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13 April 2005

黒川 一真 recommends two, no, 3 rental movies

Konichi-wa to you, too, and welcome to Vleeptron's Old Stale Movie Review Show!

Vleeptron greatly admires the Cinema of Earth, and everyone on Vleeptron subscribes to NetFlix, which sends you your DVDs in the mail, with No Late Fees. (If you pay extra for Zeta Beam Delivery, you get your new movies in 11.4 seconds. By standard delivery by ion-propulsion rocket probe from Earth to our galaxy Dwingeloo 2, it takes 3.991 x 10^5 years to get the Special Director's Edition of "Titanic" starring Leonardo diCaprio.)

Today I'd like to highly recommend two movies by a guy who died in 1998, and I very much disapprove, he should not have done this.

黒澤明 (I hope that's his name, but it might mean "Special Collector's DVD Edition") was a volcano of movie-making who just kept erupting for a half-century. His movies touched every part of the human heart, soul, mind and vision. The soul of a 14-year-old boy thrills in astonishment to watch two Samurai armies disembowel the crap out of each other in a heroic, thrilling battle with fire and sword. The soul of a Junior Geezer swells and rejoices to watch a dying old dumpy bureaucrat try to make sense of Life wandering down modern Tokyo's crowded streets late at night.

One of his early Samurai films, "Yojimbo," stars Jean-Paul Belmondo's Japanese Doppleganger, Toshiro Mifune, who has a face I could also just stare at for an hour. When he walks on the screen, you would rather wet yourself in your movie theater seat than run to the bathroom and look away. An unemployed Samurai who wanders around Feudal Japan looking for odd sword jobs accepts two simultaneous commissions to work for both feuding factions of a small town, and in about two hours, double-handedly reduces the town's population to 1 Dwarf.

Hollywood (actually Italy) remade "Yojimbo" as "A Fistful of Dollars" starring Clint Eastwood in Mifune's role. The release was delayed while 黒澤明 sued the crap out of Sergio Leone for Grand Theft Movie, and won. Hey, "Fistful" is pretty damn cool, but "Yojimbo" way cooler. (It would be blasphemy, but also pretty cool, to stick Ennio Morricone's Spaghetti Western music score on "Yojimbo.")

His personal name was Akira, but like Ramanujan, he has transcended death and moved into immortality with just one universally recognized name: Kurosawa.

Here is my review of "Ikiru / To Live" (1952): Rent this movie and watch it immediately.

Oh, okay, I will say a little more about "Ikiru."

Don't expect swords and severed limbs flying all over the place. The hero, Kanji Watanabe, is not a Samurai. In fact he can't possibly be a movie hero. He is the manager of a tiny bureaucratic agency inside a giant city bureaucracy. It is unclear what the agency does, exactly, but Manager Watanabe has been doing it for thirty years, and in fact has just achieved his Perfect Work Attendance Record -- thirty years at his desk in that same office on time every morning Monday thru Friday, not counting national holidays.

You really hate Kanji Watanabe, not because he is a villain or a fiend or evil -- but because he is a Nothing, a nebbish, a bureaucrat in a cheap suit and tie who does nothing except make your life miserable if you are unlucky enough to ever need something from Window 4 of the Bureau of Licenses and Permissions. First you must stand in a long line just to get to Window 4. Then the clerk will tell you that she cannot resolve your problem, and she will have to discuss it with that gentleman sitting over there, Mr. Watanabe. And then Mr. Watanabe will look up at you standing on the far side of Window 4, and listen to the clerk explain your problem, and then Mr. Watanabe will put your Life on WAIT for three months, or a year, because that's his job. You can fight him or try to shift him into a higher gear, but that will require you to see Mr. Blair in Room 211, and Mrs. Garcia in Room 114, and I'm not sure, but maybe Mr. Vensteer in Room 300 has something to do with that. Mr. Vensteer also has a Perfect Attendance Record.

That's just Mr. Watanabe's job. Which, I will inform you, he does very competently. That's why they made him the boss 19 years ago.

Okay, there's the setup. Now you be the screenwriter and the director. You make a hero out of this guy.

On a crowded Tokyo street with 1100 human beings, you are horrified to realize 黒澤明 has zoomed in on This Guy and has started to follow him around. You want your money back. This is the asshole who condemned your do-it-yourself porch and made you tear it down, and then build it all over again with an approved city license that he issued, stamped, and signed. And he didn't even take pleasure out of driving you crazy and bankrupt. A villain would cackle and laugh in your face, he would rejoice in your calamity.

Mr. Watanabe is just doing his job. Next applicant, please.

If you have never spent a half-hour in Japan, if you have never eaten a piece of sushi, you will understand every second of "Ikiru." Because wherever you live, there is a City Hall and you go upstairs to Room 213 and there is Window 4 and deeper in the office there is Mr. Watanabe sitting at his desk.

Do human beings have Souls?
By applying Occam's Razor, which always chooses the simpler of two competing theories, a much more plausible theory holds that we are just wet bags of amino acids.

If you reply, "Of course we have Souls!", please show one of these things to me, or show me its shadow on an x-ray. I validate your Faith, but I want some Proof.

黒澤明 will show you Proof of the Existence of the Human Soul. He will make you a Born-Again Believer in the Human Soul.

It is a team achievement. Takashi Shimura is the actor who plays Mr. Watanabe, and he is the equal of Sir Ralph Richardson, and his Mr. Watanabe the equal of Richardson's Lear.

(Later, 黒澤明 remakes "King Lear" a la Japonais, and that's a pip, too; add "Ran" to your NetFlix order, and pay the extra Zeta Beam fee. This one has lots of color and lots of noise.)

Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni wrote the screenplay for "Ikiru."

A lot of cineasts write that "Ikiru" is the greatest movie ever made anywhere in Melkweg or either Dwingeloo galaxy, better than "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" starring Keanu Reeves, better than "Strange Brew." I have been in close contact with the Internet while writing this post, and a lot of cineasts write this about "Ikiru" en francaise.

Aimez vous les films de Kurosawa ?


well i dont speak french, but i do like kurosawas films i have yojimbo and will prolly get the sequel, sanjuro, pretty soon as well as the seventh samurai.
Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

One night during my Unsupervised Bachelor Decade I needed a pack of smokes and wound up at the Cumberland Farms convenience store on Old South Street. I had some odd times in that joint during my UBD, but anyway, they rented videos, and I felt like being a thrillseeker that night for $3, so I inspected the Selection du Jour. Jeez they were renting some excrement.

But anyway, there was this one flick I never heard of, "Runaway Train." It starred authentic certified licensed minor Hollywood movie stars I had actually heard of, and on the box was angry guys with guns running on the roof of a fast-moving Runaway Train in big scary mountains in snow in the winter. How could even Jon Voight fuck this one up? I ponied up the $7.50 for the smokes and "Runaway Train."



... er rollte seine Augenbälle.

What's wrong with this picture? A Hollywood B-movie action socko pow bang-bang klaxon I have never heard of before, that must have raced through the Quadruplex Cineplex MultiOdeon-12 in four days while I was off on a camping trip, with Jon Voight, and it's AMAZING! THRILLING! MOVING! MESMERIZING! I am sweating, I am weeping, I am cheering, I am laughing, I am scared out of my wits.

Anyway one year Voight is hanging in Cote d'Azur at le Fete du Cannes, and he meets 黒澤明. For Voight, this is like me meeting Buddha or Ghandi or God (Buddha was not God, he was Just A Guy, he said so often).

And God tells Voight a real screaming Tale of Woe. (Who would have thought God had problems?) But 黒澤明 has a problem.

He has written this Great Fucking Screenplay, but he cannot find a studio, or the studio cannot find a bunch of Japanese bankers to bankroll it. It exists only on 300 pieces of paper, in Japanese, and will stay that way forever.

Voight is horrified and outraged that bankers are insulting and mistreating and bothering the Earth's Greatest Living Film Director. Voight solves God's problem. Voight buys the 300 pieces of paper, translates them into English, and makes the goddam thing in Alaska, starring Himself, Eric Roberts and Rebecca deMornay. And he calls it "Runaway Train."

Okay, so maybe it's not the greatest movie ever made. But it beats the shit out of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." It's better than "Caddyshack 2."

Actually, if you just want to judge it on Pure Testosterone, Balls, Teeth, Guts, Gunfire and Blood, it's very much on a par with "Bridge on the River Kwai," it's that fucking thrilling.

But it's a relationship movie, too. There's a woman in it, a real woman with very dirty fingernails, nobody's girlfriend looking pretty and smiling. She has feelings, she expresses them. "Runaway Train" has Ideas. Big Ideas. At 90 miles an hour (145 kph). With no air brakes.

"Ikiru" proves that every wet bag of amino acids who rents movies has a Soul.

"Runaway Train" -- you will believe Dignity Is Available for every conceivable human occasion, situation, misfortune, opression and calamity. Wherever you are, whoever's shoving whatever up your wazoo without lubrication, you can Make Your Own Dignity. You don't need to e-mail Amnesty International.

Dum spiro spero -- While I breathe, I hope.

Anyway, here is Netflix. If you can negotiate the clickityclick (SWMBO does it for us), you want:


I would be very surprised if they didn't have them, and all the other films of 黒澤明. I apologize if that means "Special Collector's DVD Edition." My Japanese isn't very good. I just got my new Japanese name yesterday.


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