Comments: The Emperor's Naked Army Marches Into My Head

sounds depressing as hell, but from a few other reactions i've found since reading your post, you're far from the only person who was blown away by this film.

downloading it now

thanks for the "recommendation"

Posted by muzz at May 3, 2009 05:42 PM

Sounds fascinating. Just stuck it on the top of my Netflix queue.

Posted by Guest at May 3, 2009 05:52 PM

...lost in an impenetrable fog of confusion, fear, irrationality and self-delusion.

Yes, that's human interaction in a nutshell.

Posted by John Caruso at May 3, 2009 09:10 PM

I watched the film about a year ago. A very timely glimpse into how people who commit atrocities that did not officially happen manage to file the incident away in a foggy, inchoate place in their minds. Perhaps a similar film will be made with American subjects 50 years from now.

The protagonist was certainly a tragic figure. He had become "crazy" and anti-social, and it became clear that the only alternative response would have been to wall up his memories of the atrocities and contribute to the cover-up had he ever been asked about them.

I'd be happy to discuss the film further if you're interested.

Posted by Picador at May 4, 2009 09:09 AM

Haven't seen the film you mention.

However, I've been thinking about writing a piece at my own blog (which I update about twice a year, whether it needs it or not) - comparing Kurt Vonnegut's pessimism, that the U.S. will NEVER become the reasonable and humane nation his cohort dreamed of and fought for, vs. Joe Bageant's optimism, as expressed in his recent colorfully-titled piece "Escape from the Zombie Food Court."

Here's how he winds up - as you can deduce from what he says, it's from a speech to a group of Americans that want to feel good about themselves, just like we do.

"The purpose of life is to know [that 'all things and all beings are inextricably connected at the most profound level...ownership and domination are both temporary and meaningless. And that the animating spirit of the earth is real and within us and claimable.']... [Knowing this] would shatter the revered, digitized, super-sized, utterly meaningless hologram. The one that mesmerizes us, and mediates our every experience, but isolates us from universal humanness and its coursing energies. Such as love. Or mercy. Compassion. Existential pain. Hunger. Or the unmitigated joy of simply being alive one finds in children everywhere, even among the poorest. Most of the human race still lives in that realm.

"Blessed is the one who joins them. Because he or she learns that the truth is not relative, and that because the human mind seeks balance, social justice is not only inescapable in the long run, but inevitable. I won't be around for that, but on a clear day if I squint real hard I can see down that road ahead. And on that road I can see the long chain of decent human beings like yourselves walking toward the light. And for your very presence on this earth and in this room, I am grateful."

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at May 4, 2009 11:23 AM

Your description reminds me of both Short Cuts and Bringing Up Baby, in that the essential thing about both of those movies is that practically no statement uttered by one character is correctly interpreted by another.

Posted by ethan at May 4, 2009 01:11 PM

I've seen parts of Titcut, and have heard good things about Emperor but not seen it yet.

Posted by Batocchio at May 4, 2009 07:25 PM

Jon, you were absolutely spot-on about "A Song For Lya," which immediately rocketed to the upper tier of my very favorite stories (also, unlike Mr. Caruso, I have only good things to say about Martin's masterwork, "A Song of Ice and Fire"). I, too, have added the above-mentioned films to my Netflix queue.

Posted by Mike H. at May 5, 2009 12:48 PM

I hadn't seen that but have now. Thanks for the tip--i found the documentary fascinating and exceptional. Maybe Okuzaki was teetering on the edge of insanity--i'm not sure--but i didn't find him personally unpleasant or hope he'd fail. it was pretty clear that everyone he spoke with was lying to him, for the most obvious reasons, and i think they would have done it successfully if he hadn't been such a fabulous interrogator. of course, if you're willing to go to jail for smacking someone around during the interview, you have a real advantage. that's an unusual technique for someone without a badge

the atrocities were indeed pretty shocking and confirm that people can do just about anything (see chinatown), especially if they are in a horrible enough situation. why there isn't more of a consensus about that is the really interesting question. that has to have something to do with power, obviously, and also with how our brains work, because the evidence supporting an "indicment of our species" is pretty voluminous. To develop an even better understanding of the capacity of ordinary people to do evil, for reasons no more powerful than peer pressure, read Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men, Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. You might conclude that more people should teeter on the edge of insanity.

thanks again for the tip--that's a great documentary. but then, as should be obvious by now, i was in Okuzaki's corner from the start.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 7, 2009 11:12 AM