Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jigoku or The Sinner's of Hell

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The horror movie challenge has been derailed, but this isn't really a surprise. I often don't have the time to watch one movie/day and the weekends have been rather busy lately. Now I have several work related meetings to prep for that I anticipate with further dip into my free time. Gone are those days when I had very little to do at my day job and no friends to spend time with when not at work and I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm surprised at the number of movies I have managed to see by day 14.

Jigoku (1960) was a little slow and completely dumbfounding, but as illustrated in the above still, it looked amazing. Having just been to Never Let Me Go, a film that director Romanek admits to basing the look on classic Japanese cinema, I was pleasantly surprised to have stumbled upon another film shot in a similar perspective that that used by Ozu. These early Japanese films are shot from a low angle and I hadn't picked up on that, but then it became so obvious why this point of view is so different from Western cinema. The Japanese sit upon the floor and thus, they must instinctively see the world from this lower view point. The other element concerning the look of Jigoku was it comes across as a bit of an exploitation film, or pinku film, but also took much care in setting up very cinematographic shots. So while the journey this film takes feels a little long, there is plenty to look at along the way and the film was instructive about the nature of Japanese horror.

My first question was about hell. As explained in the film, Buddhist does have hell which is graphically depicted in Japanese hell scrolls. Japanese hell sounds pretty complex, with multiple levels and it ruled by deities of Japanese folklore that predates the arrival of Buddhism, but what was really surprising was the belief that eternal entrappment in a place of suffering is not punishment for evil deeds committed in life. I couldn't figure out why Shiro Shimizu was in hell. Sure, Shiro was in the car when Tamura* ran over the yakuza man and he was also in the same car accident that killed his girlfriend, but it was odd that he ended up in hell. So apparently, hell can happen to anyone, even the moral and good people. Who knew?

Probably, listening to the commentaries that accompanied the Criterion edition was the most fascinating and informative part of this experience. The film was in fact based upon some specific hell scrolls and I greatly enjoyed listening to the actors and other filmmakers discuss the film. Kiyoshi Kurasawa pointed out some interesting differences between Western and Japanese horror, like in Japanese horror is more based on just the existence of spirits. The evil, scary figures in Japanese horror don't actually do anything to the protagonists. The horror is more about atmosphere. Anyway, interesting observation.

Last night's movie wasn't horror, but a survey of Oz-sploitation pictures, Not Quite Hollywood. I hadn't intended to watch the whole thing, but it was rather intriguing and potentially helpful for choosing horror movies. I've seen very little genre cinema from Australia, so it was nothing but informative. Just from the small selection of Australian cinema I have seen, I knew that it tended towards extremely quirky and sometimes downright silly, but I've never stumbled upon the outrageous films discussed in NQH. What was most amazing was the car genre. Now that I know how car chases and crashes have been filmed in Australia, I'll never be able to watch Mad Max again without wincing and wondering how many broken bones resulted in every shot.

Tally: 10

* For Nate, Tamura may be derived from the verb tamuke, meaning to make an offering to a deity/spirit or to make a tribute for someone about to depart. And Shiro, from shiroi (white) apparently directly translates to "good guy".

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