Thy Sin Is Self-Indulgence

6 Oct

Everything I said last night about was reinforced today. And, I have a name for my problem with the long form movie: self-indulgence.

It’s not as if, as a blogger, I don’t know about granting myself liberties. doesn’t have an 800-word limit per post rule. But then, I don’t go around whoring for money for my projects. And, judging by my stats counter, many readers have decided to take my advice pre-emptively, and have decided not to access my blog before we disagree about everything. Once in a while, I wonder how to make this blog better, yet few set me straight. Perhaps, directors have the same problem. Lack of, or incompetence in, editing is the serial crime most directors commit in the films featured at PIFF.

Before going on, I would also like to complain again about venues. Walking through an incompletely renovated building, with empty food stalls and floors, is not the way to entice customers to return. Both Jangsan Primus and Daeyoung CGV were more warehouses with fancy new cinemas perched atop them, like strobe lights distracting dancers from how small the dance floor really is. Jangsan Primus was actually a whole lot better looking last year, but the cinema was moved across the street this year.

Today was “Political” Day. First, there was about North Korean defectors and illegal workers. I was looking for a little more incisive commentary, but I got platitudes with a few poignant scenes and one good line. The subversion came with the plot, not the dialogue. That two North Koreans, a Vietnamese worker, and a burnt-out detective would interact with nothing else but violence is wholly unrealistic, but what sold it was the South Korean vignettes. A South Korean employer abusing his employee, a man in the backseat of a taxi berating and hitting his wife, and another drunken fare accusing his North Korean driver of stealing his wallet to compensate for his own mistake are examples of South Korean living I’ve witnessed. “You have no heart!” says our North Korean hero. So, it is endearing when he takes it upon himself, only just graduated from the adjustment class and with only his knowledge of Korean as an advantage, to help his newly found Vietnamese friend find his girlfriend. He’s only doing what the South Korean detective and the North Korean taxi driver did for him, just one day at liberty in Seoul. Helping others…now that’s subversive!

Of course I wanted more details about defector adjustment, such as how much our hero got from the government. I also wanted to hear more from the North Korean tax driver, ten years in the south, alluding to her hard life and trying to pass on hasty advice to our hero. I’ve read more derisive commentary form defector testimonies than about anatomy, too. But, if the first drama lacks in specificity, the evening documentary compensated, and overdid it.

, about the controversy surrounding the Japanese Shinto shrine in Tokyo where nationalist prime ministers insist on praying, is not a new film, or so the director, Li Ying, would have it known from his slick flyers. Self-indulgence is a big fault in this film. The camera allows activists and publicity whores way too much airtime, especially in the beginning. One compelling personality is Yasukuni Shrine’s swordsmith, Kariya Naoharu, but the director lets interviews drag, only to prompt him for little effect. That the geriatric man in his smithy, like Quasimodo in Notre Dame, listens to Emperor Hirohito for fun and can recite a mean poem when not banging out award-winning swords, made him compelling, but not the whole show. The anti-Yasukuni argument suffered from a lack of official comment, suitably skewered by a witty interviewer. The one piece of new information, that successive governments have awarded enshrinement to deceased World War Two veterans without familial permission, to misdirect criticism of the shrine’s activities and coopt voters to its cause, is smothered under lengthy video of protests. Certainly, these scenes, particularly the Ayatal activist from Taiwan, were dramatic, but others were just loony.

Overall, what , regardless of one’s opinion about Yasukuni.

Hidden behind this narrative is a different picture of Japan, and one that is all the more compelling because it is the truth?the Japanese conduct the most robust and wide-ranging debate on the planet about their role and behavior in the Pacific War, and always have.

It’s a shame many would choose sides in a partisan debate, when the issue is really how societies and governments should discuss controversies. I’m always dismayed when pacifist arguments come clothed in the supposition, that agreement would result in peace if only evil men would stop doing what is self-evidently wrong. That topics like Yasukuni are typical, and that rancorous debate is healthy, just seems to horrify people. I wonder more about these closet quietists than I do about all the Yasukuni’s in the world.

And, I want about 30 to 40 minutes back, please.

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