Daily Archives: April 11, 2023

What Masumura Does With Our Madness

Here’s part of the text I wrote for an audiovisual appreciation of Yasuzo Masumura’s Black Test\ Car and The Black Report for an Arrow Video DVD & Blu-Ray of those films, released in August 2020. — J.R.

What Masumura Does with Our Madness

Jonathan Rosenbaum

There’s a dialogue exchange in Billy Wilder’s Cold War comedy One Two Three where someone asks, more or less rhetorically, “Is everybody corrupt?”, and the reply is, “I don’t know everybody.” 

Billy Wilder was a cynic, but I’m not entirely sure that we can categorize Yasuzo Masumura that way as well. Certainly his vision of society was just as dark, but I think he also qualified as an intellectual more than Wilder ever did—and conversely, Wilder qualified as more of a journalist, because that’s how he started out professionally. Also, Wilder tended to make his characters heroes or villains whereas Masumura sometimes, as in Black Test Car, makes virtually all of his characters villains. (If he makes a few of the characters superior to the others—such as an executive who tears up a payoff check, or a woman who rejects her fiancé after he forces her to prostitute herself in order to spy for his company, or her fiancé once he finally reforms himself at the end of the film—this is only because they feel more disgust than the others do about becoming scumbags.) Read more

A Note on Media Urgency and the News As We Know It

Unlike all of my previous social media posts, this one is important. I don’t mean to say that I thought my earlier Facebook posts were wanting in importance when I wrote them and sent them out blindly to everyone; even rereading them now, I can taste their urgency. But the logic of the marketplace — that yesterday’s groceries are today’s piss and excrement (which is why and how Rachel can and will promise a “big show tonight,” never a small one, just like Ed Sullivan did in the 1950s) — decrees that things can only seem important when they become part of the present tense and therefore become susceptible to our buying power, our hallowed credentials as treasured customers with digestive systems. The staying power of nondigestible items isn’t worth thinking about. But saying that this particular one is extra-important now ensures that it will become expendable tomorrow. So you might want to save this post for later and then throw it away. Read more

A Brief History Of Time


While I can’t vouch for how well this 1991 documentary interprets Stephen Hawking’s best-selling book, this is my favorite Errol Morris picture after Fast, Cheap & Out of Control — a cogent and fascinating presentation of Hawking’s theories about the origin and fate of the universe, intercut with an account of Hawking’s life (including how he has managed to cope with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). I find the material from the book much more important and fascinating than the inspirational life story; though interesting in its own right, it’s a standard triumph-over-adversity scenario that periodically threatens to trivialize Hawking’s ideas and work. However, the alternation between Morris’s usual talking-head approach for the biography and Hawking’s computer-generated voice and various kinds of illustrations to recount most of the theory creates a dialectic that the film profits from stylistically. Philip Glass composed the music. (JR)

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