Did I get your attention? Don’t worry this is not a cheap ploy. Okay, maybe it is. But there is a legitimate reason why I wanted to get your attention, and you’ll learn why if you read on.
What this post is not is a detailed review of all the movies I have seen that were up for awards this year. All of them very good for different reasons. Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time” taking liberty rewriting a storyline and paying homage to a period of time in Hollywood.
1917, every award season needs a war picture.
Parasite from the director whose work I have been following for a number of years, Bong Joon-ho with its strong message about the haves and have- nots among other things was brilliantly done.
The character study of the Joker and the strong message about society was powerful.
The Irishman, same old same old, emphasis on old.
There is one film I want to focus on which for some reason or another was overshadowed titled, JoJo Rabbit, by the brilliant director Taika Waititi. Why this film didn’t receive top awards and accolades is beyond me.
This was a pitch perfect artistic film that tackled a dark subject with nuance and humor. I loved this film so much I saw it twice, something I rarely ever do and a testament to its brilliance. While there are many incredible scenes in the movie I want to focus on one, the beginning.
I am a believer that no matter what artistic medium you are involved in, if you don’t grab your audience in the first few moments you will struggle to get them later. I first learned this from a New York City acting teacher who said, “The moment you step out on that stage is the moment it all starts. You better be present and prepared to grab your audience.” I would add, this is true of all art, writing included. It can start with the opening line or better yet title. (See my title again)
A painting needs to grab you from the first look. Recently, I read a New York Times article about a famous artist I had never heard of. Part of it is that I do not pay attention so much to the art world. His name, Anselm Kiefer, known as the “Greatest Living Artist.” First thought, “That’s quite a title to be given,” followed by, “Boy am I out of the loop.”
Reading the piece on this artist was fascinating. I am always curious to learn what makes a great living artists. What really caught my eye, and this is going back to what I said about grabbing your audience in the first few moments, the power of a painting he did in 2006 titled “Schwarze Flacken” or “Black Flakes.”
The energy emanating from the painting, the darkness, and flood of images that flashed through my mind was incredible. Now I understood why he may be the greatest living artist.
Getting back to the director Waititi and the opening of JoJo Rabbit. Let me describe it for you, keeping in mind that words and imagery are a different experience when compared to seeing the film. I suggest you see it.
Opening scene, we hear an iconic melody. The singing begins, but the words aren’t in English. The song? ” I Want to Hold Your Hand,” by The Beatles, in German!
Cut to screaming fans.
Followed by a seamless cut and shot of Hitler addressing his adoring fans at a youth rally while The Beatles song plays in the background.
Cut back to Beatlemania. By the way, we never actually see The Beatles, only hear the German version of the song.
Final cut to a massive Hitler rally.
Returning to my point about grabbing the attention of the viewer, this was the best I’d ever experienced. Think about it, one of the most popular rock bands in the world espousing love contrasted with the complete opposite end of the spectrum and evil and darkness personified. Yet both revered by many. What a powerful opening statement.
This director created the perfect film balancing dark and light, humor and drama, love and hate all beautifully done with storytelling and cinematography. This is risk taking at its best.
The question I have, “How does one pitch a movie idea like this to investors and movie producers?” I can see it now sitting in a corporate meeting room with the director describing his vision of the opening scene I have described above. Who in their right mind would be open to investing in a story-line that opens with The Beatles and Hitler, both solidified in history for very different reasons.
I am inspired whenever I see a film such as this, or a painting or a good piece of writing, hell any good art. What I am drawn to is risk- taking and true creativity.
Living in Japan for as long as I have my attention to details has become refined. It is all in the details. And what I am finding as a writer, the pursuit lies in perfecting the way in which I write about details. There is power in the subtle, in the nuanced way to describe something. To be able to connect and go deeper in ways that are universal and portrayed from a unique perspective, pushing the limits and taking risks is what it is all about.
This is what the director of JoJo Rabbit has achieved and what I aspire to.