Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ENG 282 Week 6: The Host (South Korea: Bong Joon-Ho, 2006)

Archive of Resources for the film

Emily Hensley's response

“The Host” is a South Korean film directed by Bong Joon-Ho back in 2006. This film sets the audience up for an exciting ride about the destruction and recreation of one Korean family. In the beginning of the film an American mortician forces his Korean assistant to dump hundreds of bottles of formaldehyde into the Han River just because the bottles “were dusty.” Several years later a mutated creature rises from the Han River and begins feasting on the innocent bystanders.

This film is centered on the Park family and their journey to rescue their young Hyun-Seo. Hyun-Seo was separated from her father during the attack as he accidentally grabbed the wrong child’s hand while running away from the creature. The creature then gobbled Hyun-Seo into his mouth and swam away leaving the Park family to believe she was gone forever. However, the creature had never actually swallowed her but had just taken her into his layer in the sewer and spit her out.

During the after mass of the attack, all the survivors were quarantined by the Korean government and were lead to believe the creature caused a threat of virus. While being held captive Hyun-Seo’s father Gang-Doo received a phone call from Hyun-Seo and the Park family then realized she was still alive. After informing the Korean government repeatedly with no results, care or concern the Park family decided to escape to rescue Hyun-Seo themselves. They managed to break free and then began searching the sewer systems. Meanwhile the threat of the virus heightened and the government announced that the Park family were escaped fugitives on the run. The Korean government exaggerated all resources for a man hunt to capture of the Park family.

Each character in this dysfunctional family has their own distinct personality which is part of what makes this film so special. Gang-Doo is immature and childlike but clearly, is a fun loving father to Hyun-Seo. Gang-Doo is clumsy, hardly ever does or says the right thing but means well and is most likely the most enjoyable character to watch. Hyun-Seo is Gang-Doo’s young 13 year old daughter who is very intelligent, witty and brave. This brave little girl Hyun-Seo is the pivotal character that brings the whole family together while giving them hope. The grandpa, Hie-Bong is the head of household and runs the family. He feels a sense of responsibility to take charge and keep everyone on track whether it’s throughout their lives or in this tragic moment they are all going through. Nam-Ill is the brother, the smart one of the family, the college graduate who chooses drown his sorrows in alcohol instead using his knowledge. Nam-Joo, the sister, is very talented as she competes in professional archery tournaments but always seems to crack under pressure. Everyone in this family is so different from each other but they all have one thing in common…they all overcome their fears and doubts to defeat the monster and become the Protagonists of the film.

At times it can be difficult to determine the genre of the film, because several concepts of different genres are all grasped into one. This blockbuster hit incorporates the makeup of a suspenseful thriller, a comedy and a politically informant film. Even in times of sadness and despair this film had a light airy feel to it. The dynamic of the ever changing scenes fit together seamlessly from take to take. The play on emotions was so incredibly different than in most films as the scenes constantly switched back and forth from being devastating to humorous. For example, in the scene where the whole family is morning the loss of Hyun-Seo, they are crying and rolling around on the floor while arguing in a public area. Their behavior and the way they express their pain has a humorous approach to it. I believe the director did this to keep the film on a lighter note and not wanting the focus of the film to be so sad and dark.

There is harsh unsubtle political message continued throughout the film. There is a most definite dislike and a strained belief about Americans and the American government. Americans in this film are represented as careless, ruthless and ignorant. This message is shown over and over again but it is very significant in the first scene. In the first scene of this Korean film, there is an American man doing a great injustice to Korean society. He carelessly insists that his assistant dump dangerous and deadly chemicals into the Han River. From the start of the film the motive is set up perfectly to show how the Americans are to blame and that they are the Antagonists of the film.

The Korean government was also portrayed in a negative way as they were unsympathetic and almost seemed to mock Gang-Doo and his family when they were in need of help. The Korean government seemed to only care about following orders and it is ironic that the Americans came in and were allowed to take over the situation. Americans began barking orders at the Koreans but because they needed answers and protection from the virus, the Koreans followed these orders. The Korean government was represented as weak as they cowered to the Americans.

It was visually established in this film that there was a terrifying monster who fed on the lives of others but perhaps there is a concept of an unseen monster that Bong Joon-Ho projects through the creature which is the so called “Host.” Not only the Americans but also the Authoritarian government were the real monsters of the film that hid behind lies and deception.

Although the plot is very disturbing, the actual film itself is widely entertaining and the atmosphere is very much like today’s Hollywood films. The film was shot in a widescreen view to include all the destruction around the monster instead of just the monster. Several different elements were used to turn this film into reality, such as excellent special effects, stunts and a great combination of digitally enhanced audio.

It was intriguing to watch how the monster moved gracefully across the screen without effort. Even though his physical appearance was grotesque and unimaginable, when this hideous mutated monster twirled and flew around the bridge he somehow became an act of art and beauty. There were scenes edited to show slow motion, which revealed the intensity of true terror and shock of what had occurred; such as in the scene where the creature had taken Hyun-Seo and also in the scene where Hie-Bong was killed.

The water in the Han River looked so realistic having ripples and waves as the creature swam in and out of the water. The audio was set off as you could dramatically hear the sounds in this film. When the water was dripping in the sewer, it was all that I could hear and it made me feel like I was a part of the movie; like I needed to go turn a facet off. The sounds of the monster growling and grunting were startling but the slimy sounds from the creature’s skin or tongue rubbing against the people or surfaces was so gruesome that it made me cringe. Overall this film had some outrageous features that really added to the realistic feel and enjoyment of the film.

There are several messages that the director wanted to convey and I feel like this was a great film for our class to watch as we are exploring the human condition. “The Host” dealt with so many different aspects and emotions of the human condition and it reminds us of how quickly things can change. One minute life can be so routine and then something or someone can come in and shake it all up, as the monster did in this film. The Americans and the Korean government were the real monster here who devastated the community and tried to keep this family apart.

Family values was one of the main aspects of the film and how they overcame the Antagonist to stick together, even though they didn’t always see eye to eye. I think this lesson is something that we all could learn from as life is too short to take lightly. The Park family exhibited such strength as they did whatever they had to do to find Hyun-Seo, no matter what the cost. Hyun-Seo also showed so much courage and really became a hero for staying strong and protecting the little boy Se-Jin who actually survived because of her. Despite the fact that Gang-doo lost a daughter he also gained a son and an old saying rings true “Where one door closes another door will always open.”

Ebony Nava's Response

The only horror found in The Host, by Bong Joon-Ho (2006), is what humanity was allowing themselves to become. Which is pretty darn scary considering The Host can easily be interpreted as an under-the-magnifying-glass critique of our regulated beyond common sense/consuming culture.

The Host used a combo of cheap green screen horror flick special effects along with predictable film editing cuts to make what would seem to be a typical suspenseful/high action horror film. However, while the film editing and plot are run of the mill, the actors and messages shared in each shot shown in each respective scene transform this film into anything but ordinary.

From the opening scene, a theme is introduced; a theme of people doing their jobs, yet doing their jobs mindlessly, or without a say-so, more accurately. Following orders even when the task is insane. The theme continues through the film to the end, everyone is doing their job. Nothing more, yet nothing less – all the regulations are understood and followed – even disregarding common sense in order to just “do the job at hand” nothing more, nothing less. In sum: a complete apathy towards the inefficiency caused by what is seen as total efficiency.

During the course of the film the disconnectedness of humans, all the way down to the members of a family unit, is observed. Instead of communication, critiques of faults, instead of working together, working apart. The role a media saturated “convenience” culture plays into this “dynamic” is also observed. The way media is devoured yet the grand majority is of no substance – also paralleled with the way food is devoured; food that is all processed (dried noodles, canned fish, dried squid) and of little substance. Similarly, the concern for critiquing other’s lives instead of dealing with your own, always preoccupied with an attention span that is equal to that of a child’s when something meaningful is shared.

Also observed is the reliance on the television to relay orders from the government, as well as the global “USA speaks, we jump” attitude that whatever the US says better go; that the US military is here to save you – from you! The police state idea is also observed, something that seems to comes hand in hand with the disconnected culture and the religious following of orders and regulations “because it’s my job” or “because the government told me to.”

The film was also refreshingly unrealistic and/or realistic. At some times characters possessed superhuman strength, other times they possessed a healthy human fallibility but either way, both were at extremes to (in my opinion) encourage the viewer to think about the way information is typically relayed in films or to showcase the need for at least one person to think outside the box or two people to work together in order to see results.

Overall, I thought The Host was an awesome critique of the consumerist, globalized, USA USA USA, apathetic, mass, inefficient, police state that much of the world is morphing into. There is little to zero humanity or empathy between the people, no news on the tube, but it’s everyone’s destination for information about the world and how to live in it.

What the heck was the monster? I’m still unsure. Maybe it means that through our consumption we are creating a monster that will consume us all in the end. Regardless, I learned two valuable lessons from The Host: 1) Sit down and enjoy some real food/real interactions with your family, and 2) turn off the TV.

Chelsea Toth's response

Before watching this film, and not knowing very much about the plot besides the fact that it could be considered a “monster movie” left me a little uneasy, as I do not enjoy many movies associated with that combined feeling of terror and excitement. I did my best to set aside my preconceived notions of this film although I first thought it to be impossible. There is no vagueness as to how this monster originates. The opening scene is set in the year 2000, February 9th to be specific, in a U.S. Army mortuary. A conversation between one American doctor of higher ranking and a Korean doctor is displayed, and the American doctor indicates to Mr. Kim that all of the bottles of formaldehyde being stored in the mortuary are dirty due to the layers of dust that cover them and that they must be disposed of. In fact the American doctor orders Mr. Kim to dump every last bottle down the drain, which flows into the Han River. The camera then cuts to Mr. Kim in the process of following orders and then pans over the hundreds of emptied bottles. Accompanied with recognizable horror movie music in the background, it is obvious at this point in the movie that there can be no good consequences to follow from the improper disposal of these highly toxic chemicals. It is easy to assume that this is the cause of said “monster”.

This opening scene profoundly bothered me, and the only thing that would reconcile my feelings the first time viewing this film was thinking that the actions made by these doctors could never be true in real life. However, doing a little research into this film truly disturbed me when I found out there are indeed multiple references to real past events in Korean history throughout this film, some more obvious than others. One association that was easy for me to recognize later in the film was when the U.S. supplies the Korean government with an antidote invented to suppress this deadly virus that is supposedly being spread from coming into contact with the monster. The antidote is called Agent Yellow, very similar name to Agent Orange, the herbicides deployed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Other historical references shown in The Host include civilian protests against the government, a perfect example being near the end of the film when masses of people flood the banks of the Han River.

What I did not expect in this film was the amusingly compassionate tale of the struggles to be had within a dysfunctional family. The real, in the raw, human emotion exhibited by these characters pleased me, as I did not think going into this movie there would be much anything more than just fright. Overall the problems within this nuclear family helped me relate a little more to this unfamiliar culture. An unusual mix of genres to say the least, although I did enjoy some of the slapstick and satirical pleasantries during this film for the most part the ignorance of the Korean officials really frustrated me at times. The most noticeable ignorance throughout the film is that nobody believes the Park family to be true after they find out the youngest member of their family, Hyun-Seo is still alive even though the Korean government has already recorded her death along with the rest of the victims from the first monster attack. A majority of the film’s plot is centered on the disbelief of this family; heightened suspense is added throughout the movie with intense aerial and low-angled shots alongside the theatrical suspense background music over the capture of this “infected family”. Overall I believe the director, Joon-ho Bong did an impeccable job on this movie, consequently not allowing this film to reside in one particular category. The incredible CGI effects and beautifully composed plot is what I believe has brought this film such great success. This is not just your typical “monster movie”. Combined elements of environmentalism and the mockery of U.S. Army really stand out in this film; the monster is just a symbolic cover.

Kelly Battiato's response:

The Host, directed by Joon-ho-Bong, takes place on the Seoul's Han River where a mutant river monster is stirred and attacks the civilians along the shore of the Han River. Among the civilians is the Park family who owns a local snack bar along the river. Hee-Bong Park's granddaughter, Hyun-seo, is taken by the river monster and the Park family tries to save her. The Park family reminds me of a bunch of misfits in a way, there is the grandfather Hee-Bong, his dimwitted son Gang-du who is Hyun-seo's father, Nam-il is the youngest son and is a gambling alcoholic, and then Nam-joo who is an arch medalist on the national team. They all team together to get into the restricted area of the Han River after they receive a cell phone call from Hyun-seo.

I thought the cinematography was very strong in this movie, especially when the family is battling the monster. I always pay attention to the score and especially liked the music in this kind of reminded me of Jaws at first... it has the same effect as the dun dun dun dun, and then goes into the dramatic violins...I thought it was very interesting and stood out to me. I was also impressed by the special effects. I guess I was expecting it come off as more corny or cheesy, but that monster was really terrifying.

I think the director was drawing a parallel with the government in the movie not having any idea what they were doing, with how it is questionable with government (in general) if they really know what they are doing all the time and what false information they are giving the public. For example they put Gang-du through all this turmoil and tests for no reason! There really was no virus/contamination like were telling the public.

The humor in this film was very quirky which I love, I think it is my favorite kind of movie this "drama-ody" kind. In particular when everyone is at the shelter and mourning the loss of Hyun-seo, I was moved and even think I almost cried, but then they all start being over dramatic and flailing on the ground crying, and I started laughing. That is just one scene that stood out, to me. I like that the story got the viewer is invested in these flawed characters, and I also love how the director kind of emphasized these characters flaws. And at the end there was growth in all of the characters, even though sadly some of them passed away.

I think there was probably more to the film in regard to the director saying something about the Korean government and the American government...but I am not sure what exactly that is. Like he was making some kind of political statement.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie and would like to view it again.

Andy Yates' response -- credit:

Eric Acton's response -- credit:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Michael Dean Benton: Introduction and Discussion of The Battle of Algiers

(Originally published in Uprooting Criminology: April 14, 2014)

In 1966 Gillo Pontecorvo’s film The Battle of Algiers was released to critical acclaim as well as official condemnation. In France it was banned until 1974 when it was finally screened in a cut version. The film examines the early part of what is known as the Algerian War (1954-1962) when the colonized Algerian population threw off the century-long yoke of the French colonizers (they invaded Algeria in 1830). Pontecorvo’s film is unique in many ways:

1) Its focus is on the early intensification of the Algerian resistance when they began to focus on guerilla warfare in the city of Algiers as the most effective tactic against the French colonizers.

2) It also effectively portrays the French Legion’s military response. Torture as a method of information-gathering and intimidation, as well as, the concerted hunting down of resistance fighters.

3) The film uses mostly non-professional actors who had actually been a part of the Algerian resistance against the French.

4) The film is naturalistic in its portrayal of the operations of revolutionary cells and their guerrilla tactics.

5) The film provides powerful images of the colonizing forces usage of media to communicate their messages. Perhaps, not as obvious, is the resistance resort to “terror” as their only possible tactic to communicate their message.

6) It ends with the seemingly victorious moment for the colonizers when the French Legion has won the Battle of Algiers and decimated the guerrilla cells. However, as the last scene vividly demonstrates, they may have won the battle, but the French in their victory had poured gasoline onto the flame of resistance that would lead to their eventual defeat in the larger war.

The film is considered to be so realistic in its depiction of the resistance against colonizing forces, that the Pentagon in 2003, during the Bush Administration’s initiation of its “War on Terror,” held screenings for their officers in order for them to understand the resistance they would probably face. The film is also very effective in thinking about the later Abu Ghraib scandals and provides insights into the recent USA-France joint invasion of Mali.

Discussion questions:

• In The Battle of Algiers there is a powerful scene that examines the hypocrisy of Western ideology. This is when Colonel Mathieu is hosting the media to announce the capture of the resistance leader. The French celebrated the “heroic” resistance against the NAZI occupation, how were they now complicit in the same acts of the NAZIs (directly relating to the comment from one of the reporters during this scene)?

• Albert Memmi, the Tunisian writer, in his 1957 book The Colonizer and the Colonized, makes the claim that colonization is in essence “one variety of fascism” (63). Do you agree or disagree?

• France had just been defeated in another colonial war (The First Indochina War of 1945-1954 in Vietnam ), do you think this has something to do with their brutal determination to defeat the Algerian resistance.

• The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte considers the violence of the colonizer and the colonized to be different. What response do you have to this claim through a discussion of the violence perpetrated by both sides in the film? Is violence necessary, as Sartre claims, to the decolonization movement? Feel free to bring in observations from other decolonization movements.

• This film continues to resonate with 21st Century events in North Africa and the Middle East (in particular the Abu Ghraib scandals, the American empire’s endorsement of torture as a policy, and the American-French invasion of Mali). Are there lessons to be learned about the experiences of the colonizer and the colonized in this film?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Great Dictator (USA: Charlie Chaplin, 1940)

The Great Dictator (USA: Charlie Chaplin, 1940: 125 mins)

Barker, Jennifer Lynne. The Aesthetics of Antifascist Film: Radical Projection. Routledge, 2013. [Get through interlibrary loan]

Marsh, Calum. "Can Humor Be Weaponized? We speak of satire as ‘venomous’ and ‘acerbic,’ but it isn’t the damage it deals that makes it significant." Keyframe (April 10, 2016)

Neibaur, James L. "The Great Dictator." Cineaste 36.4 (2011)

Rivas, T.J. "Cinematic Responses to Fascism." Film History and Aesthetics Wiki (A Project of Film 110: Introduction to Film History and Aesthetics at Westminster College)

Vanneman, Alan. "Looking at Charlie: The Great Dictator (An Occasional Series on the Life and Work of Charlie Chaplin)." The Bright Lights Film Journal (April 30, 2010)

Before Sunrise (USA/Austria/Switzerland: Richard Linklater, 1995)

Before Sunrise (USA/Austria/Switzerland: Richard Linklater, 1995: 105 mins)

Kogonada. "The long conversation – Richard Linklater on cinema and time." Sight and Sound (November 4, 2013)

Like Stories of Old. "Anatomy of the Dreamlike Romance – Call Me By Your Name vs. Before Sunrise." Like Stories of Old (March 31, 2018)

---. "The Before Trilogy: Performing a Real Relationship." (Posted on Youtube: November 10, 2017) [I would easily include this trilogy in my best of cinema. The first time I saw Before Sunrise I was floored because I had never seen a film that captured the magic, mystery and mood of unplanned romance (I won't ruin the end for those that haven't seen it) in such a realistic way. The second and third film, made 9 years later each time, continues to defy the Hollywood/Hallmark co-optation of our romantic ideas. The collaboration of Richard Linklater (director/writer), Kim Krizan (co-writer), Ethan Hawke (actor/collaborator), and Julie Delpy (actor/collaborator), is a major achievement in collaborative filmmaking and escapes the stunt feel of the later unrelated Linklater film Boyhood. I've been dreaming of my film class next semester and how I could explore B. Ruby Rich's call to move past Hollywood's/America's singular focus on individualistic experience and maybe this could be the start from a masterpiece on an evolving dyad experience that avoids privileging one perspective and moving outward to more fully collective depictions. "A video essay exploring how Richard Linklater created one of the most unique portrayals of a real relationship in his Before Trilogy; consisting of Before SunriseBefore Sunset and Before Midnight."]

MacDowell, James. "Before Sunrise after Before Midnight: genre and gender in the Before series." Alternate Takes (September 17, 2013)

Stone, Rob. "Between Sunrise and Sunless." Film Studies for Free (February 10, 2014)

Resources for February 19, 2014

Mirrlees, Tanner. "How to Read Iron Man: The Economics, Geopolitics and Ideology of an Imperial Film Commodity." Cineaction #92 (2014)

Carlin, Dan. "The Challenges of Living Dangerously." Common Sense #269 (February 5, 2014) ["The death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman has Dan contemplating how society might better handle the vagaries of human nature if we would be honest about what human beings often want."]

Kogonada. "The long conversation – Richard Linklater on cinema and time." Sight and Sound (November 4, 2013)

Lee, Kevin. "Finding Freedom the Second Time Around: The Politics of Before Sunset." Senses of Cinema (October 2004)

Alison Willmore in IndieWire: "Critic's Picks: The Top 10 Television Shows of 2013."

Kogonada. "The world according to Koreeda: How Japan’s modern master revives our taste for everyday life." Sight and Sound (January 9, 2014)

MacDowell, James. "Before Sunrise after Before Midnight: genre and gender in the Before series." Alternate Takes (September 17, 2013)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Resources for February 16, 2014

Noujaim, Jehane. "The Square: Jehane Noujaim’s New Film Captures Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution After Mubarak’s Fall." Democracy Now (January 25, 2014)

Cocozza, Paula. "Oppressed Majority: the film about a world run by women that went viral." The Guardian (February 11, 2014)

Marks, Ben. "Trailing Angela Davis, from FBI Flyers to 'Radical Chic' Art." Collector's Weekly (July 3, 2013)

Huffington Post: "Texas Sports Anchor Dal Hansen Delivers Jaw-Dropping Speech On Gay NFL Players"

Manohla Dargus and A.O. Scott for The New York Times: "20 Directors to Watch" ["Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, film critics for The New York Times, discuss an international assortment of rising young filmmakers."]

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Square (Egypt/USA: Jehane Noujaim, 2013)

The Square (Egypt/USA: Jehane Noujaim, 2013: 104 mins)

Ali, Mostafa and Hani Shukrallah. "What Happened to the Egyptian Revolution?" We Are Many (June 2013)

Benton, Michael Dean. "Fragile Victory in Egypt." North of Center (February 16, 2011)

Crawshaw, Steve. "10 Everyday Acts of Resistance That Changed the World." Yes! (April 1, 2011)

Dale, Tom. "Will Egypt's Mass Death Sentence Provoke More Violence?" Vice (March 25, 2014)

"Egypt: More than 500 sentenced to death in ‘grotesque’ ruling." Amnesty International (March 24, 2014)

Hélène, C. "Police arrest Alexandria workers as strikes continue nationwide." Libcom (March 26, 2014)

Hermes, Kris and Omar el-Shafei. "White-washing Human Rights Abuses and Suppressing a Popular Revolution; Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Ousted Following Days of Massive Largest Anti-Government Protest." Law and Disorder (July 8, 2013)

Hynes, Eric. "Fight the Powers That Be: The Square." Reverse Shot #33 (2013)

Jourdan, Brandon. "Egyptian Winter: A New Short Documentary." Global Uprising (March 4, 2013) ["Two years after the revolution in Egypt began, unrest continues across the country as the political and economic situation worsens. As the current government consolidates its power, the demands of the revolution may seem further away than ever. Still the revolution has opened up new spaces for political action, spurring public debate on issues that have gone unacknowledged and unresolved for too long. This short documentary looks at some of the reasons motivating revolutionaries to keep taking the streets, the obstacles that they are facing, and the tactics that they are using. It looks into the current economic and political problems facing Egyptians, the growing independent union movement, black bloc tactics, and the response of women to sexual assaults.]"

Kouddous, Sharif Abdel. "3 Years After Revolution, Egypt Faces Deadly Polarization & Growing Militancy." Democracy Now (January 30, 2014)

---. "Egypt’s Courts Further Repression with Journos on Trial & Mass Death Sentence for Morsi Supporters." Democracy Now (March 26, 2014)

Lattanzio, Ryan. "'The Square' Editor Sentenced to Prison in Egypt." Indiewire (October 27, 2014) ["Sanaa Seif, who served as an editor on the Oscar-nominated documentary 'The Square,' has been sentenced to three years in prison in Egypt for protesting."]

Noujaim, Jehane. "The Square: Jehane Noujaim’s New Film Captures Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution After Mubarak’s Fall." Democracy Now (January 25, 2014)

Noujaim, Jehane and Karim Amer. "Through the Lens: The Square." Radio West (October 16, 2013)

"The Square." Critics Round Up (Ongoing Archive)

Stephens, Gregory. "Recording the Rhythm of Change: A Rhetoric of Revolution in The Square." Bright Lights Film Journal (May 7, 2014)

Resources for February 15, 2014

Stone, Rob. "Between Sunrise and Sunless." Film Studies for Free (February 10, 2014)

Amato, Peter. All Opinions are Not Equal: Critical Reasoning Theory & Practice. (Drexel University: 2014)

Dobson, Teresa M. and Tammy Iftody. "Consciousness and Complexity in Waking Life" Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education 6.1 (2009)

McCalmont, Jonathan. "REVIEW – John Dies At The End (2012)." Ruthless Culture (February 3, 2014)

Jones, Kent. "To Live or Clarify the Moment: Rick Linklater’s Waking Life." Senses of Cinema (March 2002)

Rowley, Rick and Jeremy Scahill. "Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare." Democracy Now (January 22, 2013)

Oppenheimer, Joshua. "The Act of Killing: New Film Shows U.S.-Backed Indonesian Death Squad Leaders Re-enacting Massacres." Democracy Now (July 19, 2013)

Good Morning (Japan: Yasujirô Ozu, 1959)

Good Morning (Japan: Yasujirô Ozu, 1959: 94 mins)

Bordwell, David. "Watch again! Look well! Look! (For Ozu)." Observations on Film Art (December 12, 2013)

Catley, Anna. "Wes Anderson & Yasujiro Ozu: A Visual Essay." (Posted on Keyframe: March 30, 2015)

Cousins, Mark. "The Story of Film: An Odyssey - Yasujiro Ozu." BBC 4 (Posted on Youtube: September 28, 2011)

Klevan, Andrew. "Expressing the In-Between." LOLA #1 (2011)

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Ohayo/Good Morning." (Originally published in the Monthly Film Bulletin #502: November 1975)

DVD Distributers: Recommended

[Suggestions welcomed - post in comments]

Arrow Films

Artificial Eye


Bullfrog Films

Cinema Guild

Cohen Media Group



Icarus Films

Kino Lorber

Masters of Cinema

Movie Mail

Olive Films

Second Sight

Zeitgeist Films

The Godfather: Part Three (USA: Francis Ford Coppola, 1990)

The Godfather: Part Three (USA: Francis Ford Coppola, 1990: 162 mins)

Freedman, Carl. "The Supplement of Coppola: Primitive Accumulation and the Godfather Trilogy." Film International #49 (2011): 8-41

Gamman, Lorraine. "If Looks Could Kill: On gangster suits and silhouettes." Moving Image Source (May 8, 2012)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Night and Fog (France: Alain Resnais, 1955)

Night and Fog (France: Alain Resnais, 1955: 32 mins)

Barker, Jennifer Lynne. The Aesthetics of Antifascist Film: Radical Projection. Routledge, 2013. [Get through interlibrary loan]

Cowie, Peter. "Flashback: Alain Resnais." The Current (March 23, 2014)

---. "Night and Fog: Origins and Controversy." Current (June 23, 2003)

Farry, Oliver. "Is it time for the English-speaking world to give the late Alain Resnais another chance?" The New Statesman (April 25, 2014)

Kennelly, Kate. "Re-envisioning the Postwar Documentary: Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog and Hiroshima mon amour." Bright Lights Film Journal (March 6, 2015)

Lopate, Phillip. "Night and Fog Current (June 23, 2003)

Waking Life (USA: Richard Linklater, 2001)

Waking Life (USA: Richard Linklater, 2001: 99 mins)

Dobson, Teresa M. and Tammy Iftody. "Consciousness and Complexity in Waking Life" Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education 6.1 (2009)

Eig, Jonathan. "A Beautiful Mind(fuck) -- Hollywood Structures of Identity." Jump Cut #46 (2003)

Falzon, Christopher. "Philosophy Through Film." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (August 12, 2013)

Jones, Kent. "To Live or Clarify the Moment: Rick Linklater’s Waking Life." Senses of Cinema (March 2002)

Kogonada. "The long conversation – Richard Linklater on cinema and time." Sight and Sound (November 4, 2013)

Mann, Doug. "Buddhists, Existentialists and Situationists: Waking up in Waking Life." (ND: Published on his Western University - Canada webpage)

"Waking Life (2001)." Philosophical Films (ND)

Resources for February 13, 2014

Blackburn, Robin. "Stuart Hall, February 3rd, 1932-to February 10th, 2014: An Obituary." Verso Books (February 10, 2014)

Vincendeau, Ginette. "Black Moon: Louis in Wonderland." Criterion (June 28, 2011)

Assayas, Olivier. "My Generation." Village Voice (August 17, 2004)

LeGac, Frank. "Great Directors: Olivier Assayas." Senses of Cinema." (May 2006)

Juzwiak, Rich. "Watch Creationists Talking About Creationism." Gawker (February 11, 2014)

ENG 282 Week 5: Something in the Air (France: Olivier Assayas, 2012)

Archive of Resources for the Film

More films by Olivier Assayas:

Ebony Nava response

[1968 was a tumultuous year around the world. Just a few of the major events that took place in 1968 are as follows; the Vietnam War begins, teachers protest state education funding in the US, students protest for cheaper student meals in Brazil, Martin Luther King is assassinated in the US, The Tlatelolco massacre of protesters occurs in Mexico, The Troubles begin in Ireland between two groups of Irish ethnicities, and the Khmer Rouge which later is responsible for the Cambodian Genocide is formed in Cambodia.

More specifically in Paris France, political unrest was reaching a pinnacle in May of 1968 as student unrest at Sorbonne University snowballed into protests and riots with the communist party and high school student unions joining forces and calling for the resignation of the current president, De Gaulle, among other demands. The protests culminated in some 2/3’s of the entire workforce in France striking for two continuous weeks.]

Something in the Air, by French director Olivier Assayas (2012), is a film about several privileged “white” youth living in France, circa 1968. The film follows these youth through the end of their senior year in high school (May 1968) and the subsequent summer, focusing mainly on a young man named Gilles who has a passion for painting and an interest in film (Gilles character is also, apparently, a depiction of the director as a young man).

Unfortunately, despite being a well-made film (quite realistic clothing/grooming, and character representations for a film made in 2012), and likely a reasonably accurate representation of Gilles’ experiences as a young man, I was left wanting. Peppered throughout the film (including its background non-diegetic sound track) are intentional art references (film, music, etc.) that would have likely enriched the film – had I been a viewer old enough to catch on to the connotations that were implied.

Gilles’ group of friends is made up of affluent young people. There is no real concern as to where resources are coming from to fund the comings and goings of the youths as they travel across several European countries/across to the Americas, or, likewise, what they will do to sustain themselves in life. College of some sort is not a question of if, but when, and the “fight” or “revolution” is not so much for them as much as it is for “the workers.”

Sorely lacking in the film were many people of color (I counted two or three extras, out of hundreds, at least), maybe this is representative of the areas shown in the film at the time (1968), then again maybe not since there was an influx of immigration to France after WW2 in the 1950’s (granted, immigrants were probably poor and weren’t able to associate with the circles of people Gilles found himself a part of). Either way, there was no mention of the racial landscape of France at the time, which was odd as sexuality, gender roles, and generational conflict were all taken on in the film.

Regardless, the film does touch on the many changes that were going on during Gilles’ youth; globalization (the book Gilles was reading is deemed US political propaganda, the “map” artist), the shallowness of blockbusters (movies made for no reason other than money), even the sheer amount of experiences, decisions, and changes Gilles and his friends made in their transitional year of leaving high school, and thus, growing apart.

An important ingredient to the period of time Something in the Air features is the “attitude,” for lack of a better word, for whatever reason, that the youth possess that inspires them to resist the rules and establishments that had been previously set in place. Throughout the film there are clashes between the genders, clashes between generations, clashes between ideologies (all conflicts that continue to this day); the effects of their revolutionary actions/change/ideas were specifically mulled upon in the film when Gilles reads the following passage from a book, “When painters try to cast off representation, they do so by destroying painting and their survival as painters” to which his friend responds “we follow our own path, but it costs you, sometimes a lot. You can’t know.

Something in the Air is about transitions within transitions. The world, globally, in transition, the youth’s transitioning lives during this transitional time period, the youths’ transitioning opinions, ideas, outlooks, and feelings, Gilles’ artwork, and even the transition between 1968 and today (in the film, for example, reading is something everyone had in common).

None of the transitions appear to be taken on and fully examined; yet they are thoughtfully turned about and briefly mulled by Assayas, something that his younger “self” Gilles (not surprisingly) also tends to do in the film. Gilles seems to lament this tendency in the film when he says, like a true thinker, “I’m upset with myself. I live in my fantasies. When reality knocks, I don’t open.” Perhaps this trait still haunts Assayas. For what other reason would he build an entire scene up to the admission and then to a pensive close directly after?

Patrick Reynolds' response

I was a young boy just barely into the double digits in the late sixties, but I maintain a strong sense of the emotional sentiment of the time - due entirely to an older brother and sister who were both very liberal, artistic teenagers who completely embraced this counterculture so prevalent - More prevalent than I had even realized until viewing this film. Global in every sense of the word.

In my humble opinion, Oliver Assayas' depiction of this sentiment is spot on. The characters attitudes first reminded me of a famous line from another movie where a young rebel is ask: "What are you rebelling against Johnny" - (Johnny's reply) "Whata ya got? However, as Assayas continues to define the era, I was impressed as to how much change was truly needed, and how ripe the world was for this revolution. Albeit (as my Professor pointed out) mostly unsuccessful: But, perhaps a keen awareness of these issues can be seen as some degree of success...

While many of the characters display true moral conviction to their cause, some are portrayed as coldly thinking of what they do as more of a job or profession. Much in the same light that Abbey Hoffman (infamous 60s activist) came to see himself as a professional organizer.

I sensed that this realization was at least partially responsible for the main character "Gilles" becoming disillusioned or disconcerted with the movement. Masterfully brought to light in a progressive and subtle manner. My first awareness of this: Gilles apathetic response to a request for involvement in the burning of a car.

I think these thoughts coupled with his feelings regarding letting the two women he loves walk out of his life, are what he means when he confesses: "I live in a fantasy world. When true opportunity knocks, I don't answer" More and more he is turning towards his true calling, though not via medium he expected. Unlike the romantic life of a revolutionist, this is accurately depicted as the day in, day out rigors of learning a trade.

From a technical and artistic perspective, I am beyond impressed. The accuracy to which this era is portrayed is incredibly detailed. How the characters matured visibly was excellent. The use of folk and contemporary music, both diegetic and non-diegetic, solidified the experience for me.

There were two scenes that especially impressed me. One very simple, and the other very subtle.

The former: when Gilles is working as a "Gopher" at the production of a low grade Sci-Fi film. As he is leaving work, he steps behind the screen to exit and his shadow grows larger and larger as he distances himself while production continues. Perhaps analogous to no longer being a central character, and things continuing in his absence.

The latter: The scene at the end when Gilles is viewing an experimental film. The last scene of which seems to dissolve into his subliminal thought. As the female character slowly walks towards the viewer (Gilles) and progresses from a very blurred image to a clear one, her likeness seemed to vary between his two loves - Laura and Christene

Unsure and thinking that this might have been only my imagination. I asked my Professor about this perception. His response: "With a talent like Oliver Assayas, we can assume nothing is by accident"

Eric Acton's response

The French drama “Something in the Air “(2012) written and directed by Olivier Assayas focuses on the life maturing experiences of Gilles - an artistic high-school student in 1971. He participates in the activities of a 1970’s French countercultural movement with his high-school friends and later he begins to the realization that he is more interested in revolutions of music and art instead of politics. In the opening scenes, the director has recreated a chaotic clash between riot police and activists. He wants the audience to understand how passionate Gilles and his compatriots are about the countercultural movement. Gilles appears to have a passion for the revolution in these scenes. This passion seems to change after a security guard becomes injured during their daring nighttime graffiti raid on his school. The audience can sense that he is having second thoughts about his involvement in the group.

After the graffiti incident, he and his friends temporally disband to spend the summer in Italy to allow all the chaos of recent events to “die-down”. His enthusiasm about the political cause seems to diminish even further once he and his girlfriend Christine part ways. She joins a political propaganda filmmaking group that he considers “artistically uninspiring and politically primitive”. The director’s use of the scene from Pompeii, Italy with its entombed and preserved human remains leaves the audience with the sense that Gilles sees himself trapped within the expectations of his high-school friends. Gilles gazes upon these grotesque human figures and you can almost see how he feels that he’s been “entombed” by his friend’s political agenda and not allowed room for his own self-expression. It is at this point the film begins to specifically focus on Gilles’ struggle with the direction his life should take.

The two scenes where he re-encounters his ex-girlfriends, Laure and Christine leave you with the sensation that Gilles has no intention of returning to his previous ways, but to move forward in his life. It is a personal closure for him. He experiments with helping his father on a television detective series, but learns very quickly that he doesn’t want to conform to conventional views. At the end of the film the director does a brilliant job of establishing Gilles artistic and unconventional nature as Gilles is working on a film production that puts Nazis, a cavewoman and a monstrous lizard-like creature together. Gilles seems to have found what appears to be own identity.

Megan Kurkowski's response

Olivier Assayas film Something in the Air, is a film based on the events of the rebellion of May 1968. During this time there were many things going on, you saw protests, and vandalism, etc. You saw numerous accounts of rebellion, many of which failed. Many people had hopes of changing the world, and tried to do so in different ways. I think the people that were mainly affected by this was the youth; The kids in high school, the college students, and the young working people. It affected not only certain parts of Europe, but many different parts throughout.

The film follows a group of seniors in high school who are about to graduate, and are a part of the rebellion. The main focus throughout the film is on a young boy who aspires to be an artist, Gilles. The movie starts off with a riot in the streets. You are drawn in by sounds of screams, bombs, and people being beaten. The sounds made it seem as if I was there for myself in the midst of it all. At first I thought it was a dream, or a vision that one was having, but soon saw it was really happening.

In the beginning Gilles is in a relationship with Laure, who seem to be very in love with one another. We quickly find out that she is going away, and breaks up with him. Gilles seeming upset about the situation soon finds himself caught up in another relationship with Christine. You then see the group of friends vandalize things several times, from vandalizing the school with spray paint, to catching things on fire. They soon decide to go to Italy. I was just so taken back at how careless they were about just picking up and going. They didn’t have to answer to their parents or anything, they just picked up and went. I thought it was pretty cool how they really didn’t have the parents on top of them about what they were doing, or who they were with.

In another part of the film we see things have ended between Gilles and Christine. Laure invites Gilles to a party she and her new boyfriend are having. When they see each other at the party they go off to where they are excluded from everyone and nobody can see them. He takes out different paintings that he has done and shares them with her. At the moment one might think as I did myself that things would strike back up between the two, but he leaves to go back to the city. We then see Laure jump out of the window to escape the fire. One could also interpret that she is tripping off of “drugs” that she has taken, that’s what I myself thought. I like how he lets you wonder, and kind of come up with your own intake on whether it is real, or a trip.

In the end we see Gilles sitting in a theater watching a film. We see a young girl in a field of flowers. The resolution is a little blurry, so it is hard to make out who the girl might be. At first I thought maybe it was Christine, but as the resolution becomes more clearer we see that the girls is Laure. This I think going back to his first love, which his love has now turned to film. When we see Laure’s hand reach out, and then the screen turns white, I think could be the answer to your question of her death. Did she really die, or was the fire just an illusion she was having.

Over all this film was one that included the experiments, the rebellions, and the change that was taken place during this time. This film made me wish that I could have lived in the 60’s. The care free attitude that they had as youth is something that was so interesting to me. I would recommend people to watch this movie. It is both informative about the revolution and interesting.

Destini Wright's response:

The Olivier Assayas film, Something in the Air, is a French film centered around the events to follow and leading to the rebellion of May 1968. So much was going on throughout this year that tensions were high all around the world. Perhaps the group that was most effected and inspired however was the youth. From the high school students, the college students and even the young workers through out many parts of Europe. Everyone wanted to make a difference and to change the world. During this time the several failed rebellions that took place, kept adding fire to the next. What makes this film so intriguing is the way that it follows the group through out their journey over the year when they are transitioning from high school to college.

The film follows a young artist named Gilles. Gilles and his friends are right in the middle of the rebellion pushing their limits with all sorts of authority trying to prove a point. Rebellion and personal growth is a major aspect in this film. We start the movie with the riot in the street. This right off the back puts us right in the center of the madness. The sounds of the screams, the motorcycles, the gas bombs, the sounds of the students being beaten with the night sticks. Without anyone even saying a word we can picture for ourselves what is going on and that is was no longer just a joke or a thought. It was real.

As we see Gilles and his friends go from this scene and into some of the later ones with the graffiti and even into the violent acts in which leaves the security guard injured, they are constantly pushing their limits in what they are trying to get away with. This goes on through out the film in many undertones that we see, from as simple as smoking a cigarette, to sex, drug use, and even abortion. All very experimental things in this time of exploration. Things were changing and this group that we start out with are changing too. We start to see a pattern of how they are forced to change with the times and to adapt to their surroundings. We see that after his time traveling that Gilles comes back and during his conversation with Jean Pirre which has been working all summer he is not as anxious to jump back into the rebellion as him and the other workers are.

It makes us look at it in a way that shows those who have more to gain from the rebellions are the working class. Those who know what they want and are working for are angry and want justice and want to be noticed. Gilles and Christine however we see run off into a journey of their own with no regard of what they are leaving behind or how they will manage what is to come. They do not worry with expenses of the trip, of the side effects that are going to go with their actions. Nothing seems to have any repercussion to them in this adventure.

Aside from the undertones of rebellion we have many undertones of love and adventure as well. When we first see Gilles and Laura you think that they are so in love one second and then the next she tells him she is leaving him. In our time you could see this as the end of the world for a young man. Here however we see him quickly lean to Christine. Was this an actual act of love or lust? We would think that he was actually falling for her until we fast forward to the time when we see Gilles go to Laura. He burns the painting he brought for her simply so that no one else can see It. The fact that this is one of the most important things to him it speaks volumes the love that he still has for her.

But again as we said we are constantly seeing this group of youth growing and changing we later find out the Gilles actual love was film. He takes this and turns it into something that he can use to forever express himself. Not only for who he is but for who he hopes to be. Nearing the end we find him sitting in a theater. Watching a movie which shows a young beautiful free spirited girl in a field of flowers. We start to see as the resolution betters that his women is Laura, he focus in on her face. The way that the director portrays this scene is somewhat like a home video. We can then possible infer that this may not have been what Gilles was actually watching. It is possible this was a flashback for him on which he is replaying his life after he feels he is at a point of success that he can be proud of in which he brings his first love and his final love into sync together. However the fairy tale is quickly stopped when we see as Laura’s hand starts to reach out the picture quickly fades and she is gone. This I feel is used to answer the question of the fiery scene in which Laura seems to jump out of a window to escape a fire that is over taking the room. One would have before this questioned if that was real life. Was the fire actually thereof was is a side effect of the drugs that she has earlier taken that after seeing the bonfire was portrayed into her own personal trips.

As you can see this film is definitely one that plays to all of our emotions. It breaks down what we think about life and what we learn from our actions. For me it was even a way to compare my struggles now verses what was going on in the 60’s. It was more than a time for rebellion. It was a time for experimenting, it was a time for love and romance and a time for taking chances.

Chelsea Toth's response:

Director Olivier Assayas took his empirical knowledge of what it was personally like for him to grow up in the chaotic times of the 1970’s, a time that reeked political havoc throughout the through all societies at that time, and presented us with how young radical teenagers created their own revolutionary legacy living in the counter culture lifestyle of French society with his 2012 work, Something in the Air. During this time era there was a sense of urgency for the younger generation of the time to separate themselves from all other faulty social and political structures in order to stand up for what they knew was right. I still find it difficult to fully understand all of the complexities that these political upheavals stood for, but I do understand the basic historical background of when the characters in this film lived.

The characters in this film did not grow up in the time of the Second World War but the young adult part of their lives portrayed in this film is a reflection of all the moral values lost previously in those wars. Most of the kids of this time did not care to go to school or hold jobs; young adults all over were breaking ties from their families to live a life of freedom, making lifetime dedications to political change. This was one of the more appealing elements of this movie for me: the amount of freedom these kids were given is almost unfathomable to me. Even though this was a time of social inequality I honestly could say that I had a sense of jealousy for how these kids were living as I was watching this movie; the actions of the kids were so brave for that time period. No previous generations had lived as they were living, but they were truly happy even though not every moment was filled with peace and tranquility. At that time it was their job to question everything, socially or politically and even they broke any rules necessary to get their point across.

The approach to which Assayas took to combine all elements of the counter culture lifestyle with all the different aspects of art was skillfully put together to imitate the rich emotions of love and heartbreak that are also present in this radical film. Assayas carefully pieces together all of the rising actions in this film with very little dialogue, the little you can hear is being drowned out by the elaborative background music that splendidly mimics the emotions of the characters for any given scene. There were some parts in this film when the music revealed to me more insight into the characters than their words ever could. There is a scene when the main character Gilles goes to visit his old girlfriend and after he leaves the house party by near the end of the scene I predicted exactly what was happening in the house just through the music and sound effects and I was actually utterly amazed about how well the suspense of that scene built.

Even though this film is not based on Western society many similar issues known in our lives are delivered through the lives of these young revolutionists as they experiment with life and death situations. I recommend this film to anyone who has ever had a dream that seems out of reach because the characters in this film make anything seem possible.

Kelly Battiato's response:

Olivier Assayas' French film, Something in the Air, takes place in May 1968 in France at a time when the students and workers were striking against the French government. The movie follows a group of high school students who are about to graduate, and who want to join in the revolution. Assayas captures what it was like to be a young adult in that time period very accurately and I found it very interesting that the film is loosely based off of his own life at that time.

There were so many major events taking place all of the world, Martin Luther King shot, the civil rights movement, Vietnam war, Bobby Kennedy's assassination and then in France the largest workers and student strike ever to happen. The clothes, music, and overall tone of the movie reflected that time perfectly and transported me to that time and place.

The story mainly follows Gilles who is an aspiring painter, trying to find himself. In the beginning of the film Gilles and his girlfriend, Laure break up and he seems to be pretty devastated by it, but soon distracts himself with a new love interest, Christine, who is also in the student rebellion. After an incident of vandalism and a security guard getting hurt Gilles and his friends head to Italy for the summer to lay low and stay off the radar. I loved the scene on the boat in Italy, I feel like it captured what their time was like there...almost like a dream. They were carefree, meeting new people, and soaking in the beauty around them. I liked whenever they showed Gilles art, I found it inspiring, and I also liked how they showed the progress of his work from the start of the film to when he sees Laure again.

About halfway through the film I felt like it was a little slow and I had a hard time staying focused. I thought the film was shot very beautifully and artistically and I appreciated that. I did keep wondering how these kids were able to just travel around and wondered about their parents. Gilles father who is in the film industry is introduced later, but is only briefly in the film. Gilles and Christine's relationship ends in Italy and Gilles goes back to France to try and focus on art school.

I liked how this film showed how that age is all about exploring who you are and finding out who you want to be. All of the characters in the film are searching and kind of lost and wondering. From the beginning to the end of the movie the characters all change and by the end you see what direction they decide to take. Gilles ends up taking a totally different path with film instead of being a revolutionist or a painter. It's funny how things work out. In a way he was combining his two passions, art mixed with sending out a message through film. I think the purpose of this film was to really transport you to a time when the world was changing so much, and to view it through the eyes of these young students. This year was a monumental one for the world, and for all of the main characters- it was a defining moment in their lives and in the worlds.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Resources for February 11, 2014

Lee, Kevin B. "Who Deserves to Win the 2014 Oscar for Best Lead Actor?" (Video Essay)." Keyframe (February 5, 2014)

Jones, Kent. "World Cinema Project: Recalled to Life." Current (December 9, 2013)

Benton, Michael Dean. "Exploring the Nature and Causes of Violence in Film." Uprooting Criminology (February 10, 2014)

A new website devoted to short film and it is free to access them: Short of the Week

Morley, David and Bill Schwarz. "Stuart Hall obituary: Influential cultural theorist, campaigner and founding editor of the New Left Review." The Guardian (February 10, 2014)

Today We Fight Back

Friday, February 7, 2014

Resources for February 7, 2014

Mooney, Chris. "Why Bill Nye Won the Creationism Debate Last Night." Mother Jones (February 5, 2014)

Harper, Dan. "Great Directors: Akira Kurosawa." Senses of Cinema (July 2002)

Allen, Woody. "Woody Allen Speaks Out." The New York Times (February 9, 2014)

Seven Samurai (Japan: Akira Kurosawa, 1954)

Seven Samurai (Japan: Akira Kurosawa, 1954: 207 mins)

"Akira Kurosawa, Part 1." Director's Club #141 (January 1, 2018)

Chiao, Peggy. "Kurosawa's Early Influences." The Current (October 19, 2010)

Ehrenstein, David. "Seven Samurai." Current (November 22, 1999)

Harper, Dan. "Great Directors: Akira Kurosawa." Senses of Cinema (July 2002)

Hogg, Trevor. "Epic Dreamer: An Akira Kurosawa Profile." Flickering Myth (March 24, 2010)

Kemp, Philip. "A Time of Honor: Seven Samurai and Sixteenth-Century Japan." Current (October 19, 2010)

Meyer, Isaac. "Never Look Away." The History of Japan #236 (April 21, 2018) ["This week, we discuss the career of Japan’s most legendary director, Kurosawa Akira. From humble, middle class beginnings, our story will take us through some of his most notable films, and include detours into the lives of Mifune Toshiro, George Lucas, and even Francis Ford Coppola!"]

Richie, Donald. "Remembering Kurosawa." Current (Decmeber 9, 2009)

Rwehera, Bill. "Seven Samurai: Fury Road." Keyframe (April 30, 2017)

"Sight and Sound Poll 2012: Seven Samurai." Current (September 28, 2012)

Turan, Kenneth. "The Hours and Times: Kurosawa and the Art of Epic Storytelling." (2006) The Current (October 19, 2010)

Zhou, Tony. "Akira Kurosawa - Composing Movement." (Posted on Vimeo: March 20, 2015)

Gojira (Godzilla) (Japan: Ishirô Honda, 1954)

Ishiro Honda’s creature film kicked off the kaiju genre and gave the world one of its most recognisable monsters in Godzilla, one of the few fictitious characters to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Born out of post-Second World War nuclear fears, the film examines the idea of mass destruction as the result of technological interference with nature. Even as Godzilla crushes buildings and entire villages under his feet, there’s a feeling that humans brought on their own destruction, so no matter how high the body count, it’s always a little sad when he’s defeated. – Kelly Robinson

Gojira (Godzilla) (Japan: Ishirô Honda, 1954: 96 mins) 

Brigden, Charles and James Hancock. "Exploring the Sound of Fear." Wrong Reel #252 (April 2017)

Ebiri, Bilge. "MothraJigokuGodzilla: A Postwar Japanese Horror Primer." Vulture (October 29, 2018) 

Hoberman, J. "Godzilla: Poetry After the A-Bomb." Current (January 24, 2012)

Hollings, Ken. "Tokyo Must Be Destroyed: Dreams of Tall Buildings and Monsters -- Images of Cities and Monuments." CTheory (originally published in Digital Delirium. ed. Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1997.)

"Ishiro Honda's Godzilla." CriterionCast #120 (March 25, 2012)

Koski, Genevieve, et al. "King of Monster Movies, Pt, 1 - Godzilla (1954)." The Next Picture Show (June 11, 2019) ["The new CGI spectacle GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS further extends the longest running film franchise in history, but it’s a far cry (roar?) from the 1954 film that first set this fire-breathing, city-flattening phenomenon in motion. So this week we’re looking back at Ishiro Honda’s originating film to speculate how and why its central nuclear metaphor shifted over the decades, to discuss how the film and its effects—don’t call them dated or Keith will be sad!—benefit from Godzilla’s literal and figurative weight, and debate what, if anything, the central love triangle adds to this story."]

---. "King of Monster Movies, Pt. 2 - Godzilla: King of the Monsters." The Next Picture Show (June 18, 2020) ["The new GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS looks and acts a lot more like one of the other recent entries in Warner Bros’ “Monsterverse” than it does the classic creature features inspired by the original GODZILLA, but it also consciously echoes Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film in some key ways. After airing our grievances with the frustratingly incoherent KING OF THE MONSTERS, we dig into what links this newest film to its very different predecessor, from its city-flattening monster effects to its shaky attempts to inject human drama amid the kaiju destruction."]

Liang, Sean, Chris Stachiw and Zach Wickwire. "Godzilla (1954)." Kulturekast (September 1, 2016) ["Chris and Sean are joined by writer Zach Wickwire to kick-off Kaiju Movie Month with the progenitor of all Kaiju movies, Godzilla (1954). The film follows the titular monster as he wrecks havoc on the innocent people of Japan after being created by the US during the second World War."]

Noriega, Chon. "Godzilla and the Japanese Nightmare: When Them! is U.S." Aisan Cinemas ed. Dimitris Eleftheriotis and Gary Needham. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006: 41-55.

Powers, John. "Movie Monsters, Monster Movies And Why 'Godzilla' Endures." Fresh Air (May 2, 2014)

Tsui, Curtis. "10 Things I Learned: Godzilla." Current (February 24, 2012)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

ENG 282 4th Week: City of Life and Death (China/Hong Kong: Lu Chuan, 2009)

Archive of Resources on City of Life and Death

Director Lu Chuan's first film Mountain Patrol(2004):

Emily Hensley's response:

“City of Life and Death” is a traumatizing and dramatic film released in 2009 directed by Lu Chuan based on the historical events that occurred in the 1937 Japanese war called the “Rape of Nanking.” The illustration of the events that transpired during this war are brutally authentic, heinous and devastating to the audience. Crushing the audience’s heart while making them feel helpless like an ignorant bystander who can do nothing but watch. During the actual “Rape of Nanking” over 300,000 victims were claimed but there were many more. In Lu Chuan’s film every character was a victim, the children, the women and the men, whether they were the European/German foreigners or they were the Chinese civilians/soldiers but most surprisingly even the insanely cruel Japanese soldiers were victims.

The power of this film is the weakness and the strength of others. Just one Chinese civilian shows more strength and power in their weakest moment than a whole army of these trained killers. With massive weapons and an unfair advantage the Imperial Japanese Army are controlled, dominated and brainwashed to kill. The devil arrived in this picture and fed on the souls of the innocent with no regret. This pulls on the audience's humanity as empathy and tears just pour out of us as watch a vivid glimpse into this nightmare. Lu Chuan the director, a Chinese man himself knew this story needed to be told no matter what the cost. This monumental film opens the doors into an untold history that will never die as the pain caused still remains.

In times of war people will do things they never imagined they were capable of doing and this theme replays over the course of this picture. Mr. Tang gives up the wounded Chinese soldiers and innocent civilians for the protection of his own family. As a result of his actions the wounded Chinese soldiers were killed and the young women from the Mr. Rabe’s refugee camp were taken into captivity where they were repeatedly raped and abused by the Japanese soldiers. Countless numbers of people suffered and died at Mr. Tang's expense but why? In war no one is safe no matter who gives in or gives up. The irony of what Mr. Tang did is a critical moment as no protection was offered to his family. His child was thrown out the window to her death and his sister in law May was taken. Near the end of the film when Mr. Tang has a chance to escape the war, however, he cannot leave as his guilt consumes him and he sacrifices his own life to try and repair what he has done.

The black and white color this film has a symbolic meaning as it takes the audience back in time to a place they never want to go. Where there is no light, nothing bright just a play on emotions of a dark and dreary tale full of doom. The scenery shown throughout the film is of nothing but disaster, smoking buildings, complete destruction and the despaired remains of what used to be the city of Nanking. The explosion of diegetic sounds from the gun shots being blazed through one causality to the next is a sound that will haunt the audience; they can almost hear it ringing and vibrating through their ears. Chinese soldiers and civilians were shot over and over again leaving the audience almost numb as shock sets in.

Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of this film was watching these exquisitely brave young women being carried naked and thrown onto a wagon like a rag dolls after being savagely raped and murdered. The way these women were piled onto this wagon truly portrayed the Japanese soldiers as heartless and complexly inhuman individuals.

Kadokawa is the only Japanese solider who showed emotion and remorse for these appalling acts committed against the people of Nanking. From the start to the finish of the film the audience can see the toll taken on Kadokawa. He became enchanted with a young prostitute named Yuriko and promised to marry her after the war was over. This showed a side that the audience had not seen from any of the other men. He had feelings and was capable of love just like any other normal person. It was obvious he was distraught when he witnessed Yuriko being held captive and raped with the other women. He should have saved her but he did not and then he found out later that she was dead. During the scene where he watched the dead women being piled unto the wagon he looked scared as if he knew she was already dead. Kadokawa also seemed saddened when he watched the soldiers kill May as he stated “But she was so beautiful.” Then another prostitute Xiajang was captured for trying to save a man named Shunzi. She called to Kadokawa to shoot her and he did, not in cold blood but only to relieve the pain; to put her out of her misery.

As the film drew to a closing we see a field of flowers and then the young boy Xiaodouzi and the man Shunzi as prisoners being lead by Kadokawa and another solider. Kadokawa again showed humanity by releasing them from their ties and he set them free. He then stated “Life is more difficult than Death.” This reminded me of the visual shots filmed of the ruins that was once a thriving city. I asked myself what kind of life could they have lived? If life was sustained what did the survivors have to endure, overcome and rebuild through so much pain? Whereas in death the lights are out and the pain is gone. This made me question was he right? Was death easier than life?

As Xiaodouzi and Shunzi walk away they heard the fire of gun shots and their faces dropped with a look of “I knew this was too good to be true” they just knew they had been shot. They inspected each other for a gunshot wound but none were present and they immediately began to laugh, skip and play with the flowers. Life was beautiful for them at that moment and my question was answered. No matter how hard life can get, even in times of war, life is worth living for those beautiful moments. It was interesting to find out that Xiaodouzi is still alive today and I thought to myself he will never forget, but he maybe he healed from the unseen wounds of war. On the other hand for Kadokawa the wounds of war, guilt and shame were too much to bear as the shot he fired was for himself, where he finally relieved his own pain.

Although an actor is an actor they are human as well, so escaping from this film most have been pure hell. The truth the actors portrayed is so disturbingly real from the look in their eyes to the fear they felt. Their bodies and emotions were all in sync, proving genius work that made us think. The Japanese actors were true to their past having to reenact shameful events that their own people commenced. These actors had to be extremely driven to play these horrific parts but I wondered why? ? Maybe a thought or sign of despair or possibly to help heal and show they care by sharing this story in all its gruesome detail.

Patrick Reynold's Response:

Thinking about this film evokes a historical response familiar to many: That of a 31 y.o. Chicago reporter named Herbert Morrison as he witnessed, and though incredibly shaken, continued his radio coverage of the Hindenberg Disaster crying out the now famous words - "The Humanity of It...". I left this viewing jolted, and experienced the same when viewed a second time a few days later. I experienced none of the usual sense of "it is not nearly as realistic this time through" that is common for me.

The technical aspect is superlative. The raw drama of the black and white medium, coupled with the wide angle perspectives that were often juxtaposed with a similar shot from the oppositions point of view were brilliant. I don't recall any first person footage, but much from the perspective of someone who was in attendance and a close part of what was going on.

The use of sound, both diegetic and un-diegetic, was also distinctive. When the surroundings were calm, the sound of a passing platoon of soldier's boots impacting the ground would be amplified. Similar sounds of an individual walking in the dry sandy soil, as was often the case with Mr. Tang, provided an intensified sense of destitute or tenseness. The use of a high pitch flute with introspective or other worldly thought. Drum and piano, it all fit so perfectly. The film would not have been the same if not so expertly done.

A question that continuously lurked deep in my grey matter: Could I too get caught up in this frenzy, and become a savage emotionless creature only interested in my own satisfaction? Some of this is undoubtedly the result of brain washing. The result of a decades long desire by Japan (likely due to a lack of much in such a small country) to control China, and it's rich and vast resources. But can it all be blamed on such thinking. What about the compassion continuously shown by Katakawa, even to the point of executing Mr. Rabe's female staff member (who asked him to) as she was being taken away to face an unbelievable fate. Certainly there were more like Katakawa, but what would my mental state have been? Unsettling to say the least.

As this drama unfolded, I sensed hints, and sometimes outright declarations the emotional toll was taking on even the most hardened. There was the Officer who climbed to a vantage point ( with erie flute and drum background) to take in the mass machine-gunning. The soldier who had to be slapped back to his senses when he suddenly screamed out: "I want to go back to Japen". The cold, emotionless peer of Katakawa who threw Mr. Tang's child to her death: when faced with Mr. Tang's execution he showed emotion and turned away not able to watch. I can't help but be reminded of Veikko in "Kukushka" who repeatedly stated how tired and sick of war he was. What an awful existence. And to think, this is all many ever know...

The experience of my seeing this film, is not justified by this brief review: the processing of the thoughts and emotions evoked might very well never end for me. A masterpiece of work, I highly recommend this film - that is, if you are open to the raw humanity of it.

Kelly Battiato's response:

Usually I have so much to say about movies, but this one in particular is a difficult one to talk about. I knew before I watched it that it was going to be hard to get through without crying or being upset afterwards. From what I have read about this movie I think it is a fairly accurate account of what happened in China in 1937 when Japan took over. I think why it is so hard to talk about the film is because the horrible atrocities that happened in this film, happened in real life. It just makes you sick to your stomach. I was reminded of the holocaust, genocide, hotel Rwanda...and wondered how many horrible things are happening in our world right now. Just ripped my heart up that such horrible things happen to people. It made me angry and's all so pointless to be so cruel to one another. For what? For power? For control? You don't like what a group of people believe in? We are all humans for God sake... why are we killing each other? Massacring thousands of innocent people. It is so disturbing.

I think the film provoked thoughts of, what if I was in that situation like Kadokawa, would I do what I was ordered? Believe what my country told me was true? I don't think I could or would, but the scary thing is people are capable of anything. So who is to say "I would never do that" it is frightening what we humans end up doing despite thinking or saying that we never would. The way these Chinese civilians and soldiers died was so gut wrenching to watch. At some points I just wanted the movie to end, I couldn't take it.

Some of the moments in the film that stood out to me were, the shot of the Japanese commander looking out on the field where hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese men were murdered with the drumming in the background. It was a beautiful, and tragic moment in the film...very powerful. I think that emotion of what the commander had in that scene, was what all Japan was feeling...look at what power we have now. And when the Japanese have their parade and they come marching victoriously into the sacked capitol that was Nanking...there was so much pride in those Japanese soldiers. Yet you saw Kadokawa struggling in that moment, to be proud of what he had done. The scene when the women sacrifice themselves as comfort women for the Japanese and raise their hands one by one was extremely powerful. I loved how Chaun Lu focused on each brave hand being raised up. That scene made me think...could I do that? I don't think I could, but sometimes we surprise ourselves with what bravery we can have in dire times. Those are just a few scenes that came to mind...I want to stop now because I am crying again haha.

The whole film really is a masterpiece each shot and each scene was captured so terribly perfectly. Having the film be in black and white I feel was so appropriate for the subject matter and for the over all feel of the film. Black and white strips down to the nitty gritty and lets the viewer focus on what is going on, on the screen. Black and white could be good and evil mixed with all the grey confusing parts in between. The panning long, open shots throughout the film captured the large scale of pain and destruction happening in China at that time.

I have to mention some of the beautiful hopeful moments that gave some comfort...when Mr. Tang lovingly touches his wife's pregnant belly, at the end when the little boy blows on dandelions and laughs, in the beginning when the soldier protects the little boy they give each other this look right before the shooting starts and it was very intimate and moving. I feel like the little boy who survived was the hope in this film. He survived this awful historical event and had a life after it.

There is so much more I could say and dig into...I think this film is a must see for everyone, as traumatic as it is. It is an eye opener and forces you to broaden your mind and think about some difficult aspects of being human. I hope it causes people, especially in our American culture to wake up a little and look at history and look at our world and get involved and do something. Whether that be educating yourself about some world issues (past or present), paying attention to what is actually happening in our government, or just being aware of other cultures and their history. It is sad that no one really wins in war, it is ugly everywhere and causes so much pain and destruction on both sides. Ultimately that is what Chaun Lu showed through this film a very real look at a tragic time in history.

Chelsea Toth's response:

City of Life and Death’s rendition of the 1937 Rape of Nanjing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I personally do not take the time to watch any sort of movie that fits the action/violence genres, generally due to the lack of aesthetic emotion and empathy I associate with the stereotypical action movie and the characters involved. With that said I might have held a bit of bias before even beginning to watch this film, but this film definitely does not fall into any such category, even though at first it may not seem that way. This film is not only a depiction of real historical war events, but it is also a remembrance of the 300,000 innocent lives lost during the besiegement of Nanjing, China, as it says at the beginning of the film, by Japanese military forces.

There was a period of time when the Japanese government denied that these tragic events ever happened; so the fact that there was collaboration between the Chinese and Japanese people to make this film is pretty remarkable to me, although I am sure there were critics on both sides. I commend director Lu Chuan for his courage in tackling such a sensitive subject that is still relevant today. City of Life and Death is a very important resource for humanity all around the world, as that it cannot only be used between to help reconcile between the Chinese and Japanese but it can also be used to educate the rest of the world about the evils of war. Before arriving to my film class the day of watching this film I had never heard about the Rape of Nanjing in any of my previous history courses and if I did I was definitely not properly informed of enough of the horrific events that occurred to remember it. I don’t believe that I could have forgotten about anything so terrible.

What I do like about this film is that both sides of the story are shown, but in ways that one would not expect and that is why this war drama is unlike any others that I have seen. Even though the Japanese are the enemy in this film by the end of the movie you really are going to appeal to the emotions of one of the Japanese sergeants because throughout the movie Chuan shows that these dehumanized soldiers are actually human and can feel such extreme emotions of love, regret, and sorrow. The approach Chuan took in the storyline to show these emotions can be too much for one to take in visually as was for me at most times. When it comes to human rights there is no censorship in the film. I believe this is another film everyone needs to see at least once in a lifetime as a better understanding of how easy it is for war to cause the human condition to be so easily broken down.

Ebony Nava's response

The battles between (co-occurring within and during “The Rape of Nanking”**) coexisting/incompatible antonyms are kicked off in the title of City of Life and Death (directed by Lu Chuan, 2009). Black and white. Good and evil. Humanity and inhumanity. Survival and perishment. Friend and foe. Beauty and ugliness. Fear and bravery. Victim and aggressor. And as the title suggested, of life and death.

**The Rape of Nanking being a historical event in China’s history in which 300,000 Chinese Nationals were killed by Japanese Imperial forces. Also, the definition of rape best suited for this situation is as follows. Rape: an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation.

Having watched many, many . . . many (mainly Asian, specifically Chinese) war films, I am honest when I say I cannot name a single title that imposes a fully holistic and damning perspective of war on its audience to the extent that City of Life and Death does. This film depicts war as the brutal beast that it is, out for the domination of everything, and everyone – nothing “heroic,” “valiant,” or worthy of “honor” about it. There are no “winners” on the ground, where everyone is a casualty on some level.

There really wasn’t much to like about this film; in fact, I despised almost every second of it. So why would Chuan direct a film like this? Is there a need for repulsively realistic war films such as City of Life and Death? I tried to answer my questions with more questions: Are legislators in Japan (and around the world) whitewashing history books? Are territories and boundaries drawn out, built up, and argued over? Is nationalist propaganda touted as natural and important to preserving a certain “way of life” (e.g. “national unity” “country before self” “patriotism”)? Are good and evil segregated as separate entities, seemingly incapable of coexisting or originating from the same person/government?

And, stepping back, why was I so repulsed? Why was I, like many others ready to look away from what humans are capable of when given power (separate from responsibility or accountability) over life and death. So ready to bury “evils” (such as The Rape of Nanking) and risk the curse of repeating them, than to remember them, face them, and condemn them for what they are. Is it because of a fear of what these atrocities tell us about ourselves? Because we feel “guilty?” Or, maybe, because it is just emotionally easier to try to look away and forget.

Chuan, however, refuses to allow the viewer to forget. Had the film been a true “documentary” a lack of human connection would have likely made the mass killing/rape scenes unbearable at worst and masochistic at best, while the line separating victims/aggressors would have been clearly defined. Had the film followed a single protagonist and his or her individual experience of the war as a victim or aggressor nothing would separate City of Life and Death from the masses of other war films. Instead, Chuan walks a fine line between a documentary style storyline that tells a holistic account of the event, and simultaneously humanizing his various characters that develop throughout the film – without appearing to force an emotional narrative of any particular character on the viewer.

Chuan walks the same fine line between documentary and humanity through his use of aesthetics and camera angles. Large/wide third-person shots were used to relay the full scope of a situation (the building full of innocents) and/or it’s gravity (the field of bodies). Similarly, intimate close-up shots were used to focus on small instances of humanity (the Chinese boy and man sharing small smiles of encouragement) and first-person camera shots were used to intensify and share experiences of fear/apprehension in his characters (the Chinese soldiers walking out to their mass death, Kadowaka right before he kills the chinese woman) with the audience.

The single real gripe I had with Chuan’s choices, as a director, was his portrayal of Chinese women “volunteering” to sacrifice themselves for “the greater good (assumedly?).” The Japanese Imperial Army treated “foreign” women as waste. I found it hard to believe they would have stood around waiting for the Chinese to volunteer themselves to be “used” and thrown away. I think that, maybe, Chuan was using this scene in an attempt to expound on an idea he seemed to introduce in an earlier scene were a resistance fighter stands up, alone, and then slowly others follow his lead; an idea possibly implying that it only takes one individual to create a ripple effect of like actions in large groups of people (whether those actions be good or bad).

The parallels of trading one’s personal responsibility in for adherence to a perceived authority between this film and last week's, The Cuckoo, cannot be missed; although the “phenomenon” is by far clearer in City of Life and Death. Kadowaka doesn’t seem to be “unique” in any sense from the larger population of Japanese soldiers, no doubt there were others plagued by guilt as he was. What seemed to trigger his guilt, however, was significant; a realization of responsibility for his (and the Japanese army’s) actions and their effect(s).

Sharply contrasting Kadowaka’s gradual acknowledgment/realization of responsibility, was the Japanese sergeant who appeared to have been consumed by the war. He sought to control and dominate/destroy everyone/thing he could. He wanted – needed – to feel as if he had won. He followed orders, did what he “had” to do. Incapable, it seemed of acknowledging, understanding, or caring about the impact of his actions. He “was” the war, the war “was” him. He was damaged, maybe beyond repair, and most likely long before he ever saw war.

The City of Life and Death is a must see for pro-war advocates as it would be nearly impossible, in my opinion, to watch this film and pick a side to stop empathizing with altogether. Beyond making a strong argument against war in general, this film serves as a visual testament to an instance of humanity’s inhumane record; to the disgusting fact that we need to be reminded that there is no pride in taking another’s life.

That personal responsibility and dependence on authority are one set of antonyms that are not compatible bedmates.

It’s a real shame films like City of Life and Death are needed to remind us of the "victims" of war as a whole. To remind us of the direct impact war has on entire generations of humans. War is not brave men facing off against nameless/faceless enemies to defend their property. War is the destruction of generations of humans and their loved ones.

I do wonder, would we humans still engage in wars if each of us took 100% personal responsibility of our actions and their impact? Would we still engage for the glory? For the honor? Or are glory and honor nothing more than cheap badges of materialized ideas that are awarded to us by our (certain) respective societies to satisfy the egos we have been told to possess?

Destini Wright's response:

The Lu Chuan film, The City of Life and Death, not simply your typical war movie, this film is raw and real in every aspect of portraying the Rape of Nanking. The film pulls to each and every emotion keeping you in an almost altered state where you are watching it from outside your actual self. Seeing a war film is never easy, but for the most part Hollywood can take even the most intense events throw a love story in there and it is as if we forget what the realness behind the film is. We are often programmed to lose what we need to see and only observe the exterior of what is being presented. This is one thing that makes this film so interesting. You don’t have the option to disengage yourself from what is going on because the events that are taking place from start to finish are almost those that we say are so bad we can not look away. You are sucked in by the horrifying screams, the gun shots, the cannons. We see the smoke rolling and the shots firing and we can almost start to smell the burning buildings, feel the bullets wiz by our faces. The events that we see are so real we can place our self there inside the film on the streets of Nanking in the midst of all of the soldiers, children, and by standards caught in the cross fire.

Looking outside of the actual events and the sounds and imaging used to make the scenes so real, the color choice was a big aspect for me too. The choice to make the film black and white was genius. War is not happy sunsets and fields of bright flowers. War is dark and twisted, its bland and gloomy. The horrible things that take place in war are those that have the darkest effects and allowing us to look at it in this way puts us in an even greater mindset of how horrible the things taking place actually are. Sure there are lots of war films that are on color, but no other film goes behind the firing lines and shows us how the people simply caught in the cross fire are effected and tortured just as much as the soldiers in such times. At one point we see the Japanese soldiers going into the safe house and here we find out that six Chinese girls are raped this night. Rape is such a touchy subject we are lucky if it is even portrayed in a lot of films and here rape and murder are two of the main factors that fuels the events that unfold one by one. When we see the herd of 100 plus Chinese women that are forced to be put in almost a slave sex camp for the Japanese soldiers you can read in their eyes the fear and when the film actually goes into this camp and is shows the surroundings they are living in. It shows us where they were forced to stay and how they were treated, when a girl is offered a bowl of rice the way she begins to inhale the food just shows that these women were not only raped over and over but starved as well. We see over and over how they lay there motionless and with no emotion, it as if the blank stare that we see on their eyes tells us they know this is where and how they are going to die. Scenes like this really leave us with so much more when shown in black and white.

In every war film we have a beloved hero, but in The City of Life and Death who really wins? I feel that throughout the film it because obvious that no one really can come out with a positive attitude. We have Mr. Ravi, who was a savior to the Chinese women for a very long time. He as a Natzi himself came into the war zone to create a safe house for these women and children to try and keep everyday life separate from that of the war. We see despite his efforts that the Japanese military being as powerful as it was really has no “allies” they are a one track minded killing machine. They show now remorse when they enter and rape the Chinese children, they do not hesitate to take the women for sex. These people are programmed to kill and to show no mercy, perhaps the hardest scene to watch but also one of the best ones to show how cruel and horrifying these times were was the scene where Mr. Tangs daughter is thrown out of the window during the invasion of the safe house to prove a point. Mr. Tang was Mr. Ravis accountant and he realized this about the Japanese long before anyone else. As soon as he found out that Mr. Ravi was to return to Germany he made a deal with the devil. He met with the Japanese general and gave up the location of the injured Chinese soldiers in order to pardon his family. And then what? Was it worth it? Although no one knew this deal had gone out it was almost like a sense of karma that came back and after the choices that Mr. Tang made during the invasion not only was his daughter killed but his wives sister was taken away. This shows us that no matter what was presented to them the choices were already made. They were to kill and destroy Nanking and anyone who got in their way.

That is why if we think back to the holding area where the women were kept for sex when it last focuses in on Xiang the former prostitute you instantly think of her in that gathering hall when Mr. Ravi told the women of the news. The crowd goes silent and then faintly you see a hand raise and hear her softly say “I will go”. This starts a domino effect and one by one we see women stepping to the line and giving their lives away. For what? For their country? Perhaps, but I feel more than anything it is a sign of strength to the Japanese government. It is their way to help and to stand up and say we are not being taken we are going, you do not get to control this we will support our people and sacrifice for them, much like the other thousands of soldiers that were executed had done. We see a very similar event when Mr. Tang gives up his spot to leave, he knows he is about to be killed but in his eyes this is his way to make things right. He still held the burden of giving up his people when in the end it fixed nothing. To him taking responsibility for this and giving his life to allow someone to go with Mr. Ravi and try to fix things in his eyes is the only way. Right before he is taken he looks the general and says that his wife is having another child. This moment when he looks the man who threw his 3 year old daughter out of a window and lets him know that they can be broken down completely is much like the personal victory that you see from the women who volunteer their bodies earlier on.

Overall we see some of the most horrifying events that have ever taken place brought to real life in this film. I feel it is a movie that everyone should at least attempt to watch to see the realness of what other countries in times of war are put through and how it effects everyone not just the soldiers. This movie is deep and emotional, I don’t personal think that I could sit and watch it again, but I do assure you it is something that I will never forget.

Nathan Chandler's response:

War. War never changes. There are only a handful of films that truly capture the horrors, tragedy, and courage of the soldiers and civilian in World War II and this film is one of them. Directed by Lu Chaun, City of Life and Death is a masterpiece that combines two Chinese film making styles to tell an incredible story. It is impossible to watch this film and not be moved by the characters as they play out one of the most infamous tragedies in WWII history, the Rape of Nanjing.

One of the things that grabbed my attention the most was the amazing cinematography. While seemingly simple, I was blown away with shot after shot. Two particular scenes stand out in my mind. The first was a simple pan upwards over the shoulder of a Japanese Officer as he looked over the devastation that his soldiers had just wrought on the Chinese prisoners. All you could see past the officer was just what seemed like miles upon miles of corpses strewn everywhere and it just filled you with a sickening dread. The second shot was during a brief sequence as the last Chinese soldiers fought a desperate battle against advancing Japanese troops. The way the camera moved through the rubble and followed the action felt completely natural like you were really there in the battle. I was completely lost in the scene and for a moment forgot I was sitting in a class room watching a movie. That is really powerful cinematography that I believe is some of the best I have every scene.

It was not until after I had finished watching the movie did I realize another thing about this film. The actors in this film were beyond words incredible. Not a single character, no matter how small the role, performed extremely well. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to act some of these scenes as some of the stuff they had to portray was pretty brutal. The rape scenes were particularly hard to watch but were so well acted. The best actors in my minds were the ones who played Mr. Tang (Wei Fan), Miss Jaing (Yuanyuan Gao), and Kadokawa (Hideo Nakaizumi). These three shined the brightest in my mind as they carried quit a bit of the story on their backs and did it flawlessly. The one scene that sticks out the clearest in my mind was the scene in which Mr. Tang decides to stay in Nanjing to save someone else knowing full well it meant his death and was saying goodbye to his wife. Entire Hollywood films have failed to moved me in the way this one scene did.

In summery, City of Life and Death is a pinnacle of film making and story telling. The acting, cinematography, and the way the story of Nanjing was told makes this film one of my all time favorites for WWII films along with Saving Private Ryan, A Bridge too Far, and Downfall. This is a must see and I would highly recommend this film to anyone willing to give it a try. War may never change, but the way we remember, love, forgive, and survive can.

Megan Kurkowski's Response:

The City of Life and Death by Lu Chuan was an amazing film for me, although it was very difficult for me to watch. I actually caught myself crying in various parts of the film. It left me sad, angry, and even sick to my stomach. I was sort of speechless afterwards. I had never heard of the film until watching in class, but I must say it is one I will not nor could I ever forget. I definitely recommend people to watch this film if they could handle it. This film is quite horrifying. It shows real life events that took place between the Chinese and the Japanese. It captures how bad things really were. You hear of things, but never see for yourself, and this film let’s you actually see these things that are going on. You see children being killed, and raped. You see women being raped, and used as sex slaves for the Japanese soldiers. You watch people be burned alive, and thousands of people be lined up and shot down in just a matter of seconds.

It is extremely gruesome, yet amazing at how realistic these things are. The sounds of the gun shots, the bombs going off, the screams of soldiers, women, and the children. These things draw you in and keep your attention. You get so into the film by these sounds that it almost places you in the movie. It all becomes so real to you. I think having the film in black and white was a great way to set the mood, and portray emotion. When you think of war you think of darkness, death, depression, and I think black and white sets this. You see a lot of war films in color and you still feel the sadness, but for me black and white gives me the full effect. It being in black and white also makes it feel as if that was the time it took place, before color.

One shot in the film that I thought was amazing was when the hundreds of Chinese soldiers are standing all together in one big group, and the Japanese is over-looking them right before they begin to kill them. In this shot you can see everything. You see the commander looking down on them, and you can see the whole group right before they are murdered. I just thought the shot was very visual, and liked how it captured the whole thing.

This film is one that everyone should watch. It really opens your eyes to the hurt and destruction that wars cause. It allows you to visually experience the tragedy that occurred , and also teaches you about history, some things everyone should be aware and have knowledge of. It sends out an extremely powerful message to us as viewers.

Seth Gardner's respons

Let me first say, that going into this film, when my instructor told me about how he felt about the movie I kind of shrugged it off because he fucking loves film and sometimes embellishes just a smidge. Or just sees film in a way that I never will so I sometimes just take him for his word even though I don't feel the same way. If you had me choose a word or phrase to say in response to this film I would just say "holy shit". Every encounter that the Japanese have with the citizens, from the first encounter to the very last where the soldier lets the Chinese soldier and child go, every single scene has you on edge. You never know quite what is going to happen and you sometimes presume that its going to be horrifically awful. Particularly the scene in which the Japanese commander throws Mr. Tang's child out of a window just to prove a simple point, really sets the tone for the both the movie and the event in which the movie is based off of.

The way that the Japanese are portrayed is amazing and confusing. For every terrible thing that the commander decides, there is either a soldier or secretary type that reminds you that their entire culture isn't full of bloodthirsty sociopaths like the commander. Also, to paint a Nazi as a caring, peaceful person that cares nothing more than about the safety of everyone around him is completely different than any film that Ive ever seen. I grew up learning and knowing about what the Germans did in the holocaust and the things they did to Europe and just labeled every swastika bearing person as evil. Same as the Japanese I think its important to remember that not every Nazi was a bloodthirsty sociopath and Im not sure why its become standard to label an entire society like that.

Really at the end of the day this movie is about the horrific things that happened to this city. There are so many instances to choose from that left me devastated that I dont even know where to start or end. To think that any of this may have actually happened genuinely pisses me off. War is a terrible terrible thing.

Kaitlin Hurt's response-- credit

Sean Bolton response -- Credit

Destini Wright response -- credit

Andy Yates' response -- credit