both yojimbo and unforgiven feature several shots that are blocked by obstacles, whether they be window panes, vehicle windows, or jail cell bars. fair enough, but what of it? they’re both westerns – though yojimbo is definitely period, it has heavy western elements. they’re both about hired assassins, and they both use obstacles through their cinematography. they have different stories, and take place in different time periods. however, i’m willing to argue that they both use a plethora of obstacles throughout, but the metaphors they highlight are substantially different. this paper is to demonstrate the use of vision obstruction in unforgiven primarily for obstructed truth and personality, and primarily for voyeurism and gossip in yojimbo.
the similarities on a surface level are very easy to notice. both of these films are about experienced killers who
m are now unaffiliated, or have become distanced from their careers. bill munny hasn’t shot anyone in years, and a change of societal landscape has made the self-described sanjuro into a mercenary. they both live in the wilderness, with freedom to do as they please. they both take place – mostly – in small towns. this is where the similarities end.
when we’re introduced to bill munny in unforgiven, we see that he’s working on a pig farm, something unfitting a gunslinger. looking closer, we notice the use of obstacles in one of the shots he’s standing behind a large wooden fence. he likely feels imprisoned by the new life he leads, as he doesn’t seem all too happy about the way things are now, underscored by the small house he lives in, and the dirty exterior.
on the contrary, we see a few shots of sanjuro walking a nondescript trail after expressing his freedom by tossing a stick up in the air, then walking around it, with one foot on each side to foreshadow his capability of moving between factions. though this may not count as an obstacle, it’s a non-narrative way that the mise en scène expresses their levels of personal freedom. this is likely one of the few similarities, where vision obscurity (or lack thereof) is used to express the same theme: personal freedom.
after these introduction scenes, the meaning conveyed by this technique is drastically different. vision obscuring is used in yojimbo to demonstrate voyeurism, or bystander effect at the very least, but what can the poor townsfolk do? sanjuro walks into town with all the locals hidden in their buildings, looking at him through wooden bars. however, these bars could easily represent jail cells, the people of this village are caught in the middle of a gang war between two opposing factions, and they have no power to stop it. a lot of these “prisoners” are women, most of whom are traded back and forth like property. by contrast, sanjuro continues to walk around unbarred.
obstruction is heavily used as a medium for voyeurism and gossip. gonji the tavern keeper brings sanjuro to his slit windows to demonstrate to him how corrupt their town has become; even telling him about the noisy prayer next door, and how lousy the last town mayor was. the camera’s perspective is kept obscured to give us their perspective into the happenings; this perspective does give sanjuro as a hired warrior a more objective idea of who to side with, but it proves to serve the townsfolk as gossip. orin and her seibei comrades gossip and talk behind sanjuro’s back, debating on whether or not to pay him or kill him, exemplified by a close up of the three of them. sanjuro himself even gets in on the observation, sometimes subtle and other time very blatant. we can see sanjuro looking through small cracks, but also sitting on the top of a high tower as his potential employers engage in a battle of nerves.
obstruction is used much differently in unforgiven; the cinematography better reflects separation on a personal level than a social one. we notice bill munny is obstructed by a fence when he’s managing his pigs, but when the schofield kid shows up and calls him out as an assassin, he’s no longer covered. in this film, characters who aren’t true to themselves or others are covered by obstacles, but revealed – or proven to be themselves - when they expose themselves. some characters hide who they are or allow blown up legends to spread. there’s a shot where skinny is having a conversation with little bill – who
m is obscured by a ladder - while a pillar of wood keeps them separated in the shot, demonstrating that bill hasn’t fully integrated into civilization as much he would like to be. the obstructions are clearly seen during the jail scene; we see both little bill and english bob through the bars. the camera could have stayed at one perspective, never showing little bill from the jail’s perspective, but this doesn’t happen. this is significant as english bob’s character is obstructed by his legends, and little bill is obstructing his success at integrating into civilization.
interestingly, we don’t see munny obscured in a particular negative way; his introduction at the hog farm demonstrates the conflict between assassin and farmer. in contrast to the jail scene with little bill this may show that he could still have criminal behaviour lingering
beneath his lawful façade. on this note, no one is obscured in the final bar scene when billy munny shoots everyone in sight, including an easily visible little bill, who we’ve seen obscured quite a few times.this must have happened since these two characters have come to grips with who they are by this point. munny picks up his weapons and embarks to give ned vengeance, reverting to the ruthless killer that he once was; he even admits at the bar that he killed “women and children” little bill, who several scenes ago was shown whipping ned, has now revealed his ruthless behaviour better expected from bandits. in the bar he behaves malicious and doesn’t hesitate to order his henchmen to blast munny.
both these movies have their fair share of similarities, they could both be classified as westerns, both feature the conflict between civilization and independence, and both main characters find themselves walking into a town in relative disarray. there doesn’t seem to be a lot to compare except for the way that they use objects blocking the camera. the only clearly visible example is the voyeurism motif, but that isn`t common in unforgiven, at least though objects. yojimbo uses it to perpetuate the gossip
, voyeurism and unforgiven uses it as a metaphor for the cloudiness of the inner workings of these characters. in summation, both these movies are great on their own merits, especially in the way they cleverly use obstacles to convey a theme, whether it be the changing of characters, or with something as simple as gossip and talking behind the backs of other people.
3 stars means “i really fucking want to see this”
hipsters to me are very interesting, they try to be different by liking obscure things (sometimes this doesn’t work) and behaving ‘counter-culture’. of course this doesnt work. i could go on but i wont. i have decided to discuss hipsters because i am in portland, and they are everywhere (like our sewer system).
hipsters dont like cars; the only time you will ever see a hipster driving a car is if its really shitty. so almost never, really. though yesterday i saw a hipster (she had blue hair) driving a not-so-old volkswagen. granted, it was very muddy everywhere, i hope this isnt a new trend. you can often see hipsters riding their bikes with their pants rolled up.
hipsters like cafes; too many hipsters have seen too many french movies (new-wave, neorealist, the era doesn’t matter). i dunno about hipsters, but if i was trying to establish something quirky and cool, i’d get my clique to hang out exclusively at cheap middle-eastern places (none of us would be middle-eastern).
hipsters dress funny; a note here: you may see some people that look like hipsters, girls wearing those stupid string headband things like in those fucking mgmt videos. don’t be fooled, if someone you know has a postal service record on vinyl [even though they don’t have a record player] and they buy their clothes at urban outfitters, they are not hipster, they are tryhards. actual hipsters buy their clothes at thrift stores or overpriced boutiques (only the pieces that make them look poor). hipsters are the only social group on this earth who spend a lot of money in order to look poor. male hipsters have a tendency to not shave, at all. the only people in their 20’s that i ever see with full blown beards are hipsters.
hipsters smoke cigarettes; many hipsters smoke, they do this because it’s ‘cool’. remember the french movies? north american hipsters do their best to copy french hipsters. some hipsters will smoke cigarillos, but don’t think that those are better somehow [i’ve tried some romeo y julietta ones, they taste like shit].
hipsters drink a lot; i mean, everyone drinks a lot, but hipsters try to turn it into an art (everything is ‘art’ when you’re on some kind of drug). hipsters always try to make their drunk experiences sound quirky. “i do slam poetry when im drunk” okay, im taking about myself here, but im still not a hipster at least. you should also know that hipsters don’t usually go to nightclubs (except fortune soundclub in china town, damn good club), they usually go to bars, cheap ones though (or guilt&co in gastown).
hipsters usually get crap degree’s; if you ever meet a hipster getting a business, science, engineering or any other degree that sounds useful, they’re probably not actually a hipster (this means you can take them seriously); this also means that while they may have the same tastes in music, books and movies as a hipster, they probably aren’t as unoriginal or painfully liberal as a real hipster. hipsters are known for getting arts degree’s like sociology and english, these degree’s usually allow them to get a job in table waiting or retail (re; h&m sales rep).
hipsters are skinny; if you see a fat girl who has her pants rolled up and she’s wearing retro wayfarers, she is not actually a hipster, she is a tryhard. if you are a girl hipster, you must weigh less than 115 lbs. if you are a dude hipster, you must have almost no muscle mass, bearmode males are the only exception to this rule. why is all this so? because if you’re fat, it means you have money. speaking of money, my dad and i saw this hipster when we were walking around in pearl district, he was smoking cigarettes and asked us “hey can you spare some money? i need $11.30 for a hostel” as we walked away my dad muttered “if he didn’t buy that pack of cigarettes he wouldnt need it” damn straight.
hipsters read a lot; there is nothing wrong with this, its just silly what you may notice. many hipsters read stuff by jean-paul sartre, of course, if they actually took in what he wrote, they wouldn’t be hipsters anymore.
the more you know!!
with the recent explosion of hipsters near where i go to school, and given the counter-culture nature of socialism, i seldom hear anyone saying nice things about capitalism. fair enough, no system is perfect.
however, most of the opposition is actually to corporatism,which is identifiable with the united states, and not canada. corporatism is when large companies have more power in government then they should, michael moore’s “capitalism: a love story” is about this.
even then, what they rant about is usually how vacuous consumer culture is, and behave as if nike brainwashes the populace into buying their shoes, and that unless you’re well-read, you have almost no free will. sociologists like to blame today’s deplorable, vapid culture on all the largest multinationals.
i appreciate adbusters and sociologists for pointing out things that aren’t in plain sight, but they shouldn’t be calling capitalism (they mean corporatism) evil.
no matter how many advertisements you’re bombarded with, billboards you see or radio ads you absorb, it is your choice whether or not you buy it, that is the quintessence of the existential nature of capitalism.
another criticism that lefties (don’t jump to conclusions, most of my political views are considered liberal) like to use, is that it’s impossible to ascend in class with capitalism in place. perhaps in brazil or even the united states, this is not an inaccurate assertion, but canadian capitalism tends to be very solid - at least when the ndp aren’t in power. we have enough capitalism that the hardest worker makes the most money (unless you’re in a union), and enough socialism to grant a central bank that keeps the big 5 from tanking (a la lehman brothers).
while i am aware that people that come from terrible households, the sort with no money, domestic abuse or neglect, etc, tend to have a shitty life, that’s a whole other situation where the economic system in place is not to blame. you blame that on culture.
i find that the structuralism stuff is a bunch of crap. my father was born on a farm in new brunswick with very little money, today, with a lot of hard work, he runs a highly profitable engineering business, trades a lot of stock and directs a few public companies.
what you do with the money you worked hard for is your choice. communism is where the fruits of your labour aren’t even yours, they belong to the government, or the people for that matter. what purpose is there in working if a doctor and a janitor get paid almost the same? what point is there in working if i’m not doing it for my goals? i am not an individual if i act solely for other people. if you want to donate to charity, go for it, but i never want to be forced to do that by my government. if a some tax money goes to social programs, i don’t have much of a problem with that, but i don’t want to be taxed like the finnish.
capitalism in canada is highly existential, it is almost entirely your choice how well you do. as long as you are a rationally thinking individual (psychotics and invalids will have a shitty time no matter where), there is little to stop you. you get scholarships if you do well in school, you can get a job or two to pay for university and the government is willing to give you loans, just do yourself and the government a favour and pay it back when you’re done.
since the avatar dvd came out recently, i’ll post my impressions from when it first came out:
i went and saw avatar shortly after it was released in 2d, which is said to not be the full experience. but to me, if you need to see it in 3d to be a good film, i just call bullshit on that.
since many of you know my nature when it comes to stuff like this, you may expect me to say some nit picky, horrible things about the movie. however, it just happens that it is a good movie. it accomplishes its goals and doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t. i can’t bash it for having almost no art house qualities, because that wouldn’t really help it in any way, it’s made to be accessible to teenagers.
i’ll just say it straight up, there are two reasons why everyone’s flipping out over avatar. one, it got hyped aggressively ($150,000,000 was spent on marketing), no one hasn’t heard of it. two, 2009 was a total drag for hollywood films. the only two other movies that come to my mind as not being crap, are district 9 and up (which was somewhat below pixar standard).
as for the actual movie, not much can be said. the plot is solid, the acting is good, the graphics are clearly superior, but that’s almost the reason that it’s so hyped up. it’s also the first movie james cameron had full control of since titanic 15 years ago.
it’s clear who the good guys and bad guys are, the plot has no glaring holes or paradoxes (like the time travel bullshit in the terminator series, also directed by cameron). all of the acting is good. the appearance of the universe (planets, organizations, ships, creatures, etc) is very original for the most part, it’s nice to see some aliens that are humanoid without being little green men or funny looking humans like in star trek. the way the avatar concept in the movie was execute was also original, he wasn’t plugging into the internet and he wasn’t lucid dreaming.
though it didn’t need it, some nice philosophical dialogue and musing could have been included in the movie. i mean, isn’t it the shit that they can move conciousness from one body to another? do the avatar pilots feel some existential dread as a result of this? i haven’t thought about it too much, but it would have been nice for it to have been included.
neytiri’s character seemed hauntingly similar to an archetype commonly seen in japanese media, the “tsundere”. she act’s like an asshole to jake sully at the beginning as a way of keeping her feeling at bay from others. this isn’t really a big deal though, it fit the character and zoe saldaña does a good job at playing the part, it made me feel weird when she cried her eyes out when her father died and when she flipped out at sully when he told her that he knew the master plan. you know that feeling when one of your friends starts to cry? that’s how i felt. only the best film acting and good stage acting can do that to me.
the film’s plot also seems very similar to pocahontas (jeff described the movie as “pocahontas in space”). i don’t mind this too much, as completely original movies are completely rare from hollywood cinema these days, everything is either a sequel, prequel, remake or based on a book, old tv show or (sadly) a videogame.
i also have too many questions. what is earth like during the course of the movie? is it roasting from global warming? is the pmc american? how does the avatar setup work? whatever, there will probably be a sequel, doomed to suffer because cameron will feel pressured to make it live up to the first movie.
cameron’s ideology is also painfully obvious, it’s pretty clear that he’s trying to create an allegory of the white man selfishly taking the lands of the indigenous, or even the current war in iraq. also note the environmentalism. on this note, i don’t really like most “war movies” like platoon. i mean, i like them and think highly of them, buy them and watch them later, but i would like it better if they were called “anti-war movies” as in, the ideology is served to you and not interpreted by the viewer. this is why i loved full metal jacket for its ambiguity.
additionally, weaver is one hell of an actor, and her role should have given her more room to do what she does best. her character of augustine almost seemed to trap her. i know that sounds vague, but it’s how i felt.
i hope i didn’t sound like too much of an asshole, but this is a good movie. one of the best hollywood movies of 2009. i’d give it a 7.8/10, would watch again. i just don’t like hype. sorry if this write-up seems half-assed.