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The Best of 2005
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 11.19.2005 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Anyway, I picked up a used copy of the unrated Darkness today, mostly because of the unanimous approval in here. I was mildly interested upon release, so thanks for the reminder!


I'm kinda thinkin' this'll turn out to be just like your debates regarding Japanese horror with them.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.19.2005 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I'm kinda thinkin' this'll turn out to be just like your debates regarding Japanese horror with them.


I recall a few discussions, but no debates. Although I haven't been impressed by many individual titles, in theory I am excited by what Asian horror represents (and I love Memento Mori).



I watched Darkness last night, and I'm with Danny. Despite some minor virtues--mostly related to its atmosphere--I didn't care for it at all.



Eric
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Jim Harper
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PostPosted: 11.19.2005 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
I recall a few discussions, but no debates. Although I haven't been impressed by many individual titles, in theory I am excited by what Asian horror represents (and I love Memento Mori).




Have you seen Acacia? Very impressed. Certain amount of common ground with Memento Mori.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.19.2005 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
in theory I am excited by what Asian horror represents




Not to beat a dead horse, but what exactly do you think Asian horror represents, and in what ways do most titles come up short?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.19.2005 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
Not to beat a dead horse, but what exactly do you think Asian horror represents, and in what ways do most titles come up short?


Well, I don't think Asian horror represents much more than a welcome departure from genre tropes that are well-worn, at least in the West. Besides eschewing gore, protracted violence, and other concrete conventions such as the slasher figure, Asian horror admirably shifts emphasis onto atmosphere, the surreal, the unexplainable, the unknown. It taps into corners of the imagination that have otherwise been largely neglected--at least here in America--and its minimalism forces viewers to fill in the gaps with their own imaginative powers. Theoretically, this kind of thing is right up my alley, and yet I rarely experience the sense of mounting dread that so many others report. Since I'm normally drawn to works that operate on purely abstract or visual wavelengths, I can't explain why Asian horror often leaves me cold. I'm tempted to concede that perhaps my imagination is simply not built to spark when seeing these particular images and rhythms... but then I see something like Memento Mori, which definitely landed in my gut, and I think a more accurate explanation is simply that while my critical perspective admires the idea of these works, it also notices that most of them are artistically mediocre. Still, I can't speak with any authority: I haven't seen nearly the volume of Asian horror that Jim and NW have, so I'm open to the possibility (and hope) that there are much better examples than the few that have found celebration here in the West.



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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.19.2005 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's worth noting that the two movies you most strongly responded to, Memento Mori and A Tale of Two Sisters, rely heavily on "realistic" drama, while the movies you reject, like Ring, Ju-On, etc., tend to place more emphasis on generic tropes and conceits. I don't think this is a coincidence: I remember you naming Rosemary's Baby as your favorite horror movie--a film in which typical or overt horror movie elements take a back seat to explorations of drama, society, and psychology. Perhaps you relate better to fantasy if the story is first grounded solidly and identifiably in realism?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.19.2005 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
It's worth noting that the two movies you most strongly responded to, Memento Mori and A Tale of Two Sisters, rely heavily on "realistic" drama, while the movies you reject, like Ring, Ju-On, etc., tend to place more emphasis on generic tropes and conceits. I don't think this is a coincidence: I remember you naming Rosemary's Baby as your favorite horror movie--a film in which typical or overt horror movie elements take a back seat to explorations of drama, society, and psychology. Perhaps you relate better to fantasy if the story is first grounded solidly and identifiably in realism?


This is both true and relevant; in fact, I recall having a similar discussion a while back in which I acknowledged that supernatural horror usually doesn't resonate for me the same way more "credible" horror does. Perhaps because it functions as drama first, horror second, Rosemary's Baby is the only movie that has genuinely crawled under my skin, to the point where I had a shivering physiological reaction. This preference may also explain why I responded deeply to Blair Witch and the American Dark Water--in each, the supernatural elements function primarily as mechanisms for getting inside the realistic (and convincing) psychologies of the characters. (This preference is probably also linked to my strong affection for documentaries.)



I disliked Ringu, yes, but I found some of Ju-On effective--only to have the sense of menace dissipate and then evaporate as the movie progressed. I felt the same way about The Eye, too. All three of those movies have scattered moments of disquiet and memorable imagery, but for me none remotely sustain, let alone deepen, their moods.



But how do we explain my profound affection for Guy Maddin and Stan Brakhage, two artists whose work bear almost no relationship to "reality" except through abstraction?



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j miller
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 12:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So far there's three films that stand out for me this year:

The Constant Gardener

A History of Violence

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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 1:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
But how do we explain my profound affection for Guy Maddin and Stan Brakhage, two artists whose work bear almost no relationship to "reality" except through abstraction?




Well, I think there's a difference between fantasy and surrealism or the abstract. Maddin and Brakhage, along with Felini and Bunuel, etc. create movies that demand to be understood figuratively. Something like Ring, on the other hand, can be approached at face value. I suppose if a metaphorical take on the tropes employed by a particular horror movie doesn't resonate with a individual viewer, then he must take literally the idea of something like a vengeful ghost, leaving him with a fairly superficial experience.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
Well, I think there's a difference between fantasy and surrealism or the abstract. Maddin and Brakhage, along with Felini and Bunuel, etc. create movies that demand to be understood figuratively.


That's how I would explain the distinction as well. Yet it seems likely that an individual open to one would be primed to enjoy the other. In general, I'm interested in movies on a metaphorical plane (indeed, I'm sometimes accused of mining them almost exclusively for metaphorical meanings), which is why I'm theoretically a fan of what Asian horror is trying do. So how do we explain my hesitations regarding Ringu, The Eye, and others? I don't think I'm guilty of reading them too literally, since it's obvious from the opening frames that such a vantage point is a mistake. Instead, I often find their metaphorical value limited or otherwise flimsy, which I concede may be related to certain biases on my part.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 2:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
Instead, I often find their metaphorical value limited or otherwise flimsy, which I concede may be related to certain biases on my part.




Yes, that's essentially what I meant.
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Jim Harper
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A possible factor is the relative lack of emotion at the core of many Asian horror films. Ring is an excellent film, but in emotional terms, Memento Mori is much, much more effective. Films like the Juon/Grudge series devote little- if any- time to giving their characters a solid emotional background. Despite my love for Asian horror films, I think they definitely suffer because of this.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tend to agree, although I don't necessarily see Ring / Jo-on's method of characterization as a weakness. (Indeed, I think the very first Ju-On: The Curse is an effective portrayal of violence begetting violence.) For me, the difference between, say, Memento Mori and Ring, is that in the former the supernatural events are representative of the emotional state of a character, while in the latter, though the supernatural events cause an emotional reaction in the characters (fear, dread, etc), it is still separate and distinct from them. Also, movies like Ring tend to be plot-driven, and as such, rely on melodrama to aid in characterization. So, in other words, in Memento Mori, the ghost is a manifestation of the drama, whereas in Ring, while the ghost is still thematic, is still more closely linked the plot.



Out of curiosity how would you rank the emotional content of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's horror movies, Jim, particularly Cure and Kairo?
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Jim Harper
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
Out of curiosity how would you rank the emotional content of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's horror movies, Jim, particularly Cure and Kairo?




Kurosawa's a tricky one, I think. Sometimes I find myself frustrated by the apparent lack of human warmth and emotion in films like Cure. Increasingly, however, I'm struck by how much Kairo seems to be a study of isolation and loneliness. Having spoken to a few other people about this, I'm beginning to think that Kairo is not as distant and dispassionate as some commentators would have you believe; there's definitely a lot more emotion there than I thought at first. If you're one of these people who feels that there's a fundamental loneliness at the heart of modern civilisation, Kairo becomes considerably more effective, both as a horror movie and a drama.



If any of that makes sense Very Happy
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.20.2005 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That makes perfect sense, and I agree completely that Kairo is an effective and affecting portrayal of loneliness and solitude. I just watched it again, and will say more in the Screening Log tomorrow or Tuesday. In fact, I think I'm drawn to Kurosawa's films specifically because they avoid easy emotional and psychological interpretations, particularly Cure.
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