Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Many Resurrections of Godzilla

Sheesh...Jesus Christ was resurrected only once. Godzilla had many more reincarnations than that!

(Normally, I write about artwork and, especially, paintings, including my own. But Godzilla has certain artistic qualities that I like).

Godzilla's star in Hollywood's Walk of Fame
Specifically, the original Godzilla (its Japanese name was Gojira, a combination of the Japanese words for "gorilla" and "whale"). The movie was an allegory for the dangers of atomic power, filmed in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I suspect confronting this fictional monster must have had a tremendous impact on the Japanese psyche at the time, and destroying this force would have been seen as a victory, a way of overcoming the horrific power that destroyed the two cities.

The original movie had its human side, too -- the love triangle between the pretty gal (always wore a scarf in her hair), the scientist (with the eye patch) and another fellow -- I forgot what he did for a living. The woman chose the latter man, and the scientist committed a form of Hara-Kiri minus the cutting. (I never knew if he did this out of remorse for killing Gojira, losing his lady love, or some of both).

I was also impressed with the skillful use of editing to include actor Raymond Burr in the American version. Every scene in which he appeared, along with any Japanese actors, was added later, although -- in my opinion -- his presence didn't detract from the story. The footage when he appeared with the girl was also "faked" -- you never saw their faces at the same time. When you saw Burr's face, you saw only the back of her head, scarf on head. She was a stand-in, not the actor who starred in Gojira. Then, when the camera focused on her, Burr wasn't seen, and her English lines likely were probably unrelated to the Japanese lines she was actually reciting. I doubt many Americans could lip-read Japanese and never knew the difference.

(By the way, we never see the creature eating. What does one feed a humongous critter like that? )

Well, now there's a new version of Godzilla on the movie screens. I likely won't go to see it, because I already know I'd be disappointed if I did. The original Godzilla was more than simply a story about a huge dinosaur wreaking mass destruction of a city. It had powerful psychological overtones that the newer movie (or the one from 2000) probably lacks. (Of course, the Godzilla vs ___???___ movies, the Saturday morning cartoons et al were downright silly versions). I suspect it's just another action flick with dazzling special effects. Technically proficient, but not what I'd call "artistic" in terms of its emotional impact.

And ultimately, I hope we never again have to resurrect Gojira/Godzilla or anything else by detonating another nuclear weapon over any city or its people.


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