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Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder

On the History of Film Style pdf online

Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling

Film Art: An Introduction

Christopher Nolan: A Labyrinth of Linkages pdf online

Pandora’s Digital Box: Films, Files, and the Future of Movies pdf online

Planet Hong Kong, second edition pdf online

The Way Hollywood Tells It pdf online

Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Figures Traced In Light

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema pdf online

Exporting Entertainment: America in the World Film Market 1907–1934 pdf online


Hou Hsiao-hsien: A new video lecture!

CinemaScope: The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses

How Motion Pictures Became the Movies

Constructive editing in Pickpocket: A video essay


Rex Stout: Logomachizing

Lessons with Bazin: Six Paths to a Poetics

A Celestial Cinémathèque? or, Film Archives and Me: A Semi-Personal History

Shklovsky and His “Monument to a Scientific Error”

Murder Culture: Adventures in 1940s Suspense

The Viewer’s Share: Models of Mind in Explaining Film

Common Sense + Film Theory = Common-Sense Film Theory?

Mad Detective: Doubling Down

The Classical Hollywood Cinema Twenty-Five Years Along

Nordisk and the Tableau Aesthetic

William Cameron Menzies: One Forceful, Impressive Idea

Another Shaw Production: Anamorphic Adventures in Hong Kong

Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema

(Re)Discovering Charles Dekeukeleire

Doing Film History

The Hook: Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema

Anatomy of the Action Picture

Hearing Voices

Preface, Croatian edition, On the History of Film Style

Slavoj Žižek: Say Anything

Film and the Historical Return

Studying Cinema


Book Reports

Observations on film art

Welcome back, Suo-san

Wednesday | February 14, 2007   open printable version open printable version

sumo-do-1-250.jpg sumo-do-2-250.jpg

Suo Masayuki, one of Japan’s most ingratiating directors, found an international triumph with Shall We Dance? (1996). He had started his career with an odd little softcore porn film, Abnormal Family (1983), shot as an admiring pastiche of Ozu’s style. His Fancy Dance (1989) was also fun, but he really hit his stride with Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t (1992), which remains a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

Suo worked comic variations on an ingenious theme: How Japanese youth fail to appreciate the beauty of their traditional culture. The garage-band ska singer in Fancy Dance is obliged to retreat to a monastery, where he discovers that Zen is really, really cool. Sumo Do converts sullen college kids to the virtues of ritualized wrestling. Shall We Dance? works in reverse, obliging an uptight salaryman to rekindle his marriage by learning ballroom dance. Suo’s films celebrate pleasurable fusions between Asian and Western cultures.

Suo’s meticulous, understated style is a kind of modern revision of Ozu’s. Fancy Dance and Sumo Do pay homage to the master’s college comedies, and in Shall We Dance? the first tracking shot occurs when the hero takes his first tentative dance steps. In Figures Traced in Light, I mention Suo as part of that trend toward planimetric shooting and compass-point cutting I discussed in an earlier blog. As you see from the opening images, he tries out the precise sort of graphic matching between shots that was a hallmark of Ozu’s style.

Suo has been very quiet for the last decade, but now he’s back. I Just Didn’t Do It is arousing keen local interest, partly because of its controversial subject matter. Japan is known as a low-crime society, but gradually questions of police brutality have emerged. Suspects can be kept in custody for up to 23 days, and unique among industrial nations, 95% of all people arrested confess!

In Suo’s new film, a young man is accused of groping a schoolgirl in the subway. It’s a daring move for a director known for light comedies. The film stars Kase Ryo, from Letters from Iwo Jima, and veteran Yakusho Koji, seen most recently in Babel. Read more about it here, noting that the Economist’s contents tend to evaporate into the pay-only archive. The film’s official website, in English, is here.

I Just Didn’t Do It, Suo says, is a film “I simply had to make.”

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