Postmodern Japan Midquarter 10 With Feedback

Modern Japan

Jackson, Jr.


Without A Theme



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 Midquarter Ten with Feedback

 [This question
is a technical one and requires technically specific answers. Space-to-screen
is a little haphazard, but you don’t provide any means of categorizing
the onscreen geometry.]
[Just get your terms
down. Look at]

Out of Space

watching the films of Kurosawa Kiyoshi, the space to screen ratio varies
from scene to scene. A very obvious statement, the scenes that Kurosawa
captures in his lens
[Quaint and non-technical. Where’s you introductory
paragraph? What is your thesis?]
create a space that is both
comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. [This
question is a technical one and requires technically specific answers.
Space-to-screen is a little haphazard, but you don’t provide any means
of categorizing the onscreen geometry.]

 [This question
is a technical one and requires technically specific answers. Space-to-screen
is a little haphazard, but you don’t provide any means of categorizing
the onscreen geometry.]
[Just get your terms
down. Look at]
both Cure and Kairo Kurosawa creates these spaces by using
sound, background and also his characters [How
does he create space with sound? This is true, but also a technical feature
the requires a technical answer. And you have simply let drop the issue
of the visual construction of space. Until you answer that you can’t begin
to talk about the aural elaboration of space. You need to define space
and screen too. Look at the study guides in my Cinema and Subjectivity
web site for starters.].
The screen to surface ration [NOT
in each of these films reach climaxes that chill to
the bone [This is not a claim. You’re making the
concept a dummy noun.].
Whether the setting is located inside
of a shell or in an empty bus, Kurosawaís temporal space [What
is „temporal space“? How are you using it here? If you can’t answer these
questions throw it away and if you can answer these questions why haven’t
you explained the term when you introduce it?]
allows the mind
to wander through the scene [The „mind“ doesn’t
need permission to wander. This doesn’t describe a cinematic practice or
effect. Paragraph two and still no beginning of an argument or even a technically
feasible statement. Not one.].
In Kairo, Kurosawa uses
the idea of confinement and loneliness to create his terrifying space [NOPE,
you can’t address a question that focused on cinematography by appealing
to „themes“ in the narrative. That’s dodging the question and avoiding
the answers. You might as well say, „Kurosawa makes interesting films by
filming them in interesting ways.“].
In Cure, he uses
sound and enclosed shots [Define and give specific
examples. All shots are „enclosed“.]
and jump cuts [Define.
Show me two jump cuts in Cure.]
to bring more of a thrill into
the viewer [ A „thrill“ is not a technical affect.
Rule of thumb : if you find that you could have written the paper you’re
writing without taking this course, then there’s something wrong. We are
dealing with specialized knowledge and a variety of critical practices
and interpretative methods. If you don’t use any of them to come up with
your „appreciation“ of the film, then one of us isn’t doing his job.]

In Cure, one of the hardest scenes to take in the whole movie
is a scene in which the main character Takabe (Yakusho Koji) is talking
with the „hypnotist killer“ Mamiya (Hagiwara Masato) [This
is the kind of thing people say to each other eating pizza after seeing
a film. This has no place in a serious critical analysis. Notice the „hardest
scene to take“ describes NOTHING – not the scene nor how it was achieved.
It is on the level of personal likes or dislikes – it’s high school book
report not a college essay.].
The scene takes place inside of
the cell that Mamiya has been placed into [awkward
and redundant. Do you mean the hospital cell?].
Takabe walks
across the room and starts to ask Mamiya questions, but Mamiya asks back
instead of answering Takabe. In his rage with the situation, Takabe creates
a fuss [Huh? This is English but you couldn’t
possibly mean what this means/ Please see me. Notice that you have completely
abandoned technical descriptions of the filmmaker’s practice and the signiyfing
opreations of the film. This is a plot summary. Useless.]
places Mamiya into a corner of the cell. At the start of this scene there
is a long track shot [What’s that? Do you meaning
a tracking shot? Have you looked up these terms. Where does the tracking
shot begin? In his cell? Would that be too narrow? Specify the beginning
and ends of shots you’re discussing.]
that starts from a back
view of Takabe and then jumps to his side so that Mamiya can be seen [You’ve
personified the „tracking shot“ – you say the tracking shot jumps to Takabe’s
side. A tracking shot cannot jump – it’s a filmed sequence effected by
the particular pattern of the camera’s movement. Framing Mamiya probably
required a cut and an edit. It could have been done weeks before or after
the tracking shot was done. And go over this scene again. That cell isn’t
big enough for a tracking shot.].
Takabe does not notice him
until the camera sees him [What! Then I don’t
even know what scene you’re talking about. This is not ok.].
scene that follows is one that is of an uncomfortable space. While Takabe
is trying to question Mamiya, Mamiya stays quiet. He tries to reach out
for his lighter and Takabe grabs it from him. While Mamiya does not have
his lighter he will not speak and Takabe thinks that he realizes that this
will be the way to make him talk. He lights the lighter and sets it upon
the table. Since he believes that this will make Mamiya talk, he sits down
in front of him and the camera shifts to a shot that lies below him and
points up to the ceiling. As though there is going to be something that
comes out from behind Takabe, nothing does [Try
to remember how I described this scene. What terms I used and how I kept
my discussion of the camera set ups distinct from discussions of the narrative.].
The only sound heard inside of the soundtrack [Inside
the soundtrack? We need to get the sound technology down better than this
too. I’ll go over some of this in class as well, and point out where you
can find it.]
are very small splashes of rain and even this
sound is not too apparent. Slowly as the camera stays in this awkward position,
a black mass forms above the head of Takabe. It starts to get bigger and
bigger as it starts to cover up what can be seen of the ceiling. The camera
then shifts to a downward shot of the lighter as the light acts like a
hand that extinguishes the flame. The lighter begins to leak fluid as though
it were just killed [Just killed? The lighter
was not alive.].

The space that is created in this scene is one that creates an uncomfortable
atmosphere to the film [You’ve described several
scenes in this way. And it’s still not a technical description – and it
is a refusal to deal with the question of the construction of spaces on
the screen. You’re refusingto answer the question, now refusing to acknowledge
the question. „Uncomfortable“ is a non-technical, subjective attitude of
a viewer to the screen – not predictable and not an index for a meaningful
discussion of a film’s signifying systems.].
Even though neither
of the two characters is talking to one another, there is a conversation
going on between them[When you have so little
in the way of critical method and no technical lexicon, you shouldn’t on
top of that abandon ordinary denotative statements with these quaint yet
clicheed metaphors that neither illuminate anything nor advance an argument.].
Slowly Takabe is starting to realize what he has gotten himself
into [That is one interpretation of his facial
expression in that scene.but surely not the only possible interpretation.
You provide no supporting evidence for this supposition. And these speculation
does not clarify what you mean by saying the two men aren’t talking but
are conversing. This is a non-sequitur.].
The angles of the
shots are not straightforward shots [Name angles,
name shots, identify them.What is a „straightforward shot“? It doesn’t
exist.] .
There is only a reaction shot [What’s
a „reaction shot“? Whose reaction?.]
to the fluid that is dropping
out of the lighter, not to what is going on around him [Who?].
From what Takabe was acting like before, it is almost expected of him to
lose his temper and not sit still for that long [You’ve
slipped right back into plot summary and „common sense“ suppositions about
the characters‘ personalities, NOT a useful avenue of inquiry.].
him only to have a reaction to the fluid that is coming from the lighter
is truly frightening. Takabe sits there staring into the fluid as it drips
down onto the ground creating that hypnotic rhythm that would have him
hooked into Mamiyaís suggestions [Do we know this?
This is again the kind of thing we say to the friends we went to the movies
with, not a critical inquiry.].
While the camera focuses on
the dripping and the sound of the fluid hitting the floor [Cameras
cannot focus on sounds.]
, it becomes disorienting to the viewer.
The sound and visuals of dripping water becomes so rhythmic that when Mamiya
asks his question to Takabe, it is almost if he is asking the viewer instead.

[Kill the viewer slowly. Drive a jagged pencil
into the viewer’s achilles‘ tendor and rip upward until enough is dangling
out that you can pull it and hang the viewer upside down from a pole tying
the viewer to that pole with these tendons. Arrange for laugh track.]

The use of this space in this scene and in most of Cure are used
to create a connection to what is happening with the characters on screen
and what is going on with the viewers of the film [ditto].
It literally brings the viewer into the screen itself [How
does it do that? And what is the difference between „frame“ and „screen“? 
There is no screen as far as the camera is concerned.]
. When
the question of „Who are you?“ is asked, unless the camera is pointed at
a character, there is no connection to the world of the film [give
an exact example How could this so? And how could it be true every time
the question is asked?]
; but when the camera is in dead space 
[What is dead space?] or not focused
on one particular person, then identification is all too real. In Kairo
[You must always describe exactly what’s in
the shot you’re talking about. „not focused on  a particular person“
tells us  nothing. What is in the frame? How deep the focus? And the
two statements together are non-sequitur: focus may or may not have to
do with identification, but you haven’t described how identification takes
place nor with whom/what, and identification is NEVER REAL.]
the viewer is subjected to more distant shots and scarier enclosed shots
[Degrees of scariness do not belong in a critical
assessment. „Scariness is neither technical nor quantifiable.]
Both Cure and Kairo contain wide-angle shots and enclosed
shots [What is an enclosed shot. What wide-angle
shots. Most films contain wide-angle shots. To say this is like saying,
„Kairo was filmed on 35mm film. And?]
. As with the aforementioned
scene, it is all enclosed within a cell. In Kairo and Cure
Kurosawa also uses the enclosed space of buses. Each trip has its own endings
[Don’t most trips have their own ending? What journey ends with the conclusion
of another journey?] 
and each begins a sequence of events.

In Kairo, the bus has no distinguishable background to it. It
is completely empty and only seats one character inside of it. Even though
each shot after the character displays what time of day it might be, it
is never actually known while on the bus. This enclosed space and loneliness
of the character on the bus begins the movieís theme of isolation. The
world that is created in Kairo is much like the bus, empty. Unlike
Cure, this world seems bleaker and a lot more confined into spaces.
The camera hides in the more wide angled shots and it seems that it cannot
hide when it is forced to show its presence in enclosed spaces. In the
beginning, it hides in the bushes as Michi walks to the house, when it
is in the university it hides behind the equipment to watch Kawashima,
and when it is in the factory towards the end of the film it hangs from
the ceiling or on the ground away from the films characters. This is not
to say that it does it all the time, but only when the camera wants you
to see something or is forced to be close does it allow it self to be close.
[This study of space is close to the kind of thing
I’m looking for. Just get your terms down. Look at]

Kairo also allows itself to scare the viewer because it is so
lonely. There are never many people on camera at one time. The most that
might have been on screen is when the girl jumps from the tower to her
death. It is this separation from the people in this film that makes Kairo
what it is. Through hearing cries for help („tasukete“), it is not
known whether or not the people who do see death are wanting help coming
back into life or whether they are trying to drag more people into them
with death. Who are they calling out to? Each person who does kill himself
or herself finds out this answer. The space that is used in Kairo
does not allow itself to become comfortable as it progresses. Since the
film jumps directly into the death of a character, the comfort zone has
been put by the wayside. Kawashima presents first comic relief, but grows
to be something more than that. In his haphazardly exploration of the Internet,
he is privy to the ghosts that are present in this world.

Both of these films bring out a space that presents both what is known
and what is unknown. In Kairo it is the space of the supernatural
and of those who know how to achieve this knowledge. In Cure it
is between what is not said and what is said. Both are very similar in
that they both express ideas that are not known to the characters, but
might be known to the viewer, yet sometimes not. The space for Kairo
involves separation from the world and the loneliness of it. To be alone
in the world as a ghost is to be not alone at all. So in these terms the
camera acts like a ghost and unless the characters know about it, they
are not alone. It is when they realize that they have never really been
alone that they want to kill themselves. With Cure, the space is
used to create questions about the self and whether or not a „self“ can
be found. In certain cases the questions that are asked by Mamiya are not
focused on a single character, but to everyone.

The use of spaces in each of these Kurosawa films presents the viewer
with questions and feelings that are expressed in each of the films. The
space to screen becomes more focused when the spaces are more enclosed
than wide open. The close up shots that are used in each of the films creates
the ambient space that is truly frightening. Each shot is designed so that
the ideas expressed in each of the film will be shown. In Kairo
the shots are expressing the distance of the ghosts and the characters
in the film. It is when the characters realize that camera exists that
they die. With Cure, the camera is designed to show the rhetorical
questions of the film. It also is there to create the space needed to further
on the development of the main character Takabe. Both films use the space
to bring in the viewer also. In Kairo this can be described as the
scene in which Harue finally sees the ghost and hugs him/her. When she
looks at the ghost she looks into the camera, not at another point in the
area. This makes the camera the ghost. Cureís camera focuses on
key questions that could be directed towards anyone. The true „scariness“
of the film is that one finds they are identifying with the movie. It is
in using these elements that both of these films express their own unique
brands of horror.

Works Cited

  1. Cure. Dir Kurosawa Kiyoshi. Perf. Yakusho Koji, Ujiki Tsuyoshi,
    Nakagawa Anna, Hagiwara Masato. Daiei, 1997.
  2. Kairo. Dir Kurosawa Kiyoshi. Perf. Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki,
    Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo. Daiei 2001

  3. Post-Modern
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