AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

3/2/09

TOKYO!



Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-Ho

This film rises above most other films not for its ability to entertain, because it doesn't, not for its melodious music, because the music is crisp like streaks of laser beams shooting across the screen, not for its sex appeal, its endearing characters, its understanding of how people relate or its scintillating dialogue of which there is little to none.
This is a film about how damaged the Japanese people are from the change in their traditional life styles and customs, from the impact of the bombs and the earthquakes and from the strenuous confining tracks for upper mobility that few can achieve. The film has three separate segments.

Segment l
presents the
Japan we are used to, the over crowding and the boy/girl relationship into clear focus but that is short lived. Because Tokyo is about people who do not relate, who are not human as we know human to be.
It is about a woman who feels that she can not talk to her boyfriend because he skirts the subject she brings to his attention. He is an artist who makes her feel useless and invisible. Invisible she becomes but not useless.


Segment ll
In the second story we meet merde, the french curse word for shit. But if you say it with the full French pronunciation you can hear the anger the disgust intended. A man who lives in shit (but isn't everyone living in shit) comes out of the hole in the ground. He appears to interact but his rules and the rules of the ruling society are at odds. He can not tolerate them and they can not tolerate or survive his destructive behavior. He is scary, repulsive, unintelligible. Mostly he is different. And it is his difference that makes it close to impossible to understand him, to communicate with him or him with anyone else. Only one man finds the key to understand what Merde says and that man is as strange as Merde or he becomes so as the film progresses.

Segment lll
For me the last segment, the segment where people in the audience laughed, was the most gripping because the mental illness of the "shut in" is not just a problem, a Japanese phenomenon and definitely not a laughable matter.

It is here, in Brooklyn where I live with two such men close to my domicile. They are "shut in" for years and years. One for ten years and then some, the other for fifty years. it isn't that they don't go out, they do, but it is only to get food if it isn't delivered and then they venture forth with the proviso that no one make eye contact with them. The preferred hour of egress is four am. when the streets are empty.

These people do not interact with others. These people represent the illness of the future already here.

Tokyo is a very serious film that speaks to all of us, not of today per se but of tomorrow. I hear Samuel Beckett, I hear Franz Kafka, I hear the voice of the artists who know the pain, the torment from living beyond the norm, the everyday rat race that can't be won.

The acting is superb, the filming is so crystal clear, the music is striking. Tokyo is a masterpiece that will gain importance as time goes on


Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective

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