Branded to Kill

Sunday, 30 September 2007

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #38: Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill.

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Watching a Japanese B-movie was a great way to get back into the swing of Criterion reviews. This is the first Seijun Suzuki film I’ve seen, but it reminded me very much of Samuel Fuller, and it is even a bit like Shock Corridor in its portrayal of psychological trauma. The protagonist is Hanada, the third best yakuza assassin, and the film sticks with his ironic disintegration into madness throughout. At first the film is quite hard to follow, mainly because it is often difficult to determine whether we’re in his subjective frame of mind or whether actual plot-oriented action is occurring. The irony kicks in because the assassin is convinced that he’s going to win and become Number 1, though he obviously becomes less and less stable and capable as the film progresses. In retrospect, the washed-up assassin we meet in the beginning of the film is a foreshadowing of Hanada’s fate.

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Suzuki’s dramatic cinematographic stylings offer profound and sometimes startling character insights; often serving as a reflection or counterpoint to Hanada’s self-absorbed obliviousness. All of the other characters have no existential qualms, they know exactly where they stand in relation to the world they inhabit; so Hanada’s ambition is almost aberrant in this environment. The tepid screenplay dialogue becomes polysemous and intriguing in this context, as no one seems to know what the other is truly saying. There is no trust and little understanding between the characters, so every attempt at communication is fraught. There is also a darkly comedic tone to the plot that alternates between being noticed by the characters and completely ignored by them. Number 1 is the only character who truly knows exactly what is going, even unto meta-cognizance, as if he knows that he’s in a film and what the director is trying to do with it and him.

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It seems that the film has little to say as an ultimate moral; there are no sympathetic characters, so their deaths don’t mean much to the viewer, except in the aforementioned darkly comedic manner. The environment in which they lived was too violent and chaotic for any sort of sustainability or continuity, they’re all living on borrowed time. The frequent salacious and violent power-struggle sex acts provide another data point to strengthen this claim. It is certainly a much more accurate Japanese film culturally, instead of offering stylized, cliché or stereotypical portrayals more in line with Hollywood’s MO, Branded to Kill is vulgar in the word’s most literal and complimentary sense.

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GRRRouch!

Tequila and I got reacquainted last night. Our relationship has matured and doesn’t hurt me as much as it used to. I surely needed some of that after getting called into work yesterday for six hours of frustrating, ill-planned, deadlined updates. I was gung-ho to get some significant work accomplished at home. The Blue Collar Bar Crawl was a good way to rub off that stress, and I think I might relax for a few hours today anyway instead of doing house work. I’ve just got too many things to do and not enough time to do them, unless I give up all my down time which results in the grouchy Adam that is writing this post.

Fortuity

Friday, 28 September 2007

Decided to head into work a bit later than usual today and biked into Jeff Schuler at the downtown end of Carnegie bridge. He invited me to the brief Bike to Work Day meetup at A.J. Rocco’s and I tagged along and met a few folks. Ended up with a Cleveland Bikes t-shirt and a contact for some freelance web work. Learned about fixed gear bikes and something call the track stand. I also found out that A.J. Rocco’s has breakfast sandwichery, something I’ve been desiring of late. Fortuitous.

At lunch I tipped the hot dog lady $1.40 and I think it made her day. She was grumbly and non-eye-contacting until I tipped her, then she looked at me and smiled and thanked me loudly. I am liking this fall weather. Need to be 15 degrees cooler so I can bust out the scarves though.

Eulogy for Iris

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Iris My mother’s dog Iris was killed by a coyote today in the fall rains. I remember when we got her, eleven or twelve years ago, not long after my parent’s divorce. We drove quite a distance to find the dachshund puppies and I picked the lone black & tan one from the litter. I kept her in my coat on the way home and she whimpered and yelped for hours on end. I said I was going to keep her with me through the night, but her yiping was such that I passed her off to mom that same night, and she was hers from then on. I told mom that’s how I knew that I wasn’t ready to have a child.

She had seven nipples. I called her Iris Underfoot because she was always around my feet, and I accidentally stepped on her a few times when she was a puppy sitting right behind me as I washed dishes. She grew extra bowl-legged because of this. She was a princess of a dog, and my mom would never punish her for getting into the trash or chewing through just about anything. When we had to start caging her, mom bought the largest cage for a little miniature dachshund. If ever my mom and I went to hug each other she’d grow indignant and bark and bark until we stopped. She was indignant about a lot of different things, a gallon of fuss and bother in a pint of dog. She would run and run and run and patrol the acres of yard we had and it was hilarious to watch her tear across the yard after something or someone.

She used to front on the horses in the field next door and one day Beau the horse decided to mess with her, he galloped toward her, Iris was frozen in fear, slowed and stopped in front of her and then just nudged her with his nose. She yiped and skedaddled. I’m pretty sure she never acted uppity to the horses ever again, instead choosing to regularly corner [and get sprayed by] a skunk under the deck. She wouldn’t eat, drink or poop if mom wasn’t around.

Her full name was The Lady County Blue Iris Jean McAfee MacDougal Onassis von Barnard Jean Harvey III, Esq. Berghein-Leer; and though I gave her a lot of shit, I’ll miss her.

Temporary Switch

I’ve switched back to my old Minima theme until I figure out what I incorrectly coded in Mark Elf that breaks it in WordPress 2.3. This Dexter release is pretty awesome looking already, especially the native tagging support, so I’m anxious to get all my ducks in a row. Maybe I’ll even take the time to widgetize my themes.

I updated the Sideblog plugin and FlickrRSS plugin and now I’m good to go. I figured that was what.

Cleveland Plus Craigslist

Friday, 21 September 2007

I see plenty of those huge banners downtown and billboards in the immediate Cleveland vicinity promoting Cleveland Plus, but I’ve yet to see one anywhere outside of Cleveland proper. I was under the impression that this marketing campaign is for folks outside of the region, trying to attract them [and business] here. Has anyone actually seen a Cleveland Plus billboard, TV spot, or other marketing effort outside of Cleveland?

I put an ad up on Craigslist for some leftover furniture and I’ve been getting the most grammatically inept and nonsensical emails I’ve ever seen in response. I know in the abstract that a vast amount of people using the intertubes give off the slack-jawed idiot impression in their usage of all caps, no punctuation, mixed tenses, abbreviations and such, but being inundated with 4 dozen or so similar yet different messages is a constant reminder that half the population is, by necessity, below average intelligence. My two favorites, quoting the entirety of each email verbatim:

HI I NEED THE TABLE . IS OT VERY HAVE

where are you

Those aren’t even C+ quality.