Sunday, April 13, 2008

May's Film of the Month

Greetings. I’m Girish Shambu, and I’m a cinephile who runs an eponymous film-blog. I work as an associate prof at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. (I don't teach cinema; I’m an engineer.)

Chris asked if I’d make the debut selection for our film club, and I’ve chosen Kazuo Hara’s documentary, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987).

I've given myself a deadline: I'll put up a post here on Monday, May 19. By giving you a specific date, I thought it might help you plan your viewing accordingly. And having a deadline helps me too.

I’ve seen none of Hara’s films although I’ve been hearing and reading about them for years. Four of his documentaries were released to region-1 DVD about a year ago. Of his films, The Emperor’s Naked Army has the strongest reputation. It was the subject of a book, by Jeffrey and Kenneth Ruoff, which was reviewed by Akira Lippit in the spring 2000 issue of Film Quarterly.

If you prefer to see the film “cold” without reading anything about it, please do so. Otherwise, here are a couple of reviews for you to look at:

-- Doug Cummings at Film Journey. [scroll down a bit]

-- Lindsay Nelson at Midnight Eye.

See you back here in a little over a month!

19 comments:

Tucker said...

Thanks Girish. Hara's film is now on my list. I look forward to your post.

girish said...

Thanks, Tucker. If I have time, I also plan to netflix one or two of his other films. Perhaps they'll help illuminate this one a bit more when I see it.

Gareth said...

I couldn't track down the Film Quarterly review mentioned by girish, so perhaps this is repetitious, but the book on The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On is very brief, so certainly well-suited to preparatory reading for a "film of the month" exercise: the text is just 44 pages long, plus notes.

From what I can tell, it's part of a series that looks rather like the BFI series, but which is no longer adding new titles. Now to see the film!

tom hughes said...

I've ordered the film on DVD from the U.S, and eagerly await its arrival!

girish said...

I've just put in an ILL for the Ruoff & Ruoff book.

roujin said...

I've been putting off watching this film and other Kazuo Hara flicks. This might be the kick that I've needed

girish said...

The Akira Lippit Film Quarterly review is available through JSTOR.

Walrus said...

Great pick Girish. Strangely, I was just recommending this film to a coworker not 4 hours ago. I'm looking forward to, amongst other things, some interesting dicussions of filmmaker and interviewer ethics.

Flickhead said...

I may have to bow out on this title. I can't get through twenty minutes of it without nodding off.

I hope this doesn't get me expelled from the club.

girish said...

That's okay, Flickhead. You can join in on later films of the month. We shouldn't make participation 'mandatory' for all films, but instead give ourselves the freedom to take part if and when we feel like.

Scott Balcerzak said...

I am honestly at a point in my academic career where I am crunching on final dissertation rewrites. So I cannot promise I can have time to view this film and post. Though this blog is a great idea.
But it is an awesome film choice. I saw this a few years back in a graduate seminar on Deleuze. I need to look back at my syllabus as to what context. The class was taught by Scott Nygren, who recently wrote on time and Japanese cinema in his book Time Frames.
The film is a chore at times, but worth the effort - especially if you do some research as to the history of it. It says a lot about history, trauma, and memory in some disturbingly confrontational ways.

girish said...

Thanks for the tip, Scott. I've just put in an ILL for Scott Nygren's book, which I didn't know about.

Thom said...

Hey guys, just joined the Club. Love the idea. Girish, I've haven't seen your selection before, or anything else by the filmmaker for that matter, so I'm really looking forward to viewing, reading your post(s), and the ensuing discussion.

Tucker said...

I'm currently working my way through the film - in between a number of other obligations on my time. I'm about 20+ minutes into it and I am deeply moved. What a subtle, powerful film. I am curious as to where it will end up. When I am done I hope to find some time to write something about it. thanks Girish for the suggestion.

HarryTuttle said...

Nice choice Girish and thanks for the advance notification so we could prepare and watch the film (I had to download it cause it's was not being screened over here... I know it's bad).

The beginning looks crazy and messy but after 40 minutes it really gets going and much more fascinating, reaching another level of documentary making. So don't give up on it.

P.S. by the way, it would be nice if the next film was posted soon to be able to prepare and to look forward, like Girish did. If anyone has an idea for June already go ahead.

girish said...

Thom, Tucker, Harry -- I just received via inter-lib. loan the 50-page book on this film, which I'm looking forward to reading. And I'm also planning to see Hara's Goodbye CP (1972) and Extreme Private Eros Love Song 1974 (1974) in the next couple of weeks if I can manage it between scads of end-of-the-semester grading.

I think Naked Army will produce some good discussion.

girish said...

Re: upcoming presenters and their sequence, my suggestion would be to defer to Chris and have him make the decisions.

I don't think we should oblige members to announce films early (i.e. before the beginning of 'their' month) but like Harry says, it wouldn't hurt to do so whenever possible, esp. since we have some non-US-based members who might need a little extra time to acquire a film.

HarryTuttle said...

If I may recommend other optional complementary viewing: Oshima's Night and Fog in Japan (1960), Imamura's A Man Vanishes (1967), Lanzmann's Shoah (1985) and Rithy Panh's S-21 (2001) will probably come up in the discussion on the interrogatory procedures of this documentary. If anyone feels like giving it a try.

Marc Raymond said...

Unfortunately, the screening showing at the Seoul Cinematheque does not have English subtitles. I still look forward to your comments.