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 ISOLATION | Cinemas of Solitude 

ISOLATION | What should we watch next?
Ijaazat | Gulzar, 1987 33%  33%  [ 3 ]
Wolf's Chalet | Chytilová, 1987 11%  11%  [ 1 ]
The Deadly Affair | Lumet, 1966 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Waiting for Happiness | Sissako, 2002 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
A Whole Night | Akerman, 1982 56%  56%  [ 5 ]
Total votes : 9

 ISOLATION | Cinemas of Solitude 
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 ISOLATION | Cinemas of Solitude

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In his book on the work of British painter Francis Bacon, published in 1969 and titled The Logic of Sensation, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze suggests several rudimentary "techniques of isolation" that may be employed in subtle combinations so as to isolate a given Figure within a frame. The same could also be said of literature - of Samuel Beckett's absurdist theatre, of Franz Kafka's dark existentialism and Luigi Pirandello's ironic ambivalence - and thus, also of cinema. If we consider the disenchanted protagonistes of Michelangelo Antonioni, for example, we might conclude that their troubles are never particularly detailed, nor are they ever fully diagnosed, yet they successfully isolate these figures in a way few films have managed before or since. As Deleuze goes on to note, the most important thing is that these techniques "do not consign the Figure to immobility but, on the contrary, render sensible a kind of progression, an exploration of the Figure within the place, or upon itself." Once effectively isolated, he continues, "the Figure becomes an Image, an Icon."

Some years before the release of Deleuze's book, in fact around the same time Antonioni's L'Avventura first graced and was subsequently booed off the screens at Cannes, another French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote extensively on the topic of isolation in his Critique of Dialectical Reason. Here, he identifies isolation as but a direct product of the modern age - a negative "predicament", or "condition" of modernity. Sartre goes on to use the example of a group of people waiting for a bus outside the church in the Place Saint-Germain. They are figures grouped together in one place and with the common goal of catching the bus, yet are from different backgrounds, are headed in different directions, and are thinking different thoughts. They are a "plurality of isolations"; they do not communicate with one another, are rarely aware of one another, and eventually board the bus individually. Yet, as Sarte finally observes, while this isolated behaviour is but a "social product of cities", the figures are still open to connection, even if they turn their back on one another.

Isolation in film, then, can take many different forms, and is typically influenced not only by the history of the medium but also the state of society at a given time. There is the physical isolation of your Robinson Crusoes, who are sundered from the human race at large either by the hand of nature or of man, or in a self-imposed exile. There is the spiritual isolation of your Holden Caulfields, who exist as members of society but remain dissociated, divided, entirely disconnected from those at Sartre's Parisian bus stop. This thread will hopefully exist as a developing ode to the solitary characters that populate the landscape of such contemporary filmmakers as Tsai Ming-liang, Béla Tarr, Theo Angelopolous, Sharunas Bartas and Lisandro Alonso, but I'd also like to explore further back in time; to look at isolation in the classic Hollywood era, as well look at specific topics such as post-War trauma and physical disability in film. I also hope for this to be a collective project, and would be grateful for any recommendations on the topic. Together, let us conquer solitude!

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“Bisogna essere molto forti per amare la solitudine.” - P.P. Pasolini

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:14 am
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yesssss this is me

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:14 am
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this is wonderful, Jedi - should I look through Westerns of the 40s 50s and early 60s?


Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:28 am
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I always love Jedi threads. :heart:

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:32 am
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Jedi, I've been so excited for this since I saw you mention it in another thread. I'll be reading diligently and will contribute when I can (I never contribute, sorry. But I'll be reading).


Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:34 am
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snapper wrote:
yesssss this is me

I know. :heart:

And just so you know, I expect at least a thousand words on Koreeda in the context of Ozu by Monday.

hirtho wrote:
this is wonderful, Jedi - should I look through Westerns of the 40s 50s and early 60s?

Yes, please do!

Both the Western and Noir genres seem to embrace isolation as a theme, but I'm painfully ignorant of the former. :(

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:41 am
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Jedi thread :heart: Super excited and will contribute as and when I stumble across something that fits.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:04 am
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omg euphoria

<3 you jms

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:15 am
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philosophy, isolation, antonioni, i'm orgasming

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:17 am
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Incidentally, I've been planning a reevaluation of the work of Tsai Ming-liang for the month of November so this is perfectly timed. I've got Vive L'Amour lined up for this week. I was going to put the entries in my thread, but I think I'll drop him in here since they're relevant to the topic. Or is this thread more essay style oriented, or short capsule reviews are fine as well? I also wrote an entry on Tarr's The Turin Horse for an aborted 2011 year review I can put in here.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:25 am
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Izzy Black wrote:
Incidentally, I've been planning a reevaluation of the work of Tsai Ming-liang for the month of November so this is perfectly timed. I've got Vive L'Amour lined up for this week. I was going to put the entries in my thread, but I think I'll drop him in here since they're relevant to the topic. Or is this thread more essay style oriented, or short capsule reviews are fine as well? I also wrote an entry on Tarr's The Turin Horse for an aborted 2011 year review I can put in here.

Yes, yes, yes to all that stuff. :heart:

Especially to shorter bits of writing, which I'll be leaning towards and hoping will encourage more discussion!

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:28 am
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Great.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:29 am
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Waking up as a stranger in a strange land, surrounded by strange folk and their strange customs, is an experience I've become intimate with in recent years, and Thomas Clay's Soi Cowboy works as an introspective, largely silent mediation on such an existence - that of a Dane in Thailand. Here, Clay employs the eye of regular Joe cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, whose intangible, ethereal camera drifts around the couple's joyless downtown apartment, taking in every inch of Nicolas Bro's corpulent frame as he rises, scratches, and peers out of the window into a walled garden below. His character's dissociation is matched only by the uncommunicative, loveless relationship he shares with his pregnant Thai bride, who, despite being a native to the particular red light district from which the film borrows its name, seems just as isolated; just as detached from society at large. With these themes in mind, one can quickly discern the influences here, chief of which appears to be the desolation and desperation of Antonioni. Indeed, the brief countryside jaunt Clay's couple takes, including their slow ambling around some ancient ruins, seems a direct reference to L'Avventura.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:50 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
I know. :heart:

And just so you know, I expect at least a thousand words on Koreeda in the context of Ozu by Monday.


but Kore-eda is clearly more of a Naruse guy

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:52 am
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snapper wrote:

but Kore-eda is clearly more of a Naruse guy

I don't have much experience with Naruse, but do you not see a lot of Ozu? Trauma, loss, memory, community, etc.

The rectangular framing, low angles and static takes in Maborosi alone...

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:58 am
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Maboroshi reminded me of like, Teshigahara more than anyone. There's a lot of static camera but Ozu doesn't have a monopoly on that - and Kore-eda is less concerned in that film with exploring the way domestic spaces reflect and echo generational conflict and trauma and more with the way open spaces can both absorb and amplify emotion. I think of it as an 'outdoors' film.

Still Walking is quintessential Naruse. After Life has the most in common with Ozu in the way space is photographed, maybe, but I still don't see a lot of it there. I haven't seen Distance, Hana yori mo naho, I Wish or Like Father Like Son yet.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:45 am
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Love Teshigahara

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:45 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
I don't have much experience with Naruse, but do you not see a lot of Ozu? Trauma, loss, memory, community, etc.

The rectangular framing, low angles and static takes in Maborosi alone...

Blocking and composition-wise, Maborosi was more Hou (pre-Flowers of Shanghai, extreme long shots), Angelopoulos (3/4 and upstage blocking, extreme long shots), and Mizoguchi (figures placed in mid-ground or farther) for me. Only years later did I come across a Koreeda interview in which he stated he was experimenting not just with shadows and light to be the primary vehicle of expression but the compositions and shot durations of Angelopoulos and Hou.


Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:56 am
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I was gonna bring up Hou but then again Ozu was a big influence on HIM. Thematically I think Maboroshi is Kore-eda's own, far more personal and specialised a subject than any of those directors. But visually he clearly borrows from the ones Verite mentioned + people like Teshigahara I think, I've heard Jissoji and Kumai comparisons but have not seen any Jissoji or Kumai.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:03 am
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Verite wrote:
Blocking and composition-wise, Maborosi was more Hou (pre-Flowers of Shanghai, extreme long shots), Angelopoulos (3/4 and upstage blocking, extreme long shots), and Mizoguchi (figures placed in mid-ground or farther) for me. Only years later did I come across a Koreeda interview in which he stated he was experimenting not just with shadows and light to be the primary vehicle of expression but the compositions and shot durations of Angelopoulos and Hou.


Hou's technique pre-Flowers of Shanghai is very close to Ozu, so if that's right, JMS' observation isn't off.

EDIT: I thought you wrote long takes rather than long shots initially.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:05 am
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Maboroshi is mostly long takes in long shot, which is the aspect of Hou that differs from Ozu

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:09 am
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Not necessarily. The long shots of early Hou are more frequent than in Ozu (Hou's cinema is more about location and environment), but Ozu would go wide occasionally, and when he did, he often used a telephoto lens just like Hou to flatten out the composition to make it more painterly. And when Hou was in doors, he did mid-range framing like Ozu.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:13 am
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snapper wrote:
I haven't seen Distance, Hana yori mo naho, I Wish or Like Father Like Son yet.

Visually, Distance is handheld like Nobody Knows; LFLS is like Still Walking. I've seen Hana and I Wish but I don't remember if there was extensive use of handheld.

Izzy Black wrote:
Well, Hou uses extreme long-takes both early and late, but his technique pre-Flowers of Shanghai is very close to Ozu, so if that's right, JMS' observation isn't off.

Visually, I don't see much similarity between Ozu and pre-Shanghai Hou. Hou used widescreen and long lenses. Rarely used medium close-up singles or close-up singles. Plus, the long takes. Ozu cut a lot; used a lot of medium cu singles and cu singles and as a result primarily used medium-length lenses; didn't do long takes as extensively as Hou; and didn't use widescreen.


Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:15 am
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When Kore-eda goes inside in Maboroshi there's less of a focus on a/symmetry and geometry than there is in his outdoor compositions. And when there is symmetry it is often across the x axis rather than the y. The most Ozu shot in the entire film is the one where the husband comes home drunk and they fight in the dining room - but while Ozu is probably part of a broader range of influences on Kore-eda I don't think he's foregrounded in this film or any others really, save for the odd shot-specific 'homage' here and there.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:16 am
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Verite wrote:
Visually, I don't see much similarity between Ozu and pre-Shanghai Hou. Hou used widescreen and long lenses. Rarely used medium close-up singles or close-up singles. Plus, the long takes. Ozu cut a lot; used a lot of medium cu singles and cu singles and as a result primarily used medium-length lenses; didn't do long takes as extensively as Hou; and didn't use widescreen.


As I already mentioned, he didn't go wide as much as Hou (because Hou's cinema is as much an outdoors cinema as it is an indoors cinema). Ozu is more concerned with interiors. But there is a lot of similarity here. The static long-takes, mid-range shooting, and early Ozu was medium-to-long lens (50 - 70 mm). With later Ozu, you get more depth and more focus. Ozu cuts more, but I definitely see a connection in their sensibility.

And in fact, I see it much more in early Hou than later Hou. Beginning with Good Men, Good Women, Hou's camera becomes far more curious, the focus becomes softer and the lighting darker. His camera is constantly roaming, surveying, exploring the environment and mise-en-scene. This is very much unlike Ozu.

I won't comment on the Maboroshi/Ozu connection as I'm less familiar with Maboroshi.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:25 am
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Have you seen Maboroshi no hikari? My second-favourite Japanese film ever (the first is an Ozu, heh) and in my Top 5.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:28 am
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Yes it's just been a really long time.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:31 am
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Need to revisit that one and his others I guess.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:33 am
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still walking and i wish are pure ozu-ness


Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:34 am
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Izzy Black wrote:
As I already mentioned, he didn't go wide as much as Hou (because Hou's cinema is as much an outdoors cinema as it is an indoors cinema). Ozu is more concerned with interiors. But there is a lot of similarity here.

My memory of the interior shots in 80s Hou (specifically, Time to Live, Dust, Grandpa's, and Fengkuei) have faded. I'll have to look at them again. The camera distance in the majority of the interior shots of Puppetmaster, CoS, GMGW, and Goodbye have people in the mid-ground or farther. Unless I'm mistaken, that's not the case for the majority of interior shots in Ozu.

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The static long-takes, mid-range shooting, and early Ozu was medium-to-long lens (50 - 70 mm).

Unless I'm mistaken, Ozu rarely did long takes approaching the duration of Hou's long takes.


Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:35 am
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Verite wrote:
My memory of the interior shots in 80s Hou (specifically, Time to Live, Dust, Grandpa's, and Fengkuei) have faded. I'll have to look at them again. The camera distance in the majority of the interior shots of Puppetmaster, CoS, GMGW, and Goodbye have people in the mid-ground or farther. Unless I'm mistaken, that's not the case for the majority of interior shots in Ozu.


I'm actually thinking of his early more naturalist work up until about The Puppetmaster. The latter film marks a shift in style toward his late career impressionistic aesthetic which I find more distinctive.

Verite wrote:
Unless I'm mistaken, Ozu rarely did long takes approaching the duration of Hou's long takes.


Hou is a master of the long-take, so that's true, relative to those of the Hou/Antonioni cloth, Ozu's takes aren't particularly long. His ASL was somewhere around 9-15 seconds whereas the ASL of, say, City of Sadness was around 45 seconds (his later films go up to around 80 second ASLs). But on the whole, Ozu's cinema holds his camera a bit longer than Hollywood fare and the real connection, I think, is a lot of the mid-range framing and stationary shooting. There's a quiet stillness to Ozu and Hou's early cinema that borders on a kind of tranquil calm and lyricism that makes me really think of them together. When Hou's camera starts moving and he begins using filters and jumping around experimenting with the narrative as in The Puppetmaster and Good Men, Good Women, that's when I think he completely parts company with his Ozu beginnings. (Except you'll notice that Hou's camera goes back to the tripod in his Ozu homage Café Lumière).

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:51 am
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KFV wrote:
still walking and i wish are pure ozu-ness


Still Walking shares a domestic setting but the dynamic, tone, themes are generally different - and there's a lot of camera movement

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 10:54 am
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This thread is repugnantly active. Two is a crowd. Have you people no shame?

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:37 pm
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wait a fucking second, "justify" has been a possibility all this time?

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:46 pm
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lol a text format joke.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:49 pm
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"I definitely felt the need to depict Carol constantly in relation to her environment and as part of its architecture", says director Todd Haynes in reference to his 1995 film, Safe, and its detached suburban surroundings. "I'm a house..." stutters his protagonist at one point, before correcting herself: "I'm a homemaker". Haynes goes to great lengths to keep his protagonist at a certain distance, both denying us an easy means of identification and emphasising this idea that Carol is suppressed, even dominated by the home she has made, its material contents and domiciliary responsibilities. Similarly, she is but a submissive, remote figure in her marriage, struggling through sex as though it were a chore; as with the upper class social events she attends, Carol is there but she isn't there. Her illness seems to be a direct manifestation of her increasing awareness that she does not belong in this world of baby showers, manicured gardens and luxury black (or teal) sofas. In response to this social isolation, Carol proceeds to physically isolate herself further, retreating to a colony and eventually a sealed bunker in the middle of New Mexico, essentially burying her head (and herself) in the desert sand.

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Image

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:58 pm
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Trip wrote:
wait a fucking second, "justify" has been a possibility all this time?

Lol what do you mean

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:16 pm
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how Jedi's paragraphs are right justified/in-line


Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:20 pm
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Trip wrote:
wait a fucking second, "justify" has been a possibility all this time?

Heh, I just knew you would mention that. But, yes. Who knew?

Still, I prefer the whimsical tapering used in your Night and Day thread. What's the BBCode for that? :D

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:22 pm
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snapper wrote:
I was gonna bring up Hou but then again Ozu was a big influence on HIM. Thematically I think Maboroshi is Kore-eda's own, far more personal and specialised a subject than any of those directors. But visually he clearly borrows from the ones Verite mentioned + people like Teshigahara I think, I've heard Jissoji and Kumai comparisons but have not seen any Jissoji or Kumai.

Did you know that Koreeda used Jissoji's DP for Maborosi (and other films)?

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0619919/

Explains some of the visual comparisons

Also, great idea for a thread. Following.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:33 pm
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hirtho wrote:
how Jedi's paragraphs are right justified/in-line

Oh, cool. Dang, I want to try.

How'd you do that jedi

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:39 pm
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"What's this darkness, Papa?"

In his cinematic swansong The Turin Horse, Béla Tarr gloriously humanizes the cab driver shamed by Nietzsche in a famous tale with arresting images of debilitating routine, rural ruin, and solitary confinement. By applying Nietzsche's own perspectivism to deconstruct the myth of the Turin horse and locating Nietzsche within a larger narrative of collective despair, Tarr suggests that Nietzsche's famous act of empathy and subsequent madness is not merely an uncomplicated reaction to the inhumanity of a cruel man that undermines Nietzsche's attacks on Christian guilt, but is something that can hardly be read as any more worthy of our sympathy than the horseman's own act of frustration against the dejection of his existence. The tragedy of the event under Tarr's interpretation is the total futility of human action, encapsulating the nihilism Nietzsche was so determined to overcome in his philosophy. This is illustrated by the very tactile physical impediments that repeatedly and almost comically confine the cabbie and his daughter to the inescapable isolation of their quarters as though it were a prison cell. The overpowering wailing winds of the gale storm protect the sovereignty of the harsh seasonal winter and lays the gauntlet for their continuously foiled efforts to carry out their daily lives and escape the living hell of repetitive, perfunctory stasis. Their fragile human existence is pitifully limited by the weak limbs of their finite bodies, their scarce material resources, and the diminishing returns of an ailing horse. In Tarr's cinema, earthly human creatures seem cosmically damned to the limitations of their corporeal extremities and environmental conditions. The horse from Turin is the ultimate symbol of this deteriorating contingency, serving as a literal human crutch that's in progressive disrepair. But robust physical inaction and decay isn't merely a boundary of metaphysical origin, but of a social one too; where individuals are left to fend for themselves against the overwhelming, harrowing realities of nature when societal infrastructures collapse and fail, or are otherwise put in place so as to ensure that large groups are denied the capacity to freely organize. If anything, in Tarr's hands, the legend doesn't undermine Nietzsche's philosophy, so much as prove his philosophy to be too successful. It only undermines the optimism Nietzsche (and Tarr) once thought possible in overcoming nihilism. It's not that Nietzsche was wrong then - that he somehow misidentified the problem of modernity as one of the life-denying nihilism of Western culture and attitudes - but that in Tarr's understanding, he was too confident in our ability to overcome the modern 'sickness,' loneliness, and paralysis wrought on us by the oppressive politics, culture, and traditions of Western civilization. This is degree zero isolation and despair. Check your happiness at the door.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:57 pm
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thought this were jedi's thread

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:58 pm
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He told me to post my essay :X

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:59 pm
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Trip wrote:
thought this were jedi's thread

It's everyone's thread!

This isn't a "solitary" endeavour, you know. ;)

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:02 pm
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And that's great, Izz. :heart:

I really must re-watch the film.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:02 pm
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Top tier Tarr. I'm wondering if it isn't his most minimalist film so far.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:03 pm
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snapper wrote:
Maboroshi reminded me of like, Teshigahara more than anyone. There's a lot of static camera but Ozu doesn't have a monopoly on that - and Kore-eda is less concerned in that film with exploring the way domestic spaces reflect and echo generational conflict and trauma and more with the way open spaces can both absorb and amplify emotion. I think of it as an 'outdoors' film.

Is it really an 'outdoors' film, though? Much of the film takes place inside, and I believe there's a conscious consistency between indoor and outdoor aesthetic, bridged by this idea of a path down which Yumiko is traveling. Her path of healing? Note that the layout of the neighborhood in which Yumiko lives is characterised by confined passageways that link streets together, just as each room in the house is connected by dark corridors. Similarly, there is the bridge that becomes a central structure, and down which characters walk, bike or drive. Even when we leave the town, there are still these linear passageways: the small strip of land the kids run along, for example, or the tunnel they run down. Even the mountain road that leads up to her new home.

Verite wrote:
Blocking and composition-wise, Maborosi was more Hou (pre-Flowers of Shanghai, extreme long shots), Angelopoulos (3/4 and upstage blocking, extreme long shots), and Mizoguchi (figures placed in mid-ground or farther) for me. Only years later did I come across a Koreeda interview in which he stated he was experimenting not just with shadows and light to be the primary vehicle of expression but the compositions and shot durations of Angelopoulos and Hou.

Oh yes, the shadows/light! I read that Koreeda and Nakabori used only natural lighting aside from in one (interior?) shot, which must have been difficult given the whole concept of the mysterious, unearthly light from which the film's title is derived. I also noticed a distinct increase in the amount of light around the protagonist later on in the film. Almost as though, at the beginning her pain and grief is symbolised by the darkness, which then gives way to light as she begins life with her second husband. Then again, perhaps that's simply down to the change of location from populated town to isolated fishing village.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:23 pm
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i'm too drunk on pizza to add anything more to the conversation other than that Maboroshi is a golden movie and I want to watch it again right now after reading your words on it

It's rare that I watch films that make me dream but I was dreaming of shots from Maboroshi for months after seeing it the first time - the bridge, the tunnel, the funeral procession and the pyre on the beach

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:37 pm
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As soon as I read the thread title, I pictured this thread being littered with nothing but modern Asian films. I'd rather it be littered with Eastern European films.

Speaking of which, and similar to Izzy's wanting to revisit Tsai, I was contemplating revisiting Tarkovsky, and this seems like a decent place to do that if I ever get around to it.

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Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:39 pm
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