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:

HINEED THE TABLE . IS OT VERY HAVE

where are you

Those aren’t even C+ qual­ity.