Major Kusanagi’s jump from the top of a building into the dark, gigantic urban jungle background is inevitably the highlight of the film. As a cyberpunk movie, Ghost in a Shell inherited the futurist and postmodern urban setting like the ones from Blade Runner (1982), with ubiquitous high-rises, flickering digital screens and rotating animated projections. Though obviously a duplicate of the skyline of Hong Kong, the 3D effect of city created by the latest CI technology has improved tremendously compared with the augmented film scenes in Blade Runner from the 80s. One day when the digital technology is mature enough to present such settings via virtual reality glasses, it would probably be another step closer towards the cyber-world that is depicted in the movie.
This is a film about 1930s Shanghai and its gangster past during the chaotic Japanese occupation period.
As a Chinese film, it is a nice piece of work that entails a sophisticated storyline and a unique style of art-house aesthetics, while still maintains its clear commercial intentions. With an all-star cast, it depicts the stories happening around three leading characters including a ruthless gangster leader (You Ge), a Shanghaiese- speaking Japanese spy (Tadanobu Asano) and a lustful concubine (Ziyi Zhang) of a gangster boss. Each of them was after something they wanted during the wartime, and all thought that they had had full control of the situation during the process of pursuing, while the end is pretty much tragic for all of them.
To me the film pays tribute to a wartime era where everything was unpredictable, all relationships seemed fragile, and people’s fate could turn into different directions at a blink of an eye. This might be the case for any wartime stories, however there seems to be an extra level of fascination involved when they are told in the 1930s Shanghai — back then a city under influences of different political parties, east and west cultures, while the local gangster groups still dominated the backend of the city’s criminal activities, and determined the ways things should be done in many circumstances.
I especially like the touch about the lives of a few supporting roles who have side stories that are peripheral to the main storyline. They include a maid who served the gangster family loyally but died as a victim as the result of a revenge spree by an enemy group, a dying gangster chauffeur who got rescued by a prostitute and then fell in love with her, and an actress who rejected the courting from the gangster’s top leader and hoped to get back with her estranged husband. They help the audience to catch a glimpse of people’s mentality during that era, where everything had some sort of unspoken rules, but they could also be steered away as lust and caution intervened.
The Chinese title, which literally means “A history of disappearing romance”, conveys a sense of both nostalgia and melancholy. With the end of war, aspects of the wartime humanity, genuine or distorted, all started to fall apart and became powerless, to a point that all comments seem absurd and further interpretation no longer seem necessary.
It’s been a while since the last time I watched a stage show in a small theatre…and I forgot what an intimate experience this can be. What made me feel this way are two Japanese theatre productions at Arts House Melbourne as part of the AsiaTOPA festival.
Both productions deal with the topic of 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, reflecting on the disaster’s impact on people’s living with a close glimpse to their inner minds. The simple settings on stage open up a new dimension where my attention is exclusively dedicated to the stage and the performance happening there.It hence becomes quite intimate — like witnessing a tragic process that interweaves the past and the future, the deceased and the lived and is something that is very delicate, fragile and easy to be overlooked if not contemplated carefully.
The first production: Time’s Journey Through a Room is about a man’s dialogue with the spirit of his deceased wife and his new girl friend, revealing his desperation for hope while also a sense of frustration of being worn out by the sadness.
The second production: Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance is a performance involving simultaneous interpretation of a woman’s voice talking about her husband who died in the earthquake. Performed by one person with headphones on, the production also uses a projection of moving images in the background as the person does the oral interpretation. Her shadow projected on the background creates a special presence of a person among the images of objects and sceneries.
Each of the two shows has a unique way of depicting the character’s mental reaction to their loss at the natural disaster, by gently letting the character’s voice being heard with a series of subtle and distinct expressions. They captured moments after a person is finally settling in the fact about death of the loved one and is trying to get on with life. Somehow, making sense of the unforgettable is actually helping the lived ones to forget, to move on and in this case, to heal as part of a national tragedy.
I am not a big Japanese anime fan, and sometimes would prefer to keep a distance from watching them, mostly because I see animation as something that happens in a world parallel to the reality.
To me I’m not really sure which one I like better — The theme song “Zen Zen Zense” or the film itself. The film is a love story involving the switching of destiny and identity between a boy and a girl who met in the alternation of space and time. Complicated as it may sound, everything becomes crystal clear once “Zen Zen Zense” starts to play, as it nicely fills the gaps of the bitter sweetness of unreachable love depicted in the film.
The lyric line of Zen Zen Zense [前前前世] – even though it is just a simple phrase describing “past past past lives (many many many lives before… )”,the perfect rhythm gives the line an extra layer of power and firmness that echos in my mind. The dreamworld in the film has been brought even closer to me by this song, to an extend that it crossovers with the reality and sparks endless emotions and pictures about love, destiny and the boundaries that make them even more cherishable.
Zen Zen Zense in a nice female voice: