Thursday, January 20, 2005

Consistent Movie Viewing Afoot!!!

A couple of movies in a couple of days. I'm as tenacious as an assistant junior high P.E. coach.

I'm always in a quandary as to how to define my taste. Mostly to other people. I'm not a Star Wars nerd or a Matrix geek. I'm not really into action films. I like horror, but I do not seek out the goriest movies in this months Fangoria. I love Asian cinema but I'm not blind to the fact that the ratio of great to shit movies is Himalayan steep. I love movies about people. I don't even need to like these people. I love movies that are rough around the edges and might make me uncomfortable with their honest portrayal of people. The last couple of movies I watched resonated on this level for me but in very different ways.

Maria Full of Grace: Here's a time when every one of my expectations was turned upside down. A drug movie with no preaching, no grand archetypes, no sweeping judgments about those who use and abuse. A drug movie that paints it's characters ion shades of grey rather than the blackest of black and whitest of white absolutes on the moral palette. For two hours I was completely in love with this drug mule who made real choices based on real dire factors. I loved the tension created when Maria rubs up against other characters. Like when she finally has to cop to the sister of her drug mule mentor about the sad and horrifying reality about her whereabouts. I've also never had to take sympathetic shit so bad in my life.

Zatoichi: I have a deep, abiding love of Samurai films. While Kurosawa mastered the genre with Seven Samurai and his Yojimbo films, I've also happily supplemented my library with the Shintaro Katsu series of Zatoichi flicks. When folks see that shelf of my collection they invariably go "Zata-who-chee?". My snide response is usually "GOD, he's only like the JAMES BOND of Japanese Cinema, you insufferable twat!" It's amazing the amount of verbal abuse my grandmother can tolerate. When I heard that subtle master Takeshi Kitano was updating the classic film series...shit, it was like hearing Tarantino was directing Bond. I caught the movie theatrically and liked it, verily. I think my familiarity with the original series kept me at arm's length from totally embracing the shit out of it. Kitano's style is almost a lack of style. He's so subtle that when violence happens it stands out like the most brutal thing you've ever seen. Catching up to it on DVD, I got way more into it and out of it. It's such a deft little character movie. Of course there are Samurai, Yakuza thugs, ronin, vengeance seeking transvestite but none of those things ever overshadow the simple character moments. Tabadano Asano seems to be the star of the movie. The reluctant ronin who serves the local crime boss. Yet, between flurries of swift swordplay we get tender moments with he and his wife. No overt dialogue...just a touch or a look of some distant but approaching sadness. All through these wonderful characters is Takeshi as Zatoichi, shambling along, head tucked low, and just a SSSHHHIIINNNNGGGG away from unleashing righteous fury.

See them both.


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