I need some inconsistency

An amalgamation of content: the aim not to politicise, but exercise. I'll think aloud about politics, technology, current news, as well as being a gay boy and what that really entails.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Japanese Cinema

Saw a movie last night called Ramblers. It’s a Japanese movie, going along the art-house vein of cinema they have. Whilst watching it I realized something about the style that we often don’t appreciate; their editing style is completely different to that of the West. In western movies, the director has a shot cut away when something interesting is happening, when we are in the middle of some action in order to keep us interested and gripped. This is most evident in action movies where, in order for the suspense to keep being ratcheted up, we can’t be allowed to see any ‘final’ decisive result. If we do somehow glimpse the end of a scene, are allowed to come to the conclusion of a thought as opposed to cutting away before returning later, this is thought of as a weakness. Even in relatively slow-moving movies such as Fargo, we are not allowed to see the axe come down for fear of repulsion or later disinterest.
Contrast this with Japanese cinema where the camera is willed to linger, to capture every apparently mundane movement. We think of this as being slow to tell the story, as being perhaps even laborious to get to the point. This movie I saw, Ramblers, took eighty three minutes to show us the arc of a story where two young men, film directors, arrive in a town not knowing anyone and wait for their wealthy actor friend to turn up. Very little happens and the story moves slowly. But do we think of this as being laborious because we are used to living such blithely over-accelerated life where everything is expected to be with us NOW.
In books such as James Gleick’s ’Faster: The acceleration of just about everything’ and trend-watching groups such as Trendsetters.com, we are told that life is speeding up, that phone operators have software removing ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ in requests for local listings, increasing their productivity and that Wagner's Ring has sped up by almost an hour since it was premiered in 1876, due to a faster tempo. It is now thought that much of the stress in our lives comes from sensory overload – from simply taking in too much information. One can now pay to float in an insulated tank, protected from all light, sound and feeling; cut off from all sensation save simply ‘being’.

Though we love action thrillers and explosively paced movies, one emerges from the darkness feeling in need of a rest, of some sort of respite. Japanese cinema is perhaps an art in taking time, in approaching a story not from the viewpoint of ‘how efficiently can I tell the tale’ but of ‘how effectively the tale can be told?’ There is something to be learnt from this, of that I am sure.


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