Friday, April 10, 2009

Violent Cop

In this series on movies that are important to me and how I view film, I start with, of all things, a highly obscure Japanese police film. Not only that, I don't even remember the story for the most part, and what little I do remember is quite generic. It's a movie about a violent cop, and some people who mess with said violent cop, and some other stuff happens. So, why do I even bring it up? Clearly I'm no expert on it.

The reason why lies in a bunch of French film critics from the 50s and 60s. Apart from eating copious amounts of cheese and doing other stereotypically french things, they had this theory called the "auteur theory". It stated that the director of a film was the ultimate author (or auteur if you're French) of the final product. It's a good theory, even if auteur is probably not the right word to use. It's more like the arranger of a musical piece. The notes and words are all laid out beforehand, but the arranger makes them into the final product. A great arranger - and I'm going to be mentioning stuff that has appeared on Album du Jour because that's what got me thinking about this - will take someone else's song and through their talent and style, make it into something their own. See, every Johnny Cash cover ever. A bad arranger will take a great song - let's say Warren Zevon's Poor Poor Pitiful Me - and turn it into an awful country song with a strange glimmer of good beneath the rubble (Terri Clark is the culprit in this case). That's the same thing that separates a great director from a bad one.

The point I'm circling around like a procrastinating shark is that there was one movie that finally made me believe in the auteur theory, if my own variation on it. It's a movie with a fairly typical script which a Japanese actor and television personality, most recognizable from that MXC show of all things, decided to direct after the original director fell ill. He's become one of my favorite directors, though he does all of his own scripts now, scripts which are becoming progressively stranger and don't seem to attempt to make sense anymore. This is the first film directed by Takeshi Kitano, and it's probably the most atypical typical movie I've ever seen.

It's all in how it's shot, a style apparently born out of inexperience but that is striking and fascinating. Reportedly the heavy emphasis on static shots was derived from a fear of getting equipment in frame, but it's striking and bold. The sequence I remember most involves a chase scene which has all of the energy and excitement drained out of it. It makes a point about chase scenes, and the futility of the escape. Yet, it does this by being the opposite of how most people would have shot the scene. It's better in spite of being, from a purely objective and film school-y standpoint, wrong.

The film is made of sequences shot in a way that nobody in their right might would have done, and stronger for it. It takes a typical script, and treats it in a way that acts almost as a commentary on the story it's trying to tell. Objectively, it's wrong, bearing no relation to how a film is expected to look. But subjectively, it's genius. It sold me on auteur theory simply by being a film nobody else would make. That's why a film I barely remember is one of the most important to how I view film.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! Indeed I can see what you mean with the comparison. I personally love Takeshi Kitano, even if I have very limited experience with his stuff. I've seen his crazy video game though, and he seems to be pretty awesome at anything he decides to twist with his demented sense of humor. Even the title of the movie is awesome!