Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bushido-Lite



image borrowed from bing


Bushido-Lite

“Bushido can only be realized in the presence of death--chosing
death over life, accepting this as truth, as closure.”
--Yamamoto Tsunetomo. 


Sometimes we approach much heralded & celebrated art like school children, only hearing the parroting praise, only seeing what was already described by the experts, the critics, the intellectuals, and that represents a sadness, a shame, almost hypocrisy for the individual unable or unwilling to liberate their own opinions on what they have experienced--because as ill-equipped as some of us might be to discuss opera or Op Art, or the fecundity of O’Keefe’s sexual flower paintings, or the emotion found in the dangerous drippings from Pollock, or Klee’s bi-polar linear madness, still we need, we must share, accurately and honestly, the rage, bile, or rapture we felt post-exposure to a painting, performance, pantomime or film. 

Case in point, the classic French film Noir, LE SAMOURAI (1967), showered with accolades, with a rare 100% critic’s approval, & a high 93% audience approval, considered an essential existential crime drama, influencing John Woo’s THE KILLER, & Jim Jarmusch’s GHOST DOG, & Luc Besson’s LEON, & Walter Hill’s LAST MAN STANDING; directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, a veteran crime drama creator--this film being considered his best, finally released in the original French version, after we all suffered in 1972 with the American release, severely truncated, re-edited, & overdubbed, & wearing the lame title of THE GODSON. 

This is a very dark tale of a meticulous assassin, who lives alone in a rundown secluded apartment, inconspicuous, hiding in plain sight, a Spartan existence, with a monk’s simplicity & a strict adherence to his own vocational code--with only one spark of life in this black on gray domicile, a bird in a cage. This is a color film, but most of it was shot in deep shadows & at night, giving it a Noir feel & essence. 

A film like this, with its sterling reputation, held in such high esteem, was a movie I expected a lot from. The lexicon of Assassin films is lengthy, dark & deep, so I hoped to see something fresh, gritty, & original, something deeply rooted to yakuza, bushido, & samurai traditions. There was an existential component to it as we watched Alain Delon maneuvering himself into a full tilt tragic end, but I must say, as flat-affected, dull, & insipid as the movie turned out to be, the primary weakness of it was the casting of Delon in the lead. His matinee good looks, his rumpled Bogart/Columbo raincoat, & his strained attempts at coolness seemed wrong, off-center, out of balance.

I wanted, needed to see Jean Reno, Yves Montand, or Gerard Depardieu as Costello; someone with a lived-in face, deeply lined  chiseled, with life’s weariness in his slight stoop, in his heavy shoulders, with the potential for believable violence springing from his killer sinews, effortless toughness rather than Delon’s stiffness, effeminate posing & pretenses that emerged as awkward sophomoric shuffling.

I needed, wanted to see an accurate realistic portrayal of pain, a propensity for violence behind his fierce stare, a rage, an anger predicated on a misspent youth, time in the joint, death deep in his eyes, a string of victims implied, strung out in piles of bodies in unnamed alleys, left in dumpsters & shallow graves, the coldness of a professional mechanic coupled to zero guilt, misplaced pride, and a fondness for firearms & martial arts; a Bronson, Statham, Palance, Widmark, Marvin, or even Ladd--I pined for sharing some time with Willis in a dirty T-shirt cleaning his weapons behind a pile of new ammunition, for some connection to bushido, some whisper of Kurosawa, one or two Mifune stares, a Nakadai burst of perfect violence, a Katsu hiss of killing blades--but instead received just cover boy Delon operating in a vacuous state of disbelief, posing in Borselinos & expensive suits, standing stilted in shadows, & prancing in & out of stolen Citroens.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

Would you like to hear the author read this Prose Poem to you?

18 comments:

Mary said...

Hi Glenn, I had not heard of this film....but enjoyed your film review with all the knitty-gritty details. I probably wouldn't see it, as I assume it would be pretty violent, and violence in films is not my fortè. It was interesting to me that you seemed not to agree with the high rating & thought some other actors might have played the part better.

Gabriella said...

Ha, ha i am French and I have never seen this film but, of course, I have heard about it. I wonder how it has aged since not all movies age well. You seem to know French actors quite well, Glenn. I like Montand and Reno but am not too fond of Depardieu.

Brian Miller said...

ha. cool a movie review as poetic prose...i will say if more were i may actually read them, you know....smiles....the subtle repetitions in needed/wanted but flipped is cool....as to the review its honest as well and doesnt kiss butt...so it works for me....smiles.

Claudia said...

a movie rises and fall with the people who play the characters - i think that real good actors even can make a very weak movie at least middle class... ha - that was the most uncommon film crit i ever read

grapeling said...

I was going to say my former step mother used to compare me to Alain Delon, but somehow think that would come of unfavorably. Perhaps I'm as shallow as he, in which case the switch you stripped from the willow tree behind the barn, and used to flay M. Delon, would be aptly applied. The last two paragraphs are the most purple-prosed in this movie review, and I think strongly embody Sam's prompt. ~

Victoria` said...

The film was unknown to me. Your approach to the prompt is unique. Enjoyed the contrast between an assassin and a monk and really like what you did with the beginning of those two paragraphs: wanted/needed and needed/wanted.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

An excellent review Glenn of the pain of disappointment.

I attend an occasional art review and generally leave not long after the 'luvvies' parrot praise work that is just, well... (I lose interest at this point.)

Long live our own opinions!

Anna :o]

Björn said...

Excellent use of poetry in a film review... I really thank you (though I had not yet considered watching)... And reading bad reviews are so much more fun than reading praise...

Beachanny said...

I like the way you knit this together and pulled it apart. I haven't seen the film because I don't generally like to see this kind of things - staying far away from ledges overhanging a dark abyss; however I went with my daughter's family this week to see "Lone Survivor". I wonder if it technically or in any way references this movie. It is a variation on the story being true to the tale of the Seals fighting in Afghanistan. Well written, sir. Thanks for the comment on mine too.

bwfiction said...

A good review, but to me a statement that men who have embraced savagery and death are marked - in the flesh or spirit that is apparent to those of us who dream of being heroes.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Did anybody notice that my last paragraph/stanza was only one sentence--kind of Faulkner of me.

madhatterpoetry.com said...

You make an excellent point that as people, not parrots, we should express our differing opinions honestly!

Marina Sofia said...

Unusual use of a prose poem, but I can go with that!
I actually rather like Alain Delon myself (well, I'm only a feeble female after all...), but perhaps not so much in this film. He's perfect in Purple Noon (Plein Soleil).

Lydia said...

I bet most movie reviewers, a passionate lot for sure, would tell us that what they write is pure poetry. And you proved it here!

Kate Mia said...

Well..it was the 60's after all..a new ear..of the end of patriarchy and i guess reflected at that time..too..even in the most manly of genre's.. the killer for hire..

And now with special effects..there is little character left at all..the death of so much emotion..that is so clear..in the movies of yesteryear..when the human is the star..instead of the set...

The depth of all human emotions..says it all to me..i don't need fireworks..to live..give me love give me movement..but don't shower me with glitz...

Anyway..when i come here..i enjoy what used to be..true theater....and the expression of it...

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

How innovative - movie review as prose poem! And it is that. I love the rhythms, the images, the music of your language.

Raivenne said...

This was unique as a movie review and yet scathingly honest in its delivery. The opening paragraph, but especially the closing one are beautiful in its prose and perfectly suited to the prompt. I empathize in that I often find it hard to watch some Film Noir for similar reasons. My modern, jaded mind often finds it hard to set itself in the mindset of that time period, where a Delon would be even remotely believable in such a role.

Semaphore said...

Film review as prose poem - once again, you push the boundaries of the form, and I am taken aback with amazement! I once wrote a poem with the stricture of using a recipe (ingredients and instructions) as the framework - and this creation of yours is equally audacious. I may borrow this idea one day, it is so good, but for now, all I can say is "Bravo!"