February 11th, 2006



I just finished watching Ran. I've never seen it all before (I think I saw a part of it once before).

It's an amazing movie. Everybody knows it's a re-imagining of King Lear, right? Kurosawa puts every single character except the fool into the medieval Japanese ultra-controlled affect, and the result is extremely stylized and beautiful, and -- in the end -- devastating, as the emotional wall crumbles but the camera retains its distance. No zooming in on tears to make you feel weepy, or any Hitchcockian zooming out to highlight aloneness in moments of emotional desolation: Kurosawa lets the desolate landscapes and the tightly-controlled body language of the actors (and, occasionally, their facial expressions) tell the whole story.

Visually, the battle scenes -- which might otherwise be incomprehensible -- are told to clarify the complexities of the battles: with no less than six factions, this is no small feat. And yet, a viewer who can't read Japanese heraldry (like me) can still tell what's going on: Hidetora's bodyguards go helmetless (like Hidetora), the elder brothers' armies and personal apparel are yellow (Taro) and red (Jiro), while the youngest brother (Saburo) uses sky blue. The two neighboring kingdoms use black (the greedy one) and white (the slightly goofy, less aggressive one). Plenty of violence, but without forcing us to watch every millimeter of blades entering flesh.

The roles for women in this movie are extremely subdued, and include the usual Madonna/Whore split; the Whore archetype (Lady Kaede) is almost a Lady Macbeth/Fatal Attraction type, so strong is the "she has sex and therefore is dangerous a psycho" message. In case anyone didn't get the women-are-in-a-double-bind message, her opposite number (Lady Sué) is virtuous and prays a lot; she gets killed anyway for her trouble. (To be fair -- nearly everybody gets killed.) The most sympathetic female characters are two men who dress in femme/drag for different reasons -- the fool is mad, and Tsurumaru is disabled and lives as a "widow".

This restrained camerawork, the visual double-coding of the armies, the aversion to gore (despite the implied presence of quite a bit) and the extreme sexism makes the whole movie feel much older than its 1985 release date -- the editing never upstages the acting, so it feels much more like a 1960s epic than a 1980s.

A visually beautiful movie, if the violence doesn't put you off. Emotionally stunning if you can live inside the heads of the men, who are being pushed past the point of breaking by tragedy. I occasionally threw myself out of the movie by thinking about the women -- and a final monologue does give a tiny piece of insight into Kaede's motivation -- but whenever I saw it from their point of view I found the men's dialogue grating and out-of-touch.

maybe Ray should stick to SF instead of city planning?

Seattlites will find it amusing that Ray Bradbury thinks that monorails are the answer for Los Angeles.

I have bolded some parts that are wishful thinking (as indicated by Seattle's experience).

The monorail is extraordinary in that it can be built elsewhere and then carried in and installed in mid-street with little confusion and no destruction of businesses. In a matter of a few months, a line could be built from Long Beach all the way along Western Avenue to the mountains with little disturbance to citizens and no threat to local businesses.

Compared to the heavy elevateds of the past, the monorail is virtually soundless. Anyone who has ridden the Disneyland or Seattle monorails knows how quietly they move.

They also have been virtually accident-free. The history of the monorail shows few collisions or fatalities. ...

Hey, Ray: while we're dreaming, let's just build the I, Robot graduated moving sidewalks instead?

Via BoingBoing. in more seriousness: I think Seattle should build more public transit beyond the barely-adequate bus system. But it was massively mismanaged and I really hope that in the next few years the light rail project makes good headway.

amused, smiling

Search in side for [OCR t]error

thetensor points me to Amazon search-inside, which now seems to work with some comics.

The character-recognition software is really terrible though. Consider the following Star-Wars OCR:

Boy, they really need a decent (or better-trained) language model!