In the LIFE article The Birth of the Monster, about the creation of the landmark film monster Godzilla, it is written, “There was still no soundtrack, and without it the film looked stupid. …Born in Jushiro, Hokkaido, Japan, in May 1914, Ifukube was a concert composer who made money writing film scores–sometimes as many as 10 a year. …Even Ifukube’s colleagues thought he was crazy to take on Godzilla. “Some friends in the industry warned me against it,” he said. “Just as it was deemed career suicide for an actress to star in a ghost film, people said working on a monster film would end my career and advised me to back out. But I felt it was a serious film. I refused to listen and proceeded to work on it.” (LIFE’s Godzilla: the King of the Monsters, “The Birth of the Monster” p. 24, 27. Italics added.)
Just as the success of Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim Upraising proved that making a monster film isn’t a nosedive to someone’s career, Mati Diop’s Atlantiques (2019) proves that being an actress in a ghost film isn’t career suicide—and neither is directing one full of women (and men). You can look up the plot or details to their film if you care to however i don’t want to spoil this film by giving anything away. What I am will to say at the moment is that this love story isn’t “scary” like the conjuring is “scary” yet it may evoke strange dreams and deep conversations. I’d recommend this film to a wide audience, however, i don’t think that many film lovers younger than 16 will understand the full picture or enjoy the pace yet. The tone and message of this film are vividly communicated with a lighthouse cadence and a minimalistic soundtrack. I immediately love this film because it’s the opposite of a Marvel film, there are no distractions from the power of the story itself. And—not to be mean about it but if you find subtitles distracting then learn the languages and oh yeah subtitles help us learn languages so go ahead and learn a language, any language.
To understand and try to verbalize this film’s effectiveness I need to watch several more ghost films. This is why I will not be abandoning the celebration of Blackness this year (see previous post) and will now turn towards the Thai Film Industry who, like Korea, Japan, and China, are home to some of the best films in the world and more specifically is home to some of the best Horror films in the world. While most people look for parties when they go to college, when studying abroad in Chaing Mai (Payap University Fall 2007) and Grungtep / Bangkok (Mahidol University Fall 2009) I sought out film courses and ghost tales. A lot of us think of their beaches (I did spend a good amount of time at the pool, shoutout to Kiwi) yet Thailand has a film industry that can ruffle the boa feathers of Bollywood and Hollywood.
While we’re enjoying our ghostly research asynchronously, I’m going to warn everyone gently that Godzilla & King Kong are duking it out in theatres right now and though it’s not a ghost film it’s still fresh. It also shares thematic qualities with Atlantique. So, returning to our quote from LIFE magazine’s feature of the original makings of Godzilla these films are not just about the beautiful art of special effects these films are about monsters who are symbols for our real human errors and mass murders. What King Kong is all about I’m not sure yet, yet, according to the article the director, Honda, found Godzilla to be a tormented character, “an undersea monster [who] ravages Tokyo after being awakened by nuclear tests” and this fictional story was awakened by real life nuclear bombs dropped on Japan and real life bombs dropped in the Pacific region (p.4) It may seem like a guy struggling in a rubber suit however the release of this film was a cathartic peace of art for and by people who were healing from the effects of nuclear radiation. My deepest condolences to everyone whose lives were lost or impacted in those wars and conflicts and my deepest respect and gratitude for everyone who provided and provide relief to the physical and psychological effects. The contributions of the survivors and of the deceased are not forgotten.
To review and conclude, This month we’re hoping to comprehend the hauntingly beautiful relavence of Mati Diop’s 2019 landmark film Atlantique by watching several impactful ghost films made around the world beginning in Thailand.
Buppha Ratree: Flower of the Night (2004)
The Unseeable (2006)
Whether you’re watching /listening to any of these to write your own Film Appreciations for them or if you’re watching /listening to something else thanks for reading with your eyes, ears, and hands and as always,
Raise [your consciousness] peacefully,