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NYFF 2010. Doppelgangers and Masterworks

• I picked up on something of David Fincher in The Social Network I hadn't noticed before—his appreciation for script's which split his protagonists into dopplegangers.  In this film, the character of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is cast not just as Jesse Eisenberg (in a strong, concrete-like performance of moving singularity) as Zuckerberg, but as Andrew Garfield's sweet best friend, Justin Timberlake's opportunistic nerd-playboy, Rooney Mara's irritated ex-girlfriend, and more.  The film's structure is likewise split across recollections from two different depositions, and is further underlined by having a set of twins be major characters (actually one actor duplicated via special effects!), the references to the two-men crew team, etc.  Thinking back on how Benjamin Button was split across the characters he encounters across different time periods, each reflecting versions of himself and his thinking, Zodiac's obsession being shared between the three major characters and the anonymous killer, Fight Club's infamous character split...Fincher's films strongly exhibit qualities of expressing a singularity (dealt with here) by breaking that piece into many pieces, each versions of others, fitting together into a tonal whole.

• The NYFF's Masterworks sidebar presents an incomplete but highly rewarding retrospective of Japanese New Wave director Masahiro Shinoda.  His second film, Dry Lake (1960) is one of the examples of what I love about the JNW in the early sixties: an equal mix of opportunistic studio exploitation of hip "youth" filmmaking, hit songs, studs in leather jackets and dark shades, the "things" "kids" "do" (boating! parties! sex! no grown ups!) with aggressively, nearly aggravated stylization and a highly topical dose of the politics of the day, protests of the ANPO signing, quasi-revolutionary student political organizations. These two sides are invariably sort-of reconciled in the existential crisis of the bad boy lead, who must decide whether to be a cynically passive wanderer and critic of all, a nihilist to his death, or stand for something.  But really the finest bit of this film is not the lead's crisis but that of the upright, thoughtful, beautiful and virginal girl he likes, played by Shima Iwashita, Shinoda's wife and frequent actress.  Her decision to sleep with someone and the man she chooses are like miniature bombs set off in the film, something led to, thought about, a real decision made by a considerateintelligent character.  And a woman too.  It lends the film serious weight, so much so that I thought (and hoped) the film was simply going to end upon the decision of who Iwashita was going to lose her virginity to, a personal, political, existential, and cinematic statement.  (Shinoda lap-dissolves from a shot of the couple in bed to the rising sun and a title card saying "1960.5" [i.e., May], but the film unfortunately keeps going.)

• Shinoda's third  film, Killers on Parade (1961) is a comic book gangster pastiche a few short steps less pointedly and intellectually aggressively abstract than but several years predatingt Godard's Made in USA, and a film whose bareness and minimization of all natural elements help make it a strong prism through which to see the rest of Shinoda's work as a director.  The film affords many pleasures, but perhaps my favorite moment was when an assassin gets his gun shot out of his hand, and he bends over and spends what feels like hours in a single shot trying to pick the bloodied and slippery revolver from the ground with his cringing, injured fingers, all slathered in what is clearly red paint.  A strange, detailed moment of realism (cloaked in jokey artifice) in a film resolutely abstracted from, yet almost entirely shot in, the real world, Japan, 1961.

• Toru Takemitsu's "Banished Orin" from Shinoda's Ballad of Orin or Melody in Gray (1977), featuring Shima Iwashita:

 

Daniel, do you teach a film theory class? …because you should!
I do not but thanks for the compliment, I think!

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