Wednesday, August 08, 2007

MIFF Day 15

Intentions of Murder (aka Unholy Desire, Akai satsui, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1964)
This is my fifth Imamura film viewed at MIFF and I feel like I'm just starting to get a handle on 'where he's at'. Intentions of Murder has many trademarks of Imamura, such as people struggling at the bottom of the social foodchain, adultery, treachery, sex and violence. The protagonist is not a classic beauty nor a powerless victim, but a feisty and large-framed woman who fights back. In contrast, the men in her life appear like weak-willed weasles.

What I like about Imamura is his matter-of-fact depictions of struggle, a theme I find connects people through the medium of film. It is the one thing, perhaps more than any other, that unites people of all different races, gender, political persuasions and social standing. While all people struggle, but in different ways, it is easier to depict among the lower social orders - the middle and upper classes are more able to give an air of being free from struggle.

In depicting the struggles of the characters in Intentions of Murder, we get to see the day-to-day activities of ordinary people from another culture, and from another time. This aspect is depicted with a beautiful aesthetic, particularly with the glorious black and white cinematography. At 150 minutes, I found the film a little long, but having been up late the previous night watching Inland Empire may have been a factor in that. It is, however, one of my favourites of Imamura's thus far, alongside Vengeance is Mine and The Ballad of Narayama.

Intentions of Murder had a single screening at MIFF as part of the Shohei Imamura retrospective.
Also still to be screened: A Man Vanishes & The Pornographers.

Syndromes and a Century (Sang sattawat, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/France/Austria, 2006)
This film was preceded by a significant amount of online buzz. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps I've seen too many contemplative Asian films at MIFF. Syndromes and a Century is a nice, poetic film that is visually pleasing, observational and (I suspect) some meanings that may have eluded me. But it just didn't engage me.

The film is semi-autobiographical, based on the director's childhood recollections of living in a hospital - his parents were both doctors. I find it remarkable that this completely inoffensive film is banned in its native Thailand. I'd be interested to revisit this some time in the future, away from the blitz of festival films.

This was the second and final screening of Syndromes and a Century as part of MIFF's Neighbourhood Watch.

Links: Index of MIFF films reviewed to date / MIFF website

5 comments:

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Intentions of Murder is actually the only Imamura film I haven't found even slightly overlong (though I've liked or loved them all). I'd argue it's his masterpiece and I'm seriously pissed off it isn't better-known and more widely available.

I was crushed by Syndromes and a Century. A fantastic concept but a wasted one. Considering how lush and atmospheric Tropical Malady was, I was shocked at how drained of air and atmosphere Syndrome came out. Even the visuals were generally half-pretty-to-mediocre.

Marty said...

The director's best film is Blissfully Yours which I had the pleasure of seeing at MIFF a couple of years ago. At first, the film is pleasant enough and nothing much appears to happen of note but it eventually sucks you in and after I thought what a great film it was. Not for everyone though.

Paul Martin said...

Goran, I'm reserving my opinions about Syndromes until I can see it away from the festival. I've just seen too many films of a similar nature. I think the Neighbourhood Watch section needs more variety.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I commented about Syndromes at my blog. Needless to say, I didn't get it. Not at all. I nearly fell asleep, actually. I just didn't understand what it's point was beyond the rudimentary. Oh well.

Paul Martin said...

Glenn, nodding off is something I've been doing a bit of lately, particularly at the midday screenings. I got to bed reasonably early tonight (before midnight), only to have insomnia. So now I'll be tired for Friday's screening. Bloody fantastic... NOT!!!