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27 November 2023
22 November 2023
21 October 2023
LuckyFoxCommons is no longer a collective.
Colton McClure, Esq.
Suck it long and suck it hard, beatnik. See you on the other side of Reno, you rat bastard. Happy Holidays and greetings from Gary, Indiana. Breathe in the hospital medicine from the smokestack of life. Eat shit and die,
14 August 2023
Available Now Digitally on Most Major Online Book Retail Sites
Bourgeois Wasteland: Political Poems
by Jessica Minster
07 August 2023
Two Afterlives: English and Japanese
One of the enduring questions underlying religious belief is that of the existence of an afterlife. From two notable international classics there are two answers to these questions, that offered by the English film production company of The Archers (director-producers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) and by the Japanese film production company Shintoho directed by Nabuo Nakagawa. The two depictions have been purposefully selected to sharply contrast with one another, to show the vast range of religious belief. The films in question are 1946’s A Matter of Life and Death, with its portrayal of a timeless Abrahamic afterlife (though not strictly a heaven, hell, or purgatory) and 1960’s Jigoku (with its very clear representation of the eight hells of Buddhism).
A Matter of Life and Death opens with a WWII pilot crashing off the shores of England, having a poetic and surprisingly personal conversation with a female American radio operator who lives in the area in which he crashes his plane. It is revealed that this pilot has cheated death by surviving the crash and escaping the omnipresent afterlife where various angel-like beings watch over our reality from an invisible place in the sky, reached only by taking a massive escalator lined with statues of the great men of history. In turn he must bargain for his life in a sort-of court of angels, defended by a friend and prosecuted by a discriminatory American who died at an Englishman’s hand in the American Revolutionary War. In this trial, the pilot’s life is won by the persistence of his friend and due to the evidence of his sudden tumbling into love with the American radio operator.
There are several differences between the popular Christian depiction of the final judgment and the afterlife compared to the afterlife present in this film. Namely, the spirits of the dead are allowed to return to Earth if they have some sort of heavenly duty to carry out there, and even then, they are only seen by those who they have business with. Everything outside of the business on Earth freezes in time when the “ghosts” return to Earth, suggesting the timeless quality of the afterlife, where one retains the body and personality of the version of themself that they die as. Also, judgment is reserved for the heavenly beings in the film, not for God. In fact, the afterlife presented in A Matter of Life and Death is hardly shown to be the “Kingdom of God” or the heaven depicted in the Bible. It separates itself from the literal mythology of Christianity while still planting some of those inspirations in its almost science fiction version of the afterlife. Finally, this film does not show any version of its afterlife that proves to be heaven, hell, or purgatory. Instead, the film shows a universal afterlife in which all humans must go after death. The “final judgment” of the film is not that of being chosen to go to heaven or hell, but that of the main character being able to keep his life or not. Another small detail on this front would be that the American prosecutor at the trial is depicted as the typical vindictive “bad guy”, so having the film present a depiction of heaven would be a little inconsistent due to the presence of that character there.
Jigoku, or “Hell” in English, also released under the title The Sinners of Hell abroad, is quite simply one of the most disturbing movies ever made, and considering it was released in 1960 is nearly unbelievable. Far more gruesome, provocative, and sexually transgressive than Hitchcock’s Psycho and far more psychologically downbeat than Michael Powell’s own Peeping Tom, both released in the same year, Jigoku’s plot can be boiled down to its essence in a mere sentence. A theology student makes a series of mistakes and bad decisions that culminate in attending a disastrous party that claims the lives of everyone in attendance, including his; in turn, he is transported to Buddhism’s eight hells, which are depicted graphically and without sugar-coating or much discretion. The afterlife represented in this film is truly among the most horrifying ever committed to celluloid, and that is appropriate considering the true terror that hell inspires even just in its imagining.
The portion of the film that takes place in the eight hells is sandwiched with two recitations of the same grim quote: “A human life is naught but two score and ten”, meaning fifty years. This drives home the seriousness and earnestness of the central tenet of the film: Live a virtuous life, become enlightened, or else be tormented forever— emphasizing forever as an unfathomably long time. After the first recitation of the quote, the main character sees Enma, the “King of Death and Lord of the Eight Hells”, who informs him of his descent and the natures of him and his friends and family’s sins. The rest of the film is essentially just showing the creative ways the filmmakers could conceive of eternal torment, both mental and physical. One particularly bleak moment depicts a shifting crowd of people who, according to the narration,“...have no home in the three unenlightened worlds, as punishment for your sins in the world of the living, must wander aimlessly among these six paths [of existence].” This would mean that in the film’s version of Buddhist mythology, the souls of those who are unenlightened and commit any sins are doomed to wander the annals of the eight hells forever as a whirlwind of human pain, confusion, and guilt. An even more pessimistic interpretation could be that all unenlightened souls are doomed to this fate, though the English subtitles’ translation is unclear in that respect. Yet another horrible point of the eight hells segment is that the main character’s innocent fiancée is sent to hell (specifically destined to wade around in a lake of blood, based on the narration) and that even his unborn child, who died with the mother in a car accident, loses her soul to the eight hells due to her father’s inability to save her.
Essentially, these two films offer near polar opposite representations of religion and the afterlife. In one, religion is largely irrelevant to the ultimate fate of the dead; everyone goes to the same place in the afterlife, whereas in the other, religion turns out to be the most solid and unimpeachable force in the universe— an unwavering force of judgment and a moral compass that, if subverted, will have its vengeance on the individual in a way that outweighs their sins by a factor of infinity. The productions of the films are both exceptionally high quality, utilizing some of the best talents of the times, they were made to create unforgettable viewing experiences. As for the earnestness of the films, one seems to take itself much more seriously than the other, yet the opposite is probably true about the actual motives behind each movie. A Matter of Life and Death was likely created as a moralistic statement to assert that what is important in life is love and relationships, while Jigoku feels so insanely serious that it cannot be taken seriously— it likely was created to both appeal and satirize religious dogmatism and also draw in the audiences of its time with experimental filmmaking (becoming popular via the avenue of the Japanese New Wave at the time), lurid sex, extreme violence, and unflappable pessimism.
01 July 2023
Bowie's music has meant so much to me over the years that I consider him my favorite artist of any medium. Of any artist of all time, I don't think there's anyone else who produced such a high volume of excellent art of many different mediums. His music is the crown jewel of course, but along with that he produced a handful of iconic performances in great films on the side as well, plus he threw in some unbelievably quality live performances.
The final thing I'll say about this album is this: the final official cover is absolutely atrocious. Just slap a caption on a publicity photo from that time and you'd have a more quality album cover than this one, which just comes off as unsettling.
Since I tend to prefer the cuts on here with vocals, I'd say some of my favorites are "Be My Wife", the transcendent "Sound and Vision", which was covered later by the musician Beck in a mind blowing modern rendition, and "Breaking Glass", which is among my favorite Bowie tracks ever, with its howling vocals and warbly guitar.
This album encapsulates so much of a musical and cultural era, it just feels like the time it was made, but it's also one of the best aged albums you could ever listen to. It sounds just as fresh as it always did.
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