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The Bad Sleep Well: Coppola and Scorsese

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    Ugetsu

    I know I may have been influenced from reading Coppola’s comment about the first 20 minutes of TBSW as being ‘as perfect as cinema gets’, but I kept thinking of The Godfather when watching it. Not for the plot (although there are some minor overlaps), but the general style, in particular the use of multiple camera angles and great editing to introduce complex plots with multiple characters. The opening also reminded me of the great opening scenes in some Scorsese movies like Casino and Goodfellas.

    Would it be justified to consider TBSW as a key influence for Coppola and Scorsese, especially the former? I assume there were plenty of American noir and thrillers that were a major influence on Coppola in particular, but I had a constant feeling watching it that this must be as close to a template for the Godfather as any film I’ve seen. Is there any evidence for this or am I reading too much into Coppolas comments? (I should say, btw that I’ve read very little about Coppola and Scorsese apart from Peter Biskinds book on 70’s cinema).

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    cocoskyavitch

    I suppose that one who followed Scorsese and Coppola closely might find that TBSW is seminal. Even if it isn’t the source, though, you can see why they admire it!

    This is one of my least favorite of Kurosawa’s films, but then, back in the old days, I could only get it on Bo Ying, and it’s a mangled mess of a thing and a bad transfer to boot. I probably need to give it the love it deserves and get a good copy!

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    Vili Maunula

    I actually just watched Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas last week. None of them really reminded me of The Bad Sleep Well, to be honest. But I confess that while I find most of Scorsese’s films perfectly watchable, I don’t really feel “at home” with them — I just seem to be on an altogether completely different wave length when it comes to cinematic rhythm, movement and narration.

    I’d be interested in hearing Jeremy’s views on this, as he is a big Scorsese fan.

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    Ugetsu

    Coco:

    This is one of my least favorite of Kurosawa’s films, but then, back in the old days,

    I’m glad I’m not the only one. I think I made the mistake of reading up on the film before watching it, so I lost the element of surprise. I must admit I also got quite confused with the characters on my first viewing. I admire the opening a lot, and some scenes are fantastic (especially the outdoors ones with people illuminated by car headlights), but the ending really did lose me. While I love to re-watch Stray Dog or High and Low, for some odd reason I find this film a chore to watch.

    I think I need to let it rest for a while, and try to look at it with fresh eyes!

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    Vili Maunula

    Coco: This is one of my least favorite of Kurosawa’s films

    Ugetsu: for some odd reason I find this film a chore to watch

    You guys can add me to the list. I must confess that I have seen over 20 films in the past three weeks (I’m enjoying my summer holidays), but I haven’t watched The Bad Sleep Well yet. It has made its way to the DVD player twice now, but on both times I ended up doing something else.

    I’m not sure why. It’s not that I don’t like the film (although like Ugetsu I think the last third of the film doesn’t really work too well). I just have very little urge to watch it.

    I’m seriously planning to watch it next week, though. That’s my last week of summer holidays.

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    Ryan

    Add me to that list as well. Kurosawa’s contemporary films are usually the ones I find myself watching; particularly Stray Dog and High and Low. However, The Bad Sleep Well, I could do without. Again, not to sound cliché, but the first act overshadows the rest of the film entirely. Additionally, it’s just a weird film. Very un-Kurosawa in my eyes.

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    Ugetsu

    I think we need a dissenting voice here 🙄 Someone must love it!

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    Ugetsu

    Vili

    actually just watched Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas last week. None of them really reminded me of The Bad Sleep Well, to be honest.

    Thinking it over, what I was thinking of was the idea of the blockbuster opening, when all the characters are so clearly laid out through cross-cutting and montage. I’m sure there must be other pre-1970’s examples of this, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any.

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    Jeremy

    What may be Ugetsu’s connection with Scorsese, and some way, although different, Coppola, and too why no one appears to like The Bad Sleep Well. Might very well be the early laying out of all characters, with very little unexposed nor changed. The last comment of Ugetsu’s seems to be finding the connection, if although still unsure.

    And I would agree or disagree in Vili’s case, with Taxi Driver aside, all the Scorsese mentions do follow a very The Bad Sleep Well.

    When you’re dealing with films in which no character exhibits significant good qualities. I think the only option for the director in such a film, is simply to show early on, that it is acknowledge, that none of the character will like, none will develop beyond initial impression, none will ever connect, but they aren’t suppose to, yet here they all are, do watch what they do together. It is the interaction of self and combined destruction that is of the interest, not the characters, or much the story, nor even the total outcome.

    The Bad Sleep Well, I’m not sure it can be wrapped up as well- it doesn’t seem Kurosawa was willing to give the audience nothing more then the tangled mess of characters, as what Scorsese later does. Still The Bad Sleep Well, appears to exhibit the same distaste many get from Scorsese(some theorize it’s a non-American thing in Scorsese’s case). The problematic of the audience with these movies, appears to lay somewhere in the audience expecting characters to evolve, be non-predictive, or at least do something different then what was assumed of them early on.

    It may be the harshness in the display that the characters in these films, are nothing more then what they are, they will not change, they will not see their errors, they will do things for no logical reason. The film fillets them, spreads them out, and tosses them at you. There is no careful dissecting or exploration into the depths of cavities.

    I’ve think I gotten way off topic, and once again I’m not sure were I going with this, but there you go.

    Ryan, mentions The Bad Sleep Well, as very non-Kurosawa. I have no comment on that, but it does bring to highlight the style of what I mentioned above.

    To my knowledge the lay-everything-out, approach is credited to 70’s New York, largely Scorsese, to whom master it. It’s a bit shocking to see Kurosawa in some regards already trying it. I would still tie the style to Scorsese, but it does so show the directorial prowess and awareness in Kurosawa, even if perhaps he was unsure how to handle it, or uncomfortable in his ideas to handle a film, were no one is really all that great.

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    Vili Maunula

    I finally watched The Bad Sleep Well a little over a week ago, and I must disagree with my former self and say that there could indeed be a connection like the one Ugetsu suggested and Jeremy explored further.

    I would also say that in addition to the “blockbuster opening” and the lack of good qualities in characters, another possibly binding aspect is the “documentary” style used. I actually suspect that this is the main reason why I personally feel such indifference towards the work. We never get up close and personal with any of the characters, but rather remain distant observers. Things happen on the screen, but we seem to have very little emotional stake in the proceedings. I personally feel this to be true of most Scorsese films as well.

    Suddenly, Scorsese’s endlessly on-going project to remake High and Low actually starts to make sense!

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    Ugetsu

    Jeremy

    It may be the harshness in the display that the characters in these films, are nothing more then what they are, they will not change, they will not see their errors, they will do things for no logical reason. The film fillets them, spreads them out, and tosses them at you. There is no careful dissecting or exploration into the depths of cavities.

    I think thats a really astute reading of the film – I hadn’t thought of it in relation to Scorcese before, but I think that it is one of the key reasons I was making a connection in my head without being quite able to put my finger on what it was.

    Vili

    I would also say that in addition to the “blockbuster opening” and the lack of good qualities in characters, another possibly binding aspect is the “documentary” style used. I actually suspect that this is the main reason why I personally feel such indifference towards the work. We never get up close and personal with any of the characters, but rather remain distant observers.

    Yes, I think this is one drawback of the documentary style (which suddenly seems very fashionable). I saw the South African film ‘District 9’ last week – a terrific film, it justifies all the good reviews – but its use of mock-documentary techniques does undoubtedly alienate the viewer from the character.

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    Ugetsu

    Jeremy

    It may be the harshness in the display that the characters in these films, are nothing more then what they are, they will not change, they will not see their errors, they will do things for no logical reason. The film fillets them, spreads them out, and tosses them at you. There is no careful dissecting or exploration into the depths of cavities.

    I think thats a really astute reading of the film – I hadn’t thought of it in relation to Scorcese before, but I think that it is one of the key reasons I was making a connection in my head without being quite able to put my finger on what it was.

    Vili

    I would also say that in addition to the “blockbuster opening” and the lack of good qualities in characters, another possibly binding aspect is the “documentary” style used. I actually suspect that this is the main reason why I personally feel such indifference towards the work. We never get up close and personal with any of the characters, but rather remain distant observers.

    Yes, I think this is one drawback of the documentary style (which suddenly seems very fashionable). I saw the South African film ‘District 9’ last week – a terrific film, it justifies all the good reviews – but its use of mock-documentary techniques does undoubtedly alienate the viewer from the character.

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