Twenty-Four Eyes

This Saturday I managed the catch the last film of the Susan Sontag-curated “Classics of Japanese Film” series at the LACMA.

A devastating study of nearly two decades in the life of a teacher who comes to a small island in the sea of Japan and the twelve students (hence the 24 eyes) in her care. Starts off idyllic, but soon the War in Manchuria, then the Pacific War comes to disrupt the lives of everyone. Director Keisuke Kinoshita works the audience with this classic melodrama, and I would say half of the theater was reduced to blubbering tears, especially near the end where
Apparently, all of Sontag’s choices have had either a subtext or a context of anti-war sentiment, and Keisuke Kinoshita’s “Twenty-Four Eyes” struck chords with many in the audience, especially the war fervor that grips the students as the film develops, the accusations against the teacher of being “unpatriotic” , the grim economic future that ruins the educational chances of many of her students, the indoctrination through the schools. You could almost feel the audience bristle after some of the more anti-war lines, none of which I can remember now. The film was shot and framed beautifully, and the most horrific of realities understood through the most economical of shots (as the war progresses and the island have lost all their first generation of youth, we have a brief scene of younger teenagers (I assume something like 15 or so) being groomed and sent off to die as kamikaze pilots. It’s a chilling scene of war madness, but Kinoshita doesn’t give us music cues or scenes of villagers talking about what was happening; he just lets it play out (he also didn’t have to explain it to his audience in the ’50s.)
Ten years ago we would have watched this and thought abstractly about war and the toll it took on the Japanese. Now we see the film and it’s like gazing into a mirror, and beyond that, the abyss.
Unfortunately, the film is not available on video or DVD as far as I know. Here’s hoping you can see it sometime in the future.

More for the bookpile!

More for the bookpile! Just when I thought I had tamed the number of books waiting for me to read (not helped by myself either), here comes a lightning visit by my friend Scott, bringing me two gifts: We’re Desperate: The Punk Rock Photography of Jim Jocoy, SF/LA 1978-1980, a photograpic anthropological study of the original punks, and City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City. Fortunately, they’re both photo-heavy so “reading” them will be a breeze.

Stan Brakhage Dies

More evidence that if the Iraq war starts, it’ll be complete chaos.

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Iranian-backed militia moves into northern Iraq Several hundred soldiers belonging to an Iranian-based Iraqi militia have set up a secret military camp deep in northern Iraq, in a move likely to alarm Washington.
The fighters, who include many deserters from Saddam Hussein’s army, slipped into the opposition-controlled north from Iran late last month.
They have now established a series of military camps inside Kurdish-controlled territory, including a major base at the foot of a mountain, near the village of Banibee, decorated with flags proclaiming “Allahu Akbar”, or God is most great.

To try and escape

To try and escape the thought of the world’s impending destruction, we went for a shop’n’eat trip to L.A. today. Took in Ranch 99, bought lots of Taiwanese snacks and groceries. Went and saw my friend Gene and his fiancee Alicia, and took them on a triple-whammy along one block of Venice Blvd.: Indian food at a “India Sweets and Spices” which made my nostrils sweat, and a trip next door (kind of) to the Museum of Jurassic Technology and its small partner, the Center for Land Use Interpretation. I believe I like the Museum of JT more for its layout and mood than the still-fascinating exhibits within. Their bookshop is always well-stocked with strangeness (it’s where I got the book on sleep that I’m still reading), and I came away today with another to add to my stack: Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls by Edward E. Leslie, a compendium of true stories about castaways, maroons, and survivors throughout history.
After a short drive, we checked out the scabby remains of a Wherehouse chain in Culver City that was going through its death throes at 25% off. Any place that assigns a special section to “Urban Cinema” (i.e. movies with black folks in), and squeezes the “furrinner” section in between the above “subcategory” and the gay porn DVDs deserves to go under.
I did manage to snag the Remaster of the Rolling Stones Through the Past, Darkly for something like $15. Even on the car stereo the sound is astonishing. This is not a tiny improvement like most remasters; this demands a total reassesment of what the songs sound like. So…when are they ever going to remaster the shameful Beatles CDs?
Despite this, and Jessica getting a job (surely this is an aberration in this economy), I came home to despair again over this simple point:
No more, no less.

Film Fest Day Seven

8 1/2
You should know right here that Fellini’s 8 1/2 is one of my favorite films–I’d like to say it’s my favorite, but I may be forgetting something obvious. But I can’t really think of any film that fills me with such joy every time I see it. It’s a film just bursting at the seams with life, with beautiful women particularly, with wit and love and acceptance. Marcello Mastoianni’s character Guido comes to learn all these things in the end, but in the film itself it’s there from the beginning. (One critic writes how the early scenes in the spa portray the delusional bourgeousie, represented by the old warhorses of Wagner and Rossini on the soundtrack, but Fellini, being a cartoonist before he was a director, gives us all these wonderful faces passing by the screen (as opposed to faceless extras). S’Wonderful.
Anyway, this being the second time I’ve seen it on the big screen, I have to say that the print was dreadful, and not the re-released version that I saw in San Diego a few years ago. The new print had new subtitles–these old ones are awful, and only translate 50% of the soundtrack. You think the fest could have hunted the better one down. (The ones for the Sirk film were also crap). Still, it was a wonderful thing to behold.

Review: UCSB’s The Cherry Orchard

It all seems like so long ago. In fact it was a week. At last my Cherry Orchard review has been posted.

UPDATE: As the Goleta Valley Voice was bought out by the NewsPress and then shuttered, the article is no longer online. Here’s the archive:

Chekhov’s ‘Cherry Orchard’ – the right play at the wrong time?
By D.M. Terrace, Special to the Voice

Mention the playwright Anton Chekhov and the word “slapstick” doesn’t necessarily come to mind. But there it was on stage at the Hatlen Theater Friday night: pratfalls, slip-ups, mistaken identities. Given, Chekhov always saw The Cherry Orchard – his last play, written as tuberculosis ravaged him – as a comedy, a wry look at the inability of the landed gentry in Czarist Russia to see the change that was happening under their own feet.

Read More

Film Fest Day Six


What was originally a documentary for BBC’s Arena program, gets an airing here on the big screen (digitally projected, but looking very nice in one of S.B.’s biggest theaters. I’ve seen one Visconti film before this–the devastating Death in Venice–and knew of some of the others. But I knew little else of the man. I didn’t know he was a Count, an aristocratic Communist (what a paradox!), the lover of Zefferelli, a championship thoroughbred trainer, and an opera director. It was also slightly long, but maybe because I’m the uninitiated. Makes me want to watch The Damned, though.

In a slight bit of synchronicity, I recently completed an After Effects-based motion graphic in class to use for my Stekki Daiyo! Productions. (You can see the thing here) and for a temp track I used Brian Eno’s “Another Green World.” Only a few days later did I remember that this track was used as the opening theme for BBC2’s Arena. So what should open up the Visconti film, but the Arena logo, using the same music, accompanying that “neon-message-in-a-bottle” graphic.

Stephen Frears’ latest was a pleasing diversion, but not as great as everybody at the fest was making it out to be–this was the third added screening. There’s a lot of handwringing over the fate of illegal immigrants in modern-day London, but the characters were very one-dimensional. The immigration officials looked like two sleazeballs, all stubble and greasy hair. The lead actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, was always watchable, as Audrey Tautou did her best to erase the image of Amelie from everybody’s mind, helped in no small way by a script that subjected her to much debasement. It looked good, too, but I have a feeling most everybody else was moved more than me.

Lastly, I passed through Urban Outfitters on my way home and snagged a book I’ve had my eye on for some time. The price was cut in half, and because it was the last in stock, I asked for and got an additional 10% off, total price $24 for the hardback. Supercade is pure eye candy for the videogame generation (I trusted the book immediately when it cut off the date of classic videogames at 1984, which I agree with wholeheartedly).

Film Fest Day Five MAN

Film Fest Day Five

I haven’t seen too many Aki Kaurismaki films. I saw Hamlet Goes Business a long time ago when I didn’t have the sense of humor about the play (I was in high school, and it was a sacred text). I saw Lenigrad Cowboys Go to America and was bored to tears (but maybe that was in opposition to a friend who went on about it like it was drop down hilarious).
So maybe it’s time that made this film most enjoyable. It’s not the story so much (man is mugged, loses his memory, and creates a new life from the bottom up with the help of friendly, earthy vagrants, and a Salvation Army lady that becomes his lover) as Kaurismaki’s pacing, ridiculous dialog, and deadpan delivery of pretty much everybody. It’s something about the Finnish air, I think. Characters were all memorable, especially the tough-talking security guard with nothing to really back him up–his dog “Hannibal” which he promises will rip off offender’s noses, is a docile, sleepy pet, and very cute. I had a good time, definitely. Sight and Sound said that Kaurismaki’s treading water, but seeings I haven’t seen that much, it was refreshing to me.