Monday, February 20, 2012

Criterion Critiques w/ Alex DeLarge

What follows is part of a regular series of reviews on the always wonderful, and quite indispensable Criterion Collection, written by our special guest reviewer Alex DeLarge of the Korova Theatre. 

GODZILLA (Ishiro Honda, 1954)
Released on Criterion Blu-ray 01/24/2012; Spine #594

Caveat: This is the original uncut Japanese version. To fully appreciate this film, you must understand it on its own terms; you must put to rest the campy films spawned by this classic. Godzilla is a parable of the atomic age, a monster awakened by science tainted with moral lassitude; a destructive and dire warning that mankind stalks the nightmare’s abyss.
 
The giant Jurassic creature stirs from its millennial slumber because the United States is testing atomic bombs in the Pacific Ocean: this beast the rises from the murky depths and ravages Odo Island before advancing upon mainland Japan…and laying Tokyo to ruin. It is also a metaphor concerning science run amok: Dr. Serizawa fears that his volatile creation the Oxygen Destroyer, though it will kill Godzilla, will be used as a weapon to escalate the arms race and obliterate mankind, he laments “Bombs versus bombs, missiles versus missiles, and now a new superweapon to throw upon us all. As a scientist-no, as a human being-I cannot allow that to happen”.
 
Dr. Yamane (superbly portrayed by Takashi Shimura!) believes that this creature should be captured alive and studied, even at the risk of total catastrophe: knowledge is more important that human life. While the debate rages, so does Godzilla as millions die in the ensuing firestorm of Tokyo, eerily reminiscent of the Allied firebombing of Japan only a few years earlier. When one woman on a train compares this war with her survival at Nagasaki, the chilling catharsis is finally revealed.
 
The film is deftly directed by Ishiro Honda and focuses upon the characters and their moral dilemmas…not a rubber-suited monster amid crushed dioramas. When Godzilla is filmed in medium and long shot, the towering silhouette is reminiscent of a rising mushroom cloud as the cities fiery tendrils rake the darkening sky. The creature’s nightmarish roar is like Munch’s scream, a discordant reverberation as nature fights back to reclaim the world. But science does not fail us: Dr. Serizawa burns his research and utilizes his desperate weapon to kill the Beast and makes the ultimate sacrifice for Japan…and the whole damned human race. He takes his secrets to his watery grave. But if these nuclear tests continue, Dr. Yamane asks, will another Godzilla awaken? Or something worse?
 
Final Grade: (A)
 
*************

About Alex: "To state things plainly is the function of journalism; Alex writes fugitive reviews, allusive, symbolic, full of imagery and allegory, and by leaving things out, he allows the reader the privilege of creating along with him." Alex can be found hidden deep within the dark confines of his home theatre watching films, organizing his blu-ray and dvd collection and updating his blogs. Please visit the Korova Theatre and Hammer & Thongs to see what’s on his mind.
 

2 comments:

Chip Lary said...

While I would rate this film slightly lower than you, it is still a classic film that everyone should see. The parallels on the dangers of radiation and scientific knowledge being abused would have been very scary to the original Japanese audiences, less than 10 years removed from their losing World War II.

And to think, that same year Shimura was also in Seven Samurai.

Blogger said...

Trying to find the Ultimate Dating Website? Join to find your perfect date.