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Yew Erdri Ming

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Preliminary Comic Con Post Jul. 20th, 2017 @ 08:40 am


This was outside Comic Con yesterday. I don't know what it's for but it seemed to say something about dedication.

Yesterday, Wednesday, was Preview Night, I generally just go in to pick up my bag and programme on Wednesday. In previous years I went in that day to pick up my badge but for the past couple years they've been mailing this out. I still had to follow a special route inside, though, because it looks like they're cracking down on people who try to take multiple bags and programmes--the security card system they use at the entrances now is also used at the bag pick up. So if you were planning to make a dress out of just this year's bag (as some do), good luck, it's kind of small this year.

It was more crowded than I'm used to seeing it on a Wednesday. I took a chance and got on the trolley closer to the Con than I normally do but there was still standing room only. I actually live relatively close to the Con but this counts for nothing if you don't actually live downtown. To give you an idea:



After that trolley station people are packed like sardines inside. Even going that far out I'm not guaranteed to get a seat.

There are no panels I want to see to-day so I'm going in relatively late. I plan to just roam the floor to-day. Entries here should be short until after the Con, though, when I'll give fuller Con reports.

Here are a few more pictures from yesterday:





Current Location: Transit
Current Mood: awakeawake
Current Music: "Sexy Sadie" - The Beatles

Nylon Stockings and Samurai Armour Jul. 19th, 2017 @ 12:47 pm


As difficult and strange as cultural change can be, it tends to manifest very close to home, if not in the home, as in the case of Yasujiro Ozu's 1950 film The Munekata Sisters (宗方姉妹). Two sisters, an older and a younger, have different personalities, one shaped more by pre-World War II Japan and the other shaped more by U.S. occupied Japan. Like Kurosawa, Ozu shows in his film that western conceptions of democracy and personal liberty were in many ways healthy new influences on the culture but, while this film isn't quite as eloquent as his better known films, Ozu does succeed in suggesting there are some things lost in such cultural changes because their value cannot be explained in simple logic.

Ozu makes it crystal clear which culture holds sway over which sister. The elder, Setsuko (Kinuyo Tanaka), always wears kimonos and is generally more reserved in her manners while Mariko (Hideko Takamine) always wears western style blouses and skirts. But as with cultural change in general, it's hard to see how much is due to Mariko's youthful rebelliousness and how much is due to Setsuko being set in her ways.



Certainly Mariko seems in many ways still a child. Her father, Ozu's usual face of tranquil wisdom, Chishu Ryu, chides her for her habit of sticking her tongue out.



Mariko's unsure herself if she's behaving properly and needs reassurance, despite her outward assertiveness, and she explains this is why she reads her sister's diary without her permission, to find out if the elder sister was like Mariko when she was her age. And Mariko is surprised to find Setsuko was in love at one time with a young man named Hiroshi (Ken Uehara) but their affair ended when Hiroshi left for France and Setsuko married Mimura (So Yamamura).



We find out that Mimura also read Setsuko's diary and that's why he's out of work and slowly drinking himself to death. Setsuko runs a bar and supports Mimura, just one of the reasons Mariko thinks she should divorce him. When Hiroshi comes back to town, Mariko makes it her personal mission to get Setsuko and Hiroshi back together.



Mariko has no doubts about her quest but it's hard to say how unhappy Setsuko really is since she has that reserved demeanour, seeming perfectly happy to do the household chores for Mimura, though she does stick up for herself when Mimura's drunk and says unreasonable things to her.

At the bottom of the basic philosophical struggle seems to be a conflict between whether it is better to assert oneself to attain happiness and achievements or whether one should take others into consideration and sacrifice for them--and this dichotomy doesn't always match up with the Japanese and Western dichotomy, sometimes one valuing sacrifice more than the other and vice versa. This makes things all the more confusing as Western ideals of sacrifice set off Japanese conceptions of self-denial.



Being young and championing a very firm point of view of right or wrong, however much she might be insecure secretly, Mariko doesn't understand why it's so hard for people to change their lives, why it's so hard for Setsuko to simply get a divorce and reunite with Hiroshi. One character has to explain to Mariko how difficult it must be for the kamikaze pilot who now works at the bar whose life was once about giving everything up for Japan but is now about just being a waiter.



A quote from Don Quixote with a jaunty Johnnie Walker statue at the bar become less and less funny the more they're shown and the more Mimura drinks and this seems a poignant symbol of the unforeseen consequences of dropping aspects of one culture into another.
Current Location: The city
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: "Love Me Tender" Wild at Heart OST - Nicolas Cage

Finding the Best Seat Jul. 18th, 2017 @ 07:45 pm


Well, it's time once again to play the Game of Thrones. Sunday's premiere got season seven off to kind of a meek start. As usual for a first episode of the season, a lot of time was spent refreshing the viewer on the previous season but even for that it seemed like it waffled quite a bit.

Spoilers after the screenshot



The splashiest moment came at the beginning when David Bradley turned out to be Arya Stark, following up her turn as Titus Andronicus with a simpler mass poisoning. It was fun watching Arya's glee on David Bradley's face but Maisie Williams soon resumes Arya duties.



Once again I get the sense she would be the world's most inept assassin if she hadn't stolen magic powers. She doesn't even have a story ready when she's asked why she's going to King's Landing and her encounter with Ed Sheeran's band of Lannister soldiers seems to indicate this is the first time she's even thought about the fact that the common footsoldiers are just regular people unattached to the machinations of Lannister nobility. I guess that's the kind of thing she was supposed to be learning when she was posing as fish monger. But, no thanks, Arya wants the good grades without having to actually learn anything.

I always used to say the Starks were the dullest characters on the show except for Arya. But after her dramatic seaborne departure from Westeros a couple seasons ago she's done her best to take over the legacy of Stark dullness.



Meanwhile, Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Jon (Kit Harrington) are squabbling in front of a full council. Sansa wants to massacre the whole families of traitors, Jon wants to leave them in charge, no one suggests imprisoning them. I am still so on Team Cersei (Lena Headey).



I feel especially bad for her now that Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is constantly whining. When she says the Freys were untrustworthy allies, Jaime argues it's better to have untrustworthy allies than none, nevermind Cersei wasn't saying anything to the contrary. Then when Cersei brings in Urine (sorry, Euron) Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek), suddenly Jaime's complaining they're not good enough. You want to wait for a perfect ally now, Jaime? Can Cersei do anything right with you? Why not try being supportive?



My favourite section was Samwell (John Bradley) having to do menial chores in maester training. I've always said I wanted to see more of the mundane stuff in Westeros and here it is. I love how the food he serves is almost indistinguishable from the stuff in the chamber pots he collects. Of course, the plot doesn't make much sense--if Samwell can't look at the forbidden books, what's the harm in someone else looking up how to defeat the White Walkers, like Jim Broadbent's character, who says he believes Sam? It seems like a pretty artificial roadblock to draw things out. It is nice seeing Jim Broadbent. After Jonathan Pryce and Peter Vaughan I wonder if eventually every cast member from Brazil will appear on Game of Thrones. I'm looking forward to seeing Katherine Helmond, if that's the case.

Once again, the show has some amazing costumes and locations.

Twitter Sonnet #1014

The cherry fish in chambers parsed for rice
Upheld the pickle yard, contorted keys
Involved in island growth assort the mice
From small to smaller graces make the trees.
Domestic pop imports a soda can,
In quarters clamped to pin machines affirmed
In shining blue or red or metal tan,
Though some say copper, bronze, or gold's confirmed.
No fleece affronted fifty clicking claws
Impounded by the stalks of dreamy crabs
Collecting coin for church's certain law
Or buying frames to make the metal cabs.
The sounds of mallets make the hollow beat.
In storms, the lounge has grown the softest seat.
Current Location: Westeros
Current Mood: busybusy
Current Music: "Tombstone Blues" - Bob Dylan

Lost Hunters Jul. 17th, 2017 @ 07:04 pm


David Lynch's ability to blur the line between comedy and horror was on admirable and fascinating display last night on the new Twin Peaks. Moving to a meditation on abuse and disjointed affection, last night's episode, "Laura is the One", continued the show's exploration of the basic problem arising between innocent love and jaded selfishness.

Spoilers after the screenshot



More and more, I think Jerry Horne's (David Patrick Kelly) statements on his ongoing odyssey in the woods are reflections or distillations of the whole episode's themes. This time we see him frustrated that his phone is getting no signal and it prompts him to scream, "You can't fool me, I've been here before!" If we distil this moment to its basic meaning, we can see that it is repeated in different ways throughout the episode--Jerry, who's lost, doesn't have what he desperately needs, a phone signal, which would allow him to communicate his need for help. His response, prompted by his distress, is to make a display of strength along with a denial of the apparent reality, claiming false or irrelevant knowledge ("I've been here before"). There's the assumption that, because there was a signal there before, there ought to be one now, based on Jerry's feelings more than anything else.



Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) is lost in another kind of woods, guilty of killing a child, his display of strength is physical violence. He goes to his grandmother, Sylvia Horne (Jan D'Arcy), and when he doesn't receive the aid he did in the past, he shows strength and asserts a right to what she has. Then we see this pattern reflected again when Sylvia calls Ben (Richard Beymer) and she expects more money from him while he considers it unreasonable. This is similar to the situation with Frank Truman and his wife who seemed irrationally aggressive but our reactions to her are tempered when we find out what happened to their kid. So now we see Sylvia, who throughout the first two seasons barely had a presence except as a nag to Ben, has her own reasons for being emotionally distressed and aggressive. And who can blame her.



Poor Johnny Horne (Eric Rondell). That bear with the distinctly Lynchian replacement head is like an instrument of torture but is clearly meant to be some kind of therapeutic device.



Carl (Harry Dean Stanton) has his gentle love song interrupted by a mug thrown out of a trailer window by an abusive Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) who's screaming at a cowering Becky (Amanda Seyfried) about his needs. I guess he is as bad as Leo. He concludes by asserting "I know what you did." Again, a violent assertion of a perceived right based on possibly false or irrelevant knowledge.



My favourite thread in the episode was Candie's (Amy Shiels). Wow, was that strange and intriguing. It starts with a bit that seems like a repeat of Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) chasing a fly in the sheriff's station from the original series. Candie hunts the fly with a red handkerchief but, in what should be little more than a moment of broad slapstick, she smacks her gangster employer, Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper), in the face with a remote control.



It's funny except Candie is bizarrely devastated. Still crying about it later, she wonders, "How can you ever love me after what I did?", much to the confusion of both Rodney and his brother Bradley (Jim Belushi). Her reaction is out of proportion for several reasons, for one because no-one really believes she meant to cause him harm, and another because their relationship doesn't seem to have been on this emotional level. She's one of three girls who seem basically to be living ornaments or errand girls. The Mitchum brothers clearly don't seem ready for her to actually put emotional investment like this in her role, it's as though she's been bewitched by the superficial details. When she muddles a simple task later it's because she seems, like Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan), to have become a sleep walker. The episode's title, and the Log Lady's (Catherine Coulson) message near the end, refer to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). But aside from a vision of a scene from Fire Walk with Me witnessed by Gordon Cole (David Lynch), we don't see any reference to Laura. Since Leland tasked Cooper with finding Laura, I've wondered if this meant Laura has become an inhabiting spirit like Bob or Mike. Could she have taken possession of Candie? Or maybe we're meant to be looking for her in the characters and thereby scrutinising them differently for that reason.



And where does Dougie fit into this? He has a visit with the doctor, in fact Doctor Phlox, of all people, from Star Trek: Enterprise, John Billingsley. The casting is odd for how not odd it is. We learned in the previous episode that people are used to Dougie having lingering effects from a car accident, so that explains why people haven't been more alarmed by his recent behaviour. It doesn't prevent him from bonding with Janey-E (Naomi Watts) on a physical level. So at least one couple is happy in this episode, though, again, it's a relationship based on a misunderstanding. I loved how Watts is lit in the sex scene:



Of course, I should point out I was right about Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Constance (Jane Adams), who seem to be on the right track.

Current Location: The woods
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "What Goes On" - The Beatles

The Thirteenth Hour Jul. 16th, 2017 @ 02:36 pm


It's Jodie Whittaker, aka the Thirteenth Doctor, seen here where I first saw her in the first season of Broadchurch. Her casting was announced to-day after the Wimbledon Men's Final (I thought it was funny they chose to do it after Wimbledon Men's Final) with this kind of cheesy video:



Here the young Doctor can be seen foraging and she has a lot of work to do laying up acorns for the winter. It's kind of like Planet Earth: Time Lord. Time Lady? I guess "Time Lady" is considered sexist but I'm not really clear on why.

I'm really happy to see a female Doctor. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next season and where new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes the series. I had varied reactions to his previous episodes of Doctor Who but I really liked the first season of Broadchurch, which he created and wrote every episode of. I don't see him approaching the heights of Steven Moffat or Russell T. Davis at their best but I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

I think Jodie Whittaker's a good actress and I look forward to see what she does. And yet . . .

Well, she's kind of normal. Theoretically, being a good actress means she can put in an appropriately weird performance for the Doctor. I don't know. It feels to me like another baby step--throughout the past few seasons, despite the impression you might get from the ravenous Moffat haters, the show has been seeded with little things to build up to a female Doctor, repeatedly confirming a Time Lord can change sex with a regeneration, changing the sex of the show's second most prominent Time Lord character, the Master, and finally the recent finale which is loaded with big hints about a more female future. Hopefully all this helped coax some of the more sexist fans into being a little less sexist and, to make a really optimistic statement, make the world a little less sexist generally. But there's something kind of default about Whittaker. I don't know, maybe it's too much to ask for the first female Doctor to have bug eyes, a big nose, and/or prominent teeth. Or someone like Michelle Gomez who has a wonderful, intense weirdness.

But I'll keep an open mind. I hope she at least gets a weird costume.
Current Location: The TARDIS
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful
Current Music: "Oh Well" - Fiona Apple
Other entries
» Tuber Tank


It's hard to take the talking potatoes seriously. I listened to Heroes of Sontar last night, a 2011 Doctor Who audio play that features Sontarans, an alien warrior race first introduced in the Third Doctor era but which manifest on the show now only in the form of Strax, who's played for laughs. Heroes of Sontar's Sontarans are all portrayed as similarly buffoonish and I wonder if this was an influence on how Strax was portrayed on the show from then on. There's actually an explanation for the foolishness of the particular group of Sontarans in Heroes of Sontar, though, and I was able to laugh at them a little more than at Strax, who I always tended to resent for taking valuable time away from Vastra and Jenny. Heroes of Sontar is an all around decent story.

It features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) with his optimum companion crew, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), Tegan (Janet Fielding), and Turlough (Mark Strickson) and follows from a series of audio plays released the previous year in which the Doctor with Turlough and Tegan encounter Nyssa at a point after Nyssa's final serial on the television series, Terminus. Nyssa is much older, having led a full life on Terminus, apparently now the same age as Sarah Sutton at the time of recording the audio play, judging from the CD cover. One reason this setup is a good idea is that Nyssa left the TARDIS before Turlough's subplot with the Black Guardian concluded so any story set before her departure would have to work in that subplot somehow. There's also a hint in this episode, when Tegan teases Nyssa and the Doctor for sounding like an old married couple, that there's meant to be romantic chemistry between Nyssa and Five. Which is a vibe I get from the other audio plays where it's just the Doctor and Nyssa though I don't remember it ever being directly explored. Maybe it's a chemistry the writers noticed but didn't dare explore until they'd aged Nyssa up a bit, since her relationship with the Doctor began, when she met the Fourth Doctor, with more of a father/daughter feel. Or maybe Uncle/Niece. Despite Peter Davison having been so young in his tenure compared to other Doctors he may have had the smallest amount of sexual chemistry with his companions, I think mainly because he tended to have many companions at one time so it was harder to establish a one on one dynamic.

Also, the writing in Five's era is the worst in the show's history, aside from some stand out serials, which is one of the reasons it's so nice hearing him and his companions in some well written audio plays. Heroes of Sontar takes place on an abandoned planet covered with a strange moss, the remnants of a biological weapon. Writer Alan Barnes concocts some nice problems for the characters to solve or escape, splitting the group into pairs, the Doctor and Tegan dealing with one problem while Turlough and Nyssa find themselves battling a moss infection on Nyssa's hand and trying to overcome the infamy of Turlough's cowardice. As bad as the writing was in Five's era, Turlough has always been one of my favourite companions, I sort of wish the audio plays would allow him to actually exhibit more cowardice and treachery than just having the other characters talk about it. Tegan comes off as a little hardier in this story, which is nice, and I don't think it undercuts too much the nature of her departure in Resurrection of the Daleks.

Twitter Sonnet #1013

Electric wings from poisoned soil sprout.
In clouds, the gas conducts a system burn.
The charcoal tips of dreamless horns are out.
From crumpled pages tin has much to learn.
The egg that didn't disappear awaits.
In promised thoughts the brain advanced the team.
About the board a cable sends the mates.
For pawns aglow outside the port redeem.
And not too like saltines the snack was soft.
In crying words the crows turned over cups.
But wooden mills can bear the note aloft.
Inside you'll find a dozen eggy pups.
Apportioned rows of lizard shoes appear.
Along horizons green they're worn by deer.

» 17th Century Waters


I finished reading this last night, the autobiography of a 17th century seaman called Edward Coxere (pronounced "Coxery"). It has humour and tension but clearly comes from a time when the novel as an artform was still in its infancy. It has the free-roaming quality of a picaresque as Coxere simply reports one episode after another. It's filled with wonderful detail and incidental glimpses into how people talked and behaved. Coxere describes being sent to France in 1647 as a child in order to learn the language by being brought up in a French household. It's not long before he goes to sea. The book shows how fluid was the national loyalty of a seaman at the time as Coxere served on Dutch, French, Spanish, and English ships.

As I was at first with the Hollanders against the English I continued in this frigate in the wars against the Hollanders till about the peace. I had not been long in this ship but I was made coxswain: so that I served several masters in the wars between King and Parliament at sea. Next I served the Spaniards against the French, then the Hollanders against the English; then I was taken by the English out of a Dunkirker; and then I served the English against the Hollanders; and last I was taken by the Turks, where I was forced to serve then against English, French, Dutch, and Spaniards, and all Christendom.

In one of the more amusing anecdotes, he describes going home to England at last where everyone, including his mother, thought for certain he was Dutch.

My mother, spying of us, says to the other woman, 'Here come Master Dehase with a Fleming. It may be they may bring some news of Ned.' she little knowing I was he. The old man bid me say nothing, he being pleased at the conceit. When we came to my mother, she looked on me, but knew me not, but asked the old man if he could tell no news of her child, not thinking her child stood before her. The old man bid her patience; she should well hear. This was to her but the old tone, I suppose. I discerned the yearning bowels of a mother, yet notwithstanding I kept myself undiscovered awhile, till at last I made myself known with much joy and gladness.

Yes, there was a time when "yearning bowels of a mother" could be written without thoughts of other connotations.

Coxere also describes the period of time he spent as a slave, having been captured by the Turks. As bad as he makes it sound, even worse is his imprisonment in England after becoming a Quaker and refusing to swear oaths.

He describes the personalities of different shipmates, including a captain who's constantly trying to get drunk. Several times he describes having to rig sails and whole masts in disastrous battles or during storms. At one point he describes holing up in a gunroom and drinking wine during an attack.



The copy I found for a few dollars on Amazon is a lovely little 1946 edition marked "discard" from a school library in Montana. It includes a foldout map and Coxere's original illustrations.


» Old Jobs versus New Tech


The connexion between making money and survival, for you and your loved ones, as always been fertile ground for drama in stories set in the U.S. 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming dramatises the political struggle between a working class whose sense of morality has been warped by the money-making imperative and a new generation who is so accustomed to economic privilege that abdication of higher moral responsibility seems monstrous. Not all of the implications may have been intended but the film certainly has economic class in mind while presenting, in some ways, the best and most true to his comic roots Spider-Man brought to film: Tom Holland as an unmistakeably adolescent Peter Parker. In some ways, though, the character deviates quite a bit from his original comic book incarnation in order to make its argument on the economic landscape.

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, a.k.a. The Vulture, is the best villain to feature in an MCU film, largely because he's barely a villain. He's a salvage contractor who's muscled out of the job of picking up alien scrap from the first Avengers movie by the Department of Damage Control, a government department set up by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). This after he'd already spent money on the resources necessary to clean up the stuff so now he and his team have to get creative if they have any hope of bringing a paycheck home. This is the kind of problem Peter Parker would've been familiar with in his original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko incarnation--Peter was constantly worrying about bringing enough money home to support his aunt May and himself. And he certainly wasn't above using his new-found powers to make a buck--something we see in Sam Raimi's adaptation, though I don't remember seeing one of my favourite scenes from the comic, where our hero tries to cash a check made out to "Spider-Man".

No mention is made of May having serious financial woes in Homecoming and Peter seems to feel no pressure to make money. When Tony Stark mentions he can get Peter into a good school, the kid barely seems to notice. It's no wonder he seems to have no sympathy for the lengths Toomes goes to to support his family.

The fact that Peter isn't thoroughly irritating is one of the film's greatest achievements and it's accomplished with the same goal that makes the new Wonder Woman movie work so well--Peter really cares about helping people and he has what seems like a very honest humility.



He isn't a guy looking for a fight, he's a guy looking to help out, and if that involves fighting he's ready to do it. He's not above giving an old lady directions and he's deeply apologetic when he accidentally webs a guy trying to break into his own car. Like Wonder Woman, he's a welcome return to the original idea of Superman, the idea of a really powerful person who really is more interested in making life better for everyone than in stroking his own ego or getting revenge. Like Raimi's incarnation of the character, he's also really excited to be Spider-Man and do Spider-Man things, but he naturally sees this as something he doesn't keep to himself--when some guys on the street ask him to do a flip, he automatically does it. Later, when his friend tries to talk him into showing up as Spider-Man at a party to improve Peter Parker's reputation, he realises how stupid this is and seems like he would have avoided doing it if a crisis hadn't called him away anyway.

The character is also helped a lot by some lessons taken from Deadpool. In addition to giving the mask expressive eyes, the filmmakers also seem to have recognised that the character's awkwardness is a strength and here it makes even more sense when kid Spidey is a but a wisp of a lad.

I hope to whatever gods might be listening that no remake of Back to the Future goes forward but if someone were casting a new Marty McFly I could see Tom Holland being a very good fit. He has a real Michael J. Fox quality, handsome but with a sort of ungainly kittenishness. All this helps make the movie's underlying drama more interesting.

It's hard to believe this movie was wrapped before the election last year. Vulture almost seems like he's meant to be the working class Donald Trump voters while Peter is the Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama who failed to campaign for that working class demographic. On that note, the movie has an optimism in its conclusion I wish I could share in.
» Sake, Shogi, Life, Death, and Setsuko Hara


Great crimes, tragedies, and suffering occur alongside the silly, mundane, and lovely. This can be difficult to illustrate in a film but Sadao Yamanaka accomplished it in his great 1936 film Kochiyama Soshun, one of the director's only three surviving films. The influence he exerted on Japan's better known great filmmakers can be seen in how Kochiyama Soshun starts out feeling like an Ozu film and ends feeling like Kurosawa.

Kochiyama Soshun was a real person, a well known figure in Japan from the early 19th century, Yamanaka's film is based on a kabuki play about his life. Played by Chojuro Kawarasaki, he comes across as a laid back, virtuous, and incredibly clever thief. We meet him playing shogi, a Japanese variant of chess, with a man who swindles people on the street by having them stake money on games. But Kochiyama outswindles the swindler, winning 50 ryo. Chess proves once again the universal shorthand for showing a character to be clever. Taking the money back to the gambling den he calls home with his wife, we see him telling her to grant every request for a loan that comes in, one of the ways we start meeting the diverse characters in what turns out to be a mostly ensemble film.

The standout is sixteen year old Setsuko Hara in one of her first films. She plays Onami, a sweet sake seller who's loved by everyone. She already conveys that uncanny, unaffected innocence and affectionate nature which made her one of the most popular actresses in Japan for decades. Her voice is a little higher pitched and she seems to speak a little more through her nose than she does later, maybe a sign of less confidence as a performer, but she's pretty adorable.

Onami's concerned about her younger brother, whom she seems to be acting as mother for. He spends his time at Kochiyama's gambling den and then he gets himself into real trouble when he runs off with a prostitute owned by the local yakuza boss. Onami, who we see is so shy she doesn't even want to enter the gambling den to look for her brother, suddenly finds herself faced with the idea she might need to sell herself to the yakuza as restitution.

A ronin named Kaneko (Kanemon Nakamura) has started working for the same gang though his sense of personal honour keeps him from feeling ashamed of disobeying an order, as when he goes to punish Kochiyama for winning the shogi scam but instead ends up becoming Kochiyama's drinking buddy.

Meanwhile, the film also gives us the story of an older samurai whose knife Hiro stole and then sold to an auctioneer. The film takes its time to follow a couple other guys competitively bidding on the item and then having them run into the samurai, who buys it back from the winner, though he seems convinced that it's fake. It's not perfectly clear he really thinks it's fake--it might be a bargaining tactic. This thread does end up becoming relevant in the end when several seemingly unrelated stories come together for an amazing and brutal fight sequence.

I'd been trying to track this movie down for years until a few nights ago when I found, as happens surprisingly often, the whole thing's been uploaded to YouTube. Check it out before some asshole decides he can claim to YouTube he somehow owns the copyright to this public domain 1936 film.



Twitter Sonnet #1012

The heart's in crossing lines of grey and gold.
Too fast the sandwich burns on greasy pans.
A tired stop removes the wheels of old.
The burning vales of Mars have many fans.
A car bereft of Flintstone feet was dead.
The circuit shadows drift around the room.
In longer gloves, a glory lies in bed.
Along the trails of rubber bats was doom.
Collections grew of variants to chess.
A hundred feathers tripped together first.
An idle bowl contains no worser cess.
Let drowsy monks and gamblers slake their thirst.
The brow became a hat when lines were pulled.
It's always hot when time and space are wooled.

» Gangster Goggles


It's harder to applaud a man's decision not to kill when the movie he's in so stacks the deck in favour of killing. In 1958's Rusty Knife (錆びたナイフ), former gangster Tachibana (Yujiro Ishihara) has to fight the urge to kill again even when he learns the yakuza syndicate who seem invulnerable to prosecution gang raped his girlfriend who then killed herself. With its bittersweet Masaru Sato theme song, the point of the film seems to be that ridiculous morality ties the hands of good men--not unlike American films like Death Wish or Russian films like Brat, its ostensibly anti-gangster message works out to be pro-gangster in real life. It's a bit silly but also ominous.



Tachibana's working as a bartender at the start of the movie. Police regularly stop by to try to get him to rat on his former associations but, despite having renounced the lifestyle, Tachibana is still bound by a code of honour. On one occasion, Keiko (Mie Kitahara), the daughter of a man who committed suicide under suspicious circumstances, overhears the cops asking Tachibana about his death.



Meanwhile, Tachibana's young friend, Makoto (Akira Kobayashi), is falling under the influence of the yakuza and takes hush money to party with a disreputable woman. Soon he's in hot water, too, and Tachibana blames himself. But after he killed the man whom he thought was solely responsible for his girlfriend's rape, Tachibana is afraid to take up his rusty knife, despite the fact that every time a gangster is arrested he's almost immediately released when witnesses are paid off or knocked off. Then Tachibana learns that his girlfriend was gang raped and it becomes even harder for him to resist the urge to kill. And, really, any viewer would want him to go on a killing spree at this point.



But it's good to remember how the movie is manipulating the audience. Tachibana was a former member of this gang and are we to believe he'd never heard of gangsters committing rape before? How feasible would it be to learn the identities of everyone guilty in a gang rape if the yakuza control so much of the information? The movie gives a bunch of two dimensional bad guys, how easy would it be to judge who deserves to die in real life? The film presents the idea that one man should be above the law because he's the only good man and the only one who can see clearly. The only way we know this is from how the film manipulates our perspective on the situation. It's films like this that led to later films by Seijun Suzuki and Takeshi Kitano that undermine the presumptions of the genre.



Rusty Knife is well shot with some really nice compositions of shadow. There are a few nice action sequences, including a good truck chase, and its Masaru Sato score is, as usual, great. It's also one of those movies from late 1950s, early 1960s Japan that heavily features the period's lovely, jazzy bar scene.
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