May 19, 2009
Watching Godard films from the mid-1960’s to the early 70’s is something akin to a living history of Continental left-wing radicalism. The exploration of the ‘children of Marx and Coca-Cola’ in Masculin Feminin becomes the merciless searing of the bourgeois in Weekend. The activist polemic that is La Chinoise becomes the disappointment at the failure of May ’68 in films like Tout va Bien. What saves those films from being simple curiosities is the smirking self-awareness, but at their heart you can tell that Godard really believes in the issues his characters do. If the characters in those films are a group of friends slowly escalating an off-colour joke, then the characters in The Baader Meinhof Complex is the guy that takes the joke too far.
May 7, 2009
I believe the new Star Trek film, like the others, can’t be experienced in a vacuum. Film viewing is, as with all art, a subjective experience, but the Star Trek franchise these days depends so much on not only what you’re seeing on screen, but what you already feel about the decades worth of films and TV series that have come before it. I was a fan as a kid, and I still enjoy reserving nuggets of nerd knowledge about Jeffrey tubes and inertia dampers in my head, but aside from the original series, I’ll quite happily avoid almost any Star Trek property (because it’s not felt like much more than a property for a long time now). I’ll even admit to only watching the original series (TOS, for those in-the-know) for it’s camp factor, and occasionally trying to parse the progressive points it tried to make from time to time. In short, my relationship with the series isn’t very strong, and I have long since resigned myself to the fact that is now mostly for the hardcore geeks to enthuse over, and not many others besides. In fact, growing up, it was such a social stigma that I was shocked there was enough of an audience to carry the plethora of films and shows through. There were more than I thought at the time, but I don’t think anyone can argue that the audience has somewhat diminished over the last decade. So here comes the reboot. Sort of.
When I first spied Tony Takitani on a record store shelf it was the words emblazoned upon the cover “from the story by HARUKI MURAKAMI” which caught my attention. In 2000, my fascination with Japan and its culture in mind (I had been set to go to Yokohama during those summer months; fate as it transpired took me on a different road) my parents gave me Norwegian Wood, written by the then lesser- known Japanese author. Little did they know the literary revolution they were bringing into my life. It was like nothing I’d read before, and only an encounter with Beckett’s Endgame a short period after came close to resembling the strange, paradoxical feeling upon completion of utter disorientation coupled with beautiful, poetic fulfilment. I began to see the ‘Murakami’ in things: a sort of ‘back-to- front’ process when what I was discovering in actuality, were the writer’s influences. (I recall a similar sort of experience when, viewing Voyage dans la Lune in French class I could think only of the Smashing Pumpkins, as if indignant that Meliès preceded the age of MTV) In any case, it’s easy to see the ‘Murakami’, or more accurately find the contributing influences to Murakami’s writing in many 20th century philosophical, literary and artistic movements. From Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett style hard- boiled fiction and Film Noir, to the Beat Generation, Existentialism, Surrealism and Western pop culture. However, despite this broad mélange of inspiration, at the heart of Murakami’s work is something inimitably Japanese. You can’t quite put your finger on it- it’s that ‘je ne sais quoi’ aspect of his story-telling which invokes a sense of ‘nonchalance’ – but this suggests a lack of concern, or laziness…and that’s not it, for Murakami’s is a deft art. Words don’t rush from the page to reach you in a whir of statement and drama in a Murakami novel. Instead they seem to share the same space like there was never a place more natural for them to be. Banal activities like cooking pasta acquire meditative purpose and like a Zen kōan his work begs for the suspension of conceptual thought in order for its truth to ‘flow’. Allow this to happen, and the return is something profound. Read the rest of this entry »