Reflection On: Early Summer

To begin, I was extremely disappointed in this choice of film to review our Japanese section of the course.  Last year, I actually had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan with an in depth look at their film industry.  The course I took not only studied Japanese film history but also allowed the students to meet some of the biggest directors and other creatives in their industry.

The film Early Summer was extremely boring in my opinion and was completely dragged out.  I realize that Ozu is someone who does not find plot as a necessary aspect of film, but there was certainly an attempt at one in this movie and it lacked any sort of creativity.  I understand that this was his point but to make a film that is 2+ hours and simply follows the lives of a few families who do not really have much going on besides a marriage crisis seems obscure to me.

Occasionally I see the point in why films are considered classics even if I do not enjoy them, such as “Birth of a Nation,” “Chinatown,” “Grapes of Wrath,” etc… However with the amount of movies coming out at this time in Japan and the numerous ones that actually could be considered classics, I am left wondering whether the acclaim was due more to the guy who directed it rather than to the actual context of the film.

After spending some time in Japan and taking a good look at their industry I have seen some films that I really consider great.  One of my favorite directors of all time (any movies, not only Japanese) is Seijun Suzuki.  Suzuki directed in an erratic manner with often surreal and non-accepted styles.  He got in major trouble with his studios and eventually ended up being dismissed and could not make films for numerous years.  The first film I ever saw by Suzuki was “Gate of Flesh,” which I highly recommend to everyone.  Further more if you are a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films, I’m sure you will love Suzuki.  He is someone that Tarantino has admittedly taken many techniques from and throughout Suzuki’s films you will find yourself saying “wow that’s so Tarantino.”  They are not only fun and riveting but also in-depth and creative.  I could go on for days about Suzuki but I will end here.

I think the reason I was looking forward to this class was because of the amount that I have studied Japanese film.  They have such a rich history there and have produced so many great films that we could have had the option of watching.  From Seven Samurai to Godzilla, to Gate of Flesh and Princess Mononoke it really is an endless list.

I was also surprised by the fact that we did not even briefly review over the Anime culture.  Although I am not interested in Anime (although there are some really great Anime movies) it is such a HUGE part of Japanese culture.  In addition, the transfer that Anime has made into the U.S. mainstream culture is fairly significant.  A few that I would recommend, to anyone, not just anime lovers is “Spirited Away,” and “Princess Mononoke.”

Anyways, I know long posts look intimidating and get boring to read and I could seriously write a complete analysis of my viewpoints on the Japanese film industry (I actually have already lol).  But if you have any questions or comments would love to hear them!

Just a note….the reason that I did not post on the film “Out of the Past” is because I truly did not enjoy it and am not a fan of Film Noir whatsoever.  Therefore I decided to keep my opinions generally to myself since my outlook is somewhat biased on these types of films.  I do believe they can portray great artistic traits from the directors but as a whole I don’t find this style to my liking.

Film Analysis: The Public Enemy

The film, The Public Enemy, directed by William Wellman (Warner Bros., 1931), portrays a scene in which Tom (James Cagney) argues with his brother Mike (Donald Cook) before he leaves for the war.  This scene depicts the simplicity of camera angles and shots during the time period, but also shows the importance of character direction and how much it relates to making a good film.   Wellman told this story in a simplistic, straightforward method which mainly focuses on delivering importance through dialogue and actions rather than artistic interpretation.  The film focuses around Tom and his struggle to find an identity in a time that was rampant with crime, economic trouble and shell-shocked war veterans.

During this time period in the United States, people were dealing not only with the great depression, but the ending of a war and gangs such as the mafia that ran much of the local cities operations.  As a citizen during these difficult times, many people find it hard to decide which path to take because the options are so limited.  The Powers family is no different as Mike opts to go to war, while Tom chooses a life of crime.

Tom is unlike his brother Mike in almost every way.  At a young age, he chooses to become involved in crime and over time this becomes all he knows and the crimes continuously get worse.  Instead of becoming an honest, hard working man that his brother hopes him to be, he becomes involved with one of the biggest gangsters of the time, Nails Nathan.  Since Tom is bringing home good money and helping to support his mother and there household he thinks what he is doing is correct.  However, Mike sees right through this and constantly tries to stop it and force him to become an honest family man.

The scene that is at focus here magnifies the entire film into a small scope as it not only shows the struggle that Tom faces in finding his identity, but also the influence of family upon him and the inferior role he plays to his brother.  The scene is portrayed in less than 5 separate shots.   Wellman did not try to trick the audience by using cutting or any sort of film manipulation, he instead wanted to display it very straightforward so we could see the relationship between Mike and Tom and how complicated it truly was.

As Tom enters the room, he sits down to talk to Mike who explains that he wants Tom to spend more time at home with their mother.  Immediately, Tom gets defensive and tries to explain how he needs to work and is not out enjoying himself.  Mike continues in his calm manner, however, shortly thereafter sets off Tom my telling him about a “rumor” that has been going around about him.  At this point, Mike subtly accuses Tom of being involved with dirty crime, and Tom becomes extremely angered, explaining that Mike should not believe everything he hears.  As the scene comes to a conclusion, we are shown Tom and Mike elevating there voices to the point where Mike punches Tom across the face and storms out of the room.  Tom does not retaliate but instead begins kicking the door repeatedly, until the screen fades to black, where we continue to hear a few more kicks.

There are only two points in which the camera angle changes in this scene.  The first is when the two brothers are arguing.  This is done to show the serious nature of the discussion between the two and the animosity that is occurring.  The other point is a close up with Tom’s foot when he is kicking the door.  At this point we only see the door and his foot and the back and forth motion that it is making.  I found this part of the scene as the most revealing.  The reason for this is because, throughout the course of the film, Tom shows no emotion or care for others.   The point at which he is kicking the door, I believe, shows the internal battle that Tom is facing.  He does know that what he is doing is wrong, and knows that his main priority should lie with his family, however, he also realizes that the kind of money that he gets from working in the crime business is nowhere near what he would make if he attempted to take part in an honest, blue-collar job.

Tom always acts as if he is below his brother.  Mike is not only the shell-shocked war hero, but has a good wife and is a stand up citizen.  The only way Tom seems to be able to compete with him is by providing money for the family.  From this scene, we not only see Tom’s internal struggle, but the external struggle he has in attempting to compete with Mike.  Initially, Tom stands up to him and defends himself, to the point where Mike punches him and there is no retaliation by Tom.  From the film, we are able to see how much of a hothead and angry man that Tom is, who also, never seems to back down from anyone.  However, at this point, Tom not only doesn’t hit Mike, he simply lets him go and continues to punish himself more by kicking the door.  Tom is alone in the world and realizes that he will never have the life his brother has and instead of the normal jealousy that people would display, he simply is angry at himself and continues to go on with his life of crime.

This scene is extremely vital to the film, not due to its theatrical portrayal but simply because of its dialogue and interaction between characters.  This is one of the few, if not only points in which we see Tom struggle with his identity.  Throughout the film, Tom often is seen as a confident, reckless gangster, however at this point, we see a side of him that rarely comes into view.  After this scene, Tom simply goes back to his reckless ways, even more so than before.  The direction of the characters by Wellman, allows for a minor insight into Tom and we realize that as cold and hard bodied as he seems throughout most of the film, he actually has feelings and is entangled in a tough situation where he sees only one resolution, to continue with his life of crime.

Reflection On: Umberto D

Umberto D was a captivating, artistic film, which was surprisingly enjoyable.  I am generally a fan of Italian Neo-Realist films, as I studied it for a semester, however my expectations were fairly low for this film because the plotline seemed tedious.  So many different aspects of this film were superb; the acting, set design, the direction, storyline.

As a fan of foreign cinema, I find it interesting how, throughout different time periods, certain cinemas have crossed over to near mainstream but not maintained there stay.  Currently, I enjoy Bollywood and Hong Kong cinema.  I think that they are #2 and 3 behind Hollywood as the largest film industries in the world.  Some films just find a time when they resonate with numerous audiences and that is what Italian Neo-Realist hit on.

Although Hollywood is currently the largest film industry in terms of revenue, I certainly don’t think they produce the most quality films.  Often when I watch films from Indian Cinema, Hong Kong or Spanish Cinema, I am blown away by there intense and in depth dialogue.  Although I do occasionally find a Hollywood film that I feel is strong in terms of originality and dialogue, these cinemas seem to produce them on a regular basis.  The great thing about many of these films is that they are often some of the biggest hits in there country as well.

It’s hard to believe but it seems the Golden Age of films in Hollywood is long past us and each time I watch a decent U.S. film I find myself wondering if we will ever again produce stars such as Bogart, Monroe, etc…

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