Monday, November 08, 2004

epic emptiness, nippon-noir, and a couple of minor fantasy flicks

[Friday, November 05, 2005]The Last of the Mohicans is classic Hollywood epic material (the source novel seems almost tailor-made for such exploitation anyway). Although I regret the choice of Michael Mann (he's IMHO made for less mundane material). That aside, Daniel Day Lewis achieves a lot with his presence (not that I was particularly keen on seeing much of anything really) and the background score has also gained mainstream notoriety (how's that for phrased irony). Predictably riffy, lush and moving[sic]. Great movie for insomnia. At least for someone like me who doesn't care for epics.

[Sunday, November 07, 2005]

Stray Dog: This is the kind of gem one loves to discover without knowing what to expect, without any background reading. All I knew was that this was a Kurosawa film. What ensued was a very very unexpected study of integrity and guilt against the backdrop of apre guerre Japan. Plush with touches of Americana, this film tells the tale of a cop (Toshiro Mifune, proving that all praise showered upon him is justified) whose gun has been stolen (a pickpocket in a crowded bus) and begins to figure as a weapon in one street crime after another. The background score reminds me of the background in all those old black-and-white Guru Dutt films (the instruments, the arrangements) and even, oddly enough, Satyajit Ray's films. Kurosawa employs his characteristic transitional devices (the wipe, dissolves, lap dissolves) as well as some great orchestration (can't think of a better word) to elevate the proceedings to represent a fine achievement.

* when Mifune is waiting outside a bar(?) for the lady pickpocket from the train, there's a guy sitting in front of him (some nice composition here) playing (the original of the Mera Naam Joker) theme on his mouthorgan. And as the conversation begins, the camera tracks slowly over the player's head to Mifune and the pickpocket.

* the audience shares the mystery of Yusa's identity. When Mifune makes a deduction based on clothes splattered with mud in the rain, the camera tracks up Yusa (from the back) standing at a window, and then cuts to the front.

Invaders from Mars: Haven't heard of this one have you? Minor little alien invasion flick (with a dream angle). William Cameron Menzies (P. D. for Star Trek: TOS) does the honours for direction (and production design, of course). Everyone pronounces mutant as mute ants. The narrative premise informs us that the Martians (led by an inflated bald octopus head and tentacles nested in a glass sphere) are breeding a race of synthetic humans. Every time the sand opens to swallow someone, there's a chorus of sirens audible to everyone around. There's a nice perspective shot featuring little David running into the police station (the door in the background, the desk cop in the foreground, and David running in). The shot gets reused when David's mother arrives. It can't top the more narrative-strengthening similar framing (complete with depth of field) in Citizen Kane as Leland walks up to Kane completing his unfinished review.

Target Earth: A nice little story about the survivors of an alien attack turning against each other while they try and escape detection. Strangely, there's an army high-ranker who describes some time as '2400'. Producer Herman Cohen was also responsible for facilitating other classics like I was a Teenage Werewolf, Horrors of the Black Museum and produced Kid Monk Baroni (which marked the acting début of Leonard Nimoy).

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