Thursday, September 12, 2013

Group Portraits

Watched Seven Samurai over two nights, and loved it. One of the imdb reviewers put it best, there are certain directors who just "get" it, who get the medium, and Akira Kurosawa is one of them. I was tired, I was doing what I thought of as a "duty," but I was mesmerized throughout the movie (3 hours, 27 minutes). Total involvement, that must be a criterion of great art, surely. Takashi Shimura, who plays the leader of the band, provides the moral center against which Toshiro Mifune's antic samurai tilts. Isao Kimura is the young untested warrior who falls in love with a farmer's daughter.

Less involving but still absorbing is the 1970s cult classic, the break-out novel by Ryū Murakami, Almost Transparent Blue. A group portrait of Japanese hippies (drugs, sex, and rock and roll), it is narrated by a young arts student called Ryū too. The scenes, numbing and addictive, are almost too painful to read, especially the one in which the Japanese had group sex with African American soldiers from the U.S. base. The squalor and pain are balanced by a single scene of beauty, when Ryū and a lover wander in a field of tomatoes, discover an abandoned schoolhouse, and gaze at a plane speeding off on a runway.

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