Until I saw Neruda, I had no idea what a selfish jerk poet cum senator Pablo Neruda was. I just thought he wrote beautiful romantic poetry. He was also a senator for the Communist party and gave a controversial speech against the Chilean president. In response, the president orders Neruda’s arrest and the libertine churl goes underground.
The film isn’t exactly a biopic as it’s told completely from the point of view of Oscar Peluchonneau, a police officer played by Gael García Bernal, who’s the Ahab to Neruda’s white whale. This police officer imagined that his real father was a legendary police officer and he wants to prove himself by capturing Neruda. Throughout the film the officer narrates and comments on Neruda and waxes eloquently on the pursuit’s significance.
I had no interest in Neruda who had no concern for his friends who were risking their lives to keep him safe. If he felt like a walk to the local brothel, he’d go no matter how that might expose both him and his friends.
I found the central character obnoxious and the voice overs were soon annoying. I so disliked Neruda, who was full of hot air in his political career, with little real concern for the poor people he grew up with that I’m not sure anything could make me like the film. However, it did win the 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film so some writers did like it.
Directed by Kurosawa, No Regrets for Our Youth surprised me as it’s the story of a young woman by a director whose prolific body of work otherwise emphasised male characters. The heroine Yukie is carefree and playful at the start of the film. She has no use for anything serious. The film opens with Yukie strolling through the mountains with her father’s university students. When they come to a shallow creek, she halts and waits for someone to rescue her.
Noge, a very political, man of action carries her across the water that seems about three inches deep. On the sidelines looking awkward is his friend Itokawa who has feelings for Yukie, but is too shy and unsure of himself to do anything. Yukie likes teasing men more than anything and plays Noge and Itokawa off each other.
As political tensions rise in Japan leading up to WWII, Yukie’s father is fired by the government because he’s spoken out against military aggression. Made after the war No Regrets for Our Youth, contains several scenes with characters discussing the importance of academic freedom, free speech and the importance of self sacrifice when working towards a greater good. Both Yukie’s father and Noge, who is arrested and imprisoned pay for their ideals.
After seven years, Yukie leaves her hometown Kyoto, to work in Tokyo. Here she bumps into Itokawa who’s continued to play it safe. He’s a lawyer and is married. He’s kept in touch with Noge, who’s just been released. Now Yukie’s matured somewhat and when she sees Noge again she’s willing to give up a conventional life to risk life with a rebel.
Soon Noge is arrested and she’s imprisoned, questioned and eventually released. We’re not entirely sure of what Noge did with his underground work but he says that in 10 years the Japanese will thank him and Yukie. From then on Yukie’s life is full of hardship, hardship she voluntarily takes on despite protests from her parents and Noge’s parents. It’s amazing to see someone who was such a flibbertigibbet turn into an honest to goodness heroine.
While the film was made early in Kurosawa’s career and lacks the mastery of later films, No Regrets of Our Youth tells a compelling story and enlightened me on anti-war protests in Japan prior to and during WWII.
Rather fitting that this gets posted above Promised Land. It’s of the same ilk, an ilk I do favor.
If The West Wing offers the kind of politics, I dream of, Boss shows the kind of politics I fear we have, i.e. Tales from the Dark Side of Power, Greed and Lust.
On my flight from Beijing I discovered Kelsey Grammer’s Boss, a high testosterone drama about a fictitious Chicago mayor trying to control city and Illinois politics while hiding his degenerative neurological disorder. Longtime mayor Tom Kane (Grammer) combines Richard Daley and King Lear. Kane’s wife Meredith is a cold-blooded daughter of the former mayor. His daughter has a character that I couldn’t buy. She appears to be a Presbyterian minister who runs a free medical clinic, uses heroine and has sex with her drug dealer. Her theology is quite severe and Biblically literal, yet she only lives out an isolated form of social justice. She seems to have no friends and the mentality of a schizophrenic. I found her character a set up for audience stimulation with little believability, though the actress is compelling.
His staff consists of a taciiturn chief of staff, who has thugs on speed dial and a blonde bombshell with a highly calibrated libido so she can up the show’s heat.
More intriguing characters are a reporter who’s sniffing around sensing that something’s wrong with the mayor’s health while also investigating corruption and wrong doing emanating from the mayor’s office. The Illinois governor and his up and coming challenger illustrate how the mayor is the most influential politician in the state.
I watched four episodes so I was pulled in despite my the female characters. I pretty much figure that the writers are going to fall short of Shakespeare in their ability to write about both genders.
Diane Rehm at WMU (Photo credit: Jay P.)
Diane Rehm hosted a fascinating panel on China-US Relations. Her panelists clarified the recent events that could be hard to really understand when so many news sources oversimplify.
I made my way through Iron Lady, the Margaret Thatcher biopic with Meryl Streep. While I agree Streep should be commended for her portrayal of Thatcher, I can’t say I’d want to sit through the film again. It’s an interesting take in some respects, but I had to make myself resume watching as I found the foggy look back at Thatcher’s life through the fog of dementia got old after awhile.
I liked the opening scenes with an old, retired Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher slipping out to get some milk at a mom and pop store, and I stayed with the film in the beginning as it cut back and forth between the time of Thatcher’s later years when memories of her past and hallucinations of her jovial dead husband come up unbidden (yet in more or less chronological order) and the start of her career. Yet as the movie progressed and the film never headed for deeper water, I got bored.
I learned that Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter and that she had idolized her father who espoused staunch “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” conservatism. She got accepted at Oxford and we don’t see much of her days there. It seems Oxford didn’t get her to change or deepen her thinking one iota. Evidently, university wasn’t an important part of her life. I must remind myself that since the story is seen through the eyes of someone with dementia the narrator isn’t reliable. (Not a technique I’d use for a biopic after seeing this.) Soon the film jumps to Maggie’s catching the eye of Denis Thatcher at a political meeting and they’re soon married. Denis starts out as a progressive man who is attracted to Margaret’s strength, but as the movie continues he’s sort of a cheerleader with few ideas of substance to offer his political wife.
After some speech lessons and media coaching Margaret soon manages to get elected as the first female Prime Minister of the U.K. With overhead shots of a sole light blue suited woman amongst a herd of dark suited men and one white pair of white pumps surrounded by a dozen brown Oxfords, Iron Lady offers us strong images accentuating the gender imbalance Thatcher faced. I do applaud her for making her way into this Old Boy’s Club, yet I felt it was too bad that apparently she didn’t bother to bring in even one other woman.
The scenes when Thatcher had to make hard decisions regarding the Falkland Islands and economic policy present us with a real iron lady, but Thatcher also seems to be a woman with one idea and no friends whatsoever. She does grieve over an aide who died when the IRA planted a car bomb, but there was no dimension to that friendship. There isn’t much dimension to any of the relationships or ideology. From this I suppose Thatcher was as flat and simple as Reagan, her pal.
I appreciate the demands of the film which required that Streep play an ambitious politician who has to fight for her place at the table and a faltering, once powerful woman, aware that her mind’s playing tricks. In the end that wasn’t enough. I grew tired of the shifting from the present to the past.
I know what dementia’s like and it’s a losing battle, thus not one I’d choose for a main character. I also found myself judging her children and the Brits for not providing adequate care for their aging Prime Minister. Surely, Thatcher wasn’t the first P.M. to decline this way. Why would she be left on her own so much? Why would those who care for her have that amateurish “Oh, she’s losing it” surprise that people who aren’t experts in dementia have (which the patient’s aware of and hates)?
In the end I wish they’d have sacrificed some of the cool images and given us more depth of character.