Whether its Japan in the 40s or Rwanda in the 90s, injustice isn’t going anywhere!
Only three movies this week, but quality counts,
RoboCop 2 (1990, Irvin Kershner, United States Of America) **
This what you get when all the people involved do not get that RoboCop was a satire. More to the point, the stupidity in RoboCop was on purpose, I don’t believe for a second that the stupidity in Frank Miller’s script was accidental. His writing in comics does have the tendency to veer too much towards being on the nose. RoboCop 2 is no different, as his writing and Irvin Kershner’s plodding direction, and over reliance on really bad model work, undermine what is a cool concept. Sadly, there’s still more of this franchise for me to explore.
Hotel Rwanda (2004, Terry George, Italy/South Africa/United Kingdom/United States Of America) ***1/2
The obvious comparison to Hotel Rwanda is Schindler’s List, but that comparison only runs skin deep. Beneath the surface Hotel Rwanda is a much different film than it’s World War II counterpart. Terry George’s film is performance centered, with Don Cheadle and Nick Nolte being the two standouts. The visual style of the film is restrained, but powerful. The world that is created is tangible, but it falls just short of realistic because it is a tad too polished. The film also suffers from the insertion of the Gregoire character and the way that two very important girls are found. Even if those elements were true to real life they come across as manufactured, a villain inserted because the film needs a weaselly villain and an addition to the ending because the film needs to end with a neat and tidy bow on everything. Still, Hotel Rwanda is a great and evocative American film that for a change eschews inserting white characters where they are not needed and truly focuses on its African characters.
Ningen No Jôken (The Human Condition II: Road To Eternity, 1959, Masaki Kobayashi, Japan) ***1/2
The second in a trilogy, or one complete film depending on how you look at it. Ningen No Jôken is a strong and moving peace, even if the pacing does stall a few times. I was especially impressed with the cinematography of this film. There are a lot of wide shots in Ningen No Jôken and they evoke a lot of space, and the feeling that the Japanese went too far in trying to create their empire. They created something without borders that they could not control. Tatsuya Nakadai is aces as Kaji. He’s resolute when he needs to be, vulnerable at other times, but always the driving force of the film. Ningen No Jôken isn’t quite as great as the first film in the trilogy, but it’s still a great one.
Two very strong films this week, but in the end Hotel Rwanda had the deeper emotional resonance with me. Hotel Rwanda takes home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!