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Joint Security Area (2000) or “Can’t we all just get along?”

Joint Security Area is the first film of our Korean Cold War trifecta.  In 2000 when it debuted it was the highest grossing Korean film of all time.  It was shot on location at the demilitarized zone or DMZ (the heavily patrolled border dividing North and South Korea).  The film is explained through a series of flashbacks, flashbacks that show low level North and South Korean soldiers becoming friends, drinking together and sharing pictures and gifts.  This is of course taboo between the two countries which are still technically at war.

 

Two North Korean soldiers are found dead by gunshot wound while a lone South Korean soldier heads back toward his side of the DMZ.  The South Korean troops get their man however a firefight erupts and two days later the fragile relationship between the two countries is on the verge of war.  An international peace agency sends in a Swiss Korean Army officer who attempts to sort through the evidence and discover what actually happened.  She is warned at the beginning by the ranking General in charge of the DMZ that the outcome of this proceeding is not the point, but that the process be totally neutral—a warning she ignores to her own peril.

Explained through flashbacks it is shown that Soo-hyeok (a South Korean) was on patrol with other soldiers, only to get lost on the North Korean side of the DMZ and to partially trip a mine; found by Kyeong-pil and Woo-jin, (both North Koreans) who deactivate the mine, which later prompts Soo-hyeok to throw written messages over the border to maintain contact.  Eventually inviting Soo-hyeok across the border, the three become a group of friends that soon includes Sung-shik, with the four agreeing to leave politics out of their friendship so to remain loyal to their own country.

 

As tensions rise between the North and South, Soo-hyeok and Sung-shik return to the North to say goodbye and celebrate Woo-jin’s birthday, only to be discovered by a commanding officer from the North and resulting in a Mexican Standoff.  Despite Woo-jin panicking and betraying his friends, Kyeong-pil convinces Woo-jin, Soo-hyeok and the officer to lower their weapons, only for Sung-shik to panic and shoot the commanding officer when he reaches for his radio; when Woo-jin draws his gun again, Sung-shik kills him, before shooting his corpse several times out of anger.  Kyeong-pil persuades Sung-shik to lay down the gun and for the two to flee with a false alibi of being kidnapped, before throwing away the evidence that he and Woo-jin were fraternizing with Southern soldiers. After shooting Kyeong-pil to complete his alibi, Sung-shik and Soo-hyeok flee across the border, with the former getting past unseen; since Soo-hyeok has a wounded leg from the firefight, he is the only soldier seen.

 

As the investigator starts piecing this together (using the only real clue a missing bullet) and confronts the soldiers one South Korean throws himself out of a window putting him into a coma.  After that horrific incident, her family’s past is uncovered and it turns out that her father was a general for the North Korean army tainting any neutrality she may have brought to the proceedings.  Because the missing bullet which all of her theories hinged on was intentionally thrown away she cannot figure out who really shot Woo-jin due to a remaining inconsistency in their stories. Sophie (the investigator) hugs Soo-hyeok and wishes him well, only for Soo-hyeok to steal an officer’s pistol before committing suicide as he is escorted to a waiting car.  It is revealed Soo-hyeok shot Woo-jin, and he committed suicide out of guilt for Woo-jin’s death and Sung-shik’s suicide attempt.

 

The film magnificently concludes with a photograph of the joint security area that accidentally contains all four soldiers.

This film is the perfect kickoff for our Cold War series. It has all the elements of a Cold War movie: you’ve got two sides with opposing ideologies – and in fact it’s communism versus capitalism, and as in the West, capitalism has shown its economic might over basically an ideology which in North Korea happens to be called juche instead of communism. Juche means independence or self-reliance, but in North Korea juche is simply Orwellian doublespeak for totalitarianism run horrifically amuck. But the fact of the matter is that the people of these two countries are no different from each other, and what separates them is a fence. A big fence, yes. A fence I wouldn’t want to cross, yes. A 100%  jones fest, yes. The fact of the matter is that at the heart of it, in the DMZ where they all meet, in the last scene in the picture together, they are not fighting. One of them is even smiling for the camera. But that’s not the real reason this is a good movie. The real reason this is a good movie is because of the Cold War aspects of it: the spies, the electrified fences, the constant threat of total war. The stakes are high. And we see these individuals who are caught up as pawns in this very high stakes game – who really just want to go home. It’s all there for the writing – but think of how many different ways this could have been played out. It could have gone to total war. Those guys could have been court-martialed.

What parallel do we have to this situation in the United States right now? Nothing. We have some disorganized group of terrorists, who have no united front so to speak, who are intentionally walled off as cells so that one group can’t affect the other if they are caught. Moreover, in the U.S. right now our real enemies are within: the government, corrupt politicians, police brutality, big corporations and banks. There aren’t the clear sides that you have in a Cold War situation. We keep trying to manufacture wars, as if we were nostalgic for the Cold War: the war on drugs, the war on terrorism. But we find it hard to make that work when the real enemy is us: our own corruption, our own consumerism, our own fiscal irresponsibility as a country, our own fanaticism and arrogance in the face of poverty. Our own political correctness that we have let hogtie us into an inability to do anything about the “isms” that we claim to care so much about eradicating. The only good movie to come out of Hollywood to address such issues is V for Vendetta. Otherwise, Hollywood has been left as bankrupt of ideas as Lehman Brothers.

 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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What is America missing that gives Korean cinema an edge over the domestic crap we call film? Simple, we still have a Cold War between the North and the South which invites many exciting scripts and opportunities.

For years many of America’s greatest films have a basis in some form of Cold War tension or potential disaster. Think about the many James Bond movies, or movies like The Spy Who Came in From Out of the Cold (previously reviewed on this site), Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, and the list could go on and on. However with the Cold War essentially over in 1989 all these great spy and other similar type dramas had withered away at least here in America.

Let us not forget though that North and South Korea are still technically at war.  Only an armistice has been signed, not a treaty, so to say they have a Cold War between two countries is actually an understatement. Now that Sonny boy has taken over and is posing for the world by blowing up his uncles and other relatives, the potential for story lines is wide open not only for the division of North and South Korea but also for the unification of North and South Korea. Perhaps even our idiotic American writers could come up with a good script. Since 1950 we have had over 50 years of tales of the North brainwashing its citizens and the South trembling at the size of their army, each country spying the balls out of the other, the North using torture, the South using more conventional techniques. You also get some good tangential spinoffs like City Hunter (previously reviewed on this site). That’s not to even mention the gangster movies (though they have nothing to do with the Cold War). You get all three. It’s a writer’s dream. Women are even given a stronger role in Korean movies and television shows than they used to be. So let’s take a look. The next three movies we review will embody this blend of Cold War situations and themes and gritty writing. But if you are an American director, take note: we at JPFMovies are not advocating that you copy any more Asian films. These movies and shows are offered as role models and not as material to be plagiarized (as Spike Lee just did with Old Boy):

Joint Security Area

Poongsang Dog

IRIS

Stay alert. But beware. Once you get hooked on really good Korean cinema, you may not find yourself able to set foot in an American theater ever again. We at JPFMovies know this for a fact, as it has been over a decade since we had the stomachs for American film.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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Big Trouble in Little China (1986) starring Kurt Russell and created by John Carpenter. Give it a chance you won’t regret it.

I was scrolling though the Netflix on demand movies wondering what would be family appropriate and was happy to see the Big Trouble in Little China was available for the watching.  I remember this film from the 80’s and have always liked it.  Given that the movie is now considered a “cult classic” I feel vindicated that my perception of the film has some wider-spread acceptance than the Box Office numbers the movie failed to generate.

 

Few works of ’80s commercial cinema still seem as fresh as John Carpenter’s ninth feature, a rowdy, rocking hunk of fun that both fulfils and subverts many ideals of action filmmaking. Big Trouble has been described as ahead of its time, in that it anticipated, and still outclasses, the great wave of Asian-Hollywood fusion flicks that took over action cinema from the mid ’90s on, represented by The Matrix, Kill Bill, the American starring vehicles of Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li, and sundry others martial-arts-infused movies. But in other, fundamental ways, it’s still unique. It was, in its own moment, a painful flop that effectively ended Carpenter’s rise up the rungs of Hollywood, in spite of it being his most stylistically confident and technically accomplished film; his next work, Prince of Darkness (1987), was a virtual bargain-basement affair. The reasons for Big Trouble’s failure are now practically lost in the mist of time, but its cult status today is undeniable and entirely deserved.

Big Trouble’s cheeky take on the genre template commences with the fact that Jack Burton, the hero Kurt Russell plays, isn’t really the hero at all. He’s a tough-talking truck driver, fond of broadcasting his personal mythology over the CB radio and coming on like John Wayne’s bastard son, but he’s not too far from the kinds of character Bob Hope and Don Adams played, a posturing clot with occasional moments of competence—a poke in the eye for what was then the cult of greased-up machismo represented by Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Jack is friend and veritable sidekick to Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), whose physical prowess as a brilliant martial artist and motivation to snatch back his true love from the forces of evil clearly mark him as the real protagonist.

 

Carpenter and Russell had previously worked together on the telemovie Elvis (1979), Escape from New York (1981)(also reviewed here), and The Thing, but Big Trouble was the true high point of that collaboration, at least in terms of the director’s intent and the actor’s capacities meshing. Few other young male movie stars have ever betrayed such a willingness to send themselves up as Russell did here. For example, Burton answers the question “Are you ready?” when venturing into any enemy lair with a swaggering “I was born ready!” Once there, however, he drops weapons, can’t work out how to let go of an opponent he’s holding prone, and looks momentarily shocked when he shoots someone, giving away his essential lack of experience as a tough guy.

Another thing that marked Carpenter out as a filmmaker, but which made him seem increasingly out of place in modern Hollywood, is his care in evoking a sense of milieu and situating his heroes as a part of an ordinary world. Often, they’re blue collar dudes and ladies, included by accident in greater machinations. Big Trouble commences with an opening that gives a fine sense of Burton as both a bit of a blowhard, ranting on the radio before cramming a giant hoagie in his mouth, but also as a cool guy. After delivering a load of produce to a market in San Francisco, he sits down to gamble with the mostly Asian porters and buyers, including his old friend Wang Chi, a self-made restaurateur. Carpenter doesn’t need a word of dialogue to show us who Burton, Wang, and the rest are: normal people doing real things and relaxing in a normal way, the sort of things nobody does in modern action blockbusters except in the most laboriously signposted fashions. The only remarkable moment is a challenge between Wang and Jack. Wang, who’s just lost all the money he’d saved up for a lavish welcome back from China for his fiancée, bets Jack double or nothing he can split a beer bottle in half with a meat cleaver. He fails, and Jack catches the bottle, which shoots across the table at him, proving he has brilliant reflexes. That’s a classic piece of establishing a hero’s gifts, but it’s a promise the film deliberately, hilariously delays fulfilling.

Jack recompenses Wang by taking him to pick up said fiancée, Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), from the airport, where Jack eyes Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), a civil rights lawyer. She’s trying to shepherd immigrant Tara (Min Luong) safely past a waiting coterie of thugs from a Chinatown street gang on the lookout for girls to kidnap and force into prostitution. When the goons snatch Tara, Jack confronts them, only to be quickly toppled; the thugs take Miao Yin instead. Jack and Wang chase them to Chinatown, where they’re caught in the middle of a battle between the evil Wing Kong triad, and the good-guy Chang Sing gang, who are having the funeral procession for a leader and are ambushed by their enemies. The Chang Sing’s retaliation proves effective until the intervention of the Three Storms—Thunder (Carter Wong), Lightning (James Pax), and Rain (Peter Kwong)—bizarre beings that seem to have supernatural powers. The Storms slaughter the Chang Sings where they stand. When Jack tries to escape this melee by driving his truck through it, he seems to run down a tall, regally dressed man whom Wang thinks might be David Lo Pan (James Hong), the legendary head of the Wing Kong. Lo Pan seems unhurt by Jack’s truck, and rays of blinding light shoot from his eyes and mouth.

 

Jack soon learns that he and Wang have stumbled into the middle of a metaphysical battle of good and evil. Working with Gracie, whose knowledge of Chinatown’s criminal dealings is great, Jack infiltrates the White Tiger, a brothel where sex slaves are bought and sold, to find Miao Yin. Unfortunately, she’s snatched away by the Three Storms and taken to the underground lair of Lo Pan. He proves to be a 2,000-year-old soldier and magician, cursed by the gods for his offences, who is really a fleshless spirit desperately in search of a girl with green eyes he can marry to end his curse. Miao Yin fits the bill. Jack and Wang’s efforts to find her in Lo Pan’s headquarters prove a comic disaster until they manage to escape and free a number of captive women. But Gracie is left in the hands of Lo Pan and when he proves that both she and Miao Yin can survive the rituals for testing his brides, he plans to marry both, sacrificing one and keeping the other to be his companion as he conquers the universe. Wang and Jack are aided in their quest by Gracie’s journalist friend Margo Lane (Kate Burton), Wang’s debonair maitre d’ Eddie (Donald Li), the Chang Sings, and general-purpose sorcerer and tour guide Egg Shen (Victor Wong).

 

The quality of Big Trouble that sets it apart from many similar ’80s films and makes it tantalizingly hard to describe is the fluent ease with which it shifts between genres and tones: a giddy succession of swerves from slapstick to melodrama; Howard Hawksian verbal byplay; Tsui Hark wire-fu shenanigans; comic book hoot; resonant, sexually and mystically mysterious epic. Carpenter’s shift into action-oriented fare after mostly making horror movies, in which control of mood, atmosphere, and story progression are key assets, saw him assay Big Trouble with a contiguous grace that eludes most physically dynamic movies where a motion rush becomes paramount. Big Trouble’s atmosphere is tangible, as the heroes perform the gleeful boyish fantasy of taking a turn down just the right side street and being plunged into an adventure.

 

Under the surface effervescence, another strength of Big Trouble is that unlike most subsequent fantasy and East-West fusions, Carpenter captures, and even builds upon, the mystical weirdness that infuses much wuxia filmmaking. This is clear in images like Lo Pan transforming from his flaccid old guise into young ghost and passing through walls, and when Jack and the Chang Sing warriors follow Egg Shen down a fire pole into a subterranean shadow world where monsters lurk and the “black blood of the Earth” flows. The references to Chinese mythology alternate wryness with wistful seriousness, and Carpenter’s music score communicates a spacey, almost haunting underpinning to the adventure – the fact that many Hong Kong films of the same period sported synthesizer-dominated scores like Carpenter’s increases the likeness.

James Hong as Lo Pan is an evergreen surprise. Generally known for playing gaunt, cagey ciphers, a la his role as the guardian of dark secrets in Chinatown, Hong presents Lo Pan as alternately the dirtiest of old men when he’s in his corporeal shell of withered leathery flesh, swearing and teasing Gracie with insidious delight, and a weirdly beautiful supernatural master in his classical garb and make-up, appealing to the unconscious Miao Yin with poetic cadence and quivering with frustrated desire. Such flourishes makes Lo Pan a far deeper kind of villain than the usual run, and Hong’s intuitively perfect performance struck such a deep chord with the actor that he directed a film, The Vineyard (1989), that reiterates aspects of this film’s plot. Lo Pan gets his comeuppance, eventually, but that’s really the throwaway end to a grandiose fight. Carpenter even makes fun of the usually epic deaths of supernatural villains by having Lo Pan succumb to the simplest of implements, with his great collection of plaster buddhas spontaneously collapsing like dominos, as if the gods are marking the passing of a great if evil force. Carpenter’s filming of the preceding fight is a source of constant delight to me, with a comic-book-like clarity of action displayed in the way Carpenter offers frames that are cut in half by swords or crisscrossed by battling opponents swooping from one edge to the other. Such stylistic rigor, light years away from the happenstance gibberish seen in so many recent action films, gives a sense of the physical space, combined with the rapidity of the editing and the dynamism of the stuntmen, in what is still a master class for this sort of thing. Whatever Big Trouble’s failures as a revenue earner, it was a big triumph as entertainment, and I still love it.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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Stop everything! My friend and colleague Tom V. has proposed a viable theory; that is, the beginning of the end for Hollywood began with the 1990 film “Tango & Cash.” Despite its “all-star” including Jack Palance, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and several other familiar faces according to Tom V. (and I agree) the film signals the beginning of Hollywood’s decent into mediocrity at best and piss-poor at worst.

Sorry you have not heard from me in a while, but I have a nagging injury that just won’t go away. Anyways, Tom V and I were discussing movies and he said that he deduced the film which symbolized and embodied the beginning of the end for Hollywood: Tango & Cash (1990). This film embodies everything I despise in cinema—its porno thin plot, really bad acting, the udder failure to adhere to “Movie Physics” as set forth in “Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.” I understand and agree that movies require a certain suspension of belief, but there are limits and this one crossed over everyone I could think of.

First, Sylvester “Sly” Stallone plays an intellectual investment banker-Beverly Hills cop which just comes off so bad and stilted it is laughable. Kurt Russell who plays the Joe-six pack/L.A. cop with a gun in the heel of his cowboy boots. Jack Palance playing the criminal mastermind Yves Perret who would rather than simply kill police interfering with his operations sets up some totally elaborate-unattainable-unbelievable frame up of Tango & Cash even after being told by his subordinates to simply kill them. James Hong (don’t worry you will recognize him when you see him in the clips) playing the classic Asian criminal and some idiot savant James Bond “Q” wannabe who invented the gun boot and built some bullet proof minivan with a 20mm cannon mounted on its side. The list goes on and on.

This film was so bad from the start that Warner Bros. hired editor Stuart Baird to re-edit the movie because they were displeased with the rough cut. Baird was also called in by Warner Bros to re-edit another Stallone action movie Demolition Man (1993) (another shitty movie) for same reasons. Baird and another editor Hubert de La Bouillerie had to constantly re-edit the movie because Warner Bros. kept complaining on cut after cut of it. During the re-editing, some plot parts and even some action scenes were deleted, some of which can be seen in theatrical trailer which was made by using the footage and scenes from one of the earlier cuts of the movie. There is no editor that could have saved this film.

On with the “story.” Beverly Hills LAPD Lieutenant Ray Tango and Downtown Los Angeles Lieutenant Gabriel Cash have earned themselves a reputation for disrupting crime lord Yves Perret’s smuggling operation in their respective jurisdictions. One day, both of them are informed of a drug deal taking place later that night. Both detectives meet each other for the first time at the location, but discover a dead body that is wire-tapped before the FBI arrive and surround the duo. Agent Wyler finds Cash’s backup Walter PPK pistol on the floor with a silencer attached and arrests both Cash and Tango. At their murder trial, Tango and Cash are incriminated by an audio tape, secretly given to Wyler by Perret’s henchman Requin and verified in court by an audio expert, which appears to reveal them shooting the undercover FBI agent after discussing a drug purchase. They plead no contest to a lesser charge in exchange for reduced sentences in a minimum-security prison, but are transported to a maximum-security prison to be housed with many of the criminals they arrested in the past.

Once in prison, Tango and Cash are rousted from their bunks and tortured by Requin and a gang of prisoners until Matt Sokowski, the assistant warden and Cash’s former commanding officer, rescues them. Sokowski recommends that they escape (uh-huh) and provides them with a plan, but Tango refuses to go along with it. When Cash tries to escape, he finds Sokowski murdered and is attacked by prisoners. Tango rescues him and the duo escape. Once outside the prison walls, they proceed to go their separate ways when Tango tells Cash that should he need to contact him, he is to go to the Cleopatra Club and look for Katherine.

The detectives then visit the witnesses who framed them in court. Wyler admits to Tango that Requin was in charge of the setup, and Cash discovers that Skinner, the audio expert, made the incriminating tape himself. Cash finds Katherine, who helps him escape the night club as police move in on him. Later that night, Tango reunites with Cash, who discovers that Katherine is Tango’s younger sister. The duo are met at Katherine’s house by Tango’s commanding officer, Schroeder, who gives them Requin’s address and tells them they have 24 hours to find out who Requin works for. Tango and Cash apprehend Requin and trick him into telling them Perret’s name. Armed with bullshit vehicle loaned to them by Cash’s weapons expert friend Owen, the duo storm into Perret’s headquarters to confront the crime lord. At this point, Perret, who has kidnapped Katherine, starts a timer that will trigger the building’s automatic self-destruct procedure. After killing everyone and destroying all glass that could possibly be in any one building they are confronted by Requin, who is holding Katherine at knifepoint but throws her aside to fight the detectives hand-to-hand with the help of another henchman. The detectives defeat the two henchmen and when Perret appears, holding a gun to Katherine’s head, they kill him and leave with Katherine just before the building explodes.

 

Not surprisingly the film received negative reviews. One bad review came from The New York Times, which criticized the plot, the screenplay, and the acting (right on all fronts). It maintains a 34% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews with the consensus: “Brutally violent and punishingly dull, this cookie-cutter buddy cop thriller isn’t even fun enough to reach ‘so bad it’s good’ status.”

 

Tango & Cash was also given three 1989 Golden Raspberry Awards nominations for Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Worst Supporting Actress (Kurt Russell in drag ya that is right) and Worst Screenplay, but did not win—I don’t know how frankly. According to the Razzi website the breakdown for that year were “TANGO & CASH – 3 Nominations (Including Worst Actor of The Decade) 1 “Win” (See Worst of The Decade Awards).” See http://www.razzies.com/forum/1989-razzie-nominees-winners_topic339.html

 

I can’t say enough about this film, but I will say this it actually hurt to watch the second time when I was cutting the film for the clips. I can watch some bad films but this one almost had me beat.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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Episode II of a “Splendid” Family. Teppi Starts to get the Screw Jobs.

Sorry folks about my lack of productivity but due to a broken bone I have had limited ability to type without being in extreme pain.  Where we left off with the Manypo family is that Teppi’s father is convinced that Teppi is in fact his half-brother because his father had an “encounter” with his wife.  Some sort of paranoia has taken over the head of the Manypo family is going to be overtaken by Teppi.

Teppi as we know is trying to get the family’s steel factory financing for the modern blast furnace to bring Japan into the modern industrial age.  Also remember that the father is believes that the Hanshin bank is the key to the wealth and power of the family and is trying to avoid being merged into a bigger bank.  Employing a desperate strategy of the small bank swallowing the bigger bank he asks his son-in-law (a high ranking treasury official) to get confidential data on the bank President Manypo thinks he can take over.  His son in law bribes one of his colleagues to get the information.  Not coincidently it is the same bank Teppi is seeking to get a major part of his financing through.

It dawns on President Manypo that if he can get his target bank to finance a major portion of the furnace and his son Teppi fails, the bigger bank with have massive exposure and losses that would make them vulnerable to a takeover.  So machinations begin to set up Teppi quest for a blast furnace to go bust.

Meanwhile, the younger members of the family are being set up for political marriages.  The youngest son is resigned to his fate to marry out of political needs to rather than love.  Teppi also runs into an old flame and finds out that, though he loves his wife and child, a woman he truly treasured (and still has feelings for) was told by the Manypo “butler” in no uncertain terms that there was no way she and Teppi could marry because she didn’t come from a good enough family.  Teppi is furious and returns to the Manypo family compound to demand answers.  He sees his mother running out of her bedroom.  Confused his younger brother explains that while Teppi was studying abroad he discovered that his father and the “butler” were involved in sexual relationship giving this witch even more power.  So hurt was his mother that she ran back to her family (and was promptly returned) then tried to take her own life.  Teppi’s brother said he has known for years but never said anything out of fear or retaliation.

 

The next day Teppi openly tells this “butler” to get the hell out.  The rest of the Manypo family see the conflict since they are about to leave for the arranged marriage meeting.  Teppie confronts his father directly who sides with the butler saying she is “indispensable” for the continuation of the Manypo dynasty.

About the only good news for Teppi is that due to his father in law’s intervention is issued the permit to proceed with construction with the construction of the blast furnace but even this has its downside because his father’s bank intentionally cut his funding by ten percent. So he has to go beg other banks for remaining 2 billion yen.

I really wish I could find the English translation of this novel.  The author has some serious insight into what money does to people—even family.  So afraid of losing their wealth these elite families engage in behavior that is truly despicable.  Their wealth gives them power to ignore the law and social conventions of acceptable and moral behavior.  These truly warped people have the veneer respectability and are the envy of those without this wealth and privilege.  Unlike the masses they get to have it both ways; that is, they can engage in deviant behavior but do not have to face any of the consequences that an everyman or woman would if they behaved the same way.  Anyone but the elite would be in jail for the way these people behave.

 

It reminds me of the relatedly recent news story when the heiress to the Mars candy fortune crossed the center line in her Porsche and killed a family coming home from wedding.  This old woman certainly has a driver but instead she killed a family and what happened to her?  I believe she was charged with a misdemeanor.  If you or I were behind the wheel of the car we would (and should) be in jail.

 

All this because of some fancy paper?

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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Episode one of the “Splendid Family”

The episode opens up in postwar Japan with the splendid family at a hotel they go to every year to welcome in the new year.  While the rest of the family waits, the elder son and main character Teppi is running late because he’s taking care of some business at the family conglomerates steel factory which he is in charge of.  He has just signed a deal with a new company because his new technology is 10 times stronger than anything else in Japan.

As the family begins to sit down for dinner and take the traditional annual photograph Teppi makes a just-in-time.  He is scolded by his father, the patriarch of the family, as well as the family “Butler” a woman who arranges many of the family’s affairs including marriages, meetings and other family business.  The Butler also has the luxury of sleeping with the father when he chooses, as he did on New Year’s Eve after dinner.

We then follow the father to the family bank which is the center of the family’s fortune and the conglomerate of companies.  As he is walking to his office, he looks onto the bank floor and sees hundreds people working and expresses concern for them and their families.  We have also learned that the Treasury Department of Japan is following America’s lead in consolidating the country’s banks in order to increase capital availability and modernize the economy.  Manypo (the father) has grown the family bank from being a local city branch to the 10th largest bank in the country.  However, because he is the 12th largest bank he is ripe for acquisition and will likely be merged into one of the larger banks thereby losing his authority and other privileges of ownership.  Out of necessity he looks to his son-in-law (a high ranking treasury official) for a way to employ strategy whereby a smaller bank would gobble up the larger bank.  A risky and complicated proposition.

Meanwhile his son Teppi decides that he needs to build a blast furnace in order to stay competitive in the steel industry.  This is no small task, requiring billions of Japanese yen in order to construct such a machine.  If the blast furnace is built successfully, it will be one of only a few in Japan that is able to make modern steel for cars and other heavy industry.  He approaches his father for the financing of this technological marvel who agrees to take the matter under advisement.  What we don’t know is why father and son have such a cold relationship given that Teppi seems very likable and capable–everything a father would possibly want a son to be.

We start to get hints when one evening the father is out looking at his koi pond and sees a praying mantis stuck in spiders web that is about to be devoured.  He thinks to himself he is more like my father than me.  He becomes even more spooked while the two of them are at the same pond later in the day and Teppi is able to summon the largest fish known as shogun by clapping his hands.

At this point things are still setting up and background is starting to be filled in as to the intra-family relationships as well as some family history that may be dark and swept under the rug begins to surface.  But the stage is being said for a long, interesting and complicated set of maneuvers supposedly among family members that are to be loyal to each other but instead will slowly stab each other in the back.

 

Next time episode two.

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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