The Sweet Hereafter

[Screenshot]I know a few people who really, really like this one. I found it well-done but was kind of surprised by where the emphasis lay. For instance, the whole incest issue seems grafted on, despite being integral to understanding people’s motivations. I think my incomprehension is orthogonal to others. Most people didn’t seem to get that the incest was happening, whereas I just thought Nicole just had a boyfriend significantly older than herself. But, anyways, this plays into my whole “responsibility” kick of late, since while Judgment at Nuremberg was ultimately about exploring the human agency behind sadism, The Sweet hereafter is driven not by a need to understand, but a conscious obfuscation of understanding: the need to blame. For various, largely unworthy reasons, people are unwilling to accept the occurrance of random tragedy. Ian Holm represents the ambiguity of this situation quite brilliantly: is his obsessive drive to place the blame on an external agency motivated by the venal greed of a lawyer hot on a scent, or by a misguided attempt to heal a broken community? I’m thinking of the first, which makes his own fractured, tragedy-ridden life that much more pathetic.

In technical details this was spot on, and thematically it was intriguing. But I couldn’t really get into a lot of the characters’ heads, which may be intentional (people are complex!) but was nonetheless somewhat distancing for me.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


Princess Nine episodes 19–22

[Screenshot]Yay, more Princess Nine. Finally winding down tothe end of the series, so the plot has gotten suffused with drama in an attempt to work out a happy story for everyone. So we have at least two romantic advances of which there was not even a hint before, and finally the actual airing of a love triangle (or rhombus, or something) that msot folks have seen coming from 18 episodes back.

So, an awful lot of seemingly hurried plot development, but, hey, I still like it. Character designs are still warm, and we’ve got some character development on non-primary characters like Hikaru. Could’ve done without the particular character devlopment revolving around Yuki, but, hey, even they spacey girl gets 15 minutes in the limelight I guess.

See also: ADV Films Website, IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.


[Screenshot]Well, I thought maybe I was too hard on Béla Tarr, but, nope, you only get two chances to impress me, and you blew ’em both. This had stylistic similarities with Családi tüzfészek, but less semblance of a plot; once again we see vignettes, this time without any progression holding it together. You could switch around the order of the scenes and I probably wouldn’t notice. Doesn’t really work, and more importantly, doesn’t really do anything that I hadn’t already seen done and been unimpressed by.

See also: IMDB.

ほしのこえ/Voices of a Distant Star

[Screenshot]This is a very short film, and as such, it’s mostly interesting from a stylistic-development standpoint. The central plot element isn’t really hefty enough to really support a story of much length, so it’s jsut as well that this was an early experimental work. The concepts of isolation and inability to communicate are more satisfactorily fleshed out in Makoto Shinkai’s later and longer The Place Promised in Our Early Days, so I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’ve either seen that and are hungry for more Shinkai, or are so strapped for time that you can’t devote 90 minutes to quality animation.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.

Judgment at Nuremberg

[Screenshot]Wow. Damn. This movie simply blew me away. There’s a lot of intellectual meat on its bones, bolstered by excellent acting. Tracy and Lancaster are extraordinary, persuasive and moving (and William Shatner’s in it too, althoguh mercifully a bit role). It was interesting watching this shortly after V for Vendetta because it was, in many respects, a far more realistic take on similar topics, including fascism, public response to fascism, and personal responsibility. The critical question of the film is who is responsible for large-scale terror, and the wholly unsatisfactory answer seems to be “everybody and nobody”. That, to a large extent, seems to be what a great deal of theis movie’s three hour length is spent on: the crucial fact that all “good Germans” were, at least in public appearance, Nazis. Where does one lay responsibility? On the demagogues who brought Nazism to power? On the public officials who served the orders of a corrupt regime? On the hoi polloi who let this happen. Judgment at Nuremberg focused chiefly on the second group, but it’s a good exploraiton of national guilt on all levels. It’s the sort of thing we all ought to watch and think about very hard before we sacrifice our own integrity on the altar of nationalism — for any nation.

So, watch it. Despite its length, it doesn’t drag, and its most worthy of your time and consideration.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

ノワール/Noir episodes 1–5

[Screenshot]I heard good things about Noir, and in particular heard it compared favorably to Gunslinger Girl. My immediate impression of it was that the visual and incidental musical style reminded me a lot more of Madlax, which isn’t coincidental, since it’s the same production team. The plot isn’t quite up to Madlax’s level, and on plot and characterization considerations this one loses a lot of the good things it has going for it. A brilliant first episode is followed by interminable plot-meandering punctuated with flashbacks. Not that I mind flashbacks—I like background story as much as the next guy—but not having the exact same flashbacks over and over again would be nice. By the end of five episodes, I still have no idea what makes any of these people significant, or what makes them tick, besides that one’s an amnesiac. I don’t know if it gets better from here, but I’m not holding out hope for it.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network, AniDB.

Családi tüzfészek

[Screenshot]I’m way behind, so this one’s going to be short: this one didn’t do it for me at all. Some of that might have been the language barrier: there are a lot of overlapping conversations early in the story, and if you don’t know who’s saying what (the subtitles aren’t labeled), then you get lost quickly. I’m afraid I may just not be terribly fond of cinema vérité though. I’m fond of production styles, and this one just seemed muddled and messy. There are good scenes, unsually one-on-one: I remember the young mother’s debate with the equally hand-tied government official at the housing agency well, but the series of interview-responsesque monologues at the end of the film kinda palled for me. Too fourth-wall destroying. I almost expected to see their name and occupation on a bar at the bottom of the screen.

See also: IMDB.