Tag Archives: Cinema Shame

Stop Making Sense: Cinema Shame

Cinema Shame: Stop Making Sense

Scratching another entry off my 2018 Shame Statement.

I love experiencing live music — there’s so much more revealed about the band and the eccentricities of the music than what can be conveyed through a studio recording. A recording mutes personality, often diluting aural idiosyncrasy in favor of glossy palatability.

Concert films, meanwhile, have never been much more than a filmed concert for me. A concert on film is nice, but it’s not like you’re actually experiencing the live show. You’re watching a recording, just as you’re listening to a recording on an album. The music’s not too loud. The beer’s not too warm. The cat on the couch next to you is far less annoying than the drunken malaprop that’s singing all the wrong words to your favorite songs and invading your space.

So what I’m saying is that there’s benefit to a filmed concert — accessibility, convenience — but I’ve never seen a concert film that struck me as pure cinema. Until now.

But push this meditation on “the concert film” aside to consider why it’s absurd that I’ve never before watched Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense.

The damning evidence. My most spun vinyl record:

talking heads - stop making sense

If we’re gauging my musical tastes and allegiances based on the lists every music fan makes, Talking Heads would also appear in my Top 10 albums (Remain in Light), Top 5 favorite bands/artists, and log at least 3 or 4 tracks in my Top 100 favorite songs.

Hence my shame.

At some point I arbitrarily decided to wait to see Stop Making Sense until I could see it on the big screen. I made this determination because of my aforementioned thoughts on concert films. I wanted to feel present at the original venue. Unfortunately my repertory migrations never allowed such a thing to happen. Finally, I broke down and popped in the Blu-ray disc. The time had come to break the seal.

stop making sense title

After the credits (I have always loved this font) David Byrne steps up to the microphone. At best he saunters. All we see are his white sneakers and the cuff of the pants from his now famous grey suit. He sets a boombox down next to the microphone stand, presses play and starts strumming a low-key rendition of “Psycho Killer” along with the music emanating from the tape deck.

The boombox cannot, of course, project sound throughout a concert venue in this fashion. In this instance, it’s a Roland TR-808 drum machine, spilling through the venue’s speakers. The drum machine rat-a-tat echoes like gunshots — Byrne staggers. He envisioned this as an echo of the ending to Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless as Jean-Paul Belmondo has been ambushed by gunfire.

This is a visual cue, seemingly a comment on the nature of pre-recorded music in an new age — one marked by a shift towards consumerism and ownership. Even the music at a Talking Heads concert comes pre-recorded these days. My concerns about the cinematic nature of Stop Making Sense disappear.

Here’s the opening of the film:

Within the last few years, I’ve come to prefer to this version of “Psycho Killer” to the studio recording. The down-tempo pace and David Byrne’s foregrounded vocals over acoustic rhythm guitar and the drum machine change our emotional response. I’ve always admired Talking Heads’ ability to craft mid-tempo pop music. Songs that feel faster and more accessible than they really are. This highlights that phenomenon by taking arguably the band’s widely recognized track and rendering it a completely different beast. A minimal and more deliberate “Psycho Killer” feels like a dirge rather than a ditty.

As this opening set continues, more members of the band join Byrne on stage. First Tina Weymouth on “Heaven” then Christ Frantz on “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” and finally Jerry Harrison on “Found a Job.” As the band grows, so too does the additional equipment and musicians that appear on stage.

The band finally reaches maximum capacity when it launches into “Burning Down the House.” (The original 1985 home video release has the band performing “Cities” first, however.) It’s a cathartic moment, a build to a euphoric release both for the listener and the band. After the incomplete band migrates through stripped down versions of the tracklist, everyone on stage lets loose in the complete ensemble. Wait for David Byrne to unleash fury during the extended finale and outtro.

Demme’s influence on the film becomes apparent during this sequence as well. He’s not focused on the music. Each band member’s personality becomes the most important aspect of the film. We all know “Burning Down the House” — and the music becomes something more like a score to a Jonathan Demme movie about a band called Talking Heads rather than our single reason for watching.

Not only is this the best seat in the house; you’re the only viewer. You are omniscient, standing on stage and witnessing musical genius at play through a macro lens. You might not care about Talking Heads’ music, but I find it hard to believe you could watch this film and not respect David Byrne’s and the band’s cerebral ability to command a stage. He’s some unique brand of buttoned-down mania.

Byrne’s wardrobe also provides a glimpse into his mental acuity when it comes to music and performance. His “big suit” grows larger as the concert progresses. The suit become an icon for the film — and even appeared on the movie poster. Eventually he comes back on stage engulfed by the suit. His comically tiny-looking head sticking out through the engorged jacket. He doesn’t call attention to the changes, he’s just shrinking as the concert rolls along.

david byrne's suit stop making sene

Byrne later explained his methodology: “I wanted my head to appear smaller and the easiest way to do that was to make my body bigger, because music is very physical and often the body understands it before the head.” He said he was inspired by Japanese theater — Noh, Kabuki and Banraku — when creating the costume. The manipulation of audience response through artificiality.

I’ve watched dozens of films as a result of this Cinema Shame exercise and I’ve ultimately loved a great many of them. Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, however, just became the first film I can’t comprehend not having in my life. It’s almost like I hadn’t even really heard the soundtrack. The film’s opening and the gradual gathering of bandmates gives extra context to the sparse compositions that begin the album. I’ve heard so much more in the music now that I’ve seen the concert film.

That is something I never thought I’d say.

2018 Shame Statement Update:

(Bold/linked denotes watched)

Five Easy Pieces
Lifeboat
Stop Making Sense
The Black Pirate
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Paris, Texas
Wuthering Heights
Paper Moon
Sunrise
The Conversation
Victor/Victoria
Once Upon a Time in the West
Ikiru
Help!

Cinema Shame Monthly Prompts:

January Prompt: Shame Statement
February Prompt: An American In Paris
March Prompt: The Crimson Pirate

The Crimson Pirate: Swashbuckler Shame

crimson pirate

Swashbuckler Shame: The Crimson Pirate

For the Cinema Shame prompt for March, we settled on Swashbucklers and Pirate movies. Because Maarrrrrggch, obviously. Also, I’ve had the genre on my mind lately after introducing my daughters to Errol Flynn last month. While I’ve spent significant time with Errol, the genre outside of his contribution remained somewhat hazy. I’ve decided to entertain more plundering and pillaging in addition to the standard allotment swashing and buckling.

While I placed The Black Pirate (1928) on my Shame Statement for year, I inexplicably elected to watch The Crimson Pirate (1952) to satisfy the Maarrrrrgggch requirement. Burt Lancaster and early 1950’s Technicolor sounded rather essential, and I was still trying to wrangle a copy of The Black Pirate from the Pittsburgh public library system.

the crimson pirate

Having not done my homework on the film beforehand, I was struck by the “directed by Richard Siodmak” credit straightaway. Siodmak, known primarily for his B-movie and film noir output in the 1940’s, seemed an odd choice for a color-splashed Caribbean adventure film.

In his autobiography, Christopher Lee (who appears in The Crimson Pirate in a minor, thankless roll of one-note stoicism) said that Siodmak had been given a solemn script by screenwriter Waldo Salt, but that after reading the material the director refashioned the script into a comedy. The film’s producers may have feared association with Salt’s rumored communist ties, and though I’ve read nothing in my brief searches to suggest that the producers intervened in Siodmak’s creative process it seems likely that they also a hand in the rewrite and tonal shift.

Perhaps too long constrained by the grayscale genre limitations in Film Noir, Siodmak embraced the opportunity to direct this sprawling light adventure film with his The Killers star Burt Lancaster. While Lancaster fares well outside his comfort zone — 100-watt charisma plays, no matter the genre — a defter directorial touch might have better expedited the sluggish middle bits.

the crimson pirate

The film wastes no time in presenting itself as a lark, introducing itself with a Bye Bye Birdie-style sequence (or rather Bye Bye Birdie borrowed the Crimson Pirate opening) with Burt Lancaster introducing the film while swinging back and forth between ship masts, bare-chested and grinning ear to ear.

Siodmak’s film moves along at a steady clip, mixing elaborate slapstick choreography with double crossing and a side of swashbuckling. Casual glancers would presume the film to be a 1950’s MGM-brand musical based on costuming. color and boisterous puffery.

the crimson pirate

Burt Lancaster plays Captain Vallo, a famous scourge of the seven seas known as, of course, the Crimson Pirate. He and his crew capture a frigate belonging to the King carrying Baron Gruda, a special envoy on his way to crush a rebellion on the island of Cobra. Vallo suggests selling the frigate’s weapon’s cash to the rebel leader El Libre. Gruda humbly suggests there would be more money to be made by capturing El Libre and selling him to the King.

Vallo and his lieutenant, Ojo (Nick Cravat), meet the island’s rebels, lead by Pablo (Noel Purcell) and Consuelo (Eva Bartok), and learn that El Libre has been imprisoned on the island of San Pero. Thus begins the symphony of double- and triple-crossing that features prison breaks, Lancaster in drag, a crackpot scientist, mutiny and a bit of the old swordplay. The finale predicts the bloated epic comedies that graced the early 1960s.

the crimson pirate

Even when The Crimson Pirate sags in the middle as it navigates the hypeconvolute narrative, Lancaster and Nick Cravat anchor the film with infectious enthusiasm, preventing it from floating away entirely on its own hot air. (This makes more sense when you see the hot air balloon climax.) Lancaster even tried to resurrect the character for a sequel in the 1970’s.

The bookending spectacle set pieces, showcases for the athleticism of Lancaster and his circus-partner and career-long trainer Cravat, make for an entertaining matinee spectacle. The Technicolor-tailored costume design and screaming blue Caribbean landscape call for a Blu-ray treatment even though the material feels undercooked.

Entertaining spectacle. Lancaster essential. Technicolor beauty. Fun but non-essential piracy. The kind gentlefolk at Warner Archive saw fit to release this Technicolor marvel on DVD, and I thank them for that.

Friday the 13th Part 1 & 2

friday the 13th 1980 31 days of horror

31+ Days of Horror. 33 Horror Movies. 33 Reviews. Hooptober Challenges and Bonus Tasks.
View my 2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-thon Statement here.

Nature Shame:
Straight-up Shoulda Seen It Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s

 


 

#10. Friday the 13th Part 1 (1980)

friday the 13th 1980 posterFriday the 13th appeared on my Cinema Shame Statement for 2017. I then took it off in favor of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. True to form, I waffled back over to Friday the 13th because I felt that this was the film and the franchise that I’d most inexplicably overlooked.

Cultural phenomenon. Horror icon. Omnipresent imagery. Yet I’d never bothered. I even played the old Friday the 13th Nintendo game.

The reasons? I’ll place blame on the desire to discover and watch more hidden gems. The American slasher genre exploded in the 1980’s. What was the fun in watching a movie everyone had already seen when there were hundreds of likeminded films with far lesser followings in need of a champion?

As I consumed mass amounts of horror in my high school years, I found myself drawn particularly to foreign horror. The Italian giallo films, especially. Where was the fun in calling up your friends in 1996 and saying “Guess what I just saw?! It was some little movie called Friday the 13th. Wanna come over and watch?”

This worked with Michele Soavi’s The Church. This worked with Lamberto Bava’s Demons. Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles. At the time many these films were not all that available and I used to order legal bootlegs from a company called Revok. (I think I still have my copy of Dellamorte Dellamore with Japanese subs laying around somewhere.)

meet the feebles poster
Obligatory inclusion of a Meet the Feebles poster in a bl-g post about Friday the 13th.

The cult of the *new* fueled my moviewatching. Truth be told — it still fuels my moviewatching habits. Hence the existence of Cinema Shame in the first place. Without Cinema Shame, I might continue to ignore these films and these franchises that everyone has seen.

And as a result of Friday the 13th‘s cultural omnipresence, I just felt like I’d seen this film a hundred times over in the hacks and imitators that sprung up in its wake. I watched a bunch of movies that were Friday the 13th in everything but name. At least now I’ve watched the “origin of the species” — and now I can talk about the film’s specific influence instead of waving my hand and saying something about all that “Jason stuff.”

This is progress. Thank you, Cinema Shame.

friday the 13th 1980

The Story

A bunch of kids go to Camp Crystal Lake to re-start a summer camp despite being warned by the lunatic locals that the damn place is cursed beyond all get out and they’re all going to die a grizzly death.

Just a bunch of kooky local flavor if you ask me. Except every five minutes or so another one of them does die so I guess the locals weren’t so kooky and playfully insane after all.

It’s the most basic of concepts — sexy teens, isolated location, rampaging killer — but it’s incredibly effective.

friday the 13th 31 days of horror

Despite my admiration for the film’s simplicity, my gut reaction remained “I’ve been here before.” I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen the evolution of this movie throughout the 1980’s and beyond. And I didn’t find Friday the 13th particularly scary. What I did find impressive, however, was film’s bravado when it came to showcasing cinematic bloodletting.

Straight out of the shoot, Friday the 13th executes two of its characters with abrupt and shocking scenes of practical gore. A slit throat. An arrow impalement. The camera unflinchingly frames these deaths front and center.

This is where the film excels. The practical gore effects and unsettling voyeurism. I found it lacking, however, in that the film makes such an effort to strike the horror chord so regularly, and so efficiently, that Friday the 13th feels like a spreadsheet. Every five minutes “the killer” punches his timecard, goes back on the clock, and a character is killed off or put in peril. As a direct result of this focus on horror elements, none of the characters ever really become known. They all remain faceless pawns in the film’s endgame.

I don’t expect a character study, but when relentless scenes of slashing bleed into each other that leaves no room for the characters to breathe and inhabit the screen as anything other than Slash-Test Dummies. We gain a measure of proximity to the “final girl” because she’s merely on-screen the longest.
friday the 13th 1980 31 days of horror

And in the end Friday the 13th isn’t doing anything wildly new. It’s repackaging a known commodity for a generation of teenagers that had become numb to big screen horrors anesthetized for their entertainment. Halloween updated tropes by bringing terror to suburban teenagers. And while John Carpenter’s film sold legitimate white-knuckle tension and masked most of the overt horror — Friday the 13th upped the ante. Minimal story, maximum horror.

Friday the 13th changed the way gore could be viewed at the mainstream cinema. Gore and practical effects would grow to be considered an art form. Low budget invention and creative workarounds. But it all depended upon your perspective. Back in 1980, Siskel and Ebert clearly disagreed. If nothing else I find this debate interesting. I respect and value their thoughts on the matter. While I think they’re missing the point, there’s plenty to think about here.

For the other side of this argument, the side that argues that there’s poetry in blood geysers, I present Chainsaw and Dave’s elaborate prank from Summer School. Maybe they’re not the best debaters, but they get their point across.

Final Thoughts:

My perspective on this film has been clouded. As a landmark even in film history, Friday the 13th occupies a place on the historical record. The film maintains the power to thrill — and even surprise. (Knowing the ending may have somewhat spoiled it for me.) If I’d seen the film in the 1980’s when it was still considered an elicit thrill, watching something parents had deemed verboten, I do not doubt that I would have been far more receptive to it’s dime-store pageantry of blood.

 

30Hz Movie Rating:

 


friday the 13th part 2 31 days of horror

Nature Shame:
Straight-up Shoulda Seen It Shame

Hoop-tober Challenge Checklist:
Decade: 1980’s
Franchise sequels

 


#10. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

 

I watched Part 1 so let’s keep this train rolling right on into Part 2, released just the next year to capitalize on the buzz.

Some weird part of me enjoys the deep dive into a succession of never ending sequels of generally decreasing value. After the origin story, you’re free to indulge in trash cinema in the name of completism! Whatever you call it — it’s just fun to watch a bunch of crap that doesn’t require much attention or thought sometimes.

There’s no better venue for such simple-minded moviewatching than 31 Days of Horror and the Hoop-tober Challenge. It’s basically homework. I’m doing this to complete my cinematic education.

Totally.

The Story

See above. No really.

Same camp:

friday the 13th 31 days of horror

 

New Kids on the Camp:

friday the 13th part 2

 

Their theme song:

FINE. So you don’t like the New Kids job intruding on your horror movies. FINE. BUT I LITERALLY DON’T HAVE ANYTHING NEW TO ADD TO THE STORY PART OF THIS BL-G POST. FINE. FINE.

In the interim year between Part 1 and Part 2, someone went and watched Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, though. So we’ve got that going for us. First the double impalement scene in question from Friday the 13th Part 2:

friday the 13th double impalement

Now let’s take a look at the double impalement scene from Mario Bava’s early and highly formative giallo Bay of Blood:

bay of blood

I went from New Kids on the Block to Mario Bava in under 50 words.

top that

Right. So. I’ve heard tell of weirdos that kinda sorta enjoy Friday the 13th Part 2 more than Part 1. And I was like, “Whatever. They just want to say something weird to be different. Like those weirdos that try to tell me that Temple of Doom is better than Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pfft. Weirdos.

Part 2’s director Steve Miner clearly had a better handle on how to create tension than Sean S. Cunningham. Cunningham thought in high concepts. Test the boundaries of mainstream cinema, amplify the kill count, and foster constant dread every five minutes. Cunningham thought in nuts and bolts (which is why Cunningham likely excelled as a producer), whereas Steve Miner flashed a bit of on-screen directorial ability.

Steve Miner created dread in the gaps between kills so that by the time we’re down to our “final girl” Ginny (a rather terrific Amy Steele), the viewer has a sense that she’s an actual human and not a pawn in a someone’s low budget horror movie. Miner would go on to direct films I quite enjoy like House (1986) and Lake Placid (1999) whereas Sean S. Cunningham’s great post-Friday the 13th achievement would become The New Kids (1985), which I admit is an effective thriller starring Lori Laughlin.

I also admire how Friday the 13th Part 2 dares the audience to balk at its even greater transparency.

Sexy bits!

friday the 13th part 2 butt

Masked killer who only bothered to cut out one eyehole!

friday the 13th part 2

Decapitated heads on a table!

friday the 13th part 2

On the other hand, maybe it all just comes down to the fact that I had zero expectations for Friday the 13th Part 2 and I was pleasantly surprised at its competent (yet still rudimentary) retelling of virtually the same story. Or I just thought Amy Steele was pretty badass with a pitchfork.

friday the 13th part 2

Final Thoughts:

If you’re going to watch Friday the 13th, go deep. Hit that series and keep on going. These are by no means my favorite movies or even my favorite slashers but I’m in this for the Hoop-tober haul. Bring on Part 3. As soon as it arrives from Netflix.

30Hz Movie Rating:


 

Availability:  

friday the 13th dvd

I watched the good old fashioned DVD sent to me in the mail by Netflix DVD. Nothing seemed more 80’s than going to a movie store and renting a battered VHS tape from a low rack in the horror section. But we don’t have that opportunity nowadays, do we? The bastards took all our fun. So I settled for movie-by-mail and it lacks the same je ne sais quoi.


amazon-buy-button

 

 

 

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2017 Cinema Shame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile Shame-a-thon

#1. Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) / #2. The Devil Doll (1936) / #3. The Velvet Vampire (1971) / #4. Mill of the Stone Women (1960) / #5. The Initiation (1984) / #6. Poltergeist (1982) / #7. Night of the Lepus (1972) / #8. The Black Cat (1934) / #9. The Raven (1935) / #10. Friday the 13th (1980) / #11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) / #12. Body Snatcher (1945) / #13. Dismembered (1962) / #14. From Hell It Came (1957) / #15. Symptoms (1974)

31 Days of Horror: 2017

Halloween brings out the best and the worst of us as obsessive moviewatchers. I can only speak for myself, but I imagine my experience mirrors many of yours. When October rolls around (now mid-September because the 31 horror movies in 31 days doesn’t jive with adult schedules), horror movies dominate all channels. The wife shrugs her shoulders. Hide the more explicit DVD cases from the kids. You start arguing about sequels and franchises and Argento vs. Bava vs. Fulci.

My wife joins in when I can find a nice, palatable mid-grade horror film. In recent years, she’s joined me for films like Tremors and The Fog and comedies like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. (Though, she still tells me she’s nervously scanning the mist for ghost pirates whenever a nice fog rolls through the Pittsburgh hills.)

Each year for the past four years, I’ve embarked upon the journey to watch at least 31 horror movies by the end of October. Last year I joined @ElCinemonster’s Hoop-Tober challenge on Letterboxd.com. Each year he lays down a few challenges to help guide the viewing of his monstrous minions. This year I’m again combining my Cinema Shame Horror Shame-a-thon with the Hoop-Tober Challenge 4.0 to perpetuate the most unwieldy title in the history of movie blogging and watching.

Welcome to the @CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watchpile/Shame-a-thon 31 Days of Horror 2017

31 Days of Horror 2017

Let’s lay down some rules for any lunatics that might want to play the home version of the 31 Days of Horror 2017.

Pick 31 never-before-seen (or unwatched DVD purchases) horror movies — “horror” is broadly defined as anything containing elements of the horror genre. So, for example, I’ve count the Abbott & Costello monster films in the past because of the classic movie monsters. Watch as many as you can stomach during your “month” of October.

I’m air-quoting “month” because, as I mentioned earlier, I’m borrowing @ElCinemonster’s notion that we’re busy goddamn people and 31 days is just not a reasonable duration for busy people to watch 31 horror movies. He’s beginning his “month” on September 15th. I plan to do the same. I hit 33 last year(!) and while I don’t expect to top that total I aim to match.

I’m going to pluck as many movies as possible from my Watch Pile (any film I already own that hasn’t been watched). I’ve been making a more concerted effort to watch more movies than I buy. The worthy remain. The ones I don’t see myself watching again hit eBay. I’ll note the outcome of each disc in my blurb.

And speaking of blurbs… after each movie, I’ll toss up a mini-review and a 30Hz rating that will correspond to my review on Letterboxd.com. The review may or may not contain any actual insight. The reviews are the part of this project that will leave you a quivering pile of bloody goo. And now for the more specific Hoop-Tober demonic hurdles, courtesy of @ElCinemonster.

6 sequels (mix-and-match. 6 total)
6 countries
6 decades
6 films from before 1970
6 films from the following: Carpenter, Raimi, Whale, Browning, Craven, Tom Holland (mix-and-match, or all one)
3 people eating people (non-zombie)
1 Hammer Film
1 Romero film
1 terrible oversight aka OVERT SHAME! (use this link, filter out the films you’ve seen and picked the highest rated film from the list that you can get ahold of)

And 2 Tobe Hooper Films (There must ALWAYS be a Hooper film)

-review them all.(eek)

Clearly one film can satisfy multiple criteria. Viewing and reviewing will begin at 12:01am CST on Sept 15th.

I plan to call some audibles when spur-of-the-moment cravings strike, but here’s my blueprint for the 2017 31 Days Of Horror CinemaShame/Hoop-Tober Watch Pile Shame-a-Thon.

31 days of horror 2017

Past #31DaysOfHorror Shame-a-thons: 2013 | 2014 | 2015 Part 1 | 2015 Part 22016 

*rewatch

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
  2. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
  3. Brain Damage
  4. Caltiki: The Immortal Monster
  5. Cannibal! The Musical
  6. Christine
  7. Death Walks in High Heels
  8. Eating Raoul
  9. Friday the 13th
  10. Friday the 13th Part II
  11. House*
  12. House 2*
  13. House 3
  14. House 4
  15. Fox with the Velvet Tail
  16. Invaders from Mars
  17. Mill of the Stone Women
  18. Posession
  19. Prince of Darkness
  20. Shocker
  21. Spontaneous Combustion
  22. Suddenly in the Dark
  23. The Devil Doll
  24. The Dismembered
  25. The Green Butchers
  26. The Hound of the Baskervilles*
  27. The Wife Killer
  28. Spider (Zirneklis)
  29. The Velvet Vampire
  30. What Have You Done to Solange?
  31. Two Evil Eyes
  32. The Initiation
  33. The Fan (Der Fan)
  34. The Invisible Man (familiar comfort horror)*

the invisible man 31 days of horror 2017

What’s your list? What’s your plan for horror movie watching this year? If you’re keeping a list or participating in the Hoop-Tober challenge, I’ll link you in the header for my posts. Just leave a note with a link in the comments. Together we shall overcome… or we’ll be the loser pumped off in the first act to establish indomitable menace. It’s more comforting to know you’re not doing this alone.

So Zatoichi is kinda like James Bond, except blind – Vol. 1

This post about the Zatoichi films was originally posted at Cinema Shame.

I’ve had this Zatoichi Criterion box set on my shelf. It’s a very pretty box set, filled with lots of movies, 25 to be exact. After procuring the set for Christmas some years ago, I watched the first Zatoichi film, The Tale of Zatoichi. What a superb film!

And then there was silence.

I don’t have an explanation. I just have SHAME.

So Zatoichi is kinda like James Bond, except blind – Vol. 1

Last year for my Cinema Shame, list I vowed to complete the set. The 24 other Zatoichi films. This in addition to my regular allotment of SHAME. It might come as no surprise that I failed in this endeavor. But this is a new year, with new lists and new motivation. I’ve made certain promises to myself. That I will watch more, read more, write more. I promised to be better to myself and ignore the noise that has distracted me from doing the things I love. Noise is the urge to pick up my phone for no good reason and scroll through social media bullshit. Noise is a DVR filled with episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I haven’t actively wanted to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory in years.

For January, I began my journey (and my 2017 Shame) through this Zatoichi set once more. To make this exercise more manageable, I’ll break the massive word-spewing down into a few different posts. I’ll watch four Zatoichi movies per month and leave my thoughts here for you to consider.

zatoichi-01-02
Gawkers consider the lowly masseur/legendary swordsman in The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

The first Zatoichi film, The Tale of Zatoichi, showcases a potent character study about the friendship between two warriors (with elevated moral codes) on opposite sides of a clan dispute. Light on swordplay, long on philosophy — but effective at establishing the cavernous division between the moral right and the moral wrong with a conservation of action and language. Our blind, pacifist swordsman vs. a world of human ugliness.

Continue reading So Zatoichi is kinda like James Bond, except blind – Vol. 1