Archivi tag: dystopia

Akira by Katsuhiro Ôtomo

Article by: Matteo Merlano

Translation by: Kim Turconi

Neo Tokyo, 2019. After the third World War, Japan is in crisis. Economy in ruin in addition to corrupted and ineffective politics cannot find a way to start up again a Nation where crime and violence rule the roost. The only thing which seems to be of a certain relevance to the government is the Akira Project, sort of super secret project intended to control an enormous power, which has caused sects of obsessed people to flourish all around the city, preaching the arrival of a divinity called Akira. In this chaos, gangs of bikers speed across the city on modified beasts. Among them there are Kaneda and Tetsuo. An unexpected accident during one of the many raids, will change their lives and those of the entire nation forever.

Undisputed masterpiece of Japanese animation, the movie of Katsuito Otomo is not just a cinematographic opera, but a whole experience, leaving the audience breathless. Produced in 1988 (in Italy came out only in 1992) it was the most expensive anime in History (with a budget of one billion yens) and brought to the creation of a specific production house to realize it, the Akira Committee, with Otomo himself as the chairman, who employed for years more than one thousand animators. All the fears and the contradictions of that decade are contained in this dystopia which draws fully from western cult movies. An elaborate, chaotic and colossal Neo Tokyo is the spitting image of the rainy Los Angeles from Blade Runner (the time of setting is, for this reason, not randomly chosen) ruled by lawless riders (Mad Max) who go all around the city on futuristic bikes (Kaneda’s motorcycle design is identical to the lightcycles from Tron). The aesthetic magnificence is something which leaves everyone amazed and the masterly sound work, overseen by composer Shoji Yamashiro, was an epochal evolution in the animation field.

The concept of Evolution itself is the base of Akira. What is this mysterious energy, so devastating that it needs to be hidden in the bowels of the earth? Who controls it? Where it comes from? Who owns it and how can it be used? The spiritual aspect of the film lies in this ambivalence of the concept of Evolution – especially technological evolution – which often leads to a regression when technology goes too far.
Is it creative or destructive? Otomo is certainly a son of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That “sun” – which kills tens of thousands people in a few seconds – has affected his worldview. Evolution is a powerful force, but it can cause pain if mishandled. Akira embodies this philosophy and make it to burst with an explosion of visual effects and visionary experiences that leave an impression on one’s mind. The future portrayed by Otomo is crazy, chaotic and illuminated only by neon signs and skyscrapers lights. It is a future in which people run at full speed without any purpose, or they run for the wrong reasons.

The title of this review is taken from the famous Blade Runner monologue of Roy Batty/Rutger Hauer. Our choice has not been accidental, because the Future is already here – and perhaps already experienced. Otomo, just like Scott, “has seen things”. And we have seen them with him.

Strange Days by Kathryn Bigelow

Article by: Matteo Merlano                                                                                       Translation by: Lorenzo Matarazzo

  • Los Angeles, December 31 1999, at the dawn of the new millennium tensions and chaos rule a militarized city, slave to a new drug which is powerful and unstoppable: Deck, i.e. other persons’ experiences recorded on mini-disc and directly wired to the brain of the user. Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is the biggest “experiences’” dealer around, but when he receives a clip containing a Deck fix showing the truth about the homicide of rapper Jeriko One, leader of the rising afroamerican rebellion, his life takes a dangerous turn.

    Set only four years after the moment of shooting, Strange Days predicted the future in a rather disturbing way. Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman director who cleared the Action genre through the customs of male-only directions (masterpieces such as Point Break and Near Dark are works of hers) and gives us the image of a Los Angeles which is nocturnal, violent and full of tensions and contradictions (a big part of the credit goes to the script from James Cameron, Bigelow’s ex-husband) where the characters wander like ghosts searching for Life, not theirs, but other people’s, the one which is “transferred” in the brain like a file from a Usb drive. No one is safe in this world and to escape sadness everyone is willing to do anything. A movie filled with a 90s’ atmosphere, from the aesthetic choices (fast montage and a photography reminiscent of the one used in videoclips) to the Hip Hop, Techno and Post-Punk countercultures, up to the human side, where in a society which lacks direction the only salvation is true love, when it is absolute and romantic. Great soundtrack: Tricky, Deep Forest, Peter Gabriel and Skunk Anansie, to name a few.
    Perfect cast with Fiennes, at ease and troubled at the same time in this scenario, a Juliette Lewis who is more beautiful and reckless than ever and Angela Basset, who carries on the role of tough women so dear to Cameron (Sigourney Weaver in Aliens and Linda Hamilton in Terminator), as well as a disturbing Vincent D’Onofrio, playing a corrupted and psychopathic policeman.

    It is unbelievable how much of the vision from Bigelow and Cameron came true. At the time of production racial tensions had reached their peak because of the police killing of Rodney King in 1992. Today they have emerged again for the same reason in many places around the United States. A militarized L.A. sadly reminds of the big European cities of these weeks. After the 13 November tragedy in Paris and after other similar events, Strange Days appears extremely contemporary. A must see which helps to understand the dark, crazy and “strange” days that we are living in now, year of the Lord 2015.