January #2: Rashomon or Breathtakingly Beautiful Shame by @echidnabot

 

Rashomon (1950)

I’m not sure why, but sometimes seeing foreign films feels like homework to me.  It shouldn’t because I’ve seen a few (Rififi, Das Boot, The Killer) I’ve really enjoyed, but there it is.  I watched this on a computer and I cannot wait to see it on the big screen.

A woodcutter, a commoner, and a priest take shelter from a torrential rain storm and tell the story of a horrific crime.  They describe how a samurai (Masayuki Mori), his wife (Machiko Kyo), and a bandit (Toshiro Mifune) meet tragically in a lonely clearing in the woods.  One man dies and the resulting trial reveals a great deal about the people involved and much larger issues.  In a method which would later be known as the Rashomon effect, each of the participants tells his side of the story and the audience is left to discern the truth.
Rashomon played in only a few theatres outside of Japan during its initial release but introduced the western world to its director, Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Ran).  Kurosawa and his cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (Ugetsu, Yojimbo) made a beautiful film about an ugly crime and in so doing brought Japanese cinema to the world’s attention.  The actors tell the different versions of the tale using every part of them.  The performances are feral and nuanced at the same time.  These actors pull feelings out of their souls.  I couldn’t look away.  Kyo (Gate of Hell, Ugetsu), as the samurai’s wife shows tremendous range and Mifune (Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood) looks like he’s spring-loaded.  He is all energy and extremes which give his bandit/sociopath character an almost child-like quality.  The priest and the wood cutter, Minoru Chiaki and Takashi Shimura, had long and prestigious careers in Japanese cinema as well acting in kaiju films, detective stories, and Shakespearean epics and give wonderful performances here.  You see the pain in their faces as they recount the terrible crime to the unfeeling commoner Kichijiro Ueda.
Rashomon touches on morality, shame, the place of women in society, and the very nature of man.  That it does so with such sparse dialogue (Japanese with subtitles), few locations and sets, and seven characters serves as a testament to the acting, direction, and writing in this absolutely incredible film.  I was blown away.  Watch this film as soon as you can.

And the Number of the Shaming Shall Be 12 by @echidnabot

 

 

 

 

The assignment: Find twelve films I haven’t seen that leave a gaping hole in my study/love/knowledge of film.  Simple, right?  After all, I have a list on letterboxd with close to 200 films I want to see.   I think this is a different list though.  As I grew up in the United States and in the suburbs, I watched a lot of American and some British films on TV.  I don’t have stories of walking to the theatre every Saturday or having an art house down the street.  Going to the movies meant conning someone’s mother into driving a gang of us to the nearest theatre where we’d see something new.  I have seen some foreign and a lot of cult films, but I never studied film formally so I know I’ve missed a bunch.  I did see Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Polyester at plain old suburban theatres so chalk those up for the suburbs.  I still remember my dad’s taking me to a Kenmore Square revival house to see Blow Up when I was twelve.  We talked about it all the way to our bleacher seats at Fenway which we bought, day of, for $2.50.  I digress.  Here’s my list of shame.  They’re in no order so I’m not sure when I’ll watch what.  Plus, I have thirteen because Un Chien Andalou is only fifteen minutes long.  Here goes nuthin’.

Raging Bull
Yojimbo
Bicycle Thieves
Get Carter (yes, the original)
Rashomon
The Yakuza
Persona
The 400 Blows
Un Chien Andalou
La Dolce Vita
Bob Le Flambeur
The Servant
Withnail & I

I managed to find most of these on Netflix, You Tube, and my local library, but if one eludes me, I’ll switch it out for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

Confession of Shame by @007hertzrumble

When I first conceived this idea, I had no idea how hard it would be to pick the 12 movies I most regret not having watched. When you really start to think about it, there are so many acclaimed and essential films that we just haven’t taken the time to watch. Maybe because the subject matter never interested us. Maybe because we got so tired of being told we “had to watch” a certain movie that we just grew numb to the idea. Why watch Deliverance when you can watch The Spy Who Loved Me again? The latter just sounds like more fun. I mean the opening sequence when Bond jumps off the mountain on skis before releasing the Union Jack and giving way to “Nobody Does It Better.” That’s gold. Now, Deliverance on the other hand, I know a lot about… I’ve read about it, heard about it and I’m pretty goddamn sure it doesn’t have Roger Moore dropping a fish out of a Lotus submarine I’ll tell you that much.

I made my choices of shame based on a couple of criteria. First I considered the critical mass and general omnipresence of a film. How often does the movie come up in popular culture or casual conversation? Second, I focused on my own favorites. For example, I’m a massive fan of Burt Reynolds, but I haven’t seen The Longest Yard. I’ve seen every Stanley Kubrick movie except for Barry Lyndon. How is something like that even possible? I considered movies during which I’d fallen asleep, movies that were introduced to me during film class, but only in 10-15 minute clips. Basically if I were involved in a conversation about such and such film and I would have had to yadda yadda my way through, the movie warranted the Cinema Shame treatment.

Without further adieu, my 12… no, 13 selections of shame. And no, despite this being the perfect opportunity, I’m still not watching Titanic. I have morals.

January: Ben Hur (1959)

February: BURT! Deliverance (1972) and The Longest Yard (1974)

March: Rashomon (1950)

April: Ride the High Country (1962)

May: Godzilla (1954)

June: The Dirty Dozen (1967)

July: City Lights (1931)

August: Barry Lyndon (1975)

September: Deer Hunter (1978)

October: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

November: Cabaret (1972)

…and last and perhaps the most shameful of all…

December: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

There you have it. I’ve laid my soul bare. Now all that’s left is the shame, the penance… and eventually the salvation.