Film


Miyazaki’s films generally have the following elements: a very fully realised girl either prepubescent or just after, an even more fully realised world with a keen sense of the natural environment, various forms of flying, various types of monsters and no villains but definately antagonists.

The documentary I just saw had an interview with a japanese psychologist who has a keen interest in Miyazaki. He made a couple of comments about how he felt Miyazaki’s monsters are projected elements of himself, perhaps elements of himself that he is not comfortable with but which his protoganists, often those very young girls, have an instinctive trust for. He cites the scene in Totoro where Mei, a four year old, discovers a shed sized monster (ok, it resembles a large soft toy) in a tree and promptly leaps onto its tummy and falls asleep. The editor follows this interview with sketches of Chihiro in Spirited Away taking off her top.

Dodgy?

Not if you know his work.

In his films, the girls are not objectified, as a viewer you inhabit the viewpoint, you know their feelings from the inside. His characterisations of the girls are complex and emotionally deep. My particular reading is that Miyazaki’s female protaganists are true extensions of his persona as opposed to those monsters which I believe tend to be his ideas, fears and wishes of external uncontrolable forces in the world that he wishes were benevelont. The reason why he chooses girls, I think, is for the simple reason that men in the Japanese culture have less freedom to demonstrate weakness and doubt, to express sadness and grief and hence are less flexible characters if one is interested, as Miyazaki is, in films about growth and struggle. It is no accident I think that most of his male characters tend to be variants of stoic fellas with a very limited emotional range and who, I find, tend to quite boring in comparison to his female characters.

Film


I wont be posting this one to the screening room because of spoilers. I have no worries about posting it here though. As I said, spoilers.

Monday night at the MIFF was a documentary titled Three of Hearts: A post-modern family. In spite of the title, it was actually quite a good documentary. Possibly because it was filmed over 8 years and the participants who were friends with the documentary makers were remarkably honest and open.

Basically, two guys start a relationship while one is 19 and the other around 25 or so. The first, Steven, is easy going, gentle and self-effacing. The other, Sam, is extroverted, charming and wilful. Not long after they start going out, Sam decides that he would like to introduce a woman into their relationship. Eventually, after some persuasion, Steven decides to go along. Eventually they meet Samantha who after her own inital doubts is convinced by Sam also. After a brief period of adjustment, Steven and Samantha fall in love as well. Together the three start a health theraphy business and as their relationship thrives, it seems to thrive as well. Nine years later, they have their first child and it seems that life cannot be better for their family.

A couple of years later, thirteen years after the start of their relationship and just two days before the birth of their second child, Steven without any warning, tells Samantha and Sam that it is over and leaves. In the last half hour, the film documents the disintegration of each relationship, the growing bitterness between Samanatha and Sam towards Steven and the downgrading of Samantha and Sam’s relationship to that of companions and primary care givers to their children. Just before the credits, you’re informed that Samantha and Sam are taking Stephen to court over their shared business. At the end during the Q + A session with one of the producers, it seems that relations have become so bad that Samantha and Sam can no longer attend the same film festival sessions as Steven. It seems that everything they’ve shared together as a triad has crumbled away.

Fortunately, they appear to have kept the children out of their disputes, for now.

So what went wrong?

In the documentary, Steven keeps his feelings close but the few words he says on the subject seems to indicate that he wasnt ready for the responsibilities of two children and a settled down life. He’d entered the relationship at 19 and from all appearences, his relationship both at work and at home with the other two were so close that he must have started to understand in his early 30s that he had a fair amount of finding out who he actually was outside of the other two.

It seemed a pity to me that they couldnt have negotiated a leave of absence for Steven or opened up the relationship such that Steven could amicably live seperately for a while and pursue his own interests as a semi-single person. It seemed a pity that Stephen never considered that as a possibility and had to abandon everything.

Ok, perhaps a bit of overidentification here but there were scenes with Steven in it being an utter shit that I could recognise myself in from about ten years ago, where you have to be an asshole so that no matter what happens, you can never go back. Because going back will destroy the person that you’re trying to discover and at that point in time, it doesnt matter how much hurt you’re dealing out to others or yourself, the only thing that matters is that you become that new person. Birthing pains.

So, Steven Margolin, if that’s what was happening with you, then good on ya. You’ll not hear this from many who saw that film I dont think. I hope it was worth it and you found what you were looking for.

Film


As a film that brings a new look to the screen that integrates computer effects so well into its substance and feel, Sin City is worth watching.

But as a film that brings beauty and style to violence ala beat takeshi, john woo, akira kurozawa, sergio leone, coppola and tarantino, it has very little that is original or interesting. Rather it hammers away, upping the ante with more graphic gore, more special effects blood and less substance as the film continues.

Sadly, it doesnt make it as a noir film either even though it has the required cast of hard men and femme fatales and the rain drenched perpetual night-time backdrop. But it’s all window dressing. Overburdened with uninspired dialogue, endless voiceovers, the Sin City characters do not live. In every scene, they are pinned to a single interpretation. Noir lives in the ambiguity of silence and morality and in spite of the numerous killings and tortures, there is no ambiquity in this film. Or humour or any sense of irony and self-awareness. Purely on the plot and dialogue level, it is like listening to a semi-literate redneck describe a pitbull fight down to the last drop of blood.

Does anyone remember Dick Tracy, that 1990 movie starring Warren Beatty and Madonna? Reviewers marvelled at its dayglo look and its grotesque cast. I doubt many can remember much more about it now or that it sits in many people’s must view again list. Sin City will likely go the same way.

Film


State of Mind is a documentary shot in Pyongyang in North Korea about a couple of school girl gymnasts preparing for the North Korean Mass Games.

It’s the details that are interesting. People live in large concrete apartment buildings and have food rations allocated to them (1 chicken and five eggs per person per month). Like Orwell’s 1984, every kitchen has a radio set to the national station which cannot be turned off. Pyongyang itself is all statues, decaying buildings and 8 lane highways with no cars.

Through the films narrow scope however, it seems that the people are getting on with life. The schoolgirls train between 2 – 8 hours a day for the Games with an intensity that any dedicated sports person would recognise although their dedication also seems to be mixed with fan ardour for the General that I’m more used to seeing in association with rock stars.

It could be that the government was very careful in selecting the participants or it could be that complete control of information flowing into the country is a worthwhile strategy, but the two families in the documentary seemed to genuinely love their communist state and genuinely hate the Americans. Phrases such as ‘Imperialist American forces wanting to silence laughter in North Korea’ and ‘so long as we have our General, we will be safe’ fall from their lips with ease and sincerity.

But in the end, the film only offered a brief and tantalising glimpse of North Korea. I left it with an immense curiousity about the state, the people and most of all the life there.

Inequality


Peter Saunders from the Centre for Independent Studies releases not just one but two Issue Analysis papers on the St Vincent paper on inequality. For those interested, the papers can be found here and here.

This is a little late perhaps as it all took place last month but I’ve only just got around to putting it up for the sake of completeness seeing as I was writing about it a bit when St Vincent’s first published their paper.