on the chisel: act of violence (1948)

Men who saw combat in World War II returned to the good ol’ U.S.A. plagued by dark thoughts.

Many of them understandably couldn’t quite shake the experience.

They came back changed in ways their loved ones couldn’t imagine.

But many of the so-called Greatest Generation did keep it together.

They assimilated back into society with relative ease.

They started families, built up businesses, and kept their dark secrets hidden.

Until someone reminded them of things they’d done.

Things that you’ve trained yourself not to think about because they reveal aspects of your character…

You’ve kept hidden from the people you love more than anything.

And that makes you sick.

Smothered.

Crazy.

Scared.

So you panic and flee…

Deep into the night…

Into the realm of lost souls…

Because there’s nowhere else to go when you hit bottom.

But there are always others to share the pain with…

People who’ve been at the bottom a lot longer than you…

People who’ve seen it all… done questionable things… and will never

judge you for who you are or for what you’ve done in the past.

People you can confess your sins to.

But no one said confessing would necessarily make you feel better.

No one promised that the darkness in you would magically disappear.

You feel swallowed by it all…

Facing the horror within you doesn’t help…

It just devours you even more…

And that’s a punishment worse than death.

So the panic floods your senses all over again…

You can’t live like a trapped animal.

You have to make a drastic decision about your future…

That you no longer have one.

But new friends think differently.

They’re not done with you yet…

They want to give you a helping hand…

They want you to confess your sins a little more…

Because your new friends want to make a deal with you…

Help get you back on your feet, back to where you belong…

Only problem is you don’t fit in like you used to.

But you can try…

Because she is worth it.

It’s time to take a stand and face your problem…

To deal with your demons once and for all.

That’s usually dangerous business though…

Old friends with grudges usually aren’t so forgiving…

Especially when you try to tell them the truth…

And new friends don’t take kindly to chums who renege on beneficial propositions.

You only make…

One more haunted, confused widow.

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directory of world cinema: japan vol. 1

I just wanted to inform you all about a new film guide just out entitled the Directory of World Cinema: Japan, edited by John Berra and published by Intellect Books.  I contributed a number of film reviews to it and an essay on the yakuza genre as well.  From what I understand, the book will be updated annually, and I’ll have a few reviews in the volume two edition also.

Whether it’s kill-crazy yakuza hipsters, a taciturn ronin who talks best with his sword, gigantic rubber-suited atomic monsters battling their genetic equals while scared Tokyoites watch on helplessly, tender portrayals of everyday people just trying to get through another day with some semblance of dignity, genre-bending new wave revolutionaries, or blood curdling tales of ghosts, demons, and horrors from beyond the realm of sanity–Japanese cinema has long been a consistent goldmine for the intrepid world cinema-goer.  Although Japan was producing films since the beginning of the medium, its bounty of cinematic offerings only really flourished into the outside world in the post-World War Two era when directors like Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, 1950), Kenji Mizoguchi (The Life of Oharu, 1952), Teinosuke Kinugasa (Gate of Hell, 1953), and Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story, 1953) gained considerable notice from film festivals abroad with their respective films.  There was also, of course, the mighty Gojira (aka Godzilla) that stomped into cinemas in 1954 and would arguably become Japan’s most visible and popular cinematic export for decades.  Regardless of their entertainment value (which is high in my opinion), the kaiju movies unfortunately also gave many moviegoers–who wouldn’t know their Kurosawa from their Ozu–the wrong impression regarding the quality of Japanese films.  Unfortunately, for those who only knew about Japanese films via Godzilla, Rodan, Monster X, and the Smog Monster–films that were routinely shown on American televisions in horribly but hilariously English dubbed versions–the idea of Japan offering up anything other than plastic monster mashes was probably unfathomable.

But time and the luxury of modern technology has erased those impressions, I think.  The availability of classic Japanese films on DVD from Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu, et al, and the emergence of such disparate contemporary directors as Hayao Miyazaki, Satoshi Kon, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Takashi Miike, and Takeshi Kitano, has been a bounty for film enthusiasts the world over as more and more of their work has become available.  And if you’re a genre fan, the availability of previously obscure kaiju, chambara, yakuza, J-Horror, anime, and pink films, has grown as well, although there is still much left untapped.

If you’ve never watched a Japanese film before or your appreciation runs no deeper than Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, but you want to plunge further although you really don’t know where to start… picking up a copy of the new Directory of World Cinema: Japan is a great place to begin.  And if your insights into Japanese cinema are well-honed and you’ve moved far beyond the established critically lauded films, I think you’ll still find plenty of valuable well-informed analysis in it.

The book is now available in the UK here, and it will be available in the US via The University of Chicago Press in April.  You can pre-order your US copies here.