Saturday, January 13, 2007

Japanese Film Magazine's Top Ten Surprises

by Nick
Kinema Junbo, one of Japan's leading film magazines, released it's top ten best foreign films list a few days ago, and one thing grabbed me; they gave their top spot to Flags of Our Fathers. Second came Letters From Iwo Jima and third The Host.

Even if I haven't seen either of them, I can understand the respect for Letters, it's their side of the story told for once, but this accolade for Flags?

Is it a political statement? "You understood our side, now we understand yours?" Or is it really a genuine respect for the film? According to most American critics Letters is the better film, but perhaps that's a political and moral statement as well?


Blogger Joe Sherry said...

I thought Flags was a damn good movie. Haven't seen Letters yet, but it's certainly possible that those critics honestly believe that Flags is the superior film of the year and they are not trying to make a political or moral statement. That seems a bit much for a film mag.

1/14/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Are you trying to say that political and/or moral statements do not enter the picture when determining whether a film - or literature and art as well for that matter - is of value or not? To me that is not only a likely but an obvious factor.

Aren't practically all art forms subject to some form of moral determination of their value from the viewers side? After all, we don't just judge how entertaining or how pretty a film is, and those that do find those things to have their own form of moral value. But in my view most critics take into account the moral and political aspect of the work. Take the critical backlash at Forrest Gump f.ex. Or why few literature critics speak of Hamsun these days, except as some kind of warning example.

And most of the Best Picture nominees and winners have been some form of message movies.

That a Japanese film magazine chose Flags of Our Fathers as the best film of the year without some kind of moral aspects of the film and their choice taken into account, seems very probable to me.

And that Letters has been so highly regarded by American critics has, according to most reviews, been because it tries to show the conflict from the Japanese side, objectively, without being didactic, unlike most WWII films.

You mean that that is not a moral statement from the side of the American critics side?

Also, Kinema Junbo apparently annually hand out the "Korea-Japan Friendship Award" to the filmmaker who best bridges the gap between the two old enemies.

1/15/2007 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger jaydro said...

I don't read Japanese magazines much, but when US or British magazines come out with their best-of lists, it's usually to provoke discussion (and sell magazines) more than an assignment of real merit or making a moral or political statement. Individual critics' best-of lists can be all over the place--some seem honest while others are determined to impress or just shine a light on some otherwise overlooked film (or record or whatever). And awards are yet again different, with each awarding body having their own agenda (and I've never forgiven the Golden Globes for that whole Pia Zadora fiasco, so I don't even know who won what tonight).

So maybe the magazine is making some moral/political statement, or maybe they're saying, hah, you expected us to pick Letters as best foreign film, but just to show how cool we are we picked Flags instead!

1/15/2007 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Sherry said...

Not that political / moral statements do not enter into the discussion, but I don't think that political / moral is necessarily inherent in the choice.

It is possible that the critic viewed both movies and while they thought Letters was a fine movie, perhaps they thought Flags was simply a better movie. Not because of an intention political viewpoint, but because for whatever subjective and perhaps subconscious reason Flags was viewed as superior.

Maybe even for the unenlightened reason of: "I just liked it better". Not very refined, but why not?

1/19/2007 07:27:00 PM  

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