Branded to Kill

Sunday, 30 September 2007

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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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:


where are you

Those aren’t even C+ qual­i­ty.