Derik Badman's Journal

2019-10-29 08:00

Walking home from the co-op yesterday, the sun was out after a morning of heavy clouds and rain. I had worn my sweatshirt out of the door, but by the time I was on my way home I had stowed it in my bag with the groceries. The wind picked up and leaves rained down on me, green, orange, and red against the blue sky.

I had taken the walk to the store as a break from watching Wim Wenders' Tokyo-Ga, which comes as a second disc on the Criterion edition of Ozu's Late Spring. It's a personal essay film he made in the 80s. Wenders travels to Tokyo ostensible related to Ozu and his films. It's a lot of long takes of Tokyo or scenes of people in stations, parks, and cemetaries. Some of it feels like an homage to Ozu (scenes of a golf range, scenes of children playing baseball, shots of bar signs in Shinjuku), some of it less so (rockabilly/greaser cosplayers dancing in a park, a long and interesting scene in a place that makes wax food replicas for display in restaurant windows). The highlights are definitely the two conversations he has: one with Chishu Ryu, who starred in a large number of Ozu films, and one with Yuharu Atsuta who was Ozu's assistant and then camerman for decades (looks like his first film with Ozu as cameraman was What did the Lady Forget? that I watched recently).

Both men not only offer insight into how Ozu worked but also talk about how much he changed their lives. It was really moving to watch both of them talk about their working relationship with this man who was basically their boss (Atsuta at one point refers to him as "a king"). Ryu talks a little bit about practicing scenes and takes, and Atsuta shows off the camera they used and the tripods they shot with to get Ozu's characteristic low camera angle.

The more I read and watch about Ozu, the more I see the generalities that get used about his work and the way the same truisms gets repeated over and over, despite evidence to the contrary. Wenders' narration repeats the truism about the camera being at the eye level of a person seated on the floor (though many often add the Japanes touch of "on a tatami mat"), while we are seeing Atsuna at the camera on its tripod, and... he's pratically lying on the ground. When showing off the tripod they used for exterior/location shots he is literally lying on the ground. Not seated. Bordwell talks about some of those truism a bit in his book, as does Adam Mars-Jones in his Noriko Smiling.

Also watched the first episode of the new Watchmen show on HBO. I was actually going to skip it, but Sean Collins' review of the first episode got me interested. Sean is probably the only tv critic I regularly read, and I generally trust his opinion (he got me interested in both The Leftovers and Halt and Catch Fire which are both excellent shows). The show, like the comic it is sort of a follow-up to, is an alternate history present. And so far the least believable aspect of it is not that the reality includes a blue superbeing who lives on Mars, but that the police force of Tulsa, Oklahoma are all anti-racists. Though, followed from there, their actions are otherwise not really un-police-like. The first episode interested me enough to start the second ep this morning (probably finish it over lunch later).

I'm... conflicted about the show as a concept, since I am a fan of Alan Moore, and it does feel like his work keeps getting exploited by DC. But on the other hand, all his original characters from Watchmen were based on superheroes from Charlton comics, so this tv show doesn't feel totally different than that (at least so far we have not really seen the characters from the original, more that the show just exists in their world). So far, at least, it's not a direct adaption or sequel to what Moore wrote.