Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometimes A Cigar Is Just A Talking Dog

Shinboru(Symbol)(2009) Directed By Hitoshi Matsumoto

“If...Freud enumerates a set of analogies and substitutions that rhetorically affirm the fundamental transferability of the phallus from the penis elsewhere, then any number of other things might come to stand in for the phallus-Wikipedia/Phallus/Psychoanalysis

A Japanese man wakes in a bare illuminated white room with no doors.

The walls are lined with what look like the penises of Cherubs (the little fat baby angels) protruding from the wall much like the living candelabra arms of Coctuea's "Beauty And The Beast".

The man discovers that each time he touches one of the penises a random object appears in the room (a racket, chop sticks, a vase, 3d glasses, an African man who runs through walls, etc).

What does this mean?

What does this have to do with the story of a professional Mexican wrestler named The Escargot set to return to the ring, though many believe him too old?

Vincenzo Natali's "Nothing" filled an unwritten page green screen background world with two roommates who have the mysterious power to negate existence, one wish at a time.

Hitoshi Matsumoto's film bares a passing visual semblance to "Nothing", but Matusmoto's world has more inexplicable rules of cause and effect, equal parts Kafka and mad lib.

Did I mention this is a slapstick comedy full of fart jokes, cus it's that too, and yet it's so much more.

Is "Symbol" a title in irony, a clue to the mysteries of the glorious All-Penis and it's great lazer light show from beyond.

I can’t say for sure.

But did I laugh?

Oh, how I laughed.

The twin quests for the Escargot to redeem himself and the unnamed man in the white room (played by Matsumoto himself) to create meaning in a world, that though, not meaningless, also does not come with a user’s manual or instructions of any kind, are only united through even greater nonsense.

Even when the stories do eventually intersect, it’s less a cosmic symmetry than a drawn out punchline.

I suspect, though that for Matsumoto, the symmetry or harmonies of the universe if there are any might only exist in the timing between jokes and laughter.

Perceived from the right angle, the same crushing random hopeless of the universe lamented by a million lonely existentialists also appears like a vaudeville double act with the straight man yearning for meaning and reason, in a universe that will only give you some soy sauce once you’ve eaten all the sushi you didn’t want, provided you remember to touch the right angel baby dick on-switch.

Yep it’s like that sometimes.

Like similar freakouts from ex-Japanese game show hosts/comics/directors “Funky Forest”,“Hausu”, “Glory To The Filmmaker”, and Matsumoto’s own “Big Man Japan”, Symbol exists quite literally in a universe of it’s own internal rules, but where those films shared an episodic TV influenced fragmentation of narrative, “Symbol” has all the propulsion, wit, and hypnotic accessibilty of a Rube Goldberg device:

You could find many symbol’s watching “Symbol” the name itself suggests as much, but you could just as easily find none, or worse, or at least seems to be truer to me, an endless series of vaster symbols within symbols and ever widening gulfs between our understanding, cause, and effect. Also there’s fart jokes. Cosmic fart jokes.

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