I reviewed David Gordon Green’s less than spectacular new movie, read it here.
Read my review of uneven mob film, Rob The Mob, here.
I reviewed the new David Gordon Green film, Prince Avalanche, for Paste Magazine – read it here.
I reviewed Terrence Malick’s pretentious and boring new film for Paste Magazine, which you can read here.
I reviewed this new German-language crime thriller from Swiss director Baran bo Odar for Paste Magazine. Read it here.
Emperor begins the way the war in the Pacific ended – with a devastating atomic blast. Director Peter Webber’s new film opens with newsreel footage of the bomb dropping on Japan as WWII drew to a close, a horror wrought by America, which subsequently found itself responsible for the rebuilding of the bombed-out country. In 1945, General MacArthur (played gruffly and full of cocksure swagger by Tommy Lee Jones) joined the occupying forces in Japan to figure out how to rebuild without inciting insurrection and guerilla warfare. One of the many problems America faced was Japan’s devotion to its revered Emperor Hirohito, who was in fact considered to be the living embodiment of God. MacArthur brought in a general named Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), who could use his deep love for and intimate knowledge of Japan to figure out how to root out war criminals while respecting the emperor’s presumed divinity. Of course, “intimate” here refers to a past lover, Aya Shimada (Eriko Hatsune), whom he met at college in the U.S. She abruptly returned to Japan, leaving him jilted and heartbroken.
If this sounds suspiciously melodramatic, it is – there are repeated scenes of Fellers pausing to remember his past love, as swelling music plays over images of the two running in slow motion through forests of bamboo. This feels out of place with the rest of the film, which vacillates between 1940s film noir tones and hints historical biopic. Matthew Fox traipses through the ruins of Tokyo, getting into drunken fights in bars at night as he simultaneously hunts for Aya and the war criminals he’s tasked with finding, and one can’t help think of films like The Third Man. The problem is that Fox is no Joseph Cotten. He’s a fine actor in certain roles, but his inherent earnestness doesn’t do his conflicted character justice here. Jones, on the other hand, is perfect as the blustering MacArthur. After landing in Tokyo at the film’s beginning, he announces that he and his team are about to show some “good, old-fashioned American swagger” before donning a pair of sunglasses and an enormous pipe for his walk down the runway.
Although the events of <i>Emperor</i> are based on historical fact, Webber avoids making a straightforward historical picture, instead choosing to focus on the inner workings of his characters. That doesn’t mean he ignores the history, however, and the last third of the film is mostly devoted to the mechanics of setting up the meeting between Hirohito and MacArthur. When it finally happens, Jones adopts a more subdued tone, showing that although MacArthur may have been full of bravado, he knew when to sit back and display the respect needed to avoid an international incident. Ultimately, this is the most interesting part of the film, which drags when it gets bogged down in sentiment but shines when detailing the intricate dance that was post-WWII reconstruction and negotiation.
Read my review of this beautifully done post-WWII road movie.
Herzog’s new doc makes some assumptions. Read my review here.