The sleep of reason breeds monsters. — Goya
The quote has multiple interpretations. One, which seems the most likely and obvious, is that without reason mankind is damned to the netherworlds of irrationality and vice. The other and more incendiary interpretation is that irrationality and vice come about despite reason, mankind being what it is. I suspect Goya had the second interpretation in mind when he painted his infamous picture, and it seems a fitting subtitle to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò: or the 120 Days of Sodom.
Salò has probably been banned, censored and suppressed more often than any other film intended for mainstream release. It succeeds so completely at mortifying the viewer in accordance with its plan that it leaves little room for any other reaction. It is not required that you like a piece of work in order to understand it, and so in the same way I despise and respect Salò, both at once. Read more
Few works of art have become synonymous with an understanding of the subjective nature of reality. There are Philip K. Dick's novels, maybe some of Lawrence Durrell's works (where he explored the same story from four different angles), and a movie: Rashomon. Even people who have never heard the name "Kurosawa" know of "Rashomon syndrome." And like Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (which was to follow four years later), Rashomon became more than just one of Kurosawa's greatest movies, but also a model for many other movies to follow, some of them good and some of them awful.
As with Samurai, Rashomon stands apart from its successors. Kurosawa had just been released from his contract with Toho Studios, and Rashomon would be the fruit of his one-year deal with Daiei. The studio was hesitant about the film; no one had ever attempted this kind of fragmented storytelling in a Japanese movie before, and they were worried they would not make their money back. Happily, they were wrong, as the film was a success both at home and abroad. Rashomon turned out to be the movie to "break" Japanese films into the world cinema market, but with unexpected consequences: many people assumed all Japanese movies were structured in a similarly unique fashion. This was of course not true and Kurosawa grew tired of having to explain this over and over.Read more
I am writing this review from the relative safety of my house, while half a world away a whole swath of countries are convulsing with violence. Small wonder some people look to total destruction for answers to difficult problems. If we wipe the whole slate clean, maybe something better will emerge, and our enemies — whoever they are — will be decimated. Of course, the logic of mutually assured destruction guarantees that we will never be certain.
Few societies are as fit to speak on the subject of Armageddon as Japan, given that they lived through their own microcosmic version of it at the end of World War II. They have a cultural perspective on mass destruction that few others do, and they have introjected it into their popular culture in ways that could be seen as either strikingly self-analytical or downright fetishistic.
Akira is not the only animated Japanese production to deal with the subject of holocaust — the X-rated Legend of the Overfiend, of all things, also comes to mind — but it may certainly be the best of them. Even after Ghost in the Shell and Jin-roh and Princess Mononoke have all been accounted for, Akira still ranks as one of the single finest animated productions from Japan and certainly one of the finest anywhere. There are other movies with better plotting or more absorbing stories, but for sheer spectacle there was never anything like it, not even in the ranks of Disney, and it broke new technical ground in terms of how far animation could be pushed. If anything, it is even more of a nightmare vision now than it was when it first appeared in 1987, with its images of cities being leveled and civilizations laid to waste.Read more