Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Music and Madness (Proust)

Here is a memorable passage from L'amour de Swann:

Le peintre avait entendu dire que Vinteuil était menacé d'aliénation mentale. Et il assurait qu'on pouvait s'en apercevoir à certains passages de sa sonate. Swann ne trouva pas cette remarque absurde, mais elle le troubla; car une œuvre de musique pure ne contenant aucun de rapports logiques dont l'altération dans le langage dénonce la folie, la folie reconnue dans une sonate lui paraissait quelque chose d'aussi mystérieux que la folie d'une chienne, la folie d'un cheval, qui pourtant s'observent en effet. (41)

Chilling acuteness.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P. Michael

Films this year:

41. Harmony Korine, Mister Lonely (2007)

Strange, but only a day after I watched this film around the life of a Michael Jackson impersonator, Michael Jackson's death was reported, to the world's surprise...

The film is good, with not few memorable scenes. Yet it looks very mature compared with breath-taking Julien Donkey-Boy, and the surprise seems calculated and not so strange as his former, and younger, films. I can't wait to watch Korine's new film if it happens.

Re: Michael. He, Keith Harring, and myself are of the same age. Now that two of them are gone, I feel that my days on this planet, too, is counted. I have never been a big fan of him, but his images and voice ever since the Jackson Five days have always been with me, like air, like water, like... music. He had always been a great singer and very sharp dancer.

R.I.P. Will follow you, eventually!

Promises in the land of...

40. Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg, Promises (2001)

A memorable documentary of a staged encounter between the children of Palestine and Israel. They spend a day together to find out the kids on the other side can be just as regular and friendly as they are. Staged, yes, but the experience is none the less legitimate and touching. What kind of psychological burden the kids are forced to carry day in day out... And all remains sans issue.

For a foreign audience some historical footages to contextualize the conflict would have been very useful. But this may not be necessary, after all. One film I'd like to show to my undergraduate students.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Solstice

Last sunday to celebrate the summer solstice I watched with some friends three documentaries related to the theme of what we eat (and drink):

35. Hubert Sauper, Darwin's Nightmare (2004)
36. Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Our Daily Bread (2008)
37. Marc & Nick Francis, Black Gold (2006)

Well aware of the controversity surrounding the film, 35 nonetheless is very powerful after a couple of viewings. 36 I watched last year at the theatre and this time surprizingly the impact is less than the first time... am I getting used to it? 37 is quite interesting, too.

During this time I re-watched such films as Soy Cuba and Suite Habana both related to my course at Waseda but I am not counting them. The greatest experience came from Harmony Korine that I only came to discover (a decade late, I know, but sometimes timing plays a great part in our lives... don't blame me...).

38. Harmony Korine, Gummo (1997)
39. Harmony Korine, Julien Donkey-boy (1999)

The estadounidense culture being so deeply sick what is depicted in both films are quite shocking and often so stupid, and yet, and yet, what incredible moments of beauty and revelation. More on him in the near future. Herzog as the crazy father in 39 is hilarious and chilling.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rumania, Aotearoa, Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Films this year:

32. Ralf Marschalleck, Brass On Fire (2002)
33. Niki Caro, Whale Rider (2002)
34. Steven Okazaki, White Light/Black Rain (2007)

32 is a pure gem and thoroughly enjoyable. A road movie with an interesting band never fails, and this is the proof thereof once again. Rumania is waiting for me... before long!

For 33, this is my fourth or fifth viewing. I gave a talk on the Maori culture last Saturday and showed a part of this to my elderly students. They all seemed to love the scene I chose (in which Paikea rides on a bike with Koro). The scenery near Gisborn is breathtaking. Out of this world. By any standard a MUST among contemporary world cinema titles.

34 is a great documentary and its importance is obvious. It should be watched by all US and Japanese citizens. The pilot of the bomber says: My God, what have I done. Right you are. What have you done, US, not only to Japan but also to the rest of the world and its remaining history?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

No Entry/No Exit

Films this year:

27. F.G. Murnau, Tabu (1931)
28. Luis Buñuel, Terre sans pain (1933)
29. Jacques Sarasin, On the Rumba River (2007)
30. Maria Blumencron, Escape Over the Himalayas
31. Alain Resnais, Hiroshima, mon amour (1959)

I had too great an expectation for 27. Very interesting in many ways, but the Polynesia reconstructed is already highly mediatized, even at that stage of history.

28 is cruel in the sense that's applicable only to Buñuel, but disgusting in throwing a goat off the rocky cliff and such. We never know if that donkey, stung to death by honey bees, was not another victim of the crew.

29 is an interesting documentary on a master singer from Congo, Wendo Kolosoy. One feels like going to Kinshasa if only to experience the heat on the road side and the Afro-Cuban musical complex.

30 is so dangerously moving. A real story of Tibetan children's illegal migration across the Himalayas.  

31 is a parergon of a history of passionate love, coldly treated. I am not the one to fall for a French woman, for sure. The camera moving through the streets of Hiroshima is the highest merit of this film, historically speaking.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In China, autrefois

Films this year:

26. Kaoru Ikeya, The Army of the Ant (2006)

Another stunning documentaryfrom Ikeya shedding a light on the hidden part of the disgrace of modern Japan. The army as the worst machine of exploiting the nation's own children and turning them into ruthless killers. It's a crime of the state against its own people. The old man Okumura's protest against his own past and the insane machinery--this is a history to be widely transmitted.