Auteurs and Authors, Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Drunken Angel

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Written by Keinosuke Uekusa and Akira Kurosawa.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa.
1948.

“Japanese make too many useless sacrifices,” says Shimura’s doctor, a criticism of both Mifune’s Yakuza thugs who populate the dingy, disease-ridden back-alleys of Tokyo and the militarists who made them — both the thugs and the alleys. Kurosawa’s historic epics, from Seven Samurai to Kagemusha, are his calling cards, but I’ll always prefer his noir. His gangsters and drunks swagger and bluster, protesting under the burden of who they are, and it’s in their darkest places their humanity shines brightest. Drunken Angel climaxes with a useful sacrifice: Mifune’s life for the doctor’s. At the movie’s end, Shimura buys one of his patients, a seventeen-year-old girl who’s survived TB, a sweet, payment on a bet. “Where does one buy sweets?” the old man asks. The girl laughs. “You really don’t know anything, do you. At the sweet shop.” They stroll off arm in arm and are immediately lost in the marketplace, in a sea of shuffling bodies — all the more lives the doctor may now save, thanks to a thug.

“Fall in love for someone like me. I may be scruffy but you get free medical care.” — Dr. Sanada

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Auteurs and Authors, Movie Reviews, Writers I Love

Movie Review: Inland Empire

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Written and directed by David Lynch.
2006.

So much of the early dialogue in Inland Empire is near inaudible — and for good reason. It isn’t really necessary. For a time, words are secondary to image. This becomes less the case in the second half, as nightmarish faces and ghost-like spaces are intercut with Laura Dern’s violent (and quite funny) monologues — neat vignettes offering glimpses of character in the dark.

But words, we understand from the beginning, are not the point. Everything Lynch has ever had to say about women in trouble (the film’s nifty catch-all phrase), creepy bedrooms, whores, and Hollywood is here. He’s said it all before and, yes, to greater, tidier effect. But to presume he’s commentating on these things is to miss the intent of Inland Empire. Lynch’s subconscious is on display here, the great dark region of his mind that doesn’t plot but gives birth. It’s appropriate that so many of Dern’s close-ups share similar composition to Lynch’s photographs: the movie is more an art show occupying many galleries than it is a narrative.

I’ve decided what makes David Lynch a great filmmaker is his defiance of any standard other than his own. There’s not a rule of cinema you can hold him to or expect him to obey. And so we’re tempted to measure each new film by comparison to his others. The end credits make it plain that Lynch is aware how redundant some might see this film, how self-indulgent it might seem. But a lumberjack sawing away at a bit of wood is the nod and the wink required, I think, the compact between Lynch and viewer: now you come to this only because it is a David Lynch film, and your expectations are both fulfilled and defied.

And it’s fortunate, as Lynch has said, to be an adult and still be doing what you want to do.

“From Hollywood, California — where stars make dreams, and dreams make stars.” — Announcer

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