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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (10/5/09) 10:13pm - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Movies:  After Life
TV:  <none>
Books:  <none>

After Life
This is the 1998 Japanese film about employees at a waystation for the dead.  Each recently-deceased soul has three days to pick a memory from their life.  The employees help the souls go back over their lives to find a suitable memory.  Then, the employees shoot a short film of that memory.  Finally, the souls take that film -- and none of their other memories -- on with them to... to wherever it is they go afterwards.

It's weird to watch this after seeing so much of Bryan Fuller's work, because After Life is in many ways the exact inverse of Fuller's TV shows.  Sure, they cover the same subject matter -- odd takes on death and the supernatural -- but they use exact opposite tones.  Bryan Fuller heightens everything as far as his budget will allow, and uses polished language and quirky production design to distance us from the grimness of the subject matter.

After Life, on the other hand, mostly feels like an Errol Morris documentary.  For most of the running time, it feels like the filmmakers grabbed people off the street, planted them at a desk, asked them what memory they would pick if they had to pick only one, and just let the cameras roll.  In between interview sessions, we see what the waystation employees do between the interviews, and it feels real and casual.

It all adds up to a story that's not very plot-driven.  We're not on pins and needles about how anything will turn out.  Nor does this movie go the sci-fi route, starting with this counterfactual ("there exists a waystation for the dead"), and then examining all of the neat implications that might have.  Instead, we're curious about the place, so the movie tells us about it.  Meanwhile, we're probably tackling the "which memory would you pick?" question for ourselves.  The movie interposes "pillow shots" -- static shots of locations -- that invite such contemplation.

To me, Bryan Fuller feels defiant -- something like, "We will HAVE FUN even in this WORLD OF DEATH!"  But this film is gentle and thoughful:  "Everybody dies, and that's okay, and we'll all sit back for a while and think about what it all means."

(For the record, I have no idea what I would pick.  Maybe something from '03.  That was a good little year.)

I imagine the next time I go to a funeral, I may come home and watch this.  I'd probably cry the whole way through, but feel a bit better afterwards.

I continue to prepare for the Dickens show with Our Mutual Friend, the book about day-to-day life in Victorian England, and my old accents book.  Nothing new and exciting, podcast-wise.

For next time:  more Dickens, more of The Middleman, and perhaps Iron Man as well.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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