Life reminds me of a Baroque fugue that begins with the exposition of a short melody developed by another successive busy melodies and interwoven into a dramatic final entry in tonic. For It is a continuous surrendering of the old and a trust in new beginnings with lots of in-between episodes, intricately interwoven by multiple strands of occasional chances called “luck,” failed expectations, and grace of hopes that creates a curiously riveting toccata. In this film by Kore-eda, Ryota’s is a ballad whose vicissitude of life diverts him from completing it. But then Ryota is a soft troubadour, who wants to sing a happy song with his fractured but beautiful family.
Ryota, once a promising novelist, now a divorced middle-aged struggling writer, makes a living as a part-time private detective under the pretext of enriching his writer’s imaginativeness for his next best oeuvre. He loves his ex-wife and his son dearly, so he always hangs around them surreptitiously. But he does not understand that how he feels about them is unrequited because he is not in their lives any longer. In fact, Ryota is even unsure of himself, of his reason for writing, and of what he wants to become amid his dwindling writing career and growing distance from his already fractured family. There is a sense of drift in his life, that feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and disappointments, all fragmented in the detritus of broken wishes, unpaid dues, and lost dreams. He has nonetheless a heart of gold, and his humor is his saving grace that helps him get going. Ryota’s life has been in the doldrums for so long that he forgets he has to move forward to get out of the stasis binding him in the longing for bygone days. A stream of pathos oozes out to see Ryota thinking, ‘Who would have known my life would turn out like this?’
Director Kore-eda uses the storm, more accurately a typhoon, as a medium to free Ryota from the memories of the past, from the obsession of his past, in order to give him a new meaning of life, will to meaning. Kore-eda does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing the innermost feelings of the characters without elaborate lines or supra-abudance of emotions throughout the scenes. It is a Japanese film, but the sentiments and judgments of the characters are rendered communicative to the hearts of the universal audience.
It’s the busiest hour at the Union Station in LA. Trains decant crowds of people rushing toward their destinations like toy soldiers winded to the fullest marching forward at war. Among all this hoopla of rush hour actions, there goes Fido, an unlikely K-9 agent from Terra Canina. Fido knows no fear and always accomplishes its missions with fortitude and loyalty. One of the daily missions is to cross the frontline station to make a rendezvous with another K-9 agent from Terra Canina. With the help of a human ally from Resistance against Confederation of Lumpish Rabble, Fido hurries the way to the rendezvous point with alacrity of speed and a burst of pep peculiar to the species known for fierce loyalty and universal magnanimity. The mission impossible became possible.
Author’s Note: I shot this video last evening at the station on my way home after work because (1) I loved dogs; (2) the dog was right next to me on the escalator to the upper level; and (3) I felt a sudden feat of venturesome temerity to film the trail of the dog. Watching the dog took my momentary existential worries off my mind. Benjamin Franklin must have felt the same when he said the following timeless adage:
“There are three faithful friends – an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.”
Here’s Fido’s secret K-9 agent waiting for Fido at the rendezvous point
It was my first moment of spiritual Eureka mixed with awesomeness and bewilderment in terra incognita when I first read The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. It was a wonderful pictorial book painted with the scenes from the Disney’s classic animated film version. To the child’s eye, it was like a fiesta of vivid colors and vivacious characters set in motion in the heart of jungle I had never seen. What’s more, the animals were so humanlike and likable into the bargain that while reading the book, I almost forgot that they were beasts speaking their own language, which I was able to understand through the presence of Mowgli, who looked a lot like Tarzan in diminutive stature and size wearing only a loincloth and long dark hair. Mowgli’s knack of communicating with his beastly friends who were always there for him even compelled me to try talking to my domestic puppy Nena at that time by using a quaint conflation of the human alphabets and the doggie phonetics to a moderate success.
Now I am pitchforked forward in 2018, but the childlike sensation of reading The Jungle Book still resonates strongly with me in defiance against the existential horrors of life that I deal with everyday. Amid the the detritus of daily chores and duties, I turned to Disney’s remake of The Jungle Book (2016), which I chose to watch on my Kindle Fire a few nights ago. At first blush, I had a certain indisposition to watch the highly-acclaimed film: although I am not altogether unreconstructed in terms of watching a film version of classic literature, I tend to shun adopted film versions of classic literature because of the gratuitous rendering of post modernist revisionist interpretations of the books they put on screen. But such misgiving was proved to be an unnecessary mental albatross.
The Jungle Book is a cinematic eye candy to children and adults with its stunning visual impacts and a spectacular scale of the story set in the background of a deep jungle somewhere in India populated with a cast of magnificent characters representing human characteristics in different forms. To classify this film as an anthropomorphic children’s film is to miss the essence of Kipling’s allegorical allusion of our human nature to multifarious animal forms: Sloth, Integrity, Conscience, Humor, Greed, and Vengeance, all of which is manifested in contact with the nature itself whose essence is of neutrality. It is in this background of nature, which is neither paradise nor hell where our human nature becomes conspicuous in its very essence, a primeval form. The manifestation of such human traits is a fortiori overcome by the figure of Mowgli, a feral child brought by a benevolent wolf family. Mowgli is an emblematic of resilience, independence, and courage against the gravitas of trepidation, death, and despondency.
Given the authenticity of the storytelling aligned with the original context by Kipling and the performance of the characters studded with breathtaking scenes of nature so characteristic of Disney’s creative imaginativeness, it is a film worth of the spending your time on screen. It is a kind of film that stimulates your mind by inviting you to think about a meaning of our human life and existence and of our purpose of life. It will also thrill your heart with the adventures of Mowgli in the heart of the jungle and the stereoscopic views of the nature on screen created by a wonderful collaboration of our timeless human imaginations and 21st century feats of technological bona fides.
This is not a movie about a courtroom drama displayed by the verbal theatrics that we can easily see in today’s legal dramas. It’s a movie about a man’s redeeming of his honor tainted by his self-destructive resort to alcoholism and disorientation in life pursuant to the destruction of his youthful idealism as a novice lawyer. Once bitten, twice diffident, the lawyer’s god-sent chance to turn over a new leaf in his later chapters of life comes to him when he is asked by a woman to represent her sister, a young woman whose life is forever bedridden in a coma as a result of inadvertent administration of anesthetics by doctors at a Catholic hospital. As the lawyer works on the case for a trial, he regains his confidence, hope, and meaning for his own life.
Paul Newman’s excellent performance as the lawyer struggling with his own life is the gem of the movie, rendering the verisimilitude of the character that evokes the pathos. His trademarks of fierce blue eyes that seem to be the only distinct features of his weary, forlorn face symbolize a suppressed light of intelligence, bludgeoned confidence, and vanquished hope, all of which still struggle to be liberated from self-imprisonment at any moment. The viewer will never fail to notice the feelings and the emotions Newman’s character tries to subdue or express by his brilliant method acting.
“The Verdict” is indeed a thought-provoking movie about the human nature and a light of hope that we all have in our lifetime. Without any courtroom theatrics full of sensational machinations and exchanging of fiery tirades between the lawyers of the opposite parties, this movie proves how a well written script based upon a realistic subject matter that elicits universal empathy in concert with the excellent performances of fine actors could work a wonder.