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Monday Movies: Posting from my Phone

This weekend we finished the last season of West Wing, perhaps betokening more movies in future weeks. This time, however, we watched onlySunset Boulevard, obviously a great movie and a reminder that filmmakers have been “going meta” since at least the invention of talkies. It’s amazing how many great movies are about movies, and how early in film’s history it had access to this concept of a glorious fallen empire (silent film) haunting the present. One thing I found interesting here was Norma’s hideously exaggerated expressions, as though she were a silent film character in real life — I wonder if there is always that kind of nihilism associated with silent film holdovers (like Harpo Marx).

In any case, I look forward to hearing further updates on bob mcmanus’s attempt to watch all of Ozu’s films, as well as other readers’ thoughts on their recent viewing.


October 25, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. While waiting for Venture Brothers last night, I watched the end of Cloverfield. That movie very much feels like an interesting idea the makers didn’t really know what to do with. This seems to be supported both by the parasites that fell off the monster and having the entire movie shot from a handheld camera.

    Some day I’ll be embarrassed by the fact that everybody else seems committed to watching artful movies and I watch a bunch of crap.

    Comment by mattintoledo | October 25, 2010

  2. I made the mistake of watching Pope Joan (2009).

    Comment by ben | October 25, 2010

  3. i watched a very nice Italian comedy Bread and Tulips and a very gross Swedish comedy Slim Susie, i wished there were censors for that movie and it was very depressing b/c if it is how it is in Sweden, the capitalist-socialist heaven, then there couldn’t be any better place anywhere, a bit over-that-generalizing, of course
    and i take comedies very seriously cz they, like, reveal the main typages/characteristics of the country, what they find funny etc.imo

    Comment by read | October 25, 2010

  4. Any more thoughts on the West Wing? The election in the final season was eerily similar to the 2008 election.

    Comment by Stephen Keating | October 25, 2010

  5. More than eerily similar (West Wing spoilers!) — the character of Matt Santos was inspired by state legislator-turned-Senate candidate Barack Obama. Josh Lyman, who ends up President Santos’s chief of staff, was originally based on Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel, who of course would eventually become Obama’s chief of staff.

    The Arnold Vinick character was absurd wish-fulfillment from the get-go, of course — there simply wouldn’t be any point to a Republican presidential candidate who made a point of writing off the religious right.

    Comment by k-sky | October 25, 2010

  6. Oh yeah. I watched Mamet’s Redbelt, which I mostly liked. Chiwetel Ejiofor is lovely to watch; the final battle was nicely underplayed, calling back earlier fights without resorting to a “sweep the leg! over the top, dad!” moment. Mamet’s repertory players have all gotten old and fat (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna, David Paymer), and it’s fun to watch them swirl around each other puffing out various levels of venality. The final victory was absurdly sudden, but I didn’t mind.

    I also started watching District 9, but we had to turn it off because it was starting to nauseate Mrs K-sky. I put on some Youtube panda videos and kitten videos as chasers.

    Comment by k-sky | October 25, 2010

  7. The plan is to watch an Ozu every other day in order to retain some sanity. I have Woman in the Dunes and Hana-bi laying around; Ophuls Madame De and Dreyer’s Vampyr on DVR.

    134 pages into Bordwell on Ozu. No longer using Burch’s expression “pillow shots” anymore they are mostly transition and placing spots. (Shot of police station;shot of police chief door, shot inside office) Bordwell does admit that the transition shots are complicated, but emphasizes the formal and abstract elements. I think he is wrong, that they have metaphoric intent.

    I got excited by Tokyo Chorus 1931 because of this sequence.

    1) Wife looks out window
    2) Clotheslines;horizontal
    3) Husband looks out window, same direction as wife
    4) Factory whistle tower and smokestacks. Vertical

    These are not placing shots.

    Clotheslines and smokestacks are common transitions all the way to Autumn Afternoon in 1962, although never again with a PoV marker. I think they are gender-coding.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 25, 2010

  8. What’s up with the google ads?

    Comment by jms | October 25, 2010

  9. Ozu used them to signify commercial relationships.

    Comment by k-sky | October 25, 2010

  10. Apparently they add Google Ads sometimes to free WordPress accounts. I’ve never seen them myself — maybe they don’t show them to admins.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 25, 2010

  11. Ozu used them to signify commercial relationships.


    Comment by Gabe | October 25, 2010

  12. Mizoguchi, Osaka Elegy 1936 Switchboard operator to woman of the streets in 71 minutes. Class and gender injustice. Film noir look with long shots and takes. Good enough.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 25, 2010

  13. The fact that Josh is based on Rahm Emmanuel kind of makes sense, because toward the end of the series, I started thinking that Josh is not just “flawed,” but basically a pretty shitty dude — I like him and all, and he’s pretty much the star of the show, but he’s still a shitty guy.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | October 26, 2010

  14. 11:Ozu rarely if ever shows mass market advertising like billboards seen from train windows. I can’t remember any such shots. Occasionally a character will read a magazine. The office is one of Ozu’s major domains, is depicted as very cold and impersonal, and is the place for plans, appointments and setting up meetings.

    Ozu does commonly show signs, but they are for family owned and operated bars and restaurants, and usually connected with lanterns and lamps.

    I have gotten through a section of Bordwell that does deal with method, and he says people who look for symbols usually end up creating a signified. Sigh.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 26, 2010

  15. Ozu, Early Spring 1956. Salaryman angst and young married in trouble. Fast morning electric at beginning, slower diesel at end. Two salarymen looking to left at start, couple looking to right at end. Young folk slow down and take care. Don’t put your heart into the office, shown in several different ways. Vets vs workmates, for instance.

    Another missing family member, this time a dead child.

    Can’t say this was better than Tokyo Story, but it was very good. Not as stylized as usual, so somewhat more accessible. Several breathtakingly beautiful scenes. The couple was just incredibly attractive and affecting. I think I love Chikage Awashima, who played a wife in Early Summer

    This one is way up there.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 27, 2010

  16. Took a night off. Tonight:

    Kanzashi,aka Ornamental Hairpin, 1941, director Shimizu Hiroshi.

    Gentle rom-com at a mountain resort. Chishu Ryu (the Ozu lead) plays a young soldier rehabilitating from a foot wound (from Tanaka’s hairpin). Terrific physical performance. Kinuyu Tanaka, Mizugochi’s lead in Uharu, Sansho, Ugetsu plays a geisha running from her patron.

    Although the wars are never mentioned, I felt them. It felt in places like a gentle allegory about duty and social cohesion, with maybe a little critique that could get by censors. Sweet and kind, with disturbing edgy undertones. A lot of viewers see nothing much here, but I think it is profound.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 29, 2010

  17. Ozu, The End of Summer, 1961, color. Frisky Patriarch has secret girlfriend, and then he dies, and then the crows.

    Gorgeous color set design and cinematography, Better Homes or something. Few transition shots, though I’m contra Bordwell (finished) this week. Sunshine movie, lots of family. None of the old buddy night drinking scenes that dominate the next movie.

    I think Ozu is referring to his previous movies much of the time, with Bordwell’s visual reference. Old man gamboling down the street could allude to Floating Weeds, for instance, with a change that is meaningful.

    And an awful lot of what is important in Ozu happens way before the movie starts. Grandpa’s family had kept him away from this woman, off and on, for twenty years. Not that she was any prize. Whatever.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 30, 2010

  18. Kimiko, aka Wife! Be Like a Rose,Mikio Naruse, 1935. Masterpiece.

    Guy runs out to the mountains with a geisha, abandoning his wife and infant daughter. 20 years later, grown daughter needs him for her marriage, and resolves to bring him back. Her mother has been pining for him, poetically, all these years. Character rather than plot-driven, and very complicated, more tragic than the daughter realizes or can quite understand. I still don’t know what’s right, and will be thinking about this for a while.

    Burch says it is Ozu influenced, some pillow shots, with remarkable cutting on foreground movement. I noticed that the sound track persists across cuts.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 31, 2010

  19. Ozu, Tokyo Boshoku, 1957. 8/10

    Way too much melodrama for a great late Ozu. I think Shochiku was telling directors to add youth appeal.

    Which is not to say it wasn’t a good movie, it was. Excellent performances by the female leads, lots of nice Ozu touches of the quotidian, some beautiful shots. But the intensity seemed vitiated by the confrontations and cliches.

    I felt in the 1935 film that Ozu was ready for sound, and I feel in this that it is time Ozu was ready for color. I think Bordwell says that it is visual technique and experimentation that allows Ozu to underplay everything else, and he probably needed a kick.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | October 31, 2010

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