Monday, October 09, 2006

New York Film Festival: Privates Fears in Public Places and The Makioka Sisters

I was going to do this whole incisive take on one of the best films I've seen this year, Alain Resnais' Private Fears in Public Places, but then the dastardly Michael Anderson over at Tativille goes and writes a lucid account that mentions everything I wanted to say. What an asshole. Mine would've had more vague adjectives like "pretty", "delightful", "elegant", and "devastating", but Mike robbed of you all that. Blame him. Dave Kehr also goes buck wild for the film, because he's smart like that.

To lick my intellectual wounds, I saw Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters (1983) at the Walter Reade, part of their Janus Films survey. A sprawling family drama (140min.) concerning the fading of an aristocratic family against the backdrop of Japan's entrance into WWII, it focuses on the various obstacles to marrying off two of the sisters. Issues of rank (a bartender!), respectability (a mentally ill mother!), and boredom (a government agriculture employee!) gum up the marital works. All of the narrative strands reinforce the changeover necessitated by the rise of the middle class, with one sister, Tsukura, forced to move from her ancestral home to accommodate her husband's promotion. This social context is intermittently involving, but as a film it's rather inert, as Kon's constant use of close-ups soon wears out its impact, the faces become another decoration along with the lovely kimonos and cherry blossoms (the 35mm print was gorgeous). I couldn't help but think of Ozu's remarkable subtlety in handling similar issues of girls leaving home, the clash of traditional and modern, country vs. city. The comparison wasn't flattering. It's the first Ichikawa I've seen, and I know it isn't representative (I have high hopes for Fires on the Plain, also a part of the survey), but still a disappointment.


Blogger Michael J. Anderson said...

One note on my piece: my initial posting left out the description of the film as "elegant," which when I noticed this later, I quickly remedied. That said, it is otherwise light on the sort of poetry you would get in a Sweeney review. Sorry world.

10:39 PM  

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