DAHNTAHN PITTSBURGH N’AT

Exploring the ‘Burgh’s downtown area proved to be quite the adventure. Point State Park, the Kaufmann’s building, PPG Place and Market Square are each worth at least 10 minutes of film. Alas, we narrowed our focus to the transition of downtown Pittsburgh from a locally-owned business district to an area undergoing commercialization. We hope, however, to highlight the many charming, distinctly Pittsburgh voices still present in the downtown area and the rich history supporting them. In our second video, Point State Park stands out as a rich part of Pittsburgh’s historical past and modern identity. The area’s historical significance is embodied in the park itself. We explore the historical significance of the Point and its transformation from a settlement in the 1700s to the Pittsburgh we know today. 

Jo Shishido

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Jo Shishido rose to prominence after World War II when Japan was reconstructing itself in every way from culture to economy and the arts.  In a time of uncertainty, Shishido embodied a radicalism and heroism that the country so desperately needed.  To see why Jo Shishido was so popular, it is extremely important to look at the time, the struggles of the people and the changing culture.

 Hope for Post War Japan

Japan went through radical change in terms of government, politics and culture with political protests and allied occupation. Most of the world was struggling in the aftermath of WWII, but the Japanese citizens did not have much to turn back to. The people were demoralized, the economy collapsed, the civil industry didn’t exist and most of the country was starving. To rebuild the economy, they needed manpower in the steel, automobile and electronic industries. This caused hundred of young men to drop out of school and join the work force and became the majority of the base work force in Japan. Additionally, this time in Japanese history was extremely tense with resentment to the United States increased following the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security signed in 1960. This caused lot of protests by college students and Japanese social activists.

In a time like this people were tired, frustrated, scared, angry and desperate they needed a hero that they could look at. This is one of the reasons that Yakuza Films became so extremely popular.  Although the Yakuza were originally gangsters, the films portrayed them in a glowing light. The were men fiercely loyal to their families, and abided by a steadfast code of conduct with a sense of “unlawful chivalry.” The Yakuza in Japanese Film are analogous to Robin Hood and his band of merry men.  These men died faithful to their gangs and their honor code.  More so than this, they were extremely powerful and unyielding, exerting their influence over the government, the Allied Forces in Japan.  As you can imagine, for young men who were forced to work after am humiliating (as regarded in Japanese Culture) surrender the Yakuza were a symbol of the Japanese Spirit.

It is in these Yakuza films that Jo Shishido rose to fame.  It was an extremely brilliant move of Jo Shishido to get cheek transplants because the young men, who comprised most of the film audience in this era, did not need a romantic hero. They needed a rugged thug who was going to stand up to authority.  Even outside of the movies, Jo Shishido embodied the morals of the Yakuza. When he first entered Nikkatsu, they executives urged him to change his name because Shishido is the name of famous villain in Japanese literature. Having started as a romantic star, it would ruin his image. Instead, to make him more rugged and to stand out from the already established Yakuza stars, he did something radial and unexpected and got cheek implants. This may seem like just another actor changing his experience to get role, but in Post War Japan this act was goes far beyond. It is a way that Shishido essentially stands up against the Big Dogs of Nikkatsu who were trying to typecast him into the romantic role and essentially forcing them to consider him in more serious roles. This was an exertion of his power and fierceness that he also brought into his movies.

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Below is a quote from an interview with Jo Shishido on Midnight Eye about his progression in the film industry:

 Jo Shishido: At first I just played a naïve young boy role. It wasn’t my most successful period. Then I had some problems on the set. After that I spent about 3 months without work. Then I decided to change my face. I had plastic surgery to fatten up my cheeks. I then got a lot of work playing gangsters and heavies. I was Killer Joe (Koroshiya Jo). Then I became a hero again, Joe the Ace (Ace no Jo). Now, after Flower and Snake, it’s Dirty Joe!

In “Fast Draw Guy” in 1961, which earned Shishido the nick name “Ace No Jo,” he plays a bounty hunter in Northern Japan. He, with the help of the local sheriff, stands up to the saloon boss to liberate the town. Considering that this movie was released a year after the singing of the Threat of Mutual Cooperation and Security which gave the United States the right to exert power in Japan on domestic matters, it is not a far leap to interpret the Saloon Boss as the American forces. Making Jo Shishido the

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Review of film – Mark Schilling

The ensuing action owes much to Anthony Mann’s The Tin Star (1957), with Shishido playing the Henry Fonda role. The execution, however, borders on parody, with Shishido supplying most of the laughs. A long-time fan and close student of classic Westerns, he came to the role well prepared – and the result is among the most entertaining of his comic creations.”

 This film is a parody of the western influence, here Jo Shisido satirizes the oppression of the Americans and the allies in Japan. He does this while maintaining his role as the hard-core thug while adding a comic element to it (his cheeks probably added a great deal of comic relief to this movie). This is one of  the reasons he was also incredibly popular. In addition to being able to play the Yakuza, he is provides a way foe the audience to laugh at the current state of affair. It is also worth mentioning, that Shishido perfected his draw for this film, making him that much more authentic and entertaining for this audience.

For the youth of Japan, Jo Shishido was the radical and individualistic hero they needed. He fought off the bad guys, he made fun of western influence and showed up time and time again to save the day.

Work with  Seijun Sizuki

 Another reason that Jo Shishido became so famous is because of his need to constantly do something different, to set him apart from the crowd of actors. Shishido constantly worked for originality in his films, whether it was through practicing the fight scenes over and over again or bringing the raw emotion of the Yakuza in his films. This made him the perfect actor to work with Seijun Suzuki, a  radical actor who never sticks to the norm.

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“Some have seen him as an iconoclast, a cinematic rebel out to break every rule in the filmmaking book – more likely discard it entirely “

 Seijun Suzuki was a B-level director, meaning that all the films he got he didn’t choose. The studio assigned the movies to him with a limited budget and a very short production schedule. Below is a description of the Nikkatsu movie industry by Seijun Suzuki.

 “Films from Nikkatsu usually have the same plot: the main character falls in love with a woman, he kills the bad guy and gets the woman. This pattern is repeated in every film, so you concentrate on finding out all you can about who the actors are, who the director is, and the approach this director has”

 To be able to survive in film industry, Suzuki and Shishido needed to show something to the public that is not common.  To combat this, Jo Shishido worked with Suzuki on many movies, to practically become the face of Suzuki’s movies, but I will focus on Gates of Flesh (1964) and Branded to Kill (1966), which Suzuki actually got fired for

 Gates of Flesh:

 In Gates of Flesh, Jo Shishido plays a wounded soldier in the aftermath of WWII who was take in by a group prostitutes and nursed back to health. Eventually one of the girls falls in love with him and both of them are abandoned.

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To view the trailer for Gates of Flesh click here.

Review of Gates of Flesh

We get another demonstration of Joe Shishido’s magnetic pull – building on his swaggering go-for-broke loner performance in Youth of the Beast, here he plays Shin, the grim, explosive “returnee” who brings all sorts of frightful baggage with him in the aftermath of his trauma-inducing deployment to northern China. Shin incarnates raw masculinity, stripped down to the essence of its gnashing, barbaric appetites for sex, food and violence, regarding all three as simple variations on one process of voracious consumption. Suzuki himself revels in the opportunity to turn Shishido loose for our entertainment, even though we all know instinctively that his meteoric blaze will just as rapidly be squelched before he’s found any semblance of satisfaction.

 This movie features Jo Shishido’s skill as an actor where he makes this one of the most melodramatic and emotional adaptations of this film. In Japan, more specifically with the post war youth, sex and violence became the way they challenged society’s values. This movie captured the same emotion, torment and rebelliousness that the audience was feeling but in much more amplified way on the big screen.

Branded To Kill

This movie is most famous for getting Seijun Suzuki fired. In this movie, Suzuki and Shishido rip apart the romantic idea of the Yakuza by portraying them as crazed and blood thirsty.  Jo Shishido plays the #3 hit man and with a insatiable sexual appetite and a fetish for boiling rice.

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To view the trailer for Branded To Kill click here.

Review of Branded To Kill

Seijun Suzuki is one of the boldest visual stylists the Japanese film industry has ever known. And, while this 1967 experimental/crime movie mind-fuck is regarded by many as his masterpiece, it’s better known today for the legend of how it was received upon its initial release (Suzuki was fired by longtime employer Nikkatsu on the grounds the movie was incomprehensible) than it is actually watched and appreciated. The plot has something to do with Goro Hanada, Japan’s No. 3 hitman (that’s right, this movie takes place in a world where hitmen are ranked like professional athletes), bungling his latest job, which makes him the next target of his employer. But you don’t watch Suzuki for the plot, you watch for the surrealism, the psychosexual undercurrents (Hanada, played by chipmunk-cheeked Jo Shishido, has a fetish for sniffing boiled rice) and the super-cool set-pieces (the film’s most famous scene sees a butterfly alighting on the barrel of Hanada’s gun). Suzuki was a master of using color symbolically and purposefully (check out Tokyo Drifter, which features an assassin-protagonist in a powder-blue suit) but Branded to Kill is equally remarkable for its expressive use of black-and-white.

 This movie, was essentially seen as ridiculous and insanely unconventional. This was Suzuki’s style, which Jo Shishdo embodied extremely well.  He played the sex and killing crazed Yakuza who just did what he wanted when he wanted. Suzuki’s style is to give minimal instruction and essentially create a playground for the actors to do what they want. This says a lot about Shishido because this was regarded and Suzuki’s most eclectic masterpiece and it centered around Shishido ability to bring the insanity out of his character.

Jo Shishido became so incredibly popular because he embodied the individualism and radicalism that most of the country was fell but could not let out as freely as he could on the big screen. He was bold, eccentric, original, authentic, carnal and rebellious. These were all themes present through out Jo Shishido’s career that the audience was able to latch onto and use as a channel for their own frustration and sentiments.

For your pleasure, while reading my really long post, a score from one of Jo Shishido’s movies, released by Nikkatsu.

Sources:

Books:

Desser, David. Eros plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1988. Print.

Hunsberger, Warren S., and Richard B. Finn. Japan’s Quest: The Search for International Role, Recognition, and Respect. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997. Print.

Kawana, Sari. Murder Most Modern: Detective Fiction and Japanese Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2008. Print.

Mes, Tom, and Jasper Sharp. The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge, 2005. Print.

Richie, Donald. Japanese Cinema: An Introduction. Hong Kong: Oxford UP, 1990. Print.

Richie, Donald, and Arturo Silva. The Donald Richie Reader: 50 Years of Writing on Japan. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge, 2001. Print.

Rimer, J. Thomas. Culture and Identity: Japanese Intellectuals during the Interwar Years. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1990. Print.

Schilling, Mark. The Yakuza Movie Book: A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge, 2003. Print.

Joe Shishido

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Jo Shishido (aka Ace No Jo) is a Japanese actor known for this appearances in Yakuza (Japanese gangster) films. Shishido exemplifies an uncommon level of individuality and originality in his actions that made him stand out as a star in Japanese films. When he first signed onto Nikkatsu, he was type cast as the pretty boy with handsome and soft features. However, for him, these roles were too bland for him and there were a thousand other actors who could take his place. To make himself stand out and have more rugged look, he got cheek implants. Surprisingly bold, but a good decision because after this he landed more roles playing. At the height of the action film era in Japan, Shishido really set himself apart from other actors because of his need to have originality and authenticity in his films. He meticulously practiced his draw (gun from holster) till he can do it about .65 seconds, which is the third fastest time in the world. Jo has been in over 300 movies, but he left his contract with Nikkatsu when the demand for action films declined and Nikkatsu shifted in to “Roman Porn.” Following that he established himself on television, hosting on of the longest running shows, Kuishimbo Banzai. Additionally he has written a few cookbooks and recorded a few albums.

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Further Exploration and Discovery Needed:

  • Individualism in Japan and impact on Jo Shishido’s career
  • Perception of body image

 

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Non-Narrative Film

This week’s assignment is to create a non-narrative film using at least one organizing principle; for my film i decided to use the color red. I decided to use this because as I was waiting for the bus, I really liked the way the color red, stood out against the white of the snow. So I walked around campus, and filmed objects that had something about them that was red, especially where the it was apparent the snow was falling and where the background had earthy hues.

I used the song In Less Detail by Lydon Scarfe

Video Essay

This weeks assignment was to analyze the role of women portrayed in the 5 films: Behind Office Doors, Nothing Sacred, His Girl Friday, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Life With Father. I argued that the events of the era, such as the Great Depression and World War II had a strong impact on the role of women in society and on movies. Additionally, the women are portrayed differently based on the society roles they are portraying. For example, Hildy Johnson is the ex-wife and she is portrayed as independent and strong, where as Vinne Day, the wife is portrayed as self-sacrificing and motherly. Finally, there were a few things that remained constant through out the movie. One was the objectification of women, even if it wasn’t the main character, there was some woman in each of the films who were being used by others. And the other was that all the women had a strong dependence on at least one male character in the films. 

Short Film

Before I start, I would first like to apologize for my bad camera shots i am not the best at photography or film. 

My short film is based on my friends at Hunt Library.  This thought occurred to me as I was sitting in hunt for a few hours doing work and most of the people that were there wen I began were still there. Of course being CMU students and the the work-a-holics that we are, more often than not they were doing work, but definitely not for the whole time. So what I wanted to do was capture them (mostly with out their knowledge) trying to not do work and how they spent their time goofing off. I got a few interesting ones of a few of my friends (who were in acapella groups…thank goodness!!) breaking out into song. Then I left for few hours to take a brake, get dinner and what not and returned to Hunt Library around midnight. Thats when everything became a lot stranger, the conversations made almost no sense and sometime they distracted themselves by just staring off into space. Now I understand that this video is not as funny to others as it is to me since I know the group of people in the video fairly well. But, this group of people is good sample of the population. I have at least one person from each school represented and based on what I saw around, my friends were actually the more normal group of people. My one regret is that I wish I had done this on a Wednesday or Thursday night because there would have been more people scrambling to get work done, as opposed to a Monday night, and I would have been able to get a much funnier footage. One thing I would have liked to have done, but still can’t figure out how to do is to have soft background music while the characters are still talking, so you can hear them but there is still a melody in the back to add some effect. 

The music that I used in my short film were:

  • Meals on Wheels by Quiet Hooves 
  • Readers Do You Read by Chris Zabriskie
  • Twinkle Toes by Podington Bear 
  • Noahs Stark by Krackatoa 
  • Old Dreams with Sally Kwok by Gary Lucas 

I used these songs because I thought of the ones I could find on freemusicarchive.com, I thought they fit the best. I just wish I had more time and more music to go through and find the best ones that fit the feel/message of what I am trying to get across. 

 

Technology in Animation

Last week on Wednesday (1/29) we talked about how technology influenced the way impacts our visual experience. First we we watched Humorous Phases of Funny Faces by J. Stuart Blackton. It was the first film sequence and it was originally a vaudeville act that was then transferred to the screen. It features chalk drawings and with the use of cut out animation is able to move.

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Following that, we watched Alice’s Egg Plant. This was a cartoon created by Disney  using a similar method as Humorous Phases of Funny Faces but the twist is that it features a live action little girl in the cartoon. This show how animation was able to evolve in a few years. Although this does not enhance the story in anyway and having an animated girl would have been just as sufficient, it is an interesting use of technology.

 

 

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Following Alice’s Egg Plant, we watched Betty Boop’s May Party, which unlike Humorous Phases of Funny Faces and Alice’s Egg Plant has sound and was also one of the first animated sequences to use a rotoscope. The use of rotoscopes allowed for more life-like movement of the character. Also, the use of sound in animation further emphasizes the characteristics  and the personality of the characters. The biggest proof of the influence of sound is how synonymous “Boop-oop-a-doop” is with Betty Boop.

 

 

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After sound and color were added into animated films, Disney attempted to create a new experience for the audience with the use of Cinemascope. Traditionally, the screen was a square but with a cinemascope, the screen was a long and rectangular. The use of cinemascope was more to enhance the experience of the audience, rather than for having an impact on the characters of the story. With cinemascope, the screen covered the audience’s entire vision and had characters going from one end of the screen to the other. Disney even alludes to this new change at the very beginning when Professor Owl is running late to his class. He rushes out of his tree all the way to the left of the screen and as he his running he makes his way across to the right side; some people would have had to turn their head to keep Professor Owl in their vision.

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In addition to cartoon animation, we also saw examples of replacement animation, where the filmmakers use different puppets in each frame to characterize every movement and in turn bring the puppets to life. The two examples of replacement animation that we saw were Tulips Shall Grow and Paranorman. The biggest difference between the two is that in Tulips Shall Grow the filmmakers replace the entire puppets in each since, however in Paranorman they are only replacing the face so that they are able to show more detailed and life-like facial expression.

 

 

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In addition to animated shorts or films we also saw Television commercials and animated shorts the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales and on Disney.com. This indicates how technology has created a separation in the audiences that view the films. The commercials were specifically targeted towards people. For example, the Spots for Jello commercials was directed strictly towards mothers and housewife, informing them of the ease of preparation and how much it would satisfy either her guests or children. Also the Nash Rambler commercial was talking to the man of the house and urging him to be financially smart while still providing enough room for his family and out maneuvering all the other cars on the road. Finally the two websites were directly targeting children to be entertaining and educational.

Narrative Edits

Before I made the video, I had spent days finishing the Avatar cartoon series so the plot of my videos is modeled after a major theme in the series : fate. The Lumiere brothers videos that I had a lot of videos that contrasted the same situation for two very different groups of people; the rich and the poor. In my video I used the theme of fate to compare and contrast the two groups. The vidoe features comparisons between children in orphanages and a baby who has loving parents to look after her. Then I move to compare older the situation in different parts of life like adolescence and adulthood where the rich are seen enjoying themselves while the poor are hard at work. My video features only the videos by the Lumiere brothers, and there is no music – mainly because I the sound and video mixing refused to work on my computer. 

You can watch the video here.