Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Blog? And Why About Japanese Cinema?

My recent downtrodden adventures to find a place of steady employment with decent pay in one of the worst economic seasons in decades has recently left me with a lot of free time. Instead of sulking while watching daytime television while eating pizza flavored Dorito's in a pair of underwear with rips and holes, I decided to start applying my free time to talking about something I'm passionate about: cinema!


Someone just brought up to me yesterday about why do people suddenly feel entitled to blog and where do I fit into this? In a world that seems to be increasingly non-literate (not to be confused with illiterate), blogs have not come up as a higher form of sharing information, feelings or thoughts. Instead we get tumblrs re-posting photos of cute femme boys, Twitter users posting about what Z-Grade celebrity they just saw eating at Chipotle or blogs where liberal arts students post photos where the exposure on their digital cameras was brought up and therefore they considered themselves photographers. Even in the world of cinema, aside from a few blogs, it seems most are more interested in posting the latest Hollywood drivel with obnoxious remarks or blogs filled with French New Wave stills. I've had enough of that.

I thought I could make a blog and share my feelings and thoughts. Plus in the new job market, putting something like a blog looks fantastic on a resume, so when I give my resume to the nearby Jack in the Box, they can see I can write and I can grill burgers!

Nanami: Inferno of First Love (Hatsukoi Jigokuhen) (1968) Dir. Susumu Hani


I don't necessarily want to reinvent the blog either. I just want to share my love of cinema in a clear and easy way and I specifically limited it to Japanese cinema. I love talking and sharing my ideas and love of cinema, but I feel if I extend it to the full spectrum of cinema, these ideas that I can eventually use in practice when I work on my own films will be instead be in essays and articles. By limiting myself to the cinema of Japan, it gives me a lot more to talk about at a more impersonal level which let's me express and talk about the work while not making myself the center of attention (I'm making an other blog for that) or by avoiding the romanticism of Japanese culture. To so many bloggers who write about anime and pop culture, Japan seems like an odd land of cat statues, cute girls and Pocky's, but I fully understand that it's a country just like ours with social problems, economic problems, natural disasters, centuries of a corrupt system like feudalism and ultimately people just like us.

I have never lived in Japan and I don't speak Japanese, but I've always been drawn to Japanese culture. When I was a little kid, I didn't have much interest in cinema. I would watch American sitcoms and cartoons, but I still have vivid memories of being home Saturday nights watching subtitled Japanese television with my brother (then on Los Angeles' channel 18). I would watch the historical dramas, the cooking shows, game shows and cartoons pretty dedicatedly. I also have distinct memories of my father telling me everything made in Japan was automatically better. I know for a fact he had a terrible problem buying a GMC pick-up so he made sure every car he bought after was Japanese (or at least Korean).

But the main thing that would draw me into it's culture was video games. Growing up, my main media interest (aside from reading) was playing video games. And I would devour them. It wasn't simply playing them, but I knew all the developers, the famous creators, the music composers and would read magazines about them all the time. This all predated the rise in American gaming that came with the Xbox. Back then, American developers (aside from a few) were known mostly to create PC games or games that were based on existing franchises. All my favorite games growing up were Japanese and somewhere in the process of translating the games for the west, there was a distinct feel to the games that placed them as being Japanese. Some of them were even overtly Japanese in design, humor and story.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyuushutsu Emaki) (1991) for the Super Famicom/SNES - Dev. Konami

By the time I was a teenage, video games were pushed aside and my new interest was drawn towards cinema. I started off watching mainstream American films, but little by little I was drawn to other parts of cinema. Reading books, articles and reading blogs or forums online, I delved deep into as many waters of cinema as I could reach. The French New Wave, classic American genre films, Hong Kong action, experimental; but I still hadn't really explored Japanese cinema.

Then I hit a minor depression. Maybe it was working two jobs or post-high school stress, but I lost interest in cinema. I would read, watch HBO shows, go out, but movies weren't really on my radar anymore. I would watch a movie here and then, but no where at the point when I was fifteen or sixteen. This finally ended in early 2009 when I decided to replay one of my favorite video games again: Earthbound (Mother 2) (1994), a game so inexplicably weird, sharply written and created by Shigesato Itoi and so very Japanese in tone. But almost above all else, I was fascinated about what a strange soundtrack it had by composer Keiichi Suzuki. It sampled sounds from classic arcade games, tunes by The Beatles, had so many varied tones and moods that one minute you could be listening to something that sounded like fifties rock, the next moment you swore that the tune could've been done by Throbbing Gristle.

Earthbound (Mother 2) (1994) for the Super Famicom/SNES - Dev. Nintendo

I decided to see what else the composer had done and saw he did Takeshi Kitano's take on Zatoichi. When I saw it, it was an absolute revelation! It was the perfect mix of art film aesthetics (elliptical moments, jarring cuts, unconventional characters) and genre film fun (sword slashing, drag queens, dance numbers). At that moment I had to see everything Takeshi Kitano did. And then I would see a film he acted in like Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale (Batoru Rowaiaru) (2000) which reminded me that I had the Battles Without Honor and Humanity (Jingi naki tatakai) (1973) box set in my collection after I bought it blindly at a Hastings for merely twelve dollars when I went to visit a friend in Albuquerque. And then I had to see more Japanese films. And it went from there.

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (Zatoichi) (2003) Dir. Takeshi Kitano

Since then, I can say I'm pretty well versed on the subject. I've read several books on different movements and directors, I've read dozens and dozens of essays, read interviews and watched and re-watched special features on the DVD's for Japanese films. I just simply want to share what I love about these films and discuss them in depth in my articles instead of going the approach of so many blogs and just share news about Japanese film. I'm going to try my best to update this blog at least once a week and I have ideas for several articles including one for tomorrow!

I can't wait for you to read them!

No comments:

Post a Comment