(gb) wrote: Someone for Everyone, I Guess Using the bullfight as a metaphor is hardly unusual. Actually, I did it myself a few years after this movie came out; we had to come up with an analogy on [i]The Old Man and the Sea[/i], and my team elected to turn it into a bullfight, on the grounds of Hemingway. Who had, of course, done it long before Pedro Almodvar got around to it. Come to that, my grandparents Dillon went to a bullfight in Peru, when they were down there for my Uncle Paul's wedding. Grandma was not much enthused about it, but she was being polite to her new in-laws. (Mom may not have gotten on with Grandma Nelson, but at least no one there took anyone to watch animal cruelty!) But it's a useful tool for your metaphors about life, death, passion, and so forth, though I don't think Hemingway could have quite envisioned the plot we are presented with here. And I don't think Hemingway is much NC-17 or even close, either. ngel (Antonio Banderas) is at the bullfighting school of the great Diego Montez (Nacho Martnez). He's clearly a confused young man, and Montez notices. And so that night, ngel follows his neighbour and Montez's girlfriend, Eva (Eva Cobo), and tries to rape her. Only he fails and then faints. His mother (I believe Concha Hidalgo) sends him to church to confess whatever sins he has, and he ends up going to the police station to confess to them as well. And he keeps on confessing, especially given that Eva won't press charges. He confesses to the murders of four people--two men, whose bodies have been found, and two women, whose bodies have not. We know, and probably ngel does as well, that it was in fact Montez who killed the young women, who were students at his school. ngel receives as his lawyer Mara Cardenal (Assumpta Serna), and what we know and he definitely does not is that she killed the two men. She knows her client is innocent of two crimes, therefore, and believes he is guilty of the other two. Naturally, Montez and Cardenal are drawn to one another, because in this sort of movie, there is no other option. The movie begins with Montez masturbating to a slasher flick of some sort; after that, Cardenal seduces someone, takes him home, and kills him. It's a match made in Hell, really. Montez likes Eva well enough, probably at least in part because she's willing to play dead for him. And it's a sign of her devotion, at least as far as I'm concerned, that she'll do it and doesn't take off as soon as he brings it up. But anyway. What I rather wonder is how Cardenal plans to get ngel found not guilty. Obviously, she's not going to confess, and although she works out pretty quickly that Montez killed the women, she's really not inclined to bring that up, either. It's a conscience of a sort that she isn't just willing to let ngel take the blame for her crimes, though that would probably be easier, but perhaps she likes the challenge of it as much as she likes the challenge of Montez. ngel has a guilt complex, on top of everything else that's wrong with him, and what we see of his mother explains it pretty nicely. Banderas was twenty-six at the time, though ngel seems younger, but either way, he's certainly old enough to be let alone. His mother, however, still treats him like a child and makes very clear that she has thought all along that he's evil. She does not have the slightest interest in defending her son from the charges he's facing. In fact, she assumes he did it. Yes, all right, he confessed. However, were it my child, I would be pretty determined to make sure that he was safe and protected, and I would get him all the help money could buy, especially since his mother clearly isn't hurting for cash. But she is furious at the very idea of psychiatric care for her son; he's just evil, and the only help he can possibly need is spiritual, not that it will do any good. It's really rather alarming. I am not hugely familiar with the work of Almodvar, though I bought a copy of [i]Broken Embraces[/i] almost as soon as I watched it. I will not be doing that with this one, and it's not directly to do with the NC-17. But there are scenes in it which are extremely uncomfortable, hard for me to watch, and they're why--or anyway part of why--this was rated NC-17. Of course, it's more about the sex than the violence. It always is. But as much as anything, it's the way Montez and Cardenal tie sex and violence together. This, too, is an old metaphor. Centuries. [i]Le petit mort[/i] and all that, after all. But some people take that to a level beyond the Elizabethan, and that isn't any fun to watch. Interesting, perhaps, but not fun. This is a distinction I'm not sure everyone gets, that there can be movies which aren't fun to watch but are worth watching nonetheless. Movies which are difficult in some way. On the other hand, for watching again, even I prefer the fun ones most of the time.
(it) wrote: Harakiri tells a tale of masterless samurai Hanshiro Tsugumo who sets out to end his unfortunate life honorably by performing the infamous ritual suicide Harakiri. The name and genre set certain expectations, but against traditional samurai film themes, Harakiri has something else in store for the viewer. Instead of violence and action the film focuses on drama surrounding an aging samurai Hanshiro Tsugumo and his family's misfortune. From seemingly straightforward initial setting Harakiri's story starts building complexity after Hanshiro Tsugumo arrives at the Lyi clan's gates requesting permission to perform Harakiri at their estate. Setting in the 17th century Japan when the country was going through fundamental changes and also an uncommonly long period of peace brought by the powerful Togukawa shogunate, the Samurai warrior class found itself slowly dwindling. With permanent peace, the samurai class was left without means to provide for their families which made some desperate individuals to disgrace themselves by resorting to begging. Thus upon his arrival to Lyi Clan's estate, Hanshiro Tsugumo is greeted with a warning tale of one such samurai (Motome Chijiwa) who before him had requested permission to perform Harakiri at Lyi clan's compound in hopes of impressing the Clan of his valor and receiving employment. Lyi clan however called out the ronin's "bluff" and forced him to go through with the gruesome suicide ritual with his fake bamboo swords! Unbudged by Lyi clan's warning tale, Hanshiro Tsugumo insists in performing the ritual suicide. Unsuspecting the Lyi clan grant Hanshiro Tsugumo's wish and play straight into his scheme for revenge. Harakiri is surprising, involving and perfectly constructed samurai drama which has very little room for improvement. The tangible atmosphere of ancient Japan with its samurais and their overwhelming sense of honor provide a perfect setting for the tragic tale. During the running time the story grows from its simple beginning into something much greater. Much of the films resolve depends on the Director Masaki Kobayashi and the lead actor Tatsuya Nakadai, who both outdo themselves and make the film into a truely unforgettable experience.