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Film club hiatus

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    Vili Maunula

    Since the last two film club titles, Yojimbo and Sanjuro, generated absolutely no discussion at all, I think it’s time to put the club back on hiatus, at least for a while. There was great enthusiasm to bring the club back a year ago, but participation has been pretty low throughout the year. Still, big thanks to anyone who has shared their thoughts on the films!

    This of course doesn’t mean that the forums are going anywhere or that the opportunity to discuss films disappears. As always, you are welcome to post anything on the forums, whether Kurosawa related or not.

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    Ugetsu

    Very sorry for not contributing to those – they are actually among my favourite films, but I simply haven’t had time to watch anything – before the holidays I was 6 weeks travelling in S. Korea and Japan – so I’ve not been so active here at all.

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    yjmbobllns

    I recently watched Yojimbo with my niece and though I wasn’t able to make time to participate in the film club I did enjoy the extra analysis as I prepared for the rewatch. Hopefully you don’t feel as though you wasted your time, as this site is a resource to which I consistently return.

    As for the film, she seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps only for its evocation of the type of anime she already enjoys, but I’ll take it as a win.

    Hope you are all doing well during this interesting time. I’ve lost out on some work but I would never spurn an opportunity to go back and rewatch some Kurosawa while forced to lay low. Perhaps I’ll watch Drunken Angel or The Quiet Duel, the two early Mifune roles where he battles an incurable illness.

    Cheers.

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    Ugetsu

    I agree very much, Vili’s introductions and analyses are great, this site is always such a good resource.

    I got into Japanese film originally while bored at home recuperating from an accident. So maybe current days are a good day to start exploring again. Its such a shame that so many great Japanese films are hard to get on stream channels, its ironic that it was much easier in the days of rental libraries.

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    yjmbobllns

    Though it might be too bleak a watch, when else will I have the time to watch Kobayashi’s THE HUMAN CONDITION again? I’ve also got that ZATOICHI boxset, though that seems like a surefire way to go crazy quick.

    I had definitely underutilized my Criterion Channel subscription. Does anyone have any recommendations from the collection. If you have access to the Channel I highly recommend DIAMANTINO, a deeply weird football satire from a few years back.

    Cheers.

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    Ugetsu

    I’d love to be able to give more recommendations, but my film watching has slowed to a trickle over the past few years, its all I can do to catch up with the films everyone else interested in cinema has seen (although if you haven’t, I’d strongly recommend watching all Bong Joon Ho’s films in addition to Parasite, they are always a pleasure to watch and rewatch). Naruse is also a film maker worth sinking into, there is so much richness to be found in watching several of his films in sequence.

    In November, I visited the small Japanese city of Onomichi, and to my surprise and delight (I’d no idea before I arrived one day on my bike, its the last stop in the Shimanami Kaido cycle route) that this is where the non-Tokyo parts of Tokyo Story was filmed. There is a small museum in the town dedicated to the many films made there in the 50’s and 60’s. I was surprised to see how little had changed in some of the places Ozu had shot (although the local tourist office made surprisingly little effort to make much of it). But it certainly made me want to get out my old collection of Ozu films, I haven’t watched through them in years.

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    chomei

    Perhaps “Record of a Living Being ” might be the best Kurosawa film for these times. Covid 19 has descended on us like radioactive fallout, you can’t see, feel or taste it but it’s there. Maybe not as deadly but the existential angst is considerable.

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    Vili Maunula

    Thanks for the kind words, guys.

    It’s a pity that the film club didn’t really work out this time around. This website’s visitor numbers have remained fairly steady for the past decade and the number of new users and visitors have even increased, but the average session times have dropped quite drastically. I would say that this correlates pretty directly with the rise of social media services like Facebook and Twitter, and is of course not unique to us, but pretty much the fate of any website that was built in the 2000s with the aim to generate discussion. Apart from a few places that are maintained by people more capable than me (and with topics far less niche than ours), discussion has moved to social media, and with it the nature of online discussion has fundamentally changed. The kind of longer, in-depth, pseudo-academic articles and comments that visitors in the late 2000s wrote here or for their personal blogs (remember those?) are far, far less frequent. People just don’t have the time for that, as there are so many other competing interesting things served into their inboxes and walls and feeds. And if they do have the time to write something longer, it makes sense for them to post those thoughts at Reddit or other places where what they wrote will be read by tens of thousands of people more than here. And on top of that, I assume that the regulars here, like myself, who have now seen the film club go through most of Kurosawa’s films at least three times, find that they have quite little new to say that they didn’t already write about earlier.

    And that is just the users and the conversational culture. Film availability is another problem. Rental shops have disappeared and popular streaming services don’t really cater to fans of older films. The Criterion Channel would be great to have but is only available in North America. Here in continental Europe, the only real alternative that I know of is Mubi, but their constantly rotated curated list of 30 films doesn’t quite work for me, as I like to explore on my own pace.

    I have watched very few older films in the past years. In fact, I have watched quite few films in general, preferring to spend my time with TV series and books. It feels like while there are a lot of movies around, there is quite little new cinema. Or it just doesn’t reach me for one reason or another.

    That said, if you can catch The Lighthouse, it is worth checking out. If only for the camera work and lighting, as it was shot with vintage 1930s lenses and uses a 1.19:1 aspect ratio. I found it really interesting to see how the director and cinematographer, who are both relatively young, approached this attempt to mimic (and update) the classic black and white look. The acting is also brilliant, at least within the context of the film.

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    Ugetsu

    Thanks Vili,

    Its something I’ve heard regularly lamented by political nerds – there was a golden age of blogging where good websites could generate discussions and essays of a quality as good as, or even better than, the ‘professional’ conventional sources. In all sorts of niches I’m interested in I’ve seen blogs give way to short (and much less informative) vlogs, and politics descend into twitter fights. It can be all very entertaining, and I confess to having spent far too long following twitter threads myself, but it is all a bit disappointing.

    I’ve often asked myself why I don’t seem to have the time to engage in anything long form these days, whether its immerse myself in a film maker, or a good book, or a home project, and I think its just that like so many I’ve bought into a sort of fragmented intellectual world of chasing the latest glittering thing. And I’m not even a big social media fan, I consciously stay away from FB and instagram and so on. But we all get sucked in.

    I’m happy to hear though that the site is still getting lots of traffic. Its by far and away the best resource on Kurosawa, and his cultural importance can still hardly be understated – hardly a week goes by when I don’t come across some surprising left-field Kurosawa reference when reading on completely unrelated topics.

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    yjmbobllns

    I’ve seen the same change occurring throughout the last decade with music writing, which I’ve followed a little more closely than film writing. I’m grateful that you still put in the time to maintain this site, Vili.

    I saw The Lighthouse in theaters with a friend a few months back and loved it. It is definitely the most “arthouse” film I’ve had the privilege of seeing at the multiplex. Last week, as my workplace closed up shop for COVID-19 precautions and my wife and I were looking at a few weeks isolated at home together, we foolishly decided to watch The Lighthouse, which she had not seen. She loved it, of course, and I’m glad we watched it last week instead of this week, haha. I’m sure life in the coming months may soon come to reflect the film more than I would like.

    This week we have been watching through the John Wick films and then having virtual discussions afterwards with some friends who haven’t seen them. They are well-made popcorn entertainments with fantastic action choreography, and lately I haven’t been in the mood to watch anything too heavy.

    Otherwise, it’s nice to have a bit of a movie collection on disc at the moment, particularly during peak hours when everyone in the neighborhood is trying to stream at the same time. I recently picked up a copy of The Dead Don’t Die, the Jim Jarmusch esoteric zombie comedy from last summer. It’s a breezy buddy comedy with a great cast that I remember enjoying. I imagine that is one I’ll revisit soon here as tensions begin to mount in my part of the world.

    Cheers.

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    Miguel

    Hi, just joined! I have in my collection about 300+ samurai movies and would love to be part of a forum that actually knows something about Asian Samurai movies, especially Japanese. I hope to be part of some stimulating discussions. So guys & gals, let us not quit. I know time is precious, but good films add to our understanding of a different culture, and at least, entertains us. Call me Miguel from South Texas. Hope to discuss soon. 🙂

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    Miguel

    Just watched, again, “The Betrayal” starring Ichikawa Raizo and Yachigusa Kaoru, directed by Tanaka Tokuzo. I know I am knew and this might be a dangerous first recommendation, but it is the most recent Samurai film I have watched. If you like a good script and excellent fight scenes, and lots of them, this movie is for you. I am a big fan of Raizo, and own many of his films. The ‘James Dean’ of Japan died way too soon, and left us never seeing the numerous films he would have made. If you would like to start a string on his films, count me in. PS…the only other movie with such an awesome finale fight scene would be “The Sword of Doom”.

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    Vili Maunula

    Welcome the group Miguel, and thanks for the recommendations!

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    Thysus

    Oh what a shame! I just discovered this little community while doing some background research for a Kurosawa study I launched for Toshiro Mifune’s centenary, only to learn that it had been active for a solid decade, but I turned up 5 months too late. Well I have read several of the introductions to the monthly film clubs and found them wonderfully informative, and I will continue to check in periodically to see if the film club ever starts up again.

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