Saturday, March 12, 2005


Back in January, I wrote about seeing Jack Wright, Michel Doneda, and Tatsuya Nakatani live, and the great impression it had made on me. Listening to them, I realized for the first time that a work of music could have no overall structure and still be aesthetically valid. (Yes, I came to this realization pretty late, but I'm a "left-brain" person and tend to analyze everything I encounter, so this went against all my preconceptions.) A few days ago, I was watching the last three episodes of the anime FLCL again, and realized that this was the same sort of thing: that there really is no overall design to the series, the directors and animators instead throwing in whatever they felt like at the moment (as listening to the director's commentary -- and it's the real director, not the "director" of the English version -- makes clear), and that the only way to appreciate it is just to take each moment as it comes. If you try to make it all cohere, as with Lain or Boogiepop Phantom (which are also confusing on first viewing, but with patience can be decoded), you'll just get frustrated.

As part of a "Pan-Asian Cinema Series" sponsored by the university here, a local theater showed Millenium Mambo by Hou Hsiao-hsien last night, with admission free. I'd seen it twice before, but I figured I might as well take the opportunity to watch it again on the big screen for free. (And I think it benefited from being seen on a large screen, even though the print quality wasn't ideal.) I'm not saying this movie has no overall structure. In fact, it surely does: as an indication of this, many scenes clearly "reprise" or echo previous scenes. But it would take more viewings, probably several more, for me to grasp this structure. I will say that the movie's focus seems to me to be the moment-to-moment texture of the characters' lives, and of the image and sound itself, more than any structure (let alone plot, which is minimal).

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