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Spirited Away (2001)
8/10
Art Imitating Life
6 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was a terrific anime style film that shared the story of one girl's journey through a mystical land full of spirits and magic on one level and on another level discussed the issue of tradition and modernity in Japan. The film was cleverly titled Spirited Away, and presents every aspect of the film as a symbol which correlates with the prevalent issues that are present in today's society and more centrally in Japan. Some of the issues that were presented to the audience were consumption, population, and tradition. It was very interesting that the film's director chose to present these issues through a medium that an unsuspecting audience would merely see a children's film with a child-like plot but as someone who is more familiar with Japanese culture I was able to recognize the hints towards the religious presence of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. I especially liked the fact that the little girl, Chihiro, who represented the heroine of the story was put into situations that she had no control of a from mother who showed next to no affection to traveling through a spirit world where she is responsible for restoring the order that the world once contained. I appreciate the many levels of the film and I realize that the movie would probably have seemed immature to me had I not been aware of what is happening in Japan.
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Rashômon (1950)
7/10
Optimistic Outlook
30 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film is Akutagwa's adaptation of two of Kurosawa's most famous stories, "Roshomon" and "In a Grove." The film sticks with the basic themes of the short stories yet it offers a bit of versatility because Akutagwa shares his optimism with the audience. As we see in both, the short stories as well as the film, the characters possess many flaws. When looking at the film we see what was the pioneering depiction of the unreliable character, an art form which has been duplicated everywhere from television cartoons to movies such as "The Usual Suspects." The metaphors presented in the film such as weather, nature and even the stories being told by each accountant unleash multiple dimensions that not only show unreliability, but also add different venues of possibility. The type of venues one would find reading a poem. So, in a matter of speaking, this film could be described as a form of visual poetry, furthermore, given the optimistic approach of the ending, Akutagwa provides the audience with an artistic outlook on humanity. There is a recurring theme of putting people's actions, thoughts, and beliefs on trial, as if in a way to measure their purity of heart. Obviously, Kurosawa believed that people were incapable of good, but Akutagwa shows us that even in a world where there is constant evil there is still room for good.
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3/10
Pessimistic Point of View
13 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In the film, "Marooned in Iraq" the audience is taken on a journey through the mountain ranges of Iraq, from decrepit town to decrepit town, with three family musicians. A short synopsis of the film is as follows; the three men, father and sons set out to find the father's "wife." I stress "wife" because throughout the film the audience is unsure whether or not she is still married to him. Along the way they run into a number of characters which help to carry the plot along. Aside from the movie taking entirely too long to develop and entirely too hard to pay attention, I found some good aspects that should be addressed not only for westerners but also for middle easterners as well.

One thing that I noticed that benefits the film is that the theme of women's' role in the Iraqi society is so detrimental for the future of Iraqi women. It is obvious that the entire film follows a narrow road in which only misfortune is evident. Women are not allowed to sing in this community and this is why the father's wife ran away, because she wanted to sing. Even though the father journeyed to look for her and eventually finds her without knowing says something about the director's commentary on the role of women and their rights. But, even though he does not get his wife he gets her daughter which also states an interesting notion and raises some suspicion among audience members. Although the film shows the trouble in the society I think that with the ending that the director has provided us with says that he believes that the future holds triumph in regards of women in Iraq.
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levels of the film
21 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In the 1997 film, Children of Heaven, from director Majid Majidi, the audience is presented with a modern view of Iranian issues. The film portrays an allegorical story in which the current levels of Iranian social order are symbolized through children. The director also, inadvertently, discusses the role of Islam in the lives of Iranians. All of these issues are important to note because they assist the audience in fully understanding the film. I will provide the reader with a brief plot summary, followed by examples of significant symbolism, and finally discuss the director's motivations for portions of the film.

This interestingly creative commentary on the Iranian way of life begins by offering the audience with their first bit of symbolism in the opening scenes. The audience is shown a wide lends shot of a shoe cobbler fixing a decrepit, old shoe that looks as if it belongs to a young girl (which we are later shown is the case). It is apparent that the shoe carries great significance because it is the film's longest scene and is the object that keeps the plot in constant momentum. Once the shoe is fixed by the man it is given back to Ali, the film's main character who portrays the youth of Iran, and who also loses the shoe when he put it down at the market. He returns home without the shoe to tell his sister that it was lost but that he will find it. This is where the audience first sees their home and how poor they are, a common reality for a large number of Iranians. The plot of the film centralizes around Ali's determination to retrieve the lost shoes which appear to always be around the corner. This may be another comment from the director in regards to change in the lives of Iranians and how he thinks it is just around the corner.

The audience is presented with characters along Ali's journey that stand for things such as the Iranian government and citizens both impoverished and wealthy. The students of children's school are shown each day in the courtyard in straight rows where they all are directed to repeat after the teacher who is announcing rules through a megaphone. This is an apparent representation of the government's role and of the citizens'. The audience is also submerged with countless examples that represent the will of God or Allah; with the use of water which symbolizes purification, and through the different characters and settings. When we meet the little girl who is wearing Zahra's shoes and then is followed home by Zahra, we see that she is very poor also and her father is blind. But even though their situation is a rough one, one that is very similar to most Iranians, they are still very happy. I think this sums up what the director has in store for the future of Iranians.

In conclusion, I felt that the film was very moving and spoke about numerous issues such as poverty, the relationship between us and God, and the relationship between man and government. I think that the director's use of children to convey his message is very innovative and I feel it was a success. It is not hard to see why after viewing the film, that it was so popular among critics. Lastly, I believe that the director's choice of ending is meant to leave the audience with whatever they imagine as the importance because so many people have so many ideas of what the future has in store for Iran.
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Struggle for Culture
23 October 2006
In the film, Ca twiste a Popenguine, which is an early 90's depiction of a community struggling to find their own sense of culture and it is also directed by Moussa Sene Absa. The main cultures that are addressed in the film are; American, British, French and Wolof. The adults in the film are the ones that address the issue of French and Wolof cultures, and the children feud between American and British. They are so confused that they begin to do everything they can to mimic the aforementioned cultures. Including changing their given names to those of popular rock and roll and pop artists like Otis Reading.

Given this background information on the film, you now note the film's strengths and weaknesses. I felt for an African film it transitioned fairly nicely and was no to difficult to follow (Aside from the sub-titles.) Also I understand that these are not paid actors, but rather the actual community of Popenguine who faces the issues of the film in daily everyday life. But even though the characters were played by regular people it wasn't a documentary like you may think. I thought that information was a tremendous strength for the director along with his ability to use music as a central theme which acts sort of like another member of the cast in telling the story.

Weaknesses on the otherhand, were slim in my opinion. One of the main things that I may note as a weakness is not the directors fault but still a weakness nonetheless. And that is the difficulty to relate to the characters. My recommendation for this film would have to be extended to those who feel like they may not know their real culture. In conclusion, the movie addresses very important issues that any American should feel compelled to watch.
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