Rain/Japanese Devils/Tape

Rain (New Zealand/USA, 2000, Christine Jeffs, director) was a beautifully shot first feature, set at a beachfront cottage in New Zealand. Lots of melancholy, but also strangely disturbing close ups foreshadowing tragedy: soapy dishes being washed, a man cutting the lawn in his bare feet. Sort of a coming of age story, very moving. 8/10.

Japanese Devils (Japan, 2001, Minoru Matsui, director) was almost three hours long, but compelling all the way through. This documentary features the confessions of 14 Japanese soldiers, detailing their atrocities against the Chinese in the war that Japan waged for most of the thirties and forties. At times hard to listen to, it was nonetheless an exercise in bravery for these men to speak out when the overwhelming majority of soldiers did not. A deeply difficult film to get made and shown in Japan. 8/10

Tape (USA, 2001, Richard Linklater, director) was another film that dealt with the issue of confessing our sins. Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard play two old high school friends reunited in a seedy hotel room ten years later. One character coerces the other to confess to a rape he committed in high school, then informs him he has taped their conversation. It gets even more complicated when Uma Thurman, the victim, shows up. Shot in six days on digital video, the medium is used brilliantly to reinforce the seediness and claustrophobia of the setting, as well as the characters’ unstable relationships. Adapted by Stephen Belber from his play. 8/10

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