it's made with pure HATE
Justin says:
The only point of the movie is attack
Justin says:
I don't think anyone could conceive a movie like that anymore
Swifty says:
... Michael Moore?
Justin says:
Michael Moore is trying to be taken seriously though
Justin says:
The whole point of l'age d'Or is just absurd nothingness
Justin says:
Really, the scale of that film is insane
Justin says:
It's like an attack on history itself
Justin says:
Remember when it goes back to the Roman empire and shit
Swifty says:
hmm
Justin says:
The more you watch l'age d'Or the better it becomes because you notice more things they are doing
Swifty says:
Will the same happen with Drawing Restraint 9?
Justin says:
It's not like Un Chien Andalou where the point is just to be random
Justin says:
No
Swifty says:
Yeah, definitely not.
Justin says:
It's not enough to just eat Bjork's leg
Swifty says:
It's just them sitting there, waiting
Swifty says:
.... WAAAAAIIIITIIIING
Swifty says:
They spent half an hour cutting each other up
Justin says:
That should have been better done too
Swifty says:
At least Wong Kar Wai could make washing hands in a washroom cool.
Justin says:
I want to talk more about l'Age d'Or
Justin says:
Everyone should watch it
Swifty says:
I prefer Un Chien Andalou. Hmph.
Justin says:
I wonder if we could somehow upload it to the site
Justin says:
Why
Swifty says:
The images are more vivid.
Swifty says:
I prefer the randomness
Justin says:
There is a guy masturbating to a woman on a toilet and then mounds of flowing shit in l'Age d'Or
Justin says:
And little kids getting shot with rifles and a guy throwing a giraffe out the window
Swifty says:
I can only remember the giraffe.
Justin says:
And Jesus Christ turning into the marquis de sade
Justin says:
And a guy walking around with a loaf of bread on his head
Swifty says:
Oh, and a couple making out until they were both bleeding
Justin says:
The images are better than Matthew Barney
Swifty says:
Definitely
Justin says:
That film was made like eighty years ago
Swifty says:
there is nothing memorable about Drawing Restraint 9
Swifty says:
except for the desperate measures I had to take to entertain myself
Swifty says:
oh, maybe the part where someone shaved Matthew Barney when he was asleep
Justin says:
l'age d'Or l'age d'Or l'age d'Or
Justin says:
The greatness of l'age d'Or must be proclaimed to all
Swifty says:
Yeah, Luis Bunuel's a master filmmaker
Justin says:
Some guy is like sucking off a statue
Swifty says:
Matthew Barney = pretender!
Justin says:
If you remade l'Age d'Or shot for shot with good color and production values now
Justin says:
It would still start riots probably
Swifty says:
Hm, yeah.
Justin says:
If people understand what is really happening in that film
Swifty says:
Unfortunately, I doubt they will.
Justin says:
I want to make another film like l'Age d'Or that just has images and metaphoric weight but no slow bullshit or waiting
Justin says:
Why aren't there any other films like that
Justin says:
Except El Topo
Justin says:
El Topo is like that
Justin says:
I feel like El Topo and l'Age d'Or are made by mystics in touch with God and most movies are made by like little kids with comic books or something
Swifty says:
Matthew Barney?
Justin says:
It doesn't feel real on the basis of Drawing Restraint 9
Justin says:
I don't know about the other ones
Justin says:
It doesn't have enough humor
Justin says:
l'age d'Or and El Topo are really funny
Swifty says:
David Lynch > Matthew Barney
Justin says:
It you speed up l'age d'Or, I can't remember who said this, but it turns into Monty Python
Swifty says:
Really? Hm
Justin says:
That is actually a remarkable observation
Swifty says:
Yeah.
Justin says:
I really only like movies that are like dreams or mystical experiences.
Swifty says:
Girl Disconnected. Heh.
Justin says:
I don't understand the conventions of realist cinema
Justin says:
My favorite movies are like l'age d'Or, The Seventh Seal, El Topo, um, Evil Dead maybe
Justin says:
Everything else is pretty meaningless to me
Swifty says:
Wong Kar Wai? Shunji Iwai?
Justin says:
Yeah that stuff is good
Justin says:
I forgot them
Justin says:
I feel like Wong Kar Wai's movies are like that too though, sort of like dreams
Swifty says:
Yeah
Justin says:
Shunji is kind of similar
Swifty says:
somewhat meditative
Justin says:
I forgot to say Chungking Express
Justin says:
That is my other favorite movie, up there
Justin says:
Or anything that has an awesome scene with music
Justin says:
Do music videos count
Swifty says:
City of God?
Justin says:
The video for 'Traveling' by Hikaru Utada is better than most movies
Swifty says:
Yeah. Too bad Casshern wasn't that good.
Justin says:
Alphaville is good too
Justin says:
Logan's Run
Swifty says:
Director (Mr Utada Hikaru) is more a visual guy than a storyteller
Justin says:
That is also a great movie
Justin says:
Logan's Run may be up there with the great movies
Swifty says:
The Island is kinda like Logan's Run
Justin says:
Except not good
Swifty says:
but with Scarlett
Justin says:
Jason and the Argonauts
Justin says:
That is also a great movie
Justin says:
I am going to compile all these into a list
Justin says:
Jason and the Argonauts is an incredible movie
Swifty says:
Neverending Story *sob*
Justin says:
I watched it like 1000 times when I was between the ages of like 6 and 13
Justin says:
Jason and the Argonauts I mean
Swifty says:
Yeah
Justin says:
Neverending Story is pretty great
Swifty says:
Drawing Restraint 9 lack the sense of wonder the aforementioned films would bring
Swifty says:
maybe it isn't trying to.
Swifty says:
But that's why it's impossible for me to even appreciate it objectively as a work of art.
Justin says:
The reason the movie sucks
Swifty says:
Due to its technical shortcomings. Bad lighting, bad framing
Swifty says:
really shoddy filmmaking.
Justin says:
Is because they mentioned mono no aware
Justin says:
As an aesthetic concept
Justin says:
Anything mentioning mono no aware is always made by white people and usually sucks
Justin says:
No one in Japan really knows or cares about mono no aware
Justin says:
Mentioning mono no aware in anything is like putting Fu Manchu or Egg-Fu in your movie except more highbrow

Egg-Fu


Swifty says:
Yeah, white people once again attemping to exoticize some bullshit Asian concept
Justin says:
The meaning for that phrase has also changed over time, it doesn't mean what it is always reported as meaning in movies and books
Swifty says:
Is this the end?
Justin says:
Um
Justin says:
Yes
Justin says:
l'age d'Or
Justin says:
l'age d'Or l'age d'Or
Justin says:
Okay it's the end


Drawing Restraint 9 trailer


Matthew Barney talks about Drawing Restraint 9... maybe.


Related Entries:
girish: Drawing Restraint 9
Girish likes it. Most of the commentators like it. And because of that, they make me feel... uncultured and intellectually inept.

Greencine Daily: Drawing Restraint 9
List of Drawing Restraint 9 reviews. Some negative and befuddled, thus reassuring me that I'm not crazy.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Swifty Reviews 'Silk Shoes 비단구두'

Poster of Silk Shoes


Silk Shoes (비단구두), a 2006 Korean film directed by Yeo Kyun-Dong (a Korean who shares my surname? Incredible!) is about an elaborate hoax staged by a film director on a gangster's aging father to make the latter believe that he was returning to his home in North Korea.

The movie began with director Park Man-Soo (Choi Duk-Moon), who had a huge debt to pay the gangsters after his last film had bombed badly in the box-office, he was to be released from his debts if the director could help the gang boss fulfill his (the gang boss's) father's dream of returning to North Korea. Of course, to really return to North Korea would involve lots of legal procedures and such (I think), thus Man-Soo has to fake a trip to North Korea by dressing areas of South Korea to make them look like the old man's hometown near Gaema Plateau.

The old man, Old Bae, was afflicted by Alzheimer's (according to Lovehkfilm.com, but dementia according to Koreanfilm.org), entirely delusional (and crazy?), he was incapable of differentiating fact and fiction, often mistaking Man-Soo as his son, or seeing (and talking to) people of his past. Accompanying Man-Soo in this journey were Seong-Chul (Lee Sung-Min), a gangster who was meant to serve as an 'enforcer' to ensure that Man-Soo would finish his job, and sassy actress (Kim Da-Hye). Despite their initial differences, everyone would finally work together for the old man.

Another poster of Silk Shoes Film is more a dramedy, occasionally funny, yet filled with sad undertones of loneliness. I was bored at first, but started getting more and more drawn into it. More subtle and natural than the usual Korean films, one of the film's biggest joys was watching the gradual development of the bond between Man-Soo and Seong-Chul, which was very understated but realistic.

I would've said that this is a really good film, much different from the more commercial, superstar vehicles Korea has been churning out lately, yet because this is not a mainstream film, it had a surprisingly confusing ending that totally threw me off, somehow diminishing my enjoyment of the film. Its ambiguity made it open for interpretation (or maybe the film would've been easier to understand if I weren't following the Chinese subtitles), and reinforcing the film's theme of being more about the journey than the destination. In fact, I myself employed the same sort of ending for my own short film, Girl Disconnected, yet I was just too unprepared to accept the unconventional ending. Not great, not bad, just a little film that might linger.


Trailer of Silk Shoes


Related Entries:

Twitch: Silk Shoes involved in wage payment delay scandal
Shame.

Lovehkfilm: Silk Shoes Review
They like it.

Koreanfilms.org: Silk Shoes Review
Darcy Paquet goes even more in-depth with his review, exposing how superficial and untrained I am.

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Swifty Reviews 'Flag of Our Fathers'

Poster of Flags of Our Fathers


Prior to watching a film based on historical events, I would actually read up about the event, not because I'm the type who desperately seeks factual accuracies in such films, just that making comparisons between facts and fiction can be kind of fun. In the case of Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, I went to read about the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima (and the personal history of the six flag-raisers, especially the surviving three) on Wikipedia, which is what this film mainly revolves about. You know, that iconic photo taken by Joe Rosenthal prior to the battle at Iwo Jima.

the flag raising in Iwo Jima


The six men depicted in the picture were Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, Michael Strank, John Bradley, Rene Gagnon, and Ira Hayes. (played in this film, respectively, by Joseph Cross, Benjamin Walker, Barry Pepper, Ryan Phillipe, Jesse Bradford and Adam Beach) Only the latter three survived the battle, and were hailed as heroes when they returned to US for a tour to raise war bonds.

The film is not in chronological order, Clint Eastwood decided to pull an Innaritu (or Nolan?) by having numerous different plot strands from different timelines going on at once, there's one about author James Bradley, son of John Bradley, interviewing war veterans as he writes the book 'Flags of Our Fathers' (which this film is based on), then there's the bond tour where the three, John Bradley, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, gradually felt manipulated and exploited in their attempts to raise war bonds, and then, there's the battle of Iwo Jima itself, oh, and there are some flashbacks within flashbacks where John Bradley faced the traumatic episode of witnessing the death of his best friend, Ralph 'Iggy' Ignatowski, who was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers during the battle, and was later found with his eyes, ears, and fingernails removed, his teeth smashed, the back of his head caved in, multiple bayonet wounds to the abdomen, and his severed genitalia stuffed into his mouth.

Even an attentive viewer like me started getting a little confused within the first fifteen minutes of the film, quietly wondering whether one particular scene had happened before another, and ultimately feeling somewhat annoyed. My attention wavered, my initially confusion prevented me from being drawn into the film until I was in the middle part of it, where Clint Eastwood stopped focusing more in Innaritu-ing and did his usual quietly intense Eastwood drama with manly men weeping (the war bond tour where poor Ira Hayes became a victim of racism and got more into his alcoholic problems).

Ryan Philippe as James Bradley in Flag of our FathersThe problem I have with this film is the fact that Flags of Our Fathers tried too hard to be too many things at once. A war film? An anti-war film? A film where heroes were demythologized to reveal the ugliness within? The true machinations involved behind the bond tour where much manipulation, exploitation were involved? Focusing in one would've made this a more effective film, trying to be so many at once made this film highly unbalanced, compromising the characterization in favour of impressive battle setpieces made the bond tour less emotionally dramatic than it had been, having the (admittedly nicely filmed) battle scenes as nothing more than ornaments placed between the touring sequences made them feel merely like filler and nothing more. This film could have either been about the Battle at Iwo Jima (something like Saving Private Ryan, unless Clint Eastwood wants to be more poetic, then it can go for The Thin Red Line as a model) or the aftermath, solely the bond tour where it can be a thought-provoking character drama where emphasis is placed upon the pain of the characters who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, survivors' guilt etc. Both can be equally compelling individually, but cramming everything into one film weakens it.

Looking at Clint Eastwood's previous two fares, 2004's Million Dollar Baby, as good as it was (and tragically angsty), was overrated, and was undeserving of its Oscar (but then, I was rooting for Sideways that year), and 2003's Mystic River (which may be a superior film, to me), was a small film that worked well because of its characters. Clint Eastwood likes making angsty films, but these angsty films can only work well if we get to know the characters enough, the three main characters of Flags of Our Fathers felt too enigmatic, too much like cyphers, for me to really care for them. (although I will not criticize the acting, since I don't see how much the actors can do in a film as uneven as this)

The characters were just too two-dimensional. Jesse Bradford's Rene Gagnon was like an opportunistic asshole who enjoyed his sudden fame, there was nothing symphathetic about him, and I have a feeling Gagnon's real family and friends may not like his portrayal here. Adam Beach's Ira Hayes was already a temperamental fellow who drew his knife at anyone from the beginning, so his slow descent to alcoholism and becoming a victim of racism didn't feel as poignant as it could've been. Phillipe's John Bradley was the most even-headed and calmest of them all, the character audiences might most easily identify with, but he spent the majority of the film looking angsty and then flashbacking to his angsty past too much that he became just a mystery too. These were all real-life figures, I would've expected them to be more complex than what I saw onscreen.

And so yeah, this film has its moments, but because of its many flaws, I don't really think I can recommend it to many.

On the other hand, I think I may have been the youngest in the cinema when I was watching the film. The film didn't make me feel depressed, but losing my wallet after seeing it did.


Flags of Our Fathers trailer


Clint Eastwood interview on Flags of Our Fathers


Other Reviews:

Blogcritics.org: Flags of Our Fathers
Janet Planet likes it, though she feels that Ryan Phillipe's miscast, and the film can still work with 25 mins trimmed off.

Blogcritics.org: Flags of Our Fathers
Neil Miller also thinks that the film's downfall is its muddled storytelling.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Swifty Reviews The Live-Action Prince of Tennis Movie

Poster of The Prince of Tennis live-action film


Prince of Tennis is a faithful adaptation of the popular manga and anime series. When I said faithful, I meant to say that characters perform superhero feats in tennis games, levitating thirty feet into the sky to return a serve, causing stormy clouds to gather above the stadium (darkening the skies, covering the sun) when one decides to concentrate, performing mid-air acrobatics, unleashing devastating serves that could engulf a tennis ball with flames, or creating some kind of vortex or force field which causes the ball to fly towards his direction no matter where the opponent was aiming.

Yuu Shirota as Tezuka in Prince of TennisIt's like Shaolin Soccer, but with tennis, and a cast of young Japanese actors who resemble their anime counterparts, a definite fanservice for the female audiences. I remember the days when I was subjected to episodes of Prince of Tennis at the uni's Anime Club (Justin and I were not-too-proud members of the club) weekly screening two years ago, and the hardcore female anime fans around us would scream, gasp, sigh at the sight of those studlicious manly characters of the anime, and shriek even louder when the gay undertones (or overtones?) become even more apparent (... like one character resting his hand on another character's shoulder, or one character staring intensely at another character which can also be interpreted as looks of lust). Hardcore anime fans do have the special abilities of making even affect the most confident of men like me when they make you realize that no matter how desirable and deliciously hawt you know you are, you can't really compare with the impossible beauty of anime male characters that they so desire. Bah.

Anyway, this film is sure to make female viewers happy, although I did enjoy the over-the-top, entertaining tennis matches, kinetic Asian cinema at their most, er, kinetic.

The minimal plot is lifted directly from Wikipedia because I am lazy.

Twelve year old Ryoma Echizen (Kanata Hongo) is the tennis prodigy from America who has the personal history of winning 4 successive victories at the American Junior Tennis tournaments. His father, Nanjiroh Echizen, a tennis player of legendary status, recalls Ryoma back to Japan to attend the distinguished school of Seishun Academy Middle School. Ryoma, a first year, has his eyes set on being on the regulars team of the tennis club, which the school is famous for.

The members of the Seigaku regulars team include Kunimitsu Tezuka (Yuu Shirota), the captain of the tennis club, whose ranking is that on the National's level. The vice-captain, Syuichirou Oishi (Hiroki Suzuki), who has a calm and rational sense of playing sense, compliments the acrobatic plays of his double's partner, Eiji Kikumaru (Osamu Adachi); making them the Golden Pair. Third year, Shusuke Fuji (Hiroki Aiba), a formidable player, is known for his tactical skill on the tennis courts. Then there's Sadaharu Inui (Hirofumi Araki), whose tennis style relies on what he calls, "data tennis" and Takashi Kawamura (Yoshikazu Kotani) whose personality instantly changes when he grabs his tennis racket. While second years Takeshi Momoshiro (Masaki Kaji), known for his power plays and Kaoru Kaido (Kousuke Kujirai), whose perseverance is daunting, round off the Seigaku regulars team.

Ryoma arrives in time for the monthly campus ranking tournament, but at first, due to his young age and his cool attitude, some club members do not take him seriously; however, during the ranking tournament, Ryoma is quick to prove his skill and become the only first year on the regulars team, just in time for the regional preliminary rounds.

Then, there's the lone girl who watches Ryoma from the audience. Her name is Shioin Higaki (Sayuri Iwata), whose parents had died in accident. She is mute due to traumatic shock of her past. She first meets Ryoma when he helps her on the train from loud group of High School boys.

While in a crucial match against Fudomine Middle School during the regionals, Ryoma injures his eye by accident, but his determination to finish the match helps bring victory to Seigaku as they can advance to the Kanto conference as regional champions.


The actress who plays Shioin Higaki, Sayuri Iwata is a cutie...

Sayuri Iwata plays Shioin Higaki in the Prince of Tennis movie


And I would've shifted the focus of this review onto her, until I found out via Wikipedia that she's even younger than my little sister. Therefore, instead of trying to pull a Craig, I shall remain silent.

Film is recommended to those who are into watching sweaty Japanese pretty boys playing CGI-heavy tennis. Though regular Western viewers might lose their sanity watching this.


Prince of Tennis trailer


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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Castle of Cagliostro

Lupin and Jigen in The Castle of Cagliostro


Justin: I've pretty much given up on anime; the combination of no time to invest in long series combined with the loss of the initial luster at having seen all the really necessary stuff means it's hard for me to get excited by it anymore. Throw in the tendency for new series to be incredibly derivative and it's not surprising I haven't watched anything in months.

The solution? Go back in time...

Hayao Miyazaki's The Castle of Cagliostro, his 1979 addition to the Lupin III franchise, is one of the best animated films I've ever seen. That's a kind of doublesided statement, in that the film is both a great movie, and a great example of animation. More recent animated films feel overproduced and seamless, but The Castle of Cagliostro was obviously conceived and drawn by human beings, and the loving attention to detail shows through.

Even at this stage Miyazaki's direction is superb. He knows when to do fast cutting, which angles to use, and when to just pull back and not do anything and let you take in the beauty of the landscapes and settings (a technique sadly neglected by most modern animation). I have to say I like this film more than Princess Mononoke (admittedly stunning animation and story but occasionally ponderous), Spirited Away (same), or the earlier ones (even Totoro). This film feels like a direction Miyazaki could have gone in but never really did, and it's a shame. The complete absence of shitty computer generated anything also makes it so much more awesome. (sorry, ALL 3D animated movies pretty much suck, shit is acceptable as FMV in a video game but can't touch hand-drawn animation for an actual movie)

The castle and countryside scenery in Cagliostro is astonishingly beautiful. If you've ever played a Castlevania game at any point in the series, you'll suddenly realize where they got all their design ideas from, what with all kinds of cupolas and buttresses and arches (I don't actually know what these terms mean, I just know they describe architectural shit of this sort), connecting corridors and moss-crusted castles sunken in moats. The characters are given the freedom to just explore their surroundings and the depth of the environment without an over-clocked plot-pace forcing them to move (this doesn't mean, though, that the plot isn't complex and insane; there's tons of action pretty much from the first frame).

DVD cover of Castle of CagliostroAn interesting thing to note is that much of the action in this film is physically impossible. There's an early car-chase scene where Lupin and his friend Jigen's car gets in the lead by scaling a near vertical wall, cutting through a forest, and then sliding down the same wall to overtake. Can't be done, but looks great. There's another amazing sequence where Lupin and Jigen are breaking into the castle through an aqueduct, which eventually empties into a long pit. Lupin gets caught in the current and sucked through, noticing only too late where the water winds up. But he swims against the current even as it moves out of the aqueduct and down the pit. You seem him suspended at the very bottom of the flow, swimming upwards with all his might and held in place. Again, physically impossible, but the animation's sheer confidence and energy makes you believe it. Later on while investigating the castle, Lupin climbs a sheer wall before running back down the other (near-90 degree) slope and making a fantastic, balletic leap across a chasm to the other side of the tower. There's a great kind of incidental wonder to these scenes that's almost superfluous but somehow magical; it's not the complete over-the-top unreality of a Warner Bros. cartoon, but neither is it wholly realistic. Difficult to explain, but incredibly distinctive.

As for the story, if you remade this as a live action movie now it would probably make like ten billion dollars at the box office, if you just literally re-filmed every scene in this movie live-action. It's similar to a film like Ocean's Eleven in terms of invention. Lupin is unbelievably badass, and the existence of the samurai character Goemon seems completely 'what the fuck?' inexplicable, which only makes it so much greater. Everyone else in the movie is obviously in the modern day, but this guy shows up at random points in full traditional getup and kicks ass with a katana. I don't think this guy even gets any lines of dialogue through the whole movie. He's proof that every movie, regardless of genre, is made better if you toss in random ass-kicking samurai. In fact this guy is like the exact same character as Motoko Aoyama from Love Hina except male. You can see how this movie influenced everyone down the line; similarly Lupin's friend Jigen essentially IS Jet from Cowboy Bebop. As for the princess Clarisse, well, I've always thought that Miyazaki had fairly inconsistent female character development; although his movies often feature ostensibly 'strong' female heroines, we're still talking 'strong in the eyes of a Japanese man born in the first half of the twentieth century'...feminists, take note. Let me put it this way: according to Wikipedia, the concept of moe was invented because of this character. That's all you really need to know. But her relationship with Lupin is relatively understated. An incredible and under-mentioned film, totally undated.





Swifty: A realization came to me suddenly that I have never really given Hayao Miyazaki the credit he deserves. I mean, yeah, I love the Studio Ghibli films, I grew up watching them (Laputa: Castle In The Sky being my first), every single new Ghibli film directed by Miyazaki excites me just as much as any Ghibli fan. I even truly believe that one is not an anime fan unless he or she has seen a single Miyazaki film.

But when I am asked about films that change my lives, or filmmakers who have influence me, I tend to forget about Miyazaki. I just viewed anime as an entity (or medium) completely separated from film, and I guess maybe it has more to do with my declining interest in anime during the past two years (my reasons are similar to Justin's, and also I was freaked out by hardcore anime otakus who appear at anime screenings in costumes, my normalness made me feel like a freak among them)

I tend to disregard Miyazaki's pre-Ghibli works (films he did that came before Nausicaa), because I wasn't entirely impressed with stuff like Panda! Go Panda!, Hols: Prince of the Sun and Future Boy Conan, although to be fair, he was just the animator for Panda and Hols, and I've watched only the first few episodes of Future Boy Conan before losing interest (my little sister was more into it then, I think I was turned off by the Mandarin dub).

And because of my prejudice, I was never exactly motivated to watch Lupin 3: The Castle of Cagliostro despite it being considered an anime film classic. Until Justin handed me the DVD he borrowed from the uni library yesterday. Justin has already mentioned everything that's great about the film, so I'll just add my few cents.

In terms of his Ghibli films, Laputa (my definite favourite) is the most similar to The Castle of Cagliostro for the tone, the manic energy, the infectious joy and the likable cast of characters who share an amazing chemistry, to the point which I feel as if they are real people who have known each other for a long time (something I didn't really feel with the somewhat disappointing but still good Howl's Moving Castle, Miyazaki's latest fare).

The film felt like a rebuke. To be an elitist and to merely discount the works of Miyazaki as mere 'anime' and not actual 'filmic masterpieces' is a stupid thing to do, even with a film as early as The Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki already reminds me that for his films, there is no line between anime and films. He's not just a great animator, or a director of animated films, he's a great master filmmaker. That's it. Period. Every time someone asks who my major filmmaking influences are these days, I would normally go for the 'typical film student' answer by naming Wong Kar Wai, Darren Aronofsky, Shunji Iwai, Frederico Fellini, Stanley Kubrick and the likes, and even another more recent anime filmmaker Makoto Shinkai (because he's, to me, truly an auteur) but why, oh why, have I never mentioned Hayao Miyazaki? I am ashamed.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Swifty's Production Diary: Shooting of Girl Disconnected Wrapped!

Updated: Alynna pointed out to me that it's November, not October. This shows HOW cut off from the outside world I've been in the past weeks.

Shooting of Girl Disconnected wrapped on the 12th of October November, 2006, two nights ago, and I pulled an all-nighter to piece the entire film together. Things are looking well, I'm doing sound recording and everything to finish this up, submission is on 16th of October November, Thursday. A day before my mom's birthday (and the world premiere of the latest Bond flick, Casino Royale)

I generally edit the footages not long after a shoot, for the sake of lessening my post-production work, but because of this, I am incapable of doing my shoots in consecutive days (two back-to-back days is fine, but anything more will kill me... but then, since we've been a 3-men crew, it's a miracle that I'm still alive). Anyway, I'm excited that everything's going to be finished soon. For the time being, I'll share with some of you more screenshots of my film. (these scenes, from the last few shoots, definitely display Brian the Cinematographer's mastery with lighting)

There were lots of frustration involved in this production. Desperation leading to creativity. People bailing out and not honouring their verbal promises. A supposed big production where costume design and special effects teams were expected turned into yet another indie guerilla filmmaking endeavour with the support of volunteers and friends. I look at other groups and marvel at the amount of money they pour into their films, some nearly a thousand, some nearly two thousand, with a major crew and the help of outside professionals. They raise the stakes, and they are good motivation to ensure that despite the limitations we face, Girl Disconnected can still remain a work of quality (otherwise, it'll suck if this film does not accompany my previous film, Vertical Distance, to compete at the end year Murdoch University Film Festival). But I would never have achieved this if I hadn't had a great cast and crew that helped me realize this dream project (well, contrary to most dream projects, this one was just something that I had been working on for a few months, I rarely have anything that I spend years working on, having a short attention span and all)

Anyway, enough with that. Will go back to editing after finishing this entry.

I'll give everyone a proper shoutout when everything's really done.



Production Photo 21 - Wiler Navigating Through The Corridors of the Moon

Production Photo 22 - Maya Offers Wiler A Mooncake

Production Photo 23 - Maya Smiles

Production Photo 24 - Moon Goddess Chang-er's Guard

Production Photo 25 - Maya And Wiler Exchanged Worried Looks



Monday, November 13, 2006

Swifty Reviews 'The Queen'

helen mirren as queen elizabeth II in the queenWas originally working on this review back on the 8th of November, but was buried by work, and lost my wallet, so no chance to update my blog.

After all the positive reviews I've been reading about The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears, and the major Oscar buzz Helen Mirren's been getting for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, oh, and my friend Sebastian's claim that his eyes welled up in tears as he was watching the movie (not because he was moved, mind you, just tears of joy for seeing a damned great film), my interest for this film escalated (though I was already intrigued by the premise of the film when I first saw its trailer couple of months back).

Have I ever spoken about my personal interest of the British Royal Family? Especially those of the early 20th century, a generation before Queen Elizabeth 2, we have the Abdication of King Edward VIII (for a commoner woman he loved, Wallis Simpson, how romantic and dramatic! ... of course, there were more than that, with her having Nazi connections and all, but that's a tale you should go read on Wikipedia, not here) King George VI (father of Elizabeth II) taking over reluctantly and then with World War 2 taking a toll on his health, indirectly causing him to die at the age of 56 (similar to how King George V's health was affected by World War 1). I'm even kinda intrigued by Prince George, Duke of Kent (younger brother of King George VI), who died in a mysterious plane accident and had a colourful personal life (long string of affairs with both men and women before his marriage... good-looking guy, he), or the youngest Prince John, who died from epilepsy when he was only 14, and since then, no members of the royal family will ever be named John because it's bad luck.

michael sheen as tony blair in the queenAnyway, I'm not going to bore everyone to death, on with the film, The Queen is a fictionalized account of what happened to Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family in that one week after Princess Diana's death. Their decision to mourn this privately drew heavy flak from the public, who felt that the Royal Family were being emotionless and cold, while Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), riding a wave of popularity months after being elected as Prime Minister, had to clash with the Queen and the Family, modernism versus tradition, desire versus duty, that kind of thing.

It's compelling stuff, and funny too when you see the day-to-day lives of the members of the Royal Family, who seemed so unbelievably cut away from the public, the idea of Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother watching TV, or Queen Elizabeth driving a car (she was a mechanic back in WW2, thus supposedly very technically efficient with car engines and stuff), Prince Charles angsting about Princess Diana and then attempting to gain Tony Blair's favour in dealing with his own family. Are these all real? I almost wished they were.

The film is generally praised for humanizing the Royal Family (well, most of all Queen Elizabeth herself), making them sympathetic and their actions during Princess Diana's death almost justifiable, and yes, I think it's a quality film, and thus far I think Helen Mirren is the clear frontrunner for the Oscars. Her performance in the film is absolutely superb (because I ended up really believing that I was watching Queen Elizabeth on screen... whoa). But Justin, who felt that this film was pretty much propaganda (though he does not deny the quality of the film), did come up with an interesting question.

What would happen if there's a film called 'The President' and it's about humanizing and making George W. Bush sympathetic, revolving around the few days that led to him declaring war upon Iraq, and then the pain he had to suffer when people didn't believe about WMD even if they were REAL, or his desperation to prove that hitting Iraq is the only way, yet an unpopular one blah blah. The people he had sworn to lead turning against him and stuff like that. Wonder how will a film like that be received (... well, the closest thing we might have to that is Dennis Quaid in American Dreamz).

Scary.

Anyway, my personal memories of Princess Diana's death isn't that vague, I was 14, was in Singapore with dad, remembered seeing news of the accident in the morning, then went off to watch Hercules in the cinema, then coming back and finding out she had died. Was pretty shocked then.


Trailer of The Queen


Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Short Fiction of Yukio Mishima



Mishima is a writer associated with scale and grand gestures. Apart from his colorful life and the obviously theatrical nature of his public suicide, his novels are full of, to put it bluntly, action - in a 'literary fiction' genre often filled with tepid introspection and obsessive minimalism, that Mishima's books are full of swordfighting, arson, suicide, and desperate tragedy is definitely part of his appeal. Although his writing is capable of great subtlety, restraint, and delicate beauty, these qualities usually form one half of a chiaroscuric contrast, shadowing the dense psychological monologues and eruptions of violence.

So, the very concept of a Mishima short story might seem like a misnomer. Forced to work on a vastly reduced canvas, questions arise like: will his restrained side dominate completely; will he conform to the Chekhovian story-template and produce quiet, highlighted moments and inconclusive endings? Or will he attempt to jam all the violence and horror, beauty and pathos of his novels into compact story-bursts, producing short pieces of constrained intensity? Judging from the two collections Acts of Worship and Death in Midsummer and Other Stories, the answer is something like "both, and neither."

Compiled from all over Mishima's career and with various translators, these collections are intended to give an overview of what Mishima was capable of. The problem is that, while there are some great pieces, neither collection quite feels right. Mishima can pull off the controlled intensity I mentioned, but he undeniably works better in larger formats: the best stories in both these collections are roughly novella-length, and the shorter a piece is, the more likely it is to be a trifle or bit of amusing artifice. You can also forgive him more in a novel - if his style sometimes slips, if the characters don't always connect, if his authorial presence gets a bit much, it's no big deal because there's sure to be tons of great material just a few pages on. But short stories are less forgiving: in a smaller space, flaws become more apparent.

Acts of Worship starts off strong, with the opening to 'Fountains in the Rain.' Here's the first paragraph:

The boy was tired of walking in the rain dragging the girl, heavy as a sandbag and weeping continually, around with him. A short while ago, in a tea shop in the Marunouchi Building, he had told her he was leaving her.
The first time in his life that he'd broken with a woman!
It was something he had long dreamed of; it had at last become a reality. It was for this alone that he had loved her, or pretended to love her; for this alone he had assiduously undermined her defenses; for this alone he'd furiously sought the chance to sleep with her, slept with her - till lo, the preparations were complete and it only remained to pronounce the phrase he had longed to pronounce just once with his own lips, with due authority, like the edict of a king:
"It's time to break it off!"
Those words, the mere enunciation of which would be enough to rend the sky asunder...those words that he had cherished so passionately even while half-resigned to the impossibility of the fact...that phrase, more heroic, more glorious than any other in the world, which would fly in a straight line through the heavens like an arrow released from its bow...that spell which only the most human of humans, the most manly of men, might utter...in short:
"It's time to break it off!"


This is great writing, pathetic and accurate in its teenage grandiosity. Unfortunately, the rest of the story, with its overplayed fountain symbolism and a faintly unbelievable ending revelation of a character's true feelings, doesn't really live up to the first paragraph. 'Raisin Bread', the next story, is probably worse: the characters are Japanese beatniks, or something, complete with English names and stylish ennui. But 'Raisin Bread' feels strangely unlike Mishima: there's little of his characteristic florid writing or themes, and the characters - although given existential crises and a sense of emptiness that was probably fashionable at the time - feel like strangers, not anyone he really cares about. Toss in a total absence of plot and some inexplicable quotations, and the story makes you think "What the hell?"

'Sword', dealing with a college kendo club and the betrayals and conflicts circling around its captain, a paragon of virtue, is described in the introduction by John Bester as "with its muscles, its sweat, and its amber flesh, might seem at a casual glance to be the most self-indulgent of all the stories here. In fact, it is the reverse, and a close study only increases one's respect for Mishima's powers of detached observation." But Bester is wrong, the story is self-indulgent - not that that's necessarily a demerit, although the flaws he tries to disclaim are present in force. Even though it'd be simplistic to identify protagonist Jiro Kokubu as "someone Mishima would have liked to fuck", his character is a near total embodiment of the kind of youthful male purity Mishima became increasingly obsessed with - descriptions of him like "Approaching ultimate perfection, bound fast by glory and honor, knowing that his prowess had become next to second nature, he nevertheless gave the impression of being sunk in a kind of torpor" reveal a fixation on this character type which the story's plot barely justifies. The scene in which Jiro is splashed by the blood of a dying bird only to have it wiped off his cheek by a lily feels unbelievably contrived, and when, immediately after, Mishima goes out of the way to comment in the narration on Jiro 'avoiding the traps of poetry', the suspension of disbelief is completely destroyed. To be fair, the hanger-on characters are well-described, but anyone who's read much Mishima will see the ending coming almost from the start: there's clearly no other option for Jiro but to die in order to preserve his purity. Although the exact nature of his death isn't made clear, it somehow doesn't seem as moving as it was intended to be, perhaps because of that element of predictability. The story, though, makes sense in the larger context of Mishima's writings and personal mythology. Jiro is a clear precursor to Isao in Runaway Horses, virtually the same character in fact - even his conflict of subconscious preoccupation with his father is carried over in the later novel. The difference is that, given a full-length novel to work with, Mishima is able to explore Isao's contradictions and flaws in greater detail, rounding him into a three-dimensional character. In contrast, 'Sword' just feels like a demo or dry run.

The remaining stories are a mixed bag: 'Sea and Sunset' is a lovely vignette, set in medieval times with a sympathetically portrayed Western protagonist, an old French man who took part in the Children's Crusade as a boy and, through complicated circumstances, wound up in Japan. This story's simplicity works in its favor, giving it a real atmosphere of beauty and loss. 'Cigarette', one of the first stories that brought Mishima attention from the literary world, deals with a youthful realization of homosexuality, similar in a sense to the novel Confessions of a Mask. The story is certainly quite good for a very young writer, but it'd be a stretch to call it very good or even great - it and stories from the same period would certainly have been forgotten if not for Mishima's later writing. This is true of the next story, 'Martyrdom', also set in school. In it, an alpha male type and a sickly, effeminate boy become locked in conflict, eventually becoming lovers, with their relationship ending in (of course) death. Even given familiarity with Mishima's character and the entire range of his writings, though, the story still feels hermetic, impenetrable. With the ending, Mishima seemingly pulls the rug out from under the surface reality of the story, but the gesture feels pointless, a cheap way to get out of a story without much real plot. The element of contrivance here is quite strong.

The final, eponymous story 'Act of Worship' is novella-length. The primary characters are an aging professor of literature, deeply immersed in classical Japanese poetry, and Tsuneko, his middle-aged housekeeper. Both characters are old, ugly, and pitiable in their own ways, but the key fact is...Mishima has sympathy for them! Even in his masterpiece, The Sea of Fertility, characters like these would probably have been objects of contempt or disgust, but here both of them come away with great dignity, their relationship and depth of understanding portrayed subtly. The plot, in which both characters take a trip to rural Japan so the Professor can fulfill his obligation to a woman from his past, reveals the ways in which he and Tsuneko are linked. It can't quite be called a romantic relationship, or strictly one of master and disciple, but contains elements of both. The ending is complex but believable. In fact, 'Act of Worship' is so much better than everything else here that it makes the entire collection seem a little bereft. This novella simply towers over the other stories, feeling throughout like the work of a completely different, vastly more mature writer. The central characters are both distinct, believable, complex individuals, and Mishima's refusal to caricature or condescend to them makes the story genuinely moving in a way something like 'Sword' falls short of. The story is also immediately accessible: no knowledge of Mishima or familiarity with his work is necessary to appreciate it, something that can't really be said for much of the rest of the collection. 'Act of Worship' would demolish most contemporary fiction if published today; its sensitivity of description confirms Mishima's greatness, making it the one story here worthy of true comparison with his novels.

Death in Midsummer is overall a more consistent collection in terms of quality. There's still a lot of filler, but the prose is stronger, more confident, and the stories seem closer to Mishima's heart. Still, it's mixed, with the average stories outnumbering the great ones by maybe 60/40. The title story opens at a beach resort, where a woman, Tomoko, and her sister are vacationing with Tomoko's three children. Before long tragedy hits: the sister has a heart attack on the beach, and two of the children drown. Here's some description of their corpses:

The two bodies were found the next day. The constabulary, driving all up and down the beach, finally found them under the headland. Sea bugs had nibbled at them, and there were two or three bugs up each little nostril.

This is the kind of detail Mishima is famous for, and the gross excessiveness of the tragedy seems characteristic as well. Most writers would be content with a single death as a spur for the story, but here we get a dead sister and two drowned children right off the bat, with the whole thing somehow seeming more believable than it would have with a more conventional setup. The rest of the plot follows Tomoko and her husband as they adjust to the tragedy and eventually conceive another child, finally returning to the beach for some kind of....closure or reconciliation or some shit...I don't know, is it even important? The story ends with the ultimate cliche of someone staring out to sea and pondering deeply. The whole thing is tastefully written and the emotions feel real, but on finishing it, you still think 'why?'. It's a measure of the quality of Mishima's best writing that while a story like this would have been a highlight for most writers, here at thirty pages it feels like a slight disappointment. The same can be said of 'Three Million Yen', in which a parsimonious couple spend a day at an amusement park before sexually performing before a group of old women for money. The characteristic Mishima theme of the superiority of young beauty and morality to old age and ugliness comes up, but little in the descriptions compels, and the spendthrift young couple seem about as equally irritating as the old voyeurs.

'Thermos Bottles' is another example of Mishima working against his own strengths. A Japanese businessman in San Francisco meets an acquaintance and old love, a former geisha now employed full-time by a patron and travelling with her young daughter. The geisha has been remade into a Western woman, but traces of her past remain, and the two spend a night together before the businessman returns to Japan. Sounds easy enough, right? Yeah, but look at the title. I forgot to mention that both the businessman and the geisha's children are deathly afraid of thermos bottles, leading to scenes like the following, hilariously unforgivable even as a bad translation:

Emboldened by sake, Komiya was being somewhat forward. Kawase glanced at him. He was a very intelligent young man, one of the best in Kawase's section, and he had a distinctive face, thick eyebrows that came faintly together over the bridge of the nose. Catching the man's eye, Kawase felt something stab at the icy lump in his head: He knows. He knows the boy's afraid of thermos bottles.

Whaaat? What the hell kind of paragraph/symbolism is that?! The husband/wife tension is nicely sketched, but the unusual and faintly ridiculous theme of children afraid of thermos bottles deflates the moving and tasteful (but conventional) geisha romance and makes you think "what the hell?" again. The closing line, in which the husband contracts his children's fear of thermos bottles, is supposed to come across as poignant or ominous somehow, but only made me crack up. Just like in 'Death and Midsummer', no matter how hard he tries, Mishima can't conceal how fucked-up his imagination is, and the more he tries to characterize 'normal' human emotions and situations, the more the strange details and obsessions creep in at the edges of the stories. Radiguet (a heavy influence on Mishima, incidentally) wrote that 'originality is trying to be like everyone else and failing', but here the failures in some of the stories feel almost like self-sabotage. Anyone can write a story about losing a child or meeting an old flame, but only Mishima could write something like the descriptions of evisceration in 'Patriotism' or the movements and gestures of the kabuki actors in 'Onnagata' (also in this collection). The difference between stories that could have been written by someone else and stories that could only have been Mishima's is what makes up the disparity of writing quality in this collection. It's interesting to note that most of the weaker stories in Acts of Worship are too impenetrable for anyone unfamiliar with Mishima, while the weaker ones in Death in Midsummer risk the opposite extreme, i.e. being generic.

Things pick up with 'The Priest of Shiga Temple and His Love' and 'Seven Bridges'. The first, a ye olde Japan story about a devout Buddhist priest falling in love with a concubine, makes both characters seem believable and likable in their shared concerns for this world and the next. Once again, details and digressions come to the fore: the psychedelic descriptions of the Buddhist Pure Land with its silver sands and trees of jewels are possibly more interesting than the actual story. 'Seven Bridges' is about a group of young geisha trying to cross seven bridges to fulfill their prayers for prosperity and love. All are neglectful of a young country girl following them, dismissing her for her manners and physical appearance. But the country girl ends up being the only one able to successfully cross all the bridges; all the others are detained somehow. When one of the geisha asks the girl what she wished for, she refuses to tell, only smiling. The story sounds faintly moralistic when described that way, but it really isn't; and the night-time descriptions of Tokyo contain some great writing. Another well done but slight story.

Then there's 'Patriotism'. Before I say anything more about this story, let me just excerpt the opening:

On the 28th of February, 1936 (on the third day, that is, of the February 26th Incident), Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama of the Konoe Transport Battalion - profoundly disturbed by the knowledge that his closest colleagues had been with the mutineers from the beginning, and indignant at the prospect of Imperial troops attacking Imperial troops - took his officer's sword and ceremonially disemboweled himself in the eight-mat room of his private residence in the sixth block of Aoba-cho, in Yotsuya Ward. His wife, Reiko, followed him, stabbing herself to death. The lieutenant's farewell note consisted of one sentence: "Long live the Imperial forces." His wife's, after apologies for unfilial conduct in thus preceding her parents to the grave, concluded: "The day which, for a soldier's wife, had to come, has come..." The last moments of this heroic and dedicated couple were such as to make the gods themselves weep.

Right away there's no fucking around; the premise is outlined and the story precedes to fill it in. Look at that last line: there's no irony or detachment, Mishima has become painfully (adverb intended in every sense of the word) sincere. 'Patriotism' marks a step up in writing quality, in the level of literary technique. The last day of the lieutenant and his wife is described ritualistically, in great detail, including their final lovemaking and the protracted scenes of evisceration:

The lieutenant was lying on his face in a sea of blood. The point protruding from his neck seemed to have grown even more prominent than before. Reiko walked heedlessly across the blood. Sitting beside the lieutenant's corpse, she stared intently at the face, which lay on one cheek on the mat. The eyes were opened wide, as if the lieutenant's attention had been attracted by something. She raised the head, folding it in her sleeve, wiped the blood from the lips, and bestowed a last kiss.


'Patriotism' is incredibly disturbing and affecting, so much so that it shows up most of the other stories in the collection as mere tatters. Despite ostensibly dealing with the spiritual purity of the love suicide and the nobility of the officer's completion of his duty, the narrative detail is deeply pornographic, lingering over the feel of the lieutenant's intestines in his hands and the details of the wife making up her face perfectly before stabbing herself in the throat. Mishima's unsettling psychosexual impulses drive the story like a powerful engine burning beneath the surface, never totally visible but thoroughly infusing and animating every line. You can understand how young readers - taking the story at face value, ignorant of its more personal meaning for the author - were convinced to join Mishima's private army solely on the basis of reading it. Whether the extreme-nationalist politics or intentions behind the story are 'correct' or not is beside the point, since the technique and literary artifice (and yes, the appearance of 'sincerity' in a work of literature is just another kind of artifice or craft) is impeccable, displaying some of the best prose Mishima ever achieved. The initial paragraph with its gods weeping over the dead couple might inspire laughter at first, but by the time Mishima reaches the detailed scene of evisceration, I doubt many readers will still be smiling ironically. Mishima again uses his characteristic 'no-denouement' ending technique (i.e. finishing sharply on a moment of climax, often violent) to great effect, making you sit up sharply and possibly feel a little ill. I first read this story in a different collection, in a library, coming upon it by chance, and looked up almost in shock at the sudden force of the ending.

After 'Patriotism' almost any story would feel like a comedown, but 'Dojoji', one of Mishima's 'modern Noh plays' (translated by Donald Keene, he of the obsession with classical literature) is one of the better pieces here, nearly holding its own. I was a bit dubious about how good this would be when just read on the page, but the Noh-play format actually heightens the tension, cutting away what could have been extraneous description and allowing for some nicely poetic lines:

Kiyoko: I have become reconciled. [she drops the bottle onto the floor. The Dealer hastens to kick it aside.] It's spring now, isn't it? I've realized it for the first time. The seasons have meant nothing to me for such a long, long time, ever since he disappeared into this wardrobe. [she sniffs the air around her] It's the height of spring. Even in this musty old shop I can smell it - where is it coming from? - a fragrance of spring earth, of plants and trees, of flowers. The cherry blossoms must be in full glory. Clouds of blossoms, and apart from them only the pines. The strong green of the branches amidst the smoky blossoms, the outlines sharp because they've never had any dreams. The birds are singing. [a twittering of birds is heard] A singing of birds passing like sunlight through the thickest walls. Even as we stand here the spring relentlessly presses in on us, with such a multitude of cherry blossoms, a multitude of singing birds. Every branch holds as many as it can and shuts it eyes in rapture under the delicious weight. And the wind - I can smell the fragrance of his living body in this wind. I had forgotten. It was spring!

Again, this could have been cliche, but look at that awesome line about the branches being beautiful because of never having dreamed. That's what I mean by 'poetic lines.' Here (and presumably in his other modern Noh plays) Mishima manages to replace the artificiality of the traditional Japanese dramas with a contemporary setting and characters, while retaining their poetry and emotional heft - nice work, in other words. 'Onnagata' is another great story, dealing with the sealed world of backstage kabuki and the onnagata, a male actor playing female roles. The strange beauty of the onnagata, neither wholly male nor female, invokes Mishima's descriptive powers well, and the story - a kind of love triangle - ends on an ominous note, with no real resolution. In fact, this story could work well as the first chapter of a novel (something reminiscent of Kawabata - one of Mishima's mentors - and his frequent use of such a technique). This is another 'Mishima only' story, i.e. one particularly suited to his interests and talents.

The collection concludes with 'The Pearl' and 'Swaddling Clothes', two shorter, less significant pieces that are still interesting and well-done. The first, about a pearl accidentally swallowed at a birthday party for a certain Mrs. Sasaki and the ensuing machinations, is a nicely sketched story. The convoluted rivalries of the middle-aged women characters are detailed with as much attention as if they were feuds between yakuza or samurai warlords, giving Mishima a chance to play around with his (significant) sense of humor. The last piece, about a woman's concern for an illegitimate child born in her apartment, ends with one of Mishima's 'fuck with the consensus reality' endings, giving it an interesting twist.

Overall, then, Death in Midsummer is quite successful, but can't really hold to the consistency of a Mishima novel.

The Verdict:
Mishima was capable of writing a great short story, but more often than not his forays into the form, as evidenced here, feel underwhelming compared to the wide-screen richness of his novels. They're the sort of stories that'd be great to read in a magazine, but they don't necessarily hold up under close scrutiny or successive reading. Both collections, especially Acts of Worship, feel un-cohesive and ill-assorted, with extremely early works jostling against later-life pieces with much variance in length and prose style. Although this can be put down to translation and editors, it's hard not to think that a single volume of the best stories from both collections, better sequenced, would make a more definitive sampling of Mishima's short fiction. Still, there's enough great material here to recommend both volumes, although the primary audience for this recommendation consists of readers already familiar with Confessions of a Mask, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, The Sea of Fertility, and Mishima's other great works. Those readers will be more likely to find things to enjoy here, not the least because of the number of career-long threads Mishima plays with that show up in the novels as well. Reading these stories, you see him toying with the ideas and concerns that lasted throughout his career, making many of the stories feel like hidden windows into or alternative-universe scenarios for his novels. Despite the best intentions of the editors, though, neither collection can really be called a good introduction to Mishima, since only a few of the stories - 'Patriotism', 'Act of Worship' and 'Onnagata', for example - manage to work up the characteristic intensity and passion found in the novels. So: neglected riches, but for Mishima fans only.





[for more on Mishima and his work, check out my review of The Sea of Fertility]

(UPDATED: 4th of August, 2013)

EDMUND: Mishima directed a short film based on the aforementioned short story PATRIOTISM.


憂国 - Yûkoku - Patriotism - Rite of Love & Death (1966) from Yukio Mishima on Vimeo.

Playwright and novelist Yukio Mishima foreshadowed his own violent suicide with this ravishing short feature, his only foray into filmmaking, yet made with the expressiveness and confidence of a true cinema artist. All prints of Patriotism (Yžkoku), which depicts the seppuku of a army officer, were destroyed after Mishima's death in 1970, though the negative was saved, and the film resurfaced thirty-five years later. New viewers will be stunned at the depth and clarity of Mishima's vision, as well as his graphic depictions of sex and death.


There's another version floating around on Youtube where a guy named Aaron Embry took the time to redo the score for the short film. Watch it if you're curious.

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Short film and video works