Posts Tagged ‘David Cronenberg’

“I Live in Fear” of “The Happening”: The Art of Boldness, Kurosawa, and Shyamalan

June 23, 2008

I Live in Fear

It would be easy to point out Akira Kurosawa’s great films like Rashomon or Seven Samurai as examples of his work, but there’s something to be said about his lesser known films – films that speak volumes and contain moments that are difficult to find anywhere else. He makes as a director and storyteller and he has his actors make very bold decisions. More often than not these choices will make an otherwise mediocre or common melodramatic film quite remarkable and incredibly memorable.

Take for instance Kurosawa’s I Live in Fear starring Toshiro Mifune. Mifune plays Kiichi Nakajima the elderly owner of a foundry. Wanting to preserve his family’s lives he wishes to move them all, lovers and bastard children included, to South America so as to avoid a Nuclear holocaust in Japan. Needless to say this story takes place post World War II. But his children will have none of it and take him to court, so that they can prove their father incapable of handling the family’s fortune.

It’s an interesting enough idea for a film. Kurosawa introduces us to Nakajima’s family through one of the Domestic Court Counselor’s put on the case, Dr. Harada, a dentist played by another Kurosawa mainstay, Takashi Shimura. We follow Harada as he leaves his family dentist business and goes to the court. Next we’re introduced to the squabbling family members, who seem more concerned about how they’ll continue making money for themselves than they are about the wishes of their Father. They are quick to apologize for belittling Harada before knowing who he is. But you still don’t get a sense of who’s film this is. Harada is shot from behind, a silent observer…very meek, humble.


“Eastern Promises”: Cronenberg steps it down a notch

September 21, 2007

eastern p

David Cronenberg has never been afraid to show his audience the worst of things in his films and in his newest human drama “Eastern Promises” (which the studios have chosen to call a “thriller”, huh?) he delivers again. We not only get to see a throat cut, but literally sawed into, by the nervous hands of a first time killer. It’s horrific to watch, yet you can’t turn away. And this murder sets into motion a storyline that parallels and eventually ties together with a midwife whose left with an unnamed baby and diary in Russian when the Mother dies during child birth. Taking care of the child is Anna, played almost to perfect normalness by Naomi Watts. The only reason why we don’t quite buy her as being so normal is because we already know she’s such an incredible actress and here she just feels like Naomi Watts, but at least she’s not gushing tears. She sets out to translate the diary in hopes to find out who the remaining family is, which brings her into the world of the Russian Mafia…in London. Too close in fact. What the Russian mafia has to do with the baby, I’ll leave it for you to watch the film, but three of those Russians are played by Armen Mueller-Stahl as the patriarch who has the job of holding the emotional weight of the first half of the film together with his eyes alone. His character has become so comfortable with his cruelty, he doesn’t realize it and therefore has no reason to hide his true intentions along with the smile of kindness he gives to Anna. He’s all evil. Then Vincent Casselle who no holds barred plays the insecure loose canon, morally unaware son of Stahl and the driver he seems to have a man-crush on played with calm confidence by Viggo Mortenson. Mortenson is one of those fine actors that can say more with his body language than most can with their dialogue. Unfortunately, while these characters do become interesting after a time, the story itself took awhile to grab my attention. (more…)