XL Popcorn – Throne of Blood / Through the Olive Trees

So continueth the dictated film reviews! Damn this wrist!

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jô)
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Year: 1957
Country: Japan

And now it is off to Japan and we are in the very capable hands of Akira Kurosawa. One of the first Kurosawa films I ever saw was Ran when he interpreted Shakespeare’s King Lear in a masterful way. For this film he has taken on MacBeth. Due to the nature of the story of MacBeth Kurosawa is able to do more straightforward interpretation, the flavor it with Japanese history.

I adore how he represented the three witches. Instead we have one spirit at a spinning wheel, much like the Fates of Greek mythology. In fact, by referring to the surroundings as of Spider Web Forest a lot of the symbolism is already there. To be honest I wish we had a literal translation of the film’s title for the international release. Spider Web Castle is far more effective, in my opinion.

In this adaptation, so much credit to the work of its version of Lady MacBeth. Isuzu Yamada hits all of the beats dead on. She is downright spooky as she convinces her husband to murder the Great Lord of the castle. Even down to the way she walks is otherworldly. It was not for the breakdown she has at the end, you would think she had been the forest spirit all along. Toshiro Mifune as always gives a stellar performance as the lead (aka MacBeth), but I don’t think he will ever top Rashomon for me.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I am now actively trying to reach 10 different countries in a row, I would be watching another samurai film. Maybe later.

Title: Through the Olive Trees (Zire darakhatan zeyton)
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Year: 1994
Country: Iran

It has been a number of years since I last watched an Iranian film. I’ve always been curious about the work of Abbas Kiarostami but I never knew where to begin. So I started with this film, which is the last film in a trilogy. Bravo Peter! In my defence is the only film from a trilogy in the 1001 film list.

Through the Olive Trees is one of those films that plays with the documentary format. If I had watched the previous film in the trilogy I would understand better what the first scene was about. We join an Iranian film crew shooting a film where two locals are playing a couple. However, in real life the boy has already tried to propose to the girl. He was rejected by her grandmother for he did not have a house and is a functionally illiterate.

He clearly adores her, but after having his proposal refused the girl will not speak to him. Ergo, he spends the entire film, pretty much, trying to get an answer from her. Is under the impression that she likes him but fears her grandmother’s reprisal. If she only said to him whether or not she wanted to be with him he would not have to continually pour his heart out. To be honest he really should take her silence as a “no”, but he keeps getting advice to try his hand again.

The result is an ambiguous and mesmerising end shot. We’re standing on a hill watching the boy and girl as white dots walking over the plains. There is no way to hear what is being said, so is all down to interpretation. I think that because of the speed of his dot and the slightly more uplifting music he was able to get a positive answer. Others have argued against this. This is the beauty of the directors use of long shots, and he is a master of them.

It’s amazing how not being able to use my hand and having to dictates my thoughts has enabled me to reflect better. Since the software isn’t foolproof I’m having to correct myself and as such have ended up having a not quite one sided conversation with my laptop about all these films that I have watched. Who knows, I might start to do this more often.

Progress: 478/1007

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