A great film with a sincere message about life and human nature transcends a divide of time and a boundary of the territory. I believe that a good movie has a lasting sensory impact on the viewer and cultivates the mind with a visual efficacy of precipitation. In this regard, the epic historical drama ‘Ben-Hur’ (1959), directed by William Wyler, is an epitome of masterpiece cinema not for a time but all seasons. The remarkable triumvirate of the outstanding screenplay, the excellent performance of the cast, the fascinating cinematography produces supreme one of art that resonates with spiritual elements of humanity in the witchcraft of motion picture.
The film follows a history of Judah Ben-Hur, a young Jewish prince whose life is forfeited by a betrayal of trust and corruption of friendship. From the height of his prime to the fall, then to redemption, it is heroic acts of high human drama wonderfully conjoined with a tale of Christ whom Ben-Hur encounters by Providence. His wrath is untamed, and anger is the roaring of a lion. Ben-Hur chooses vengeance as a will to live in the march of death in the desert and the prison galleys on the Ionian Sea. He feeds on ire and utters curse every day until he intends to execute vengeance upon the perpetrator with recourse to the old retributory law of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Who can calm the turbulent vortex of the soul in despair and save him from the night of the soul?
The film revolves around Christ, and Ben-Hur is another disciple of his teachings through conversion into faith, charity, and hope. The figure of Christ is the central theme of the film, but his face is unseen, and his voice unheard. We can only see his rear, but it is the mysteriousness of the person of Christ that elevates the story of Ben-Hur to the sphere of hagiography. The providential encounters with Christ in the climactic moments of his life lead him to the way of Christ, which mirrors the process of Ben-Hur’s redemption from Wrath to Grace, from Desolation to Hope.
Whether or not you believe in Christianity is not a prerequisite to appreciating this excellent epic drama because it would be a loss to any lover of arts to forego the spectacular beauty of the cinematography, not to mention the spiritual thematic of one man’s redemption from hopelessness. The grand epic scale of cinematography that depicts the tale of Ben-Hur in the trail of Christ from the Nativity to the Crucifixion is akin to watching Michelangelo’s remarkable frescoes of the Sistine Chapel that illustrate the story of humanity from the Genesis to the Last Judgment under God’s mysterious plan for mankind. In conclusion, ‘Ben-Hur’ is not a movie about a hero but about a triumph of hope over the desolation that saves a man’s soul from self-destruction, resonating with ‘Dum spiro, Spero,’ meaning ‘while I breathe, there is hope.’
Some stories are better told in animation. The characters become vividly alive in a way that your imaginary world effortlessly conjures up before your very eyes by a witchcraft of wondrous imagination. It’s a world of fantasy, but it is also a realm of parallel universe where reality is poetically translated through the avatars living in the creator’s make-believe world without the alloyed feelings and crafted emotions by way of thespian performance. It also enables the characters to perform feats of wondrous physical motions and a wealth of emotions effectually, which real persons can hardly accomplish. That said, animation as an established genre of performing art deserves of legitimate artistic appreciation and merits its own place in the canon of cinematography.
“Ocean Waves” a 1993 Japanese anime television film directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Kaori Nakamura based on the 1990 eponymous novel by Saeko Himuro is worth noting the beautiful cinematic qualities and elegant storyline that spreads through the mind and lingers there in alterations so deep that they are felt almost physical. The setting of the film is in the city of Kochi, located on the Japanese island of Shikoku. It tells of the first love developed by Taku Morisaki whose story flashes back to his high school years in Kochi as he catches the sight of a familiar woman whom he has fallen for on the platform opposite at a Tokyo subway station. It’s Rikako Muto, a bright and beautiful new girl transferred to his high school. At that time, Taku did not realize that he was besotted with her. However, as Taku narrates the events that have brought her into his life, Taku comes to know that for all these times, he has been crazy about her. It’s a moment of great awakening of love, an epiphany of adulthood, all in the calm recognition of meaning of love as to see the essence of another human being in the inner most core of who the person is. Taku and Rikako has known their own faults and frailties since they first met in school, and now they see one another’s innermost core of their personalities, which are the essential traits and features of the beloved person to actualize their potentialities in love with awareness and understanding.
The emotions are elegantly nuanced in the narration, but we know that the feelings are all present in the ways that the characters move and talk. That is the beauty of this animated film that renders no less visual and dramatic effects than other genres of film. Director Mochizuki is a young, ambitious director whose punctilious attention to details and the authenticity of the ambiance and theme of this film speak to our lost days of innocence in this world of collapsed grand narratives, gratuitous sensual expressions and super abundance of raw, unbridled charge of emotions that are hard to be empathetic to the minds of those who are likely to find solace in quietude. Walt Disney said animation offers an effective medium of story-telling and visual entertainment which produces pleasure and story that people of all ages everywhere in the world can enjoy and relate to. For these reasons, this film is worthwhile to be noted.
Most of the time, a book made into a film does not fall from the grace of its original literary merit and retains its sovereignty as a textual master over the cinematic adaptation. At least, that’s what I think. It’s really a win-win situation in which both a book and a novel have their own charms with the appropriate bells and whistles. Alas, that’s not the case of Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Not an Iota. The book betrayed my anticipation of passing over to the minds of the characters for empathy and disappointed me with its bleak and dreary narrative. It’s like meeting your hero and ending up with a cold, contemptuous shoulder that cut off the thinnest and the highest note of the mind’s strings.
The textual version of the Boy and the Vampire named Oskar and Eli, respectively, were hardly pathetic, not to mention likable, roaming the dark alleys of Scandinavian Dystopia plastered with pornography in all sorts of perversion. IT’s there, it’s here, it’s all over everywhere on the pages like pits pull of filth. The matter-of-fact accounts of child molestation defenestrated my mental equilibrium into catatonia, and I recoiled in diabolic horror in the course of wading through the chapters so as just to get them over with in a heartbeat. Any such disgrace of the subject matter could have been reconciled with a felicity of expressions and literary craftsmanship that would have at least rendered it bearable to read and excusable to merit its genre. Yet, the book continued to go against the grain to grant my wish for even teeny tiny weeny bit of pleasure of reading it – to the end. It all seemed to me that the catastrophe was due to the English translation of the original Swedish version of the book by an anonymous translator trying either too hard or too little to articulate the sentiments that could only be rendered accessible in the author’s mother tongue. The result was an ineffective simulation of a style of writing supposedly associated with Stephen King.
Maybe it’s just me having a difficulty in appreciating the mind of the Swedish writer whom Stephen King generously hailed as one of the top writers of the horror fiction genre. Maybe my adultescent anticipation for the book was precipitately induced by the visual sensation from its film version, which is far better than its textual master in terms of the portrayal of the characters and the interpretation of their minds, capturing the subdued but powerful moments of revelation intelligently played out by Director Matt Reeves, who seems to understand the gist of the book as though it were written by him. Be that as it may, the book was not meant for someone whose heartstrings were prone to be broken if they were to be pulled out perforce. For the book still rings hollow in the valley of bleakness and shrieks in the alley of darkness and nothing more.
Life reminds me of a Baroque fugue; it begins with the exposition of a short melody, then develops into busy melodies and finally reaches a dramatic final entry in tonic. 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 life is a ballad of 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 super-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.”