27 Nov 2015

Widescreen’s best of the web (w/e 27 November)

From Widescreen, 9:37 am on 27 November 2015

Setsuko Hara, legendary star of Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953), as well as dozens of other classics of Japanese cinema, passed away in early September but her family only released the news this week. She was 95. Her career ended abruptly after the death of Ozu in 1962 and it turned out that she had never really wanted to be an actress in the first place. Donald Ritchie writing for Criterion.com:

She was only forty-three years old, and there seemed no reason for her sudden announcement. Whatever, her abrupt manner in doing so was held against her. This was no way for an Ozu character to behave.

Her studio, to which she represented a considerable investment, tried every blandishment, critics howled their disappointment, and there was even talk of her being onnarashikunai—“unwomanly”—a grave insult. She had her reasons, however. She was not Setsuko Hara—she was Masaé Aida. Her screen name all those years had been a studio-built pseudonym. And now, she said, she wanted to be herself again.

This very Setsuko-like reason was given in the Setsuko style, with some hesitation, then sudden smiles breaking through the doubt, but it was the one Hara performance that was not appreciated. For the first time since her 1935 debut, she was severely criticized, not so much for wanting to retire as for the manner in which the desire was presented. There was no polite fiction about bad health or a spiritual imperative or a burning desire to take up charitable work. She simply retired, moved to a small house in Kamakura (where so many of her films with Ozu were set), and was never seen again. The Setsuko Hara we have known and loved, Japan’s own idolized Eternal Virgin, now exists only on the silver screen; that old maid down in Kamakura is largely forgotten, the object of some idle curiosity, but not much.


The story of Rocky Balboa gets another chapter this week as the mantle gets passed to Apollo Creed’s son Adonis in Ryan Coogler’s new film Creed. The release has prompted some people to dig out this great 1979 article by Roger Ebert in which he watches Rocky II with Muhammad Ali and his entourage:

"For the black man to come out superior," Ali said, "would be against America's teachings. I have been so great in boxing they had to create an image like Rocky, a white image on the screen, to counteract my image in the ring. America has to have its white images, no matter where it gets them. Jesus, Wonder Woman, Tarzan and Rocky."


Home video is booming but the video store itself is dying. If they can’t be saved by philanthropy or community action, we won’t be getting our viewing tips from experts on minimum wage much longer. Dennis Perkins has worked in video stores for 25 years in and around Portland, Maine, and he writes about  what we are losing for Vox:

Over the years, we'd come to know our customers' tastes, their pet peeves, and their soft spots. Our experience and movie expertise helped us make informed, intuitive leaps to find and fulfill entertainment needs they didn't even always know they had. I've had parents hug me for introducing their kids to Miyazaki and The Iron Giant. Nice old ladies have baked me cookies for starting them off on The Wire. People knew they could come in with the vaguest description — "This guy has an eye patch, and I think there's a mariachi band" — and we'd figure out they were looking for Cutter's Way. Other times, they'd take a recommendation for Walking and Talking and come back saying, "Just give me everything Nicole Holofcener's ever done." If someone asked me for a great comedy, my first question was invariably, "What's one comedy you've seen that you think is hilarious?" I've spent 20 minutes refining exactly how scary was too scary when picking out a horror movie. It's a skill set you develop, a sensitivity to just the right vibrations of interest and aversion. 


[*May not be the actual best. We haven't read the entire internet.]