🎬 #98 Find Hope In Cinema.
I hope the newsletter finds you well. I’ll get straight into it. This week’s two films have only minor things in common - they’re both made in Japan by Japanese filmmakers and they both touch on the idea of hope. Importantly, they’re both life affirming in very different ways.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
FILM ONE: PULSE
2001 Dir Kiyoshi Kurosawa
[1hr 59 mins]
Born out of the millenium bug paranoia - the film deals with the idea that spirits are able to come to our world via the internet. But for me what the filmmaker is able to achieve, that’s really interesting, is a sense of expansiveness. We’re brought into the story in a chamber piece way, small scale, but suddenly by the end we find ourselves in a much larger place - with huge implications.
Kurosawa’s film, like a lot of Japanese horror films, manages to capture a distinct tone - minimal, beige-tinged loneliness. There’s a lot of power in the emptiness he’s able to invoke. Japanese architecture certainly helps, with rooms within rooms, darker living spaces that are common place in a huge modern city. I guess it feels like alienation, as the characters gradually come to terms with this new threat, set loose by the technology of the time.
The film has a nightmarish like quality - in the sense that it feels like we’re contained in something that we can’t find our way out of. At times we can feel lost in the web of cables - all purposely laid to make us feel how the characters are feeling - then right when we least expected it, in the darkness, there is a glimmer of hope.
TL;DR Pulse feels unique amongst a large group of tech horror films that came out of Japan, like a Jingu Ito work in live action.
*Available for a small rental fee on Apple and Amazon in the US and on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the UK.
Fact: Takashi Miike says that this is the only film to scare him as an adult.
FILM TWO: IKIRU
1952 Dir Akira Kurosawa
[2hrs 23 mins]
These two filmmakers share the same name but aren’t related unfortunately - and this film of Kurosawa’s is said to be Spielberg’s favourite of his. The outline of the film makes it sound incredibly depressing, but this is a film, that if you need life affirmed for any reason at all, you should watch immediately.
I’ll not repeat the plot outline in too much detail, but we follow an office worker going about his life as he always has - until he gets some news about his health. What follows is an emotional, funny and poignant story of someone rediscovering what life is and changing their ways so they can make some difference, no matter how small.
Takashi Shimura’s performance as the central character - Kanji, is where this film lives, his transformation never feels false - and he grips us with authenticity, as he struggles to deal with the bad news. We understand because we can all relate to it, we are only human - and this film shows us that remembering that we’re all human, is what gives us hope. This is a tender, joyful look at being alive.
TL;DR Kurosawa’s film gives us all hope no matter where we are in life - this should be prescribed viewing.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US and on BFI Player in the UK.
Fact: Kurosawa believed that this was his greatest work, pretty amazing considering all his other masterpieces.
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