Archive for Chris Fujiwara

Iran All the Way

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2014 by dcairns

Still-Life

It’s Throwback Thursday as The Forgotten harkens back to June’s Edinburgh International Film Festival and its retrospective of movies from Iran before the revolution — that brief glimmering between the birth of cinema in that country and its descent into theocracy.

This comes, ironically, just as Chris Fujiwara announces that he’s leaving his position as director of the festival, after a stint in which he reinvigorated an event that was pretty much on the rocks. He will be missed — but he leaves us with an EIFF in great shape.

The Monday Intertitle: Moll Quiet

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2014 by dcairns

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“I’m pretty influential as Lefty Hiroshi.”

Beautiful deco kanji in an intertitle from Ozu’s 1933 DRAGNET GIRL, screened at the Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema, Bo’ness. This may be becoming my favourite Ozu, but I have lots more still to see. I’m really an Ozu newbie. It was about ten years ago I saw a bunch of late ones screened on Film4, and made a point of catching up with TOKYO STORY, but the ones I’ve seen outside of those experiences mean more to me.

Chris Fujiwara, introducing the film, suggested that the large number of intertitles in the film may have been Ozu’s way of constraining the benshi, those sometimes-overzealous film describers who had a tendency to not just read out the titles for the benefit of non-readers, but to embellish the plots and elucidate the subtext and supply the thoughts of every character. They would scarcely have time in this movie.

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Image from here.

DRAGNET GIRL was screened with a live score by Jane Gardner, whose accompaniment of THE GOOSE WOMAN last year was a highlight. I found a couple of the scores on Saturday to be over-amplified — the venue is small and has excellent acoustics anyway. THE LAST LAUGH screened with a new arrangement of the original score, which was absolutely brilliant, but the violin and whistle could be a little piercing. Ozu is usually thought of as “restrained” and “minimalist” (not to mention “transcendent”) and if that were true of DRAGNET GIRL the piano, violin and percussion score would have been too lush, emotive and emphatic. But this middle period film is, as Chris said, very *free* — Ozu allows himself more camera movement, much of it lateral (the movie poster on the wall in the background for ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT suggests where that may have come from; otherwise, Sternberg and UNDERWORLD and the lost DRAGNET are clearly influences) but one shot rotating slowly around a big white coffee pot (symbol of the decadent western influence, we are told) rather like a prototype for the cuts in later films which will pivot our perspective around an orienting object such as a red kettle.

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And this is a crime melodrama — albeit one which avoids most of the possible cues for melodramatic incidents, admittedly. What looks like being a hit by typist/moll Kinuyo Tanaka upon her romantic rival, is averted by a girl-on-girl kiss which has as much impact — and is presented with even more aversion of the camera eye to protect the innocent — as an assassination would in a conventional gangster flick. But things do eventually reach a pitch of high tension and jeopardy, as our heroes go on the lam after a heist (really the only bit of crime-for-profit glimpsed in the movie).

And so the score seemed an apt expression of the emotions lurking just beneath the polite surface of the characters. And it was absolutely beautiful, which is important, because so’s the film.

I must have a word with Jane to see if I can get copies of her stuff so I can walk around with it playing in my head.

Lets Get Small

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2013 by dcairns

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Joining us in Edinburgh today are my co-director Paul Duane and Bernard Natan’s grand-daughter, the wonderful Lenick Philippot. Craig McCall, our executive producer and the maker of the wonderful Jack Cardiff profile CAMERAMAN, got in on Friday. All set for our first public screening on UK soil tomorrow. Screening today — the first in the Richard Fleischer retrospective, FANTASTIC VOYAGE and THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING. The third in the Gremillon season, the silent LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS, with live accompaniment. Mark Cousins’ follow-up to THE STORY OF FILM, entitled A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM — his best documentary about cinema yet. And COMRADE KIM GOES FLYING, the first foreign fiction movie shot inside North Korea. My former student Vicky Mohieddeen worked on this one!

But also — FRANCES HA; HARRY DEAN STANTON, PARTLY FICTION; UPSTREAM COLOUR; WHEN NIGHT FALLS; THE BLING RING; WHITE EPILEPSY… Chris Fujiwara continues to do a great job, including his chairing the Jean Gremillon symposium yesterday. We wondered going in if such an event would have made more sense at the end of the retrospective, to sum up, but no — it gave us all food for thought and things to watch out for in the upcoming movies.

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