Sunday, November 23, 2008


The fact that I was choosing between KG's big return to Minneapolis and a theatrical screening of In the Realm of the Senses makes me feel giddy (if not a little guilty) for my fortune. Fate may have brought me to the Twin Cities, but it was some sort of screwed up serendipity between nature and nurture that has made me a basketball fan and a film fan. Of course I am understating both of those fandoms because few would follow the Timberwolves given their current situation and few would care about seeing an esoteric Japanese film director's sudden divergence into porn.

However, this is the dilemma that faced me Friday night.

After Kevin Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics over a year ago, Timberwolves fans were crying in their beer. It was an end of an era. The player that the new franchise had built around for the last 18 years was gone. Even more bitter was the possibilities that the Timberwolves never achieved with this great player. Last season when KG was scheduled to return to Minneapolis for the first time as a Celtic (before the playoffs and before the championship), people bought tickets in droves only to see and injured KG wave to the crowd and then leave.

Needless to say, it is a different season. KG has his ring, and the Wolves have started out miserably. KG is gone, and the Wolves have yet to show any potential without him. That being said, they are my team, and although it hasn't happened very often this season, I love to see them win. When KG left, it was an end to an era, but it was also the beginning of a new era.

On the other side of the coin is the end of a Nagisa Oshima retrospective at the Walker, and perhaps his most audacious and notorious film: In the Realm of the Senses. It is hardly his best film or even his most representative film, but the chance to watch this film in a theater with an audience is a chance that is hard to pass up. Oshima spent the 60s challenging audiences intellectually with social and political critiques. In 1976, he was approached by a French producer to make an erotic film. He took that opportunity and ran with it creating a film that is nothing short of porn with slightly more compelling characters (and a finale that would never go over unless it was dubbed "art".) The rub is that it is a based on actual events, and it was his way to lash out not only to contradictory Japanese censors, but also to European oversimplifications of Japan.

I had seen In the Realm of Senses, but only in the privacy of my own apartment (which sounds sort of pervy, but it wasn't.) Watching this film with a group of strangers is something different altogether. The mere possibility that there might be an unsuspecting audience member is unimaginable.

Weighing the options, I chose the film. I had seen all twelve films of the retrospective up to that point, and I was on a role. It would be a shame not to see the film in the context of the retrospective. The Timberwolves would have to go it alone without me. I was willing to be pleasantly surprised by the news of a win, or to be let down by the assumed outcome of a loss.

I caught the first five minutes of play on the radio before I went into the film, and while the Wolves were holding their own, that obviously wasn't the whole story. The announcers reported a buzz in the Target Center unlike anything they had yet to hear this season. I am also glad to report that there was a similar buzz in the Walker Cinema that was rare. Proof that sex sells, even in an art museum, this was by far the best attendance an Oshima screening with around 200 people. The tension was palpable during the screening. The lack of walk-outs makes me think that most knew what they were in for. There was however one woman who kept having impulsive outburst ("Oh for goodness sakes.") that I felt she was channeling from other audience members. It goes without saying that watching this film with a large group of strangers makes me think very differently about the film.

Unfortunately, most people at the Target Center also, deep down, knew what they were in for. The Celtics cleaned up the Wolves on their home court. It is especially disappointing due to the fact that last season, a season that everyone is assuming will end up being worse than this season, the Wolves gave the Celtics a run for their money twice. All I've seen this season is a team with no spirit and a coach that fails to see his players potentials.

In the end, I made the right choice. The Oshima retrospective had been by far one of the best film events of the year, and In the Realm of the Senses was a key component. The Wolves will hopefully have better days ahead in the season. And hopefully I will be in the stands for it.

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