A Violent Life (1962)

18 03 2008

Well, I hate to say it, but this was pretty disappointing. Admittedly, my expectations were quite high considering the fact Pasolini wrote the screenplay but it seems like despite his great ideas, the filmmakers did everything within in their power to simplify every scenario. This is automatically at a disadvantage being a lot like Pasolini’s own Mama Romma, which is pretty much a perfect movie. But even without that in mind, this still seems manipulative, silly, and predictable.

Tomasso and his friends drift around town committing petty crimes in an effort to shape some sort of protest. One day he meets Irene, and falls for immediately but his violent nature only complicates things between the couple. In an attempt for atonement, he arranges a serenade for her, but the police breaks it up and he goes to jail for 18 months. When he gets out, he immediately wants to see her but she is not completely on board with his marriage proposal. Not much later, he falls ill and is sent to a rehabilitation facility. He gets out, and things look good, but he then falls ill again.

The two directors of the film, Brunello Rondi and Paolo Heusch, both went on to make Emmannuelle movies, which explains a lot of how superficial this film really is. Tomasso and his gang are so obviously made out to be cool and edgy beat generation guys. A stupid image that is suppose to substitute for substantial character depth. It’s great when a writer or director can make the protagonist a participant in socially unacceptable things, but in this case, the characters are just villains. The way they’re photographed with the overly-intrusive score make any “violent” scene feel just like it’s out of a comic-book.

When the film finally attempts to flesh a character out, the results are dubious. Not only can the Tomasso character articulate his thoughts far too well, but his actions are completely stupid. Yes, sometime your thoughts and emotions can lead you to do odd things but never for the price of making a character look like a moron. Certainly the film is made in a technically competent way but there’s absolutely nothing at it’s core. Considering the fact that Mama Romma does exist, there’s no reason to really even bother watching this, except for the fact that the girl is really pretty. Some sequences could be insightful and beautiful in a different context, but here they become a waste. I guess my words will strike some as harsh, but the film is actually okay but it’s just that the depiction of alienated youth is one hundred percent off-target.

Tennen kokekkô (2007)

18 03 2008

Another subtle, extremely poignant feature from Nobuhiro Yamashita, though not quite eclipsing his previous film, Linda Linda Linda. He seems to be occupying a stylistic and thematic space ignored (or simply undiscovered) by his peers. This isn’t to say he’s a particularly innovative director, in fact one could argue the opposite, but the very easygoing, almost carefree nature of his films is quite refreshing. It would be no surprise if that, at this very moment, he is inspiring a generation of imitator with his likable and innocent poetic sensibility.

Soyo lives with her family in a very secluded rural region. Her school consists of ten people, and all of her classmates are younger than her until Hiromi moves from Tokyo. He’s personified as the experienced newcomer from the big city, and being the only boy in class, giggles are bound to occur behind his back. He eventually is befriended by Soyo, but their relationship is plagued by a series of awkward coincidences. In the meantime, similar relationship complications are brewing with the adults of the town.

Describing the plot of this a bit unexciting, it’s built more around moments than it is about a progressing stor. For the most part, the film is built around events like a first kiss, going to the beach, a town festival, and so on. It’s not completely unlike Naomi Kawase’s Shara in that sense, though it doesn’t match the sprawling multi-character approach of that film. Instead, the focus is centered on the young couple, Soyo and Hiromi, who both get a bit irritating at times. Of course, they are young and in love so expressing emotions in a sensible way is difficult but perhaps there’s not enough depth provided to explain why they would be together in the first place. Don’t get wrong, though, some of the aforementioned “moments” they are share are extremely truthful but within the film’s context feel a little bit odd.

This a minor, very nuanced compliant, though as I pretty much like everything else about the film. In an era, where cinematic poetry mostly amounts to Malick imitations, Yamashita takes a completely different route. Now, there are shots of grassy fields and voice overs but I find the overall tone to be intentionally different but equally effective. Perhaps it’s the more slow-downed long static compositions that separate it but I’d like to think there’s something not dealing with the overall aesthetic that contributes to this mood. The inconsequential, laid-back manner is probably a big help, as well, but I find that such descriptions wash out just how close to home this can hit. It has a painful truth inside wrapped inside the downplayed poetry, which is present on the surface.