Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Never Post Gratuitously

This first thing is a Samurai Ferret that I drew for Dara Naraghi's Ferret Press. I long minute ago he sent out a mass email and asked for contributions for an artbook or FERRETS. I totally spaced on it and then didn't read the email before I just busted this out between ridiculousness adventures. Turns out the deadline was a couple days ago and the dimensions were square. Goes to show that I am a dumbass, even when I have nothing but noble intentions. Maybe even more so then? Anyway, Ferret Press is the home of Panel, a comics collective from Columbus that have put out NINE themed comics anthologies so far. They've been consistently rocking at two a year, and show no sign of slowing down. Go HERE, and buy them up. Actually, I think I'm missing a bunch so I think I'll have to place an order myself soon (Sadly, the 9th issue isn't up yet, it's got a 3-D cover and is b-movie themed, it's easily my favorite thing I got at SPACE this year).

So, I'm back on a full nasty Samurai Movies kick. THIS TIME IT'S DEEP AS HELL. There's no going back until I've seen every goddamn samurai movie ever made.

I recently grabbed Big Granny and we sat down and watched The Samurai Trilogy about Musashi Miyamoto in a marathon viewing. These movies are so goddamn good. They're long, but it was totally worth it to view them all at once. The epic scale of the features really blows my mind in a way that I don't think happened when I watched each of them autonomously. There's something about investing that amount of time and energy into watching this story that really makes it more intense.

After that I watched Hideo Gosha's Sword of The Beast, which is pretty awesome in it's own right. I've got to watch it again before I send it back to Netflix, but I really got into this one too. It wasn't as enthralling as the trilogy, but it's not really supposed to be. It's the tale of a whole lot of outsiders all going after the same score of gold on this mountain, with the hope that it will set them free from... whatever makes them outsiders. There's also a revenge plot and a subversive political plot, but that's all thrown in with the game that is afoot and turning samurai into beasts.

The last thing I watched was Samurai Spy. It's much more of a political espionage thriller than anything. It takes it's time getting there, but once the stage is set and the plot starts to thicken it gets really thick, really quick. Ninjas and samurai fights; spies vs. spies vs. corrupt cops! Mysteries and deceptions and characters all going buckwild for who knows what reason! A festival turned riot! Sword fights on a huge bridge! Anyway, I'd like to watch this again too, before I send it back. It's really good, but after the first viewing I still have no idea what happened and who was what. It's a very convoluted piece that has a lot of backstabbery and traitorous behavior. It actually takes place around the same time as The Samurai Trilogy.

One of my favorite parts on the DVD was the special feature of an interview with Masahiro Shinoda, the director of Samurai Spy. He talks about film making in Japan at the time of the movie, and his career. Then he talks about Absurdity, and I was pretty floored with what he said. Here's an excerpt from the interview (uh, I transcribed this myself so if it's inaccurate, I apologize to Criterion and Masahiro Shinoda, and y'know... you):


I don't believe anyone is born merely human. I was born Japanese and I didn't have any choice in the matter. But being Japanese at the time meant Japanese militarism and emperor worship. And when we attacked Pearl Harbor, I was just a young 12-year-old boy. I was 14 when we lost the war. After we lost the war, I saw American soldiers for the first time, and wondered why I hadn't been born an American. At the time, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be proud or ashamed of being born Japanese. I found that the sense of absurdity, the absurdity of not knowing, is what was most real to me. Various people, including various historical figures, talk of their human experience differently. But one can finally see the real person in the context of political absurdity.

Here I was a Japanese man facing an American. And we, as the ones who lost the war understand the true nature of war. I thought the Americans, who won, didn't really understand the reality of war. The Americans wouldn't be able to grasp Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And also, to expect post-war Japanese to understand the suffering of those Chinese women who were raped during the war is impossible.

The political absurdity results in this miscommunication. I think this tendency throughout human history that has been the major factor in deciding our destinies. By being able to understand those things that are hard to describe, those inexplicable things that result in these absurd situations, I think that we are at last able to face what human reality is about.

And I also see poignancy in the absurdity of the countless unknown soldiers dying on the battlefield and consumed by the soil. And a sword fighting scene, the winner strikes a heroic image, but I think the ones who get struck down express a poignancy that captures the true nature of an absurd reality. The one doing the cutting will certainly be splattered in blood, so the blood splattered form of the victor looks more like the one that was killed. I see it more like that sometimes.

I see the absurdity of humanity as one of confronting violence. And I think there is a certain poignancy that comes out of this desire to confront violence. I think that I can bring out the human reality through that sense of poignancy in my films.

I thought that was really great, especially the part about how miscommunication is the major factor in deciding our destinies as humans. Oh, I added the paragraph breaks to try and present it better here. In the interview it's all Shinoda talking in Japanese and when you read the subtitles it's broken up by the text and his gestures and cuts to segments of the film. I wish I knew how make it a video to post on youtube, but I'm both too lazy and I already TYPED it out for you. Anyway, good stuff that makes me want to be a better writer, and pay more attention to what the hell is going on around me.

Here's a flyer for a show everybody should absolutely go to. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is probably something you'll want to see in your life. I hear that Stinking Lizaveta rocks too, so... this should be great. It's in the Ballroom too, so you know it'll be loud and hopefully nuts. I am absolutely going to color this too, so... keep checking back for that.

I've got a couple more flyers on my desk at the moment and a SHITLOAD of comics to get to. So I'll hopefully be back to posting regularly.


Greg said...

Your samurai viewing is not complete until you watch Kibakichi 1 & 2. It's a werewolf samurai. WEREWOLF SAMURAI!!!

John G said...

Noted! Thanks, Greg!