by Jason Suzuki
Movies should be more than just entertainment. They should be a way of life. Filmmakers bare their souls through a film and its narrative so why is it wrong to take away life lessons/mimic screen behaviour? Here is the next set of films in which you can derive life lessons be they positive or self-destructive. Life as a cinephile should be irresponsible in its connection and appropriation of the stories told by the medium.
Fish Story (Yoshihiro Nakamura, 2009)
Amount of Dying Required: 112min
The year is 2012 and an asteroid is heading straight for the Earth, ready to destroy all life on the planet. Everyone has accepted their doom until the asteroid is destroyed before impact. Fish Story is about how a punk rock song from a proto-punk band in the 1970s is behind the Earth's rescue. Nakamura's film, his first international success going off to direct other festival hits like A Boy and His Samurai, jumps around time focusing on disparate narratives. We go from a record shop in 2012, the last vestige of hope, to the band responsible for the song dealing with pressures of lack of commercial success and the give and take between commerce and art. A few stories in the decades between these bookends have us all wondering just how it all adds up. The final minutes of Fish Story, some of the most satisfying in any film, connect the dots and depict more concrete links between the stories but more importantly the idea of hope and effort without concern of success or failure. It's beautiful that the band's last hurrah before disbanding ended up saving the world, but it's even more beautiful because it never mattered. This is the attitude that will save the world the film posits.
What does it mean to "Fish Story" something: To look past criticisms and lack of success in the process of creation and to just go forth and create a work of heart without any care given to whether it will be liked or acknowledged at all.
Demolition (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2016)
Amount of Dying Required: 101min
Ignoring the awards bait elements, which even the film seems to do once they are introduced, what Demolition depicts is one man's attempts to feel things through breaking shit and rocking out. In the wake of his wife's untimely death, Davis (Jake
Jake Gyllenhaal) goes inward and finds solace in taking apart stuff. Despite saying he wants to figure out how things work through the dismantling of said thing, Davis has no intention of putting anything destroyed back together. Demolition mode is more about stripping away at the things around you to start new rather than any sort of epistemology of the self through tangible objects you considered possessions or useful for day to day existence.
In his quest for emotion Davis comes across a few different music recommendations. His addition of these songs to his playlist is a way to establish connections but also to be in another's head space. This and all the demolition is how avoids being in his own yet the music and act of rocking out is the more positive between the two though emerging from the same urges.
What does it mean to "Demolition" something: Maximize self-destruction on a physical, material, and interpersonal level using such tools as hammers, screwdrivers, music recommendations, and uncouthly direct social interactions.
The Vengeance Trilogy (Park Chan-wook, 2002/2003/2005)
Amount of Dying Required: 364min
While always a stylist and a true visual storyteller, each film in Park Chan-wook's "Vengeance Trilogy" gets more and more stylized. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance maintains its brutality from its largely simple and raw aesthetic. Oldboy upped the stylization with grandiose visuals: hypnotic wallpapers and playful touches like using a dotted line to suggest violence. Finally Lady Vengeance, where tattoos interact with real life, dreams and fantasies are visualised for the viewer, and in Park's preferred cut, the color of the film slowly desaturates over the course of the film until the finale is fully monochromatic. His playful visuals would reach its apex in his English language Stoker, a production where he could focus his energies on design due to his not being fluent in English. What remains consistent in the trilogy is theme said succinctly by Park himself:
Living without hate for people is almost impossible. There is nothing wrong with fantasizing about revenge, You can have that feeling. You just shouldn't act on it.
And once again in an interview with Martin Wong:
Revenge and violence brings about more revenge and violence.
While most likely overkill, the vengeance films continue to hammer in on the point by shedding moral ambiguity with each entry. While this makes each entry less and less interesting than the back and forth in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, it is Park saying no matter the situation and how in the right one side might be perceived, it is never correct to answer with more hurt.
What does it mean to "Vengeance Trilogy" something: To go forward with something whether aware or not of the destructful qualities of an eye-for-an-eye retaliation.
Aparajito (Satyajit Ray, 1956)
Amount of Dying Required: 110min
Aparajito occupies a weird space in the Apu trilogy: in the middle space of the narrative, between the early childhood of Apu and his sister in Pather Panchali and the love and loss of his wife plus the reunion with his son in the concluding Apur Sansar. Aparajito focuses on Apu's move to the city of Varanasi with his mother and father. The bulk of the film consists of Apu's pursuit of education and his leaving home for school/work. Before Toy Story 3 Ray's film depicts this point of coming of age and the distance inherent of it. Apu's mother, the only surviving member of his family at this part of the saga, gets pushed aside in favor of Apu's own pursuits.
The train, which took on a meaning of escape to Apu and his older sister in the first film evolves its connotation to Apu and his mother by the second film. To Apu it is the distance away from family, retaining some of the hope of escape he shared with his sister. However to his mother it is the hope of her son's return. It speaks to the brilliance of the trilogy how it depicts how the same object can take on different meaning from one film to the next but also within the same film we are shown its different meanings between people.
What does it mean to "Aparajito" something: To move forward into a next stage of development to the detriment of familial relationships.
PlayTime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
Amount of Dying Required: 124min
Watching the films of Jacques Tati, specifically PlayTime over and over, is a way of training your perception. Thanks to an obsessive attention to detail on Tati's part, these films are infinitely re-watchable and truly do give you the ability to notice things both within the highly constructed worlds of his films and the real world which at times might as well be house Hulot and company. In this film, the third appearance of Tati's famous Mr. Hulot (reluctantly appearing as him), a modernized and stratified Paris city-cape is welcome to agents of disruption, people who put wrenches, either purposefully or not, into the already ill-fitting wheels of a comfortable modernity.
While his films are very much critiques of modern sensibilities, where a quest for sleekness and automation has led to the distancing of individuals from everyone else. These films also become more and more bleak with each passing adventure of Monsieur Hulot (Trafic being the prime example), there is something beautiful to the denouement of PlayTime, where Tati seems to be saying we can break free from the restrictions we have placed upon ourselves through how we choose to look at the world. The buildings and the gadgets will still remain but now we see the tiny bits of comedy that result from modern interactions, again, all thanks to perception.
What does it mean to "PlayTime" something: Or rather to "Tati" something. Perceiving things in a way in which you recognize the humor/silliness of something, usually an aspect of modernity.
Oculus (Mike Flanagan, 2013)
Amount of Dying Required: 104min
Kaylie and Tim (Karen Gilan and Brenton Thwaites) return to their childhood home in order to prove the causal relationship between a large antique mirror and the demise of their parents. It's a laughable premise but then you see that it's from Mike Flanagan, helmer of Absentia and see that it's worth a shot (something his name is providing to the upcoming sequel to Ouija).
There are two standouts in the film: Karen Gilan's performance and Flanagan's direction, three standouts if you include the fingernail part. The film seamlessly goes back and forth between the dismantling of the family unit and the kids, all grown up, ready to conduct their experiment to prove that the mirror has dark powers. What follows is a self fulfilling one crazy night where past and present blend in ways beyond the simple act of a transitional cut and it's all spearheaded by the strong headed Karen Gilan who is able to establish the deep inner workings of her madness in the opening minutes with just one simple pause to Kim's tunnel vision.
What does it mean to "Oculus" something: When you allow the urge to prove something to others or to yourself get the better of you.
Tokyo Marigold (Jun Ichikawa, 2001)
Amount of Dying Required: 97min
Despite directing the beautiful and deeply melancholic Tony Takitani, an adaptation of a short story by popular import Haruki Murakami, virtually no other film from Jun Ichikawa has been given release stateside apart from Tony and 1988's Kaisha Monogatari: Memories of You on Criterion's Hulu Plus page; Ichikawa's is one of the only catalogs of a Japanese filmmaker that Criterion didn't seem to buy. Tokyo Marigold thankfully has an import friendly Japanese DVD which gives a further taste of Ichikawa's work. Reminiscent of Malick with its collage style it is much more about internalization despite its voice over narration.
Eriko (Rena Tanaka) meets Tamura at a group outing. They hit it off but he has a girlfriend abroad in America who will return in a year. Eriko proposes to Tamura to allow her to become his girlfriend for the year until his real girlfriend returns. It's a deal that ensures maximum doom for Eriko but he accepts it. Eriko chooses inevitable pain to enjoy momentary companionship. On a side note the film also features a brilliant fake advertisement.
What does it mean to "Tokyo Marigold" something: To knowingly begin a relationship in which will end in maximum disappointment and heartbreak for yourself in order to have at least some time with the crush object.