Ribs wrote:Heroic Purgatory is practically impenetrable even considering the avant garde nature of the rest of this set; after literally reading a book preparing me for the complexities of Eros + Massacre, I felt incredibly lost when I had absolutely no idea what to expect. It's very beautiful and still recommended but bear in mind it's not an easy film to process.
It was totally impenetrable when I watched it with French subs on its earlier DVD release. This time through I found it much easier to follow. I haven't entirely got my head around the intricacies of the plot, but I get the general picture now. There's a certain allegorical sense of several generations of activists dealing with the same problems in slightly different guises (which is cued by the cyclical nature of the AMPO protests): such as interchangeable ambassadors they want to abduct, or the constant threat of treachery. Over this is layered a tacitly feminist critique of imposed gender roles, with the female characters posited as blank slates on which the male power structure projects a limited number of roles: mother, daughter, wife, victim. In one particularly memorable scene, the 'projection' metaphor is literal: in a film made of a sexual assault, the woman is either a victim or invisible. These female roles can be fluid and interchangeable, but their absence cannot be tolerated.
As in Eros Plus Massacre
, there's a sense of the past (and the future) being a subjective construction, so the shifts in time don't obey the codes of cinematic 'naturalism'. Thus characters appearing as their past and future selves generally look like they do in the present, apart from occasional feints at fancy dress. Which is a nifty psychological trick, but does make the shifts in time harder to follow. You really need to latch onto the various temporal clues (mention of dates, identifying ambassadorial letters, costume) to be able to reconstruct the order of events.
It's still much twistier than most of Yoshida's films, but not insurmountably obscure. The late sixties films made before these more overtly political films had difficulties of their own, but they weren't so structurally radical. They tended to be melodramatic subjects (really, really skewed 'women's films') decked out in outrageous stylistic invention and garnished with bizarre swerves of Lynchian dream logic. They're really fantastic, and I hope Arrow is bold enough to mine another box out of them.