Friday, July 15, 2016

The Little House

Eiga Sai 2016
Japanese Film Festival
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

Upon the death of his grandmother Taki, Takeshi discovers the last few pages of her memoirs. In fact, he was the one who encouraged her to write about her colorful life as a maid in an affluent household. These are shown in flashbacks as a young Taki assumes her duties in the little house. A bungalow with a distinct red roof in Tokyo, whose owners are a manager in a toy company and his stay at home wife, Tokiko together with their young son.  

The flashbacks cover the period before and during the second World War and are shot mostly inside the abode. These scenes are presented with a pinkish tone probably to give it a nostalgic vibe of  highly volatile era.

It is only when the subject of adultery enters the picture when this predictable film pulses beyond its averagely low key tone. Although the adultery is merely implied, the impact on Taki's conscience is I believe the pivotal point of the film. This is manifested through an older Taki who gets quite emotional when she recalls that secret she had to hide for all those years.

Good acting from the female leads uplift the multi-dimensional layers of their characters. But the sanitized approach of tackling the political and historical elements of the story is quite disappointing. It fails to capture the essence of that era as depicted through the eyes of an upper middle class Tokyo family living in their little red roofed house.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Emperor in August

Eiga Sai 2016
Japanese Film Festival
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex

August 1945 was a very important month in Japan's war history. After the leaders of the Allied nations met in Potsdam to negotiate for the end of the second World War, they issued a declaration. This statement known as the Potsdam Declaration basically sealed the deal for Japan. They were given an ultimatum to unconditionally surrender and withdraw their troops from nations which they occupied during the entirety of WWII.  

This film shows the perspective from Japan's side as the authorities from the Emperor himself to the members of his Cabinet weigh in on their proper response to the Potsdam Declaration.

Shown through short yet comprehensive scenes of various scenarios from the Cabinet meetings, to the audience with the Emperor as well as the growing coup brewing among the young officers (who wanted to fight till the very end and not surrender at all), this film offers a good behind.the.scenes narration of that important time in history.

All those endless footage of the numerous Cabinet meetings were necessary to portray the dilemma which Japan found itself in after the issuance of the Potsdam Declaration yet I figure a closer view of the impending coup d'etat being orchestrated by the young commissioned officers would have given the film a good balance to sustain the momentum. 

Even though the title mentions the Emperor, I believe this film did not do enough to delve into a deeper introspection of his character. He is portrayed as being compassionate and pensive about the future of his citizens after the war. How Japan would rebuild its nation after the devastation. These are all valid sentiments, naturally. 

Yet this is in stark contrast to the numerous atrocities which the Japanese army committed during the war which was waged in the Emperor's name.  I understand that the Japanese basically worship him and regard him as "God" so perhaps the writers didn't want to tarnish his 'image'?

An interesting piece of narration but there were some missing elements which could have given the film a solid edge in its portrayal of a definitive event in a nation's war history.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

"In a World on the Brink,
the Difference between War and Peace 
was one Honest Man"

Having Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in a film is certainly a good combination and "Bridge of Spies" doesn't disappoint in any aspect. This espionage drama is an authentic narrative about the testy and frosty relationship between the USA and the USSR during the height of the Cold War. 

It specifically focuses on the behind closed doors negotiations which ensued to ensure the safe release of a US spy pilot shot down over Russia in exchange for the extradition of a suspected Russian spy caught red handed in America. In short, one spy for another spy so everyone is happy and the Cold War doesn't escalate into the 3rd World War!

The film is well made with tension filled moments combined with funny scenarios spiced with good values. The kind of values which sadly is firmly lacking nowadays in a world where terror attacks is slowly becoming the norm. 

But the film had a tendency to give this vibe. I refer to the last few scenes where Tom Hanks is back in the US on board a train and the background scenes are of children playing safely in the streets and it is interspersed with a flashback scene of Hanks in a tram in East Berlin and the prevailing shots are bleak surroundings with barbed wires on buildings. That shot right there didn't sit well with me, it wasn't really necessary. Overall though the film was an enjoyable viewing experience.

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