Subtlety in anime and media: True Tears of Lust, Caution
In NovaJinx’s post regarding True Tears and its perception by many, he stated that quite a number of people have failed to appreciate the subtlety of True Tears. He continues that people dislike ‘nothing happening’ throughout the episodes. I cannot corroborate True Tears‘s subtlety just as I will not condemn those people who dislike the series because nothing happens: for one, I have not seen True Tears yet, and I have no plans to in the near future (of course, whims can change that in an instant). However, I have recently watched something only tangentially related to True Tears (in the fact that both are panned). This something, however, deserves more discussion.
This is the movie Lust, Caution.
Even without having seen True Tears I would wager that the subtlety in this film towers over anything the anime series could offer. Lust, Caution‘s subtlety, after all, was what led a lot of non-Asian critics to pan the film because a lot of them believed that the film was vapid and languid. (Asian critics have almost unanimously praised the film for its perfection.) Personally, I would admit to the fact that it will be boring if one only viewed the film for the purpose of seeing sensual sex scenes in action; likewise, it also would be boring to the viewer accustomed to a movie driven by plot and action. The simmering, the revelation, and the culmination on the film is centrifugal: there is even more to the unseen than to the seen. The source of meaning is within the characters, and the viewer must unravel it and solve it like a jigsaw puzzle. It is when the viewer arrives at an epiphany can only the true tragedy be shown. When I saw the film, I was reminded of Yasunari Kawabata: there was a scene in Thousand Cranes where the lipstick left on the cup meant more than merely a picturesque scene: it was the whole history of the characters: the lipstick was an insidious venom found only in what cannot be observed directly. The film reflects Kawabata’s concision: it is not in the noise of the mahjong games, or in the idle chitchat of the ladies that possesses meaning: it is in their glances, quick and evanescent they may be, that the women reveal themselves and their contempt, hatred, anger, or envy towards one another. In fact, there was even a scene which was an atavism to the Kawabata scene mentioned earlier: for a short amount of time, the lipstick on a wine-glass was focused signifying the man’s fall to the woman’s seduction.
The movie is a behemoth. It clocks in at more than two hours and a half. It possess a languorous mood: to many unaccustomed to films driven by character, again, this movie will seem a bore. To those, however, like NovaJinx who seek for media that is intricate and pervaded with subtlety, one must not look anymore: Lust, Caution is the movie.
In the modern times of consumerism and urgency, pastiched thought and suggestive nuances are an attitude both anti-modern and backward: they go against the compartmentalization of progress, to borrow Ricoeurian terms. Convenience is the shibboleth of the zeitgeist. However, one must seek a subtlety that illuminates rather than obfuscates: a subtlety of an epiphany, not a subtlety of eschaton.