This post was commissioned by Frank Hecker. You can find out more about commissions here.
Back in 2010, a certain segment of anime fandom was abuzz with arguments over whether Black Swan was a rip-off of Satoshi Kon’s 1997 film Perfect Blue – think the Battle Royale/Hunger Games debate, but for the Very Serious Art Film crowd. It’s no secret that Aronofsky is a fan of Kon’s work (witness this direct homage in Requiem for a Dream, just for starters), and the two films do share, on a basic level, an identical premise: a young artist seeking to advance her career, previously shackled by her image as a “pure” object, takes on a demanding and very sexual role; the strain of this choice and outside factors causes a breakdown in the artist’s psyche, including persistent images of being stalked by a doppelganger of her “other” self.
Last week we talked about The Witch, a decidedly strange and mostly effective film that inhabits that wonderful horror subgenre known as “everything’s a metaphor.” But as much as that film defied analysis by modern standards, against all odds demanding to be taken by its own internal logic, its best feature was undoubtedly its skill in creating tension from the mundane.
So, taking The Witch (and its stand-alone essay) as our fifth number, let’s take a look at some other films that effectively captured that elusive quality: a bubble of existence whose logic is its own, a careful structure waiting to fall apart; or a time capsule that, whether we know its context or not, demands that we invest fully in the stakes at hand.
Around this time of year everyone has their holiday lineup. Whether it’s A Christmas Story and the nightmare inducing clay faces of the Rankin-Bass specials, whatever Chanukah films are left after disregarding the atrocity that is Eight Crazy Nights, or just raising the good old Festivus pole and perhaps rocking out to Die Hard, this is a time of year that deals in familiar faces. After all, the holidays are times we want to spend with our families (of blood or of choice), remembering good times and enjoying the safe space of familiarity while spreading kindness to all humanity. I’m a bit of an optimist, so sue me.
But that nostalgia can make it hard to bestir yourself to look into new stories. After all, there’s so many great ones already, right? And we’ve all sat through the Hallmark schlock at least once, induced in our sleepy sense of goodwill into at least attempting a warm embrace of the cash in made for TV stuff. I’ve been there, dear readers. But the point of this unusually uncoordinated missive is to give you the last great addition to my own family’s Christmas filmathon: Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers.
My heart grows three sizes just looking at them