XL Popcorn – The Burmese Harp / Crimes and Misdemeanors

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: The Burmese Harp (Biruma no tategoto)
Director: Kon Ichikawa
Year: 1956
Country: Japan

What makes a film worthy of a perfect score? I am not entirely sure, but I know that there are not many films that I can give 10/10 on my IMDB ratings. In 2015 I only gave out two of these; one to Inside Out and the other to Don Hertzfeldt’s excellent World of Tomorrow. The Burmese Harp is the first film that I have seen in 2016 to gain this rating.

It has been an awfully long time and an awfully large number of films since I have seen a film that has given me goosebumps on so many different occasions. I guess that is just the power of music in film – especially when that music is sung by an all men’s chorus. And believe me, there is a lot of music in this film.

The Burmese Harp takes place in Burma at the end of World War II. A group of Japanese soldiers find out that their homeland has surrendered and so allow themselves to be taken in by nearby British forces so they can await repatriation. One of the soldiers, a skilled player of a homemade Burmese Harp, is employed by the British to reason with another group of Japanese soldiers… and spoilers from there.

I don’t know why but, with the exception of Schindler’s List and The Best Years of Our Lives, the best World War II films I have seen are neither American nor British. Films like Grave of the Fireflies, The Cranes Are Flying and The Lives of Others are able to it on the human experience better.

In the end, in order for these films to work they need to be relatable on a primal level. Since the famous song ‘Home! Sweet Home!’ is a recurring theme (being sung in Japanese) it is a lot easier to get the feelings of the soldiers. Loss and a longing for home are things that all people can relate to in some way, maybe not on the level of these Japanese soldiers.

However, I don’t think there are very many people who can understand what it would be like to see piles of your own people piled high and having their corpses picked by birds. Those who have… I just cannot begin to comprehend.

It is very hard to believe that The Burmese Harp started off as a children’s book. I guess that it is very hard to explain the surrender/defeat of your country to your children. In a way I can imagine this being a beautiful story, but there is a lot you would have to remove. I wager that the extra material and bleakness would have come from Ichikawa… and well played to him. Amazing film. And from the director of Tokyo Olympiad too.

crimes and misdemeanorsTitle: Crimes and Misdemeanors
Director: Woody Allen
Year: 1989
Country: USA

Well it has taken five Woody Allen films to say this, but I’ve finally seen one of his films where I enjoy his character. In fact, I believe this is the most I have ever laughed at one of Woody Allen’s films. Without a doubt Crimes and Misdemeanors is my favourite Woody Allen film so far.

In many ways Crimes and Misdemeanors in many ways to Hannah and her Sisters. There’s divorce, infidelity, philosophy, anxiety, people with jobs in media, New York as a supporting character and two central storylines that are very loosely connected. However, everything just felt like it flowed better in this film.

In a nutshell, Crimes and Misdemeanors tells two stories. One of a philanthropic ophthalmologist who is dealing with his mistress of two years who wants to come clean to his wife; the other is the story of an independent documentary maker falling in love with the producer of a film he is making of his pompous brother in law.

When it comes to the comedy elements of this dramedy Woody Allen saves it all for his section. I had a real belly laugh in a scene where he cuts footage of Mussolini into the documentary is making and shows it to his brother in law. Is it childish? Very much so, but you are with him all the way and that’s why it’s funny. This is really the first time in a Woody Allen film where I have most definitely been on his side.

When it comes to the other storyline I’m very much not on the side of Martin Landau. Then again you’re not exactly meant to be. Kudos to Martin Landau and Anjelica Huston (playing the mistress) for their roles in this section of the film. As people go Martin Landau’s ophthalmologist character is incredibly cold. We actually see him go through a nervous breakdown (somewhat) which is very much deserved. He almost goes back to his belief in god… but if final scene is anything to go by he gets over that.

In terms of endings Crimes and Misdemeanors is very different to the Woody Allen comedies that I’ve seen so far. Usually he wraps things up and gives people a somewhat happy ending. Not here, in fact you could say the ending is somewhat nihilistic. It’s a thread that runs through the whole film, this idea of god verses truth, but thematically I hadn’t really cottoned on to how central this idea was until the last 5 minutes. It’s been a good pair of films.

Progress: 530/1007


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