Amoeblog

Contact Highs, Lows: Awaiting Mad Men, Loving Kurosawa's High and Low

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, February 6, 2010 01:23pm | Post a Comment
I can't say I've ever counted myself as a big fan of Akira Kurosawa's films, but I can say that, despite having never completed a healthy film study of the man's abundant works, I've heartily enjoyed Kurosawa film I've seen, the latest being a first time viewing of his 1963 thriller High and Low (Tengoku to Jikoku).
akira kurosawa high and low movie review criterion dvd balck and white 1963
I love a film that is simultaneously heavy on the symbolism and rife with gorgeously composed frame after jaw-dropping frame of gray scale captured with every possible shade and highlight of true black and true white intact. The good people at Criterion love this sort of film too, perhaps almost as much as they love Kurosawa's handiwork (more than twenty-six of his films can be obtained as Criterion Collection issued DVDs), or perhaps almost as much as Kurosawa loved to cast internationally acclaimed film star Toshiro Mifune as his leading man (I reckon Mifune has Kurosawa to thank for his fame and good fortune). There's a lot of love in the room. But what really makes this cinematic gem sparkle and shine presently in my eyes is the fact that it took a little of the edge off of my pining for the release of the Mad Men Season Three DVD set.
akira kurosawa film review high and low toshiro mifune 1963 criterion collection dvd
High and Low is the first full-length Kurosawa film I've seen that wasn't a period piece (which also means that it was my first look at Mifune in a suit and tie instead of his de rigeur samurai threads) and I'd like to think that it offers an somewhat accurate look at an affluent family living in 1960's urban Japan. I find the overall look of the interior sets very similar to Mad Men, save for occasional signs of traditional and cultural differences that mark the setting as somewhere other than Madison Avenue, which is a reminder of how long we've all been living under the some of the same aesthetic influences. The story, however, is a clean cut one with as complicated a network of writing credits as one can get (which in all probability resembles Mad Men more than I'll ever know), what with director Kurosawa teaming up with Eijiro Hisaita, Ryuzo Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni to adapt a screenplay loosley based on Hayakawa Shobo's translation of Evan Hunter's novel King's Ransom, written by Hunter under the pen name Ed McBain --- whew! I can only hope there was a lot of love in the room for all those involved!
akira kurosawa high and low dvd film review toshiro mifune 1963 criterion collection
Storywise, High and Low reads like a detective thriller and plays like film noir. Short of saying, "don't take my word for it, find out for yourself" (cheers to you, Levar Burton), High and Low stays busy with plot complications unfolding like a budding branch succumbing to rising heat all the while dazzling the eyes with a veritable smorgasbord location settings (a glorious beach, a summer home in the mountains, a garden in full blossom, a booming port-side dancehall, back alleys dripping with smack addicts, crowded police briefing rooms, a hot hospital waiting room, corridors of speeding commuter train) and stellar cinematography. All of this framing the eerie quiet of a well-feathered nest about to unravel and a man who finds himself (and his loved ones) caught in the center of a no-win shit-storm. This is a great movie.
high and low akira kurosawa film dvd criterion toshiro mifune 1963
One thing that I'd like to mention: the original title of the film, Tengoku to Jikoku, when directly translated from the Japanese reads as Heaven and Hell. However, I understand why the translator here chose to affix what appears to be a pretty-near-but-not-plum, slight mis-translation of the title in favor of more straightforward, unassuming one. I believe the reason for going with the title High and Low is suggestive of the many interpretations such a header provides for a complex film steeped in multiple struggles operating on many levels be it class-related, or altered emotional, behavioral or mental states of being. In any case, the title is a beginning in more ways than one; this movie has stayed in my thoughts for days and highs and lows keep surfacing. Maybe a Kurosawa bender is in order. Or maybe just more noir-y, Mad Men reminiscent films to further dull the longing. Maybe both.

Cartoons

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 6, 2010 11:14am | Post a Comment

February 5, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 6, 2010 12:16am | Post a Comment
Frozen movie ticket stub


A Giacometti sculpture sells for an ungodly amount of $$

Posted by Whitmore, February 5, 2010 09:58pm | Post a Comment
Alberto Giacometti record setting auction
Crisis, what financial crisis!?
 
Earlier this week at Sotheby's Auction House in London, a rare life-size bronze statue by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966), L'homme qui marche I (Walking Man I) broke the record as the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. You’d better sit down for this: $104.3 million. The “fast and furious” bidding was over in less than eight minutes. According to Sotheby's, at least 10 people were in on the trying to pin down the iconic cast. The final price was five times higher than the pre-auction estimate.
 
The price, which includes the buyer's premium, barely eclipsed Pablo Picasso's Garcon a la Pipe, which sold at auction for $104.2 million in New York in 2004. But that was back in the heady days of the boom -- fast flying Wall Street, Krug Clos du Mesnil Champagne breakfasts, Clay Aiken CD’s, real estate’s unstoppable climb -- back then Facebook was just a blip in the dotcom ether. This astounding auction result suggests that though the financial crisis still looms, the art market has survived and its doomed collapse and catastrophic time bomb is no longer ticking down.
 
The bronze of a man walking, cast in 1961, was first acquired in December of that year by legendary New York art dealer Sidney Janis, who bought it from the Galerie Maeght in Paris. Janis debut it at his gallery in 1968. This time around, the statue was sold by the German banking firm Commerzbank AG,Alberto Giacometti who obtained it in 2009 when they took over the Dresdner Bank. Dresdner had purchased the sculpture in 1980.
 
Giacometti's previous personal best at auction took place back in 2008, at Christie's New York for the piece Grand Femme Debout II, (1959-60). That piece sold for a relatively paltry $27,481,000.
 
William Barrett, author of the classic mid-century study, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (1962) wrote that the attenuated forms of Giacometti's figures reflected the existentialist view that modern life was empty and increasingly devoid of any meaning. "All the sculptures of today, like those of the past, will end one day in pieces... So it is important to fashion ones work carefully in its smallest recess and charge every particle of matter with life." Giacometti claimed his forms were not based on the human figure but the shadow that it cast.
 
Just before the Sotheby’s auction, the buzz on the street was that the Giacometti might actually hit $50 million, though all the heavy hitters scoffed at such a ridiculous notion. No one in their right mind thought it would hit and top $100 million.
 
Sotheby's of course did not identify the buyer, saying only that it was an anonymous telephone bidder.

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Little Tokyo

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 5, 2010 01:12pm | Post a Comment
This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Little Tokyo. To vote for other neighborhoods to be the subject of a blog entry, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

Little Tokyo Village Plaza
Little Tokyo Village Plaza

INTRODUCTION TO LITTLE TOKYO


Map of Little Tokyo
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Little Tokyo


Little Tokyo (or 小東京) is a small neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles. It's generally considered to be bordered on the west by Los Angeles Street, on the east by Alameda Street, on the south by Third Street, and on the north by First Street.

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