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Dead Man (1995)
Dead man is as strange a western as you're likely to see but is in itself a viable measurement of the evolution of American film. It has long been described since release as the ultimate post-modern western but I think it may well serve more of a purpose than that. The film is very nicely shot and the black and white evokes nostalgia toward the American westerns of old whilst the narrative structure, mise en scene and musical score point toward the changing face of American film with influences of European art cinema. The film demands you ask questions of it immediately and Jonny Depp's portrayal of William Blake makes for one of the most undecidedly strange protagonists I've seen in a film whilst ultimately the character of William Blake himself reminds me of James Stuart's Ransom Stoddard from John Fords Classic 'the man who shot Liberty Valance' if he had actually went the full nine yards and shot Liberty Valance. William Blake comes to accept his situation very easily and that's the kind of film this is, you won't enjoy it if you pick at its artistic direction constantly but if you just sit back and come to accept the narrative then you should enjoy it, even if it does tend to get lost within itself toward the end.
American Mary (2012)
American Mary is a bizarre and twisted venture into the underground world of extreme body modification. The film is gracefully carried by Katharine Isabelle and the elements of black humour make the gory film easier to watch than something like Hostel. The gore in the film is pretty much what I expected when I first heard about it; the make-up was incredible and made for some quite difficult viewing. Beneath the gore, black comedy and the elements of shock horror there are allot of things to really think about when watching American Mary. There appears to be an undertone in the film exploring America and the red white and blue iconography mixed with the vast array of 'freaks' on show seems to be taking a swipe at acceptance and how we in the western world judge and react to people who are different. There is also a feminist message running blatantly throughout the film which is executed extremely well and manages not to be in any way preachy whilst exposing serious issues of rape and harassment. A stand out element of the film would be the set design and lighting. The sets really gave the illusion of an unseen seedy underworld and the lighting completely sets the atmosphere particularly when in Mary's home and when in the nightclub. Overall it is an above average 'horror' film which will live long in your memory because of the shocking imagery even if the film does at times lose itself within the second hour. It is an interestingly directed film with much more to offer than just shock value.
Akira is arguably the most influential anime to have entered the western world and despite its flaws it manages to hold up as the defining example of adult animation. The vast scale of the Akira manga was never going to fit into a feature film because it's just too big, but this film does an incredible job of representing the story in all of its spiritual and stylistic traits. The animation is literally flawless and in terms of detail and intricacy is unmatched in anything else I have seen. The story is one of mystery, basically centring around the weary and emotional friendship that Kaneda and Tetsuo share. The bigger picture however focuses on the government and revolution, exploring themes of control and modern science. You leave asking more questions about our modern world than about the film itself. Another impressive element of Akira would be the soundtrack; the ferocious and bizarre music binds the film together and really intensifies the opening scenes when the bike gangs are roaming Neo-Tokyo, the most spectacular sequence in the film in my opinion. Akira may require multiple viewing after you first watch it but is definitely worth your patience. One of my criticisms of the film would be that we don't see enough of an on screen friendship between Kaneda and Tetsuo to feel too emotionally sympathetic toward them. Overall it stands still 25 years since release as the most impressive body of work in adult animation anywhere in the world, an iconic and influential movie!
I feel that if a film can maintain a national stance and still be a universally identifiable then it is a very good film. I sat down to watch I wish and was immediately taken away by the story and the innocence it encapsulates from the beginning. I must admit that maybe the film didn't live up to all of my expectations in terms of the reviews that I read but it was still a very well woven story that has been executed soundly by a talented filmmaker. The young cast were excellent and carried the story throughout leaving me envious at times and nostalgic with memories of my own childhood. The cinematography offered beautiful views of modern and rural Japan and the effect modernisation has had on the countryside, an underlying theme throughout. The music was very good and at times really gives you something extra, the musical sequences offer up some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. Overall it is a very well rounded film that anybody in any part of the world can take something from and can serve to remind adults that we can still learn allot from young people. Not personally what I expected but still very good, I would definitely recommend.