flick the switch

August 26, 2007

well it’s been a slow news week around here in blogsville. i have been magnificently negligent when it comes to keeping in touch with the real world, as it were. but my literary output is being channeled towards something arguably more relevant and constructive than this here blog. i’m in the throes of a creative writing course at monash at the moment, and i had typed up a run-down of the whole situation when the ever-benevolent netspace decided to eat my words. literally. how’s that for bad press?

basically, the class is ok, except that i’m the youngest person there by a good ten or fifteen years, and everyone except me seemed to cock their heads when the teacher mentioned raymond chandler.

i’ve been counter-balancing my life of sloth with a suitable amount of excercise. i’ve scored goals in my last three hockey matches, however yesterday the gods thought i deserved a busted finger for my troubles. a man without the use of his left index finger is like an empty bottle of beer. good for nothing. and kind of sad to look at.

the film festival finished two weeks ago. i’ve been really bad; there are literally ten films i still wanted to review. but i guess that’s not going to happen. i’ll just mention some of the more mentionable. the biggest surprise for me personally was definitely khadak.

i can safely say that i have never seen anything like this before, and it would seem the critics haven’t either. i guess technically the film is about identity, but more so it’s about emotive visuals. the movie moves from the mongolian dessert, to a coal mine, to a delapidated housing commission, and there are even extended dream sequences which literally have no bearing on the narrative itself. as an excercise in experimental film-making, khadak is off the hook. it’s definitely not the most accessible movie you will ever see, and i believe it needs to be viewed on a huge screen to be fully appreciated (the sheer scope of some of the final shots is mind-blowing). i wish i could remember more of it. suffice to say that tsetsegee byamba (i wish my name was as unpronouncable as that) has a certain ethereal beauty that lends itself really well to the movie overall. read the synopsis on the website and get back to me if you can understand any of it.

paprika was definitely my most-anticipated film of the whole event. and i wasn’t let down at all. it can probably be thought of as a vision of a dystopian not-too-distant future in which techno-age identity theft runs rampant, to extreme, utterly intrusive levels. it sometimes reminded me of a more adult version of spirited away in parts (people are going to hate me for saying that), thanks mostly to its constant shifting between, and distortion of, fantasy and reality. the animation is simply beautiful. again, its strengths lie in its lush visuals, but it also possesses an ironic self-referential streak and a creative reckless abandon which sets it apart from other feature-length anime. the nightmarish visions are unlike anything i’ve seen before, and i imagine if i were to see something like that in my dreams, i would be suitably scared shitless. two thumbs wayyyyyy up!

i also made it my business to check out some of the work of the two featured directors, namely shohei imamura (intentions of murder, aka unholy desires) and hirokazu kore-eda (distance).

the jury is still out on intentions of murder. made in 1964, it tells the story of a demure japanese housewife who is beated and raped in her own home, and the re-evaluation of her life that she makes as a result of her trauma. clocking in at 150 minutes, i can honestly say that i wasn’t bored at any stage, but i was occassionally left feeling slightly disoriented, possibly due simply to the culture/language devide. it is a confronting film, shot in pensive black and white, which challenges the ideals of suburban life, the nuclear family, gender roles and, of course, the treatment of rape in post-war japan. sadako confronts her rape as a necessary call to arms for greater independence and to escape the confines of a dishonest, broken home. she considers suicide, emancipation and submission, eventually resigning herself to her diminutive existence, although with a renewed vigour and sense of self. this is, by all accounts, probably the happiest ending the movie could provide us with, but its effect is ultimately tragic. imamura’s film makes for demanding viewing. its themes may not be immediately obvious to the casual viewer, and its imagery and structure can be exhausting, despite extended meditative sequences peppered throughout. it’s not exactly a seamless gateway into japanese cinema, but i was definitely captivated by it. a truly excellent review can be found here, in case anybody is still interested in seeing this film, haha.


distance was definitely a more accessible film, and one that i really enjoyed. this one concerns the families of loved ones who took their own lives in the name of a suicide cult, the memories they have forged and the ever-increasing ‘distance’ (between them and their pasts) which they must come to terms with. it is about the benefits and dangers of hindsight, the painful realisations it inevitably leads to, and the unpredictable, yet totally necessary, ways we must engage with and embrace the past. while not as visually expressive as some of the other japanese movies i’ve seen, distance is better thought of as a portrait of a handful of core characters and the relationships they forge with each other. this has has inspired me to check out more of kore-eda’s films, starting with after life.

the upshot of all of this is that i’ve been able to identify some common traits in japanese films and asian cinema in general. also, i can honestly say that i have never seen a bad korean movie. fact!

i’ve definitely been sitting here at my desk for way too long tonight. four hours of sleep really knocks you on your arse like that. i still have a few more films i’d like to review, but they can wait. i brushed off the brush-off in less than a week, and despite the ending being the equivalent of a balloon suddenly deflating, i completely loved its rendering of the city of melbourne, and i’m definitely keen to check out more of shane maloney’s books. but, first things first: norwegian wood awaits. the melbourne writer’s festival is on for the next few days, although if last night was anything to go by, i won’t be attending much of it at all.

if you’re into the idea of expanding your mind (and getting a serious dose of perspective), you should probably do two things. first, go out and read cosmos by carl sagan now. second, check out some of the benefits of recreational drug use here! honestly, the demonisation of drugs in political and media circles baffles me. it’s not like here in australia we share a common ethos – we are one of the most multicultural nations one earth and to make blanket statements that anything is in the best interests of the community overall is both politcally incorrect and personally insulting. the statistics relating to drug usage will indicate that for every billion joints passed around at a house party, there might be a handful of fatal heroin overdoses. drugs aren’t particularly dangerous if taken sensibly and with a proper amount of consideration, care and common sense. the world is an excrutiatingly beautiful place, and anything (substance or otherwise) that might help enhance your understanding or your experience of it is good in my book.

alright world, i guess that’s all i have to say for the time being. take care.


One Response to “flick the switch”

  1. […] unlike the person who stumbled upon raced rabidly towards this very journal after googling “demure japanese girls.” wish i was […]

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