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Norwegian Wood Movie December 31, 2010

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Asian Cinema, Book to Film , add a comment

“I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me” is a line from the song Norwegian Wood by The Beatles which this Movie and Novel got it’s name from. The film haunts me in the way the novel does. At best it serves that purpose well and I tend to like what the director has done with this. Having watched all of his previous films I’m rather fond of his style and am always quite affected by them. Music plays a big factor in that and the music here reflects Naoko’s inner turmoil well. Suicide is a background theme of the movie and book. There’s a certain frustration because unlike some other forms of media the movie doesn’t really deal with it. It’s more about the people left behind, We aren’t given answers to why people kill themselves and true to life sometimes that is the case. It might be that thing that is most tormenting.

The film photography is exquisite, very beautiful. Tran has an impressive eye for detail in his films exploring the most encratite things that are often so tiny and unnoticeable in our every day lives. I feel it’s a return to form from his last film “I come with the Rain” where he shied away from that into something a little more mainstream.

Rinko Kikuchi as Naoko was perfect, she resembles the image of Naoko that formed in my mind when reading the book, Midori too is also close to the image I have of the character and both actresses give a great performance.  Kenichi Matsuyama as Watanabe I was less thrilled with, the unsure and young Toru doesn’t really come across in Matsuyama’s performance. There is a vulnerability with the character that is missing here, unfortunately casting a more geeky, less manly type of actor won’t cut it for audiences.

This film might have problems finding an audience. To appreciate it I think having read the novel or being familiar with Murakami’s works will be of benefit. However as a fan of the novel you may also dislike the adaptation of the material as is typical with such things. But scripts are far shorter than novels. Before I had imagined a director like Wong Kar Wai making this thinking his style suits Murakami’s world. For me I like both Murakami’s work and also Tran Hung’s work so I felt I got the best of both worlds and was given the Director’s personal interpretation of the material.

Norwegian Wood Novel

Posted by oldboy in : Books , add a comment

The first story I read by Haruki Murakami was the short story “On Seeing My 100 Percent Woman One Fine April Morning” having heard that it was a favorite story of an actor I admired and having also read that Wong Kar Wai (one of my favorite Directors) also liked his stories and that they partly inspired his film making. The short story was contained in a collection of short stories called “The Elephant Vanishes”. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I moved onto reading his other works such as “The Wind Up Bird Chronicle”, “Hear the Wind Sing”, “Pinball 1973″, “Kafka on the Shore”and “Norwegian Wood”.

Unlike the former stories “Norwegian Wood” is one of the most down to earth of Murakami’s works, setting in a real world with a realistic tone. Following Toru Watanabe, a man who is in love with a girl named Naoko, the two have a close bond due to Toru’s friend, also Naoko’s boyfriend Kizuki having killed himself a few years prior.

Of all of Haruki Murakami’s stories it’s the one I least like. That is not to say I dislike but rather I tend to sway to his less realistic stories which are easier to lose myself in. Which is strange because I like realistic stories. I find there’s an edge of reality to Norwegian Wood that gets under your skin. There’s allusions to the final events at the beginning of the novel and throughout that overshadow everything in the story. It’s unsettling in some ways and there’s a bit of dread about what will happen to Naoko.

The character of Naoko I never really liked. Midori was more the type that I found interesting. Naoko is portrayed in my view as a more selfish person. She is a tragic figure deserving of sympathy but Watanabe is messed around a bit by her and is continually sucked into her downward spiral. His attitude towards it all is seemingly mature but not altogether unusual for a guy who is barely 20. At that age people fall in and out of love at the drop of a penny and are ready devote their entire life to one person before they even know what a life lived really is. This shows in the book when he falls hard for Midori and is confused between her and Naoko. Sure Watanabe slept (not played) around with lots of girls but he is still in a way ‘pure’, untested by time in a long term relationship when we meet him at an early age. To take a quote from the book that to me describes his realtionship with Naoko, “too clear and detailed to have been a fantasy, and too whole and beautiful to have been real”.

A reader of this journal has critiqued that I don’t talk enough about myself on this blog, but it’s not a blog, it’s a film journal and I’m more interested in movies than myself quite frankly. But without being too precipitous I will speak on own experience of reading this. I read this book twice, once before I came to Tokyo and again while living in Tokyo. My view of the story hasn’t really changed, but I do relate to it more. I’m familiar with the places described in the book, I have walked in Watanabe and Naoko’s footsteps. I can relate more to the characters. I think reading the novel now reflects a truer view of myself. There are truths that we can admit to ourselves later as we become more experienced in life. I think Watanabe is a character who realises that at the beginning of the story for the beginning is far in his future with the past a fading memory in the fog. As the memories reced the truth remains

Favorite Quote: I’m finished as a human being. All you’re looking at is the lingering memory of what I used to be. The most important part of me, what used to be inside, died years ago, and I’m just functioning by auto-memory.” - Reiko

Kurosawa Exhibition

Posted by oldboy in : Unproduced Scripts, Asian Cinema , add a comment

This years marks the 100th anniversary of kurosawa’s birth. Throughout the year Japan has been celebrating his centenary through exhibitions and attractions featuring his art work and international posters of his movies as well as screenings of his most celebrated and important films in his long career.

A while back I had the privilege of attending an Exhibition in Ebisu, Tokyo which featured paintings from the master himself. It’s beyond a delight to get up close to something the great artist has laid his creative hands on. It’s a wonderful exhibition to mark his centenary and gives a greater insight into his method and process of film making.

From what I’ve read Kurosawa was a meticulous filmmaker, when he wrote the scripts for his movies such as the Seven Samurai, he even went into such great detail to note what each character ate for breakfast.

Kurosawa also enjoyed painting but burned a large portion of the work he created. A lot of his paintings that exist today are based on his film projects, for some projects such as Kagemusha Kurosawa was unsure he would be able to secure financing for such a large scale film and thus wanted to release his artistic vision to the world in some form if film was not possible. So presented were paintings for ‘Ran’, ‘Kagemusha’, ‘Dreams’, ‘Mādadayo’, and ‘The Sea is Watching’

It was really interesting to see paintings from scripted scenes that were cut out of his films, for example the declaration of world peace segment that was written for ‘Kurosawa’s Dreams’, the main character being woken up by artillery shells only to discover they are being fired in celebration of world peace.

A large portion of these sketches and paintings were donated by Martin scorsese who was given them as a gift by Kurosawa. Scorsese himself appeared in Kurosawa’s “Dreams” as Vincent Van Gogh. Kurosawa cast him after meeting him and seeing how passionate Scorsese was about the art of filmmaking, so much so that it reminded Kurosawa of Van Gogh’s passion in his letters to his brother Theo.

The most interesting Painting in the exhibition for me was a painting from “Dreams” of the old wise man by the water mill. Why I adored it so much was because the brush strokes were so vivid like those of Van Gogh himself. I couldn’t help but smile inside.

Favorite Quote: “Everybody, find something you really love. I advise you to look for something that is truly important to you, something that matters and has most significance to you. Once you find it, try to channel all your energy into it.” - Akira Kurosawa

Godzilla: Final Wars

Posted by oldboy in : DVD/Video/T.V., Science Fiction, Asian Cinema , add a comment

What in the name of holy blue F**k is this? I’ve seen some bad movies in my time and this ranks high among them. A 50th anniversary film for Godzilla in 2004 and this is how Toho decided to send off the big G? Seriously? I kept watching it wondering if this really was the actual movie and not some cheaply made piece of trash knock off, but to my horror I find that no, this is the last Godzilla film made in all it’s in-finiteness to retire the character.

I mean, what the….

Words fail me. The effects are dreadful, absolutely dreadful. The cheapest episode of power rangers has better effects than this movie. It’s astonishing to me that such a low quality level of film making was allowed to be screened at cinemas and people were made to pay for it. Did the director think “yeah, these effects look cheaper than any other Godzilla movie before. That will do”.This movie had the largest budget of any Godzilla movie! Even fan movies created for the likes of youtube have better effects than this movie.Shame on you Ryuhei Kitamura and anyone else who let this out on the general public.

The acting. I don’t even need to go there. Horrible. Even a great script couldn’t have stopped such clunky delivered dialogue. We’ve got this guy who looks like Haggar from the arcade game “Final Fight” (great game) as a captain of a crew of mutants that look like boyband rejects who have to face off against evil aliens that also look like boyband rejects. These aliens control all the world’s monsters except Godzilla. Godzilla goes around the world and beats the crap out of them all. The Godzilla scenes aren’t too bad, but I feel the movement of the monster has become too human.

This is not the Godzilla I grew up with in my youth. I first encountered the big G late on Friday night on Channel 4 after eating a midnight snack in my kitchen and was glued to it. The first movie of Godzilla’s I saw was called “Destroy All Monsters”, followed weekly by “Godzilla Vs Gigan” “Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla” etc. The Shōwa series. In later years I was able to see the far darker and mature original from 1954. What.A.Movie. The Godzilla remake by the US in 98 wasn’t great nor wasn’t really Godzilla but as a disaster movie of a monster tearing up a city it wasn’t so bad.

This Final Wars Godzilla is a joke though and the apple has fallen far from the tree. The last great Godzilla scene was in the film “Always” which had a brief opening scene of Godzilla. What might save Godzilla now is the planned US reboot of the remake of Godzilla, this time getting the formula right, having a monster that looks like Godzilla and foes to match.

Least Favorite Quote: “Listen kid, there are two things you didn’t know about the Earth. One is me. And the other is… Godzilla” - The guy that looks like Hagger

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