Posts Tagged ‘Great Directors’

“The Personal Ingmar Bergman: an Odyssey” or “It’s Okay to Question”

August 25, 2007

bergman at work

There’s been so much written about Bergman over the past month, it’s unfortunate that I was unable to finish this sooner, but all commentary on films and filmmakers is worthwhile in my eyes, no matter how timely the piece may or may not be.

Part 1

There’s a lot to this, to understand the impact of Ingmar Bergman in my life you first have to understand my life a little bit. My Father was and still is to this day a minister, and my Mother a minister’s wife. And similar to most biblical stories a lot of turmoil followed them and likewise my sister and I as we lugged around the United States looking for a Church that was without inner conflict; hypocrisy and backstabbing. I remember the stories of the apostles as they traveled across the land trying to bring people together with wisdom and love, trying to upend them out of their ways that were there more for convenience of memory than an actual desire to worship. My parents tried to do this by removing the hymnals and using bands, doing staged productions for the Church (both the poor man’s versions of much larger churches). My Father was trying to reach out to a younger generation of kids. He even went so far as to bring in movie clips. But like the congregation and the apostles, my Father was hardly perfect. Perhaps the man who takes upon them the mantle of not only a religious follower, but leader, succumbs to their own worst impulses when they realize they can’t live up to their own expectations. I don’t know. Thankfully his worst impulses pale in comparison to the leadership in the Old Testament, and he’s since outgrown many of them.

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The Japanese Noir of Takashi Miike

August 10, 2006

For years I’ve observed and enjoyed Japanese cinema. My love began with “Rashomon” – a tale of a thief who robs a a traveling couple, rapes the wife, and several of them end up dead. The events are retold after the events have occurred and not just through a single source but through several sources at a trial (they even go so far as to have a medium call upon one of the deceased – and the deceased speaks through her in a crackling voice that heightens the unease) but the twist is, we’re not hearing the trial as it happens either, instead we’re hearing it passed on as gossip between three lower class men. Each time the tale is retold from a different witness during the trial we wonder how much of it is true and how much of it has been unintentionally rearranged by the men. The complexity and simplicity of the film that played out in front of me struck a deep nerve, and immediately after viewing it, I took it to several friends and made them watch it. I believe I watched it four times that day. Then came “Seven Samurai” and “Stray Dog”. The films of Kurosawa embedded themselves in my subconscious.

Then the films of Ozu came into my life, “Tokyo Story” and “A Tale of Floating Weeds” are truly two of the most magnificent and emotional films I have ever seen without bringing sentimentality into it. Ozu tells stories with such a matter-of-factness that he doesn’t need to add any extra dramatic elements to the stories or characters or camera (which typically avoids movement and stays planted directly in front of the actors as if we were sitting in front of them listening intently) – these characters simply exist, and are that much more powerful for it.

Now a new Japanese Director has entered into my conscious as a truly visionary filmmaker. That Director is Takashi Miike. It began, as it did with most American audiences, with “Audition”, a film much like “Misery” only more gut wrenchingly painful to watch. Where Rob Riener captured the Stephen King essence of sudden bursts of brutal violence and horror mixed with that over the top silliness that King brings to his yarns, Miike gives us a much more subtle and nuanced build, one that as we become more enveloped by the film, leaves us feeling that much more unnerved, until the car-wreck of an ending, where it was more hard to look away than watch. Truly horrifying. (more…)