Sawako Decides

Saw this at the London Film Festival today. An inscrutable Japanese comedy.

Sawako – A downtrodden girl  works in Tokyo and dates her colleague a man-child who knits jumpers. She is always apologizing and not standing up for herself and she has a drink problem.

Her uncle calls to say that her dad is dying and she must come home to take over his clam processing business. Her boyfriend is fired and goes with her, he brings along his five year old daughter. Sawako cannot relate to her.

Things pan out as you would imagine but with various troubles along the way. The moral and character philosophies are distinctly Japanese  and humour comes from subtly lampooning their  politeness and conformity.

In the end Sawako speaks out for herself and explains her life philosophy –  I’m just an average ‘lower -middle’ (class) and should just put up with what I can get.

The film was way too long at two hours but had some subtle light humour and a few broader moments that still had that low key Japanese feel.

Howl

This is the film I was most looking forward to at the London film festival and I was disappointed. In fairness we were sitting in the front row right up against the screen, so this may distort my experience of the film slightly.

I love James Franco, he’s a great actor and just gorgeous too. Although I don’t think he looks like Alan Ginsberg. I love Howl. I bought and read it about five or six years ago after reading On the Road by Kerouac. I read it again recently after doing some poetry classes.

It’s a stream of consciousness poem and in my mind I read it quickly. It has a fast syncopated rhythm, and the images flick quickly like jump cuts or a train journey. It also crackles with gay sexual energy.

So the worst thing about this movie was the tedious lumpen Disney Fantasia style animation, that illustrates literally every line of the poem as it’s read – very slowly. Impressionist painted skies and graphic phallic shaped buildings sit behind Poser style CGi characters. All having straight sex or blowing on saxophones or worse still, flying through the sky like Angels from What Dreams May Come.

It’s not avant- garde, or Gay or sexy, it doesn’t even have rhythm or reflect the look or feel of the era in which the poem is set. It just utterly shit.

The poetry is a smash of words and they could have used graphic design and film clips and fifties drawn animation to reflect this. They should have had someone like Jonathon Cauette to make these sequences. They should be a collision of Genet drawings, Warhol 16mm, period stock footage, graphics, Tom of Finland, porn movies, and National Film Board animation mashed together.

But really, the best solution would be not to make the film at all, because the rest of the story is just a few set pieces – James Franco as Ginsberg gives the first reading of the poem. The obscenity trial. A talking head interview two years later. Plus a few clips of him hanging out with the other beats.

All of these are based verbatim on transcipts and tapes that have been made into the script. So why do it? Why not use the material to make an avant garde documentary? These guys are documentary makers after all?

The end was good. A charge of emotion but it’s the end of the poem that creates this, not the movie. Maybe poetry is better as poems and films as films. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good mix of the two.

Spork

We saw this today at the London film festival. It is a low budget high school comedy/ dance movie.

A young intersex girl – nicknamed Spork who is teased at school. Decides to enter a dance off.  Her black neighbour – Tootsie Roll and her gang teach Spork to crunk (or is it crump?) She finds love with the school gay boy and with the help of her new friends goes on to win the dance comp and defeat the horrible blonde beatches. 

A typical high school plot is livened up by bright colours sassy performances and some John Waters style humour. It has a definite queer sensibility and is somewhat like Napoleon Dynamite, but not quite as good.

The great thing about that film is John Hedder does his own dancing at the end and he is brilliant at it. Here Spork is body doubled for some of her dance and it seems to make it less authentic.

Some scenes felt too long, and although Spork herself  was great some of the other characters felt under developed. Also, it is hard to have a sassy knowing wit about the genre cliches and then to treat them seriously in more heartfelt scenes. I felt it sometimes doesn’t quite pull this off.  

I am trying to write a similar story in this genre and to me it was interesting to watch for both it’s strong points – the off beat humour and characters and it’s weaker – the emotional depth.