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Mamoru Oshii

December 15, 2008

The Sky Crawlers, 2008

sky_crawlers.gifDuring the videotaped introduction to the film, Mamoru Oshii commented that the societies of highly developed economies have fostered a certain state of arrested development where young people, accustomed to privilege, find little motivation to move on from their current situation. This sense of stasis, cultural amnesia, and immediacy also pervades the consciousness of the genetically engineered, perennially adolescent Kildren fighter pilots of Oshii's The Sky Crawlers. Based on the serial novel by Hiroshi Mori, the film is a brooding and densely philosophical exposition into the nature of love, war, memory, aging, and identity. The idea of eternal struggle is suggested in the opening dogfight between obscured, faceless (and apparently polyglot) combatants that plays out over an unfamiliar landscape, and carries through to the image of Kannami (Ryo Kase) descending from the sky in an undamaged plane after the aerial encounter. Transferred to another base in order to replace a pilot who had died under murky circumstances, Kannami immediately finds himself drawn to the squadron's enigmatic base commander, Kusanagi (Rinko Kikuchi), fueled in part by her own inscrutable history (one that includes a school-aged daughter who is nearing adolescence) and rumors of her affair with Kannami's predecessor. Settling into a familiar ritual of interminable dogfights, diner meals, trips to brothels, and company-sponsored public relations tours, Kannami is fascinated by the stories of an almost mythic arch rival with a characteristic black panther marking near the tail of his plane whose encounter leads to certain death, an idea that grows even more intriguing when Kusanagi reveals that their nemesis was once a squadron trainer known as the "Teacher" who turned his allegiance - and eternal youth - to became an adult pilot for the competing agency. As in Anne Fontaine's psychological drama How I Killed My Father, the metaphoric killing of the father in The Sky Crawlers also represents a passage into maturity, where identity and self-determination are formed by moving away from the shadows cast by one's predecessors. Concluding with the shot of Kusanagi's daughter searching the empty skies before walking away, the image becomes a paradoxical continuity of memory and its systematic erasure.

Posted by acquarello on Dec 15, 2008 | | Comments (2) | Filed under 2008, Mamoru Oshii

February 27, 2007

Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters, 2006

tachigui.gifAlternately baffling in its unclassifiable lunacy, infectious in its inspired creativity, irresistible in its tongue-in-cheek audacity, and admirable in its visionary integrity, Mamoru Oshii's deliriously off-kilter, rapid fire superlivemation animation feature, Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters presents an epic, cultural and socio-political survey of twentieth century history (and into the early years of the new century) as idiosyncratically told from the underground mythology of fast food grifters: a group of reputed con artists who - through a collective arsenal of intelligence, charisma, ingenuity, brute strength (or rather, appetite), and even sheer incomprehensibility - have managed to make a successful practice out of talking their way out of paying for tachigui fast food meals from assorted shops throughout Japan, and consequently elevated the art of fast food grifting. The first profile is of Moongaze Ginji, a priest-like elder who emerges from the shadows of the thriving black markets shortly after the end of the Pacific War (and the beginning of American occupation) and who, in his evocation of classical landscape in a bowl of noodles, attempts to kindle the nostalgic sentiment of Japan's rich, cultural past. In the 1950s, as the recovering country was experiencing a "post war economic miracle", a new hero(ine) emerges among the grifter mythology in Foxy Croquette O-Gin, an attractive, liberated, modern women who uses her sensuality and cunning intelligence to equally charm and outwit her gullible (and decidedly male) victims. As Japan sought a symbolic international re-emergence by hosting the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Crying Inumaru employs a radically different tactic by playing the role of perennial loser - an incisive strategy that, juxtaposed against the seemingly tangential anecdote of Mothra's release, provides an incisive broader comment on the collective amnesia and propensity towards revisionism inherent in the nation's reinvention and self-portrayal as victims in the terrible aftermath of the Pacific War. Within this context of social and historical intersection, the sensationalized death of grifter Cold Badger Masa in the late 1960s may also be seen, not as an act of random violence, but as a reflective symptom of the country's (if not, the world's) increasing radicalization and social upheaval that was ushered by the rise of the Red Army movement. Culminating with a series of characters that reflect the country's transforming (and decidedly, un-Japanese) culinary palate - Beefbowl Ushigoro, Hamburger Tetsu, Frankfurter Tatsu, Medium Hot Sabu - the film serves as a provocative and trenchant satire on the country's inexorable path towards recovery, modernization, consumerism, global assimilation, and cultural dilution.

Posted by acquarello on Feb 27, 2007 | | Comments (4) | Filed under 2007, Film Comment Selects, Mamoru Oshii