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Manhunter is the actual culmination of Harris' ideas
The point of Harris' entire life-work was to force us into the process that his serial killers themselves are undergoing (at a much more disturbed and transgressive level, of course). We are intended ourselves to transform (in idea only, to be sure) into people who can begin to understand, however much we ourselves fear and loath the transformation, how Harris' serial killers think and feel.
To some extent, we are beginners on the same path that Will Graham is farther along upon, that Clarice Starling starts upon and that Dr. Lektor, Dollarhyde, etc, are unspeakably far along upon. The narrative of the Harris books is a vortex upon which more and more people, beginning down that transformative path (sometimes with the best of intentions), do, in fact, transform from humans into something other than human (except for Will Graham and Dr. Bloom).
Where Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon all fail is that these three movies continue to keep us at a distance. We are not convinced that we ourselves could become victim to the vortex by these three movies. Partially, this is a function of Hopkins' over-the-top performance and improper displacement of the actual focus of Harris' trilogy: Harris focuses upon the agents, Graham and Starling, who begin the transformative process but end transforming in highly divergent ways.
Moving from book to screen, the necessity of Harris' vision entails that the film-maker begin to transform us from pure observers or watchers into beginning to transform ourselves, to begin to fear our own attraction to power, to horror, to transgression. Michael Mann is able to do this, while Demme/Scott/Rattner are unable to do so, by the things in Manhunter that so many commentators hate: instead of plotting the movie solely as a police procedural (as the three other movies are), instead Michael Mann turns the movie primarily into a sinuous, constantly cryptic, meandering journey through the experiences (which we share) of Graham and Dollarhyde. The plot is irrelevant, the importance is that we draw ever-closer to becoming Dollarhyde.
The driving music, the inherent attraction of Noonan's Dollarhyde (who has excellent taste in clothes, architecture, music and is himself a film-maker of sorts) are not superfluous as many believe but very much the essential core of the movie. We gradually become attracted to Noonan's inherent coolness, and identify ourselves with Reba McClane, the blind girl who begins an affair with Dollarhyde.
This identification leads to what I believe is the central scene in the movie: when McClane rubs the fur of a drugged tiger. We, along with McClane, begin to feel, admire and even long for the power of the tiger. We, on some level, wish to transform into a tiger, into something other than human. We take the first steps of becoming Dollarhyde. And that is what is truly frightening about Manhunter.
Tôkyô no kôrasu (1931)
Ozu's economic exploration of the Depression
In "Tokyo Chorus", Ozu interplays two major of his long-standing themes - economic status and the everyday realities of family life.
The plot is simple (warning, spoilers): A young salary-man loses his white-collar insurance job trying to cover for an aging colleague. Unfortunately, it is 1931 and the Great Depression means few other employment opportunities. He has difficulty covering the expenses of his family. After misadventures, he runs into his former professor-now-health-food-café-owner who promises him aid if the young man assists him with the café. Part of that assistance is handing out handbills in the street, a major loss of economic and personal status. Unfortunately, his wife sees him and is greatly shamed by the family's loss of status. Gradually, she accepts the need for sacrifice and also begins to assist in the café. During the large opening banquet at the café (guaranting it's success), the old professor receives word that the young man has been offered a teaching post, albeit one in a small and distant town. The movie ends on this hopeful yet downbeat note.
Ozu does not hesitate to attempt to show us the realities of Great Depression unemployment. Indeed, he is more truthful than any comparable American movie of that time or ours. Ozu is willing to attempt to dig into the nexus between employment, self-identity and status that is prevalent throughout capitalist economies. This was his primary theme at the beginning of the Depression, in this movie along with his early masterpiece "I Was Born, But..." and "Where Now are the Dreams of Youth?" and "Passing Fancy". In addition, Ozu also flexes his unparalleled ability with family scenes. Excellent performances from Ozu regulars Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo, Tatsuo Saito, as well as a winning child performance from future star Hideko Takamine. Watch out for the world's cutest fat baby!
Above all, this movie even failed to create (for me) any real sense of urgency or excitement. Which is the essential point behind an action movie.
Some of the problems inherent in Terminator 3
1. Essentially, the plot is wrong. Terminator 3 negates the positive vision of the previous two movies (that Sarah and John Connor can prevent or at least seriously influence the future). T3 abandons that vision for a entirely fatalistic one (that, in fact, Judgement Day cannot be prevented or even really influenced).
2. The timing and pacing of the movie just seem off. The car cash sequence runs on too long, the battle in the bathroom runs on too long, the robo-tanks are boring, the Skynet "planes" are easily destroyed, etc.
3. The new Terminatrix is essentially the same as T-1000 in T2, so she's literally boring, whereas the T-1000 is really new and exciting in T2. You're frequently surprised by the T-1000 in T2 whereas you're just bored by the Terminatrix in T3. The acting by Robert Patrick was quite good (really effective in being scary and mechanical), whereas Kristana Loken is just.........well, I just wasn't scared or even impressed.
4. The plot was muddled so that it felt both boring (repeats in many aspects T2) and just messy, so you never really felt the suspense which was very pronounced in the first two movies.
5. Claire Danes was a poor substitute for Linda Hamilton. Again, Linda Hamilton brought an unusual range of depth of emotion for an action movie. Claire Danes was just your archetypal cardboard damsel in distress.
6. The action sequences were simply not that impressive. If you notice, while in T1 and T2, the characters were really fighting for their lives - they're wounded, bloody, covered in debris and sweat, really battered. In T3, the only thing the hero John Connor suffers is that the Terminatrix breaks his leg at the very end of the movie. Kate Brewster isn't even scratched. You never get the sense that their lives are truly in danger. In fact, the Terminatrix and John Connor only come face to face twice (both for extremely short segments) and she doesn't even wound him (until the very end of the movie).
Overall, this was a really mediocre movie.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1998)
silly shallow docu-drama
Ken Burns, as usual, overcooks the porridge and we end up with lots of glop on the floor.
This melodrama spends far too much time on FLW's self-inflicted turbulent personal life, with precious little time or effort spent on his actual buildings (which is what we're here to see). Only four buildings (Taliesen East/West, Johnson Wax, Fallingwater and the Guggenheim Museum) are discussed in any detail whatsoever (in a multi-hour documentary this is inexcusable). FLW's entire period in Los Angeles and the Tokyo Imperial Hotel are not even mentioned! We glimpse Robie House once. And, I'm really not interested in Ken Burns' impressions of what music FLW would like.
Very shallow piece of work.
This movie stinks. Now, I'm a huge fan of the TV series but the movie shares little of the series' great music, quirky humor, bizarro characters or other fun stuff. Instead, the movie trades all that in for a cliched and boring story about terrorists.
Shin Heike monogatari (1955)
Interesting, yet somewhat flawed, Mizoguchi epic
potential spoilers ahead!
The Taira Family Saga, unlike Mizoguchi's better known films (such as Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, Utamaro), is a wide-ranging epic that depicts the beginning of the feudal era in Japan. Again, unlike Mizoguchi's better-known movies, the Taira Family Saga shows us characters and events that are more historically accurate than those movies and also history that is well known to Japanese audiences.
Getting down to brass tacks, what Mizoguchi tends to do best is to depict very personal situations. The high politics of the Taira Family Saga isn't his forte. We see Mizoguchi focusing on the personal tribulations of Kiyomori Taira but he tries to stuff Kiyomori's various frustrations with the twin courts into a movie where it doesn't quite work. We simply don't feel as sympathetic towards the sometimes arrogant Kiyomori as we do towards most of Mizoguchi's better-known heroines. Also, this is partly an action movie and Mizoguchi does not do action here as well as many other Japanese directors.
Nevertheless, this is an interesting movie and well-worth your time viewing Mizoguchi's version of this pivotal time in Japanese history.