Sunday, February 5, 2012

Snow Country

Running in Madness, Dying in Love (1969) - Wakamatsu
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It starts out with newsreel footages of the 60s violent student demonstration against the riot police, double exposed with our protagonist (Ken Yoshizawa) getting bashed in the head. He flees but only to get into an argument with his belligerent older brother who is a cop. During the struggle, the brother gets shot by his subservient wife (Yoko Muto). The two flees to the snow covered North Country haunted by guilt and the ghost of the dead man. They become sullen lovers. Despite his reputation as a pinku exploitation film guy, Wakamatsu is a thoughtful, subversive filmmaker and a competent craftsman. Running in Madness is presented in beautiful anamorphic format. The public's sympathy with the student protesters who cried out for revolution is the one that was tied to rigid, conservative social structure. This is embodied wonderfully by Muto.

Then there is a scene where the lovers witness a naked girl being chased by small village mob on the snow swept beach. The men proceeds to beat the girl with a whip, because she eloped with an outsider. She will be gang raped by all the village men, to teach her a lesson. As for the outsider, he will be tied to a tree in the snow overnight (invoking the image of St. Sebastian). The people who help the cause will be ostracized and punished.

Not as showy or colorful as some of the other New Wavers, but Running in Madness... is a heartbreaking masterpiece that deserves attention.

This is Where Rhodes Jumped!

Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets (1971) - Terayama
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A college student talks to the camera in the beginning, that we the audience are sitting here doing nothing. He starts smoking, because he is free. We can't because we are not. Terayama was directly addressing young moviegoers in Japan in the late 60s early 70s, in the height of Vietnam War, when the US was using Japan as a one big military base. He addresses the audience time and time again, not so subtly- "I had a lizard I kept in a Coca Cola bottle. I fed it and it grew. It got too big and I couldn't get it out of the bottle. After years of humiliation, do you have to guts to stand up for yourself, Japan?," "This is where Rhodes jumped!" and so on and so one. Throw Away also highlights the post-war dysfunctional Japanese family- senile granny is a shoplifter and liar, war criminal father is a pervert and a wimp, once innocent younger sister now nothing but a whore in training (after a gang rape in a soccer team's locker room). With the hodge-podge visual style and Holy Mountain style conclusion ('This is all movie, it's all bullshit'), Throw Away Your Books is kind of a let down. Surely the movie is filled with ideas and messages to the brim and extremely playful. But like Jodorowsky who incidentally was making films around the same time and shares the same experimental theater background with Terayama, it is more of the same as Pastoral. So unfortunately the first impression/impact isn't there anymore. I guess I gotta move on to Wakamatsu and Yoshida.