Archives for posts with tag: bacteria

Writhing Tongue

Writhing Tongue (1980) ***

Not the exercise in horror or sexual perversion that its arresting title might suggest, Writhing Tongue is actually just an offbeat medical melodrama. Masako (Mayuko Wakamori), a pretty little Japanese girl, pricks her finger while playing one day and soon develops an awkward walk and refuses to eat or open her mouth. Doctors diagnose the girl with tetanus, and her extended hospitalization places a strain on her parents’ marriage and even their sanity, their anxiety intensifying when first the father (Tsunehiko Watase) and then the mother (Yukiyo Toake) begin to suspect that they, too, might have contracted the illness.

Writhing Tongue will be a challenge to viewers accustomed to breakneck pacing, with most of the film consisting of scenes of the harried and increasingly haggard parents watching their daughter suffer in her hospital bed. Here and there an odd touch enlivens the proceedings, such as when the despairing father apostrophizes the ancient bacteria occupying his child’s body; but Writhing Tongue, for the most part, is a slow, lugubrious affair, and likely to be disturbing to any parents of small children. This critic’s chief complaint: at no point in the film is there anything even remotely resembling the “writhing tongue” promised in the title!

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Farewell to the Ark

Farewell to the Ark (1984) ****

Very loosely inspired by the magical realist vision of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, this oddball allegorical film is a difficult one to synopsize. Set in a rustic Japanese village where “time doesn’t flow”, Farewell to the Ark follows incestuous cousins Su-e (Mayumi Ogawa), condemned to an indestructible chastity belt by her father, and Sutekichi (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a 35-year-old virgin who longs desperately to penetrate her. Sutekichi’s maddening sexual frustration finally boils over when he hears himself publicly mocked by the randy Daisaki (Yoshio Harada), causing Sutekichi to murder him. After that, he and Su-e flee the village and live as husband and wife in an idyllic forest.

Separated from their community, however, Sutekichi, like some character out of a Paul Bowles story, begins to lose touch with the world around him and feels compelled to create little signs, labeling everything “shoes”, “my house” and so forth; he even hangs a sign on himself that says “Me”. A lot of other bizarre things happen in Farewell to the Ark, as well. A little boy falls into a pit, only to emerge a moment later as a fully formed adult; two youths pursue a woodland nymph whose admirers, if they see her naked, are doomed to die a horrible death; and masked dancers put on a torchlit rite that has to be seen to be believed. Seldom dull, Farewell to the Ark does, however, run somewhat overlong at 127 minutes. Still, it has much to recommend it to seekers after the strange, the obscure, and the thought-provoking.

4 out of 5 stars.

Writhing Tongue trailer

 

The zombie apocalypse genre has come a long way culturally since its invention by George Romero with Night of the Living Dead. That prestigious leading man Brad Pitt now stars in a $190,000,000 zombie movie from Paramount says quite enough about how firmly the ravenous hordes of corpses have ensconced themselves as a mainstream phenomenon. World War Z, the resulting film, happily rises above its origins in a pop horror fad and delivers the goods both in terms of suspense and as grist for speculative consideration, with director Marc Forster rising to the occasion and producer Pitt’s extracurricular interest in international philanthropy only slightly marring an otherwise exciting and rewarding adventure. Imagine, in short, 28 Weeks Later, but with more faith in human nature and hope for species survival.  4.5 stars. Recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that World War Z is:

10. Moderately pro-castration.  United Nations errand boy Gerry Lane (Pitt) is an exemplar of the sensitive man, a homemaker who cooks breakfast for his wife and daughters. Thankfully, Lane mans up fast when the action necessitates.

9. Anti-police. One officer rudely knocks the driver’s side mirror off Lane’s vehicle, and another is seen participating in the looting of a store, taking no interest in the violence happening around him.

8. Progressive/pro-philanthropy. “Movement is life,” Lane advises in Spanish in the context of trying to convince a Hispanic family to leave the precarious safety of their apartment. Lane resolves the global crisis in Taoist fashion when he discovers that humanity’s hope lies in the emulation of its weakest elements. “Help each other,” Pitt says at the end over images of unfortunate Third Worlders in a moment that would make Bono misty-eyed with pride.

7. Feminist. Tough Israeli soldier Segen (Daniella Kertesz) with her buzz cut and resourcefulness represents the unsexed woman warrior ideal.

6. Pro-family. Lane cares deeply for his wife and daughters and agrees to come out of retirement only with the intention of protecting them.

5. Multiculturalist. World War Z goes out of its way to depict compassionate people of different races showing consideration for each other (cf. nos. 3 and 4).

4. Zionist. The special historical experience of the Jews as a persecuted people has spurred them to a greater level of preparedness than other nations; their protective wall was thus completed just before the zombie apocalypse went global. Look to the Magic Kingdom for guidance, the film seems to say (cf. nos. 3 and 5).

3. Immigration-ambivalent and anti-Arab. World War Z sends some mixed and confusing signals here. Israel, even after the zombie outbreak, continues to allow controlled Palestinian immigration on the principle that every human allowed to come under their protection is one potential zombie less to fight in the future. “It’s too late for me to build a wall,” Lane reflects in reference to America’s situation (zombie or Mexican?) when he witnesses the initial success of the Israeli security system. Unfortunately, the immigrant infiltration proves subversive when the obnoxious wailing of Palestinian refugees on a microphone drives the zombies outside into such a frenzy that they pile on top of each other to scale the wall like an angry ant swarm. Arabs, serving an inadvertent Trojan horse function, are thus equated with the mindless zombies (cf. nos. 4 and 5).

2. Statist/pro-NWO. The valiant internationalists of the United Nations and the World Health Organization are Earth’s only hope.

1. Green. A lame opening credits montage suggests that climate change is responsible for the rabies-like plague ravaging the planet.

[UPDATE (11/18/13): Richard B. Spencer of the National Policy Institute offers his insights into World War Z in an engaging and articulate YouTube talk here.]

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