Spoilers might steal your booze.
I have grown fond of movies with a flawed narrator. We get a biased account of what we’re seeing instead of what really happens. That being said, with this film I wasn’t as much trying to figure out what is going on as I was trying to figure out what the characters were going through. To quote David Lynch, “It is better not to know so much about what things mean.”
Tezuka’s Barbara was directed and edited by Macoto Tezka. It is based on the screenplay by Hisako Kurasawa, which is in turn based on the manga from Osamu Tezuka, Barbara. Tezka is Tezuka’s son. The cinematography is by Christopher Doyle. Yosuke Mikura (Goro Inagaki) is a well-known writer that hates the mundane. One day he runs into a homeless drunk girl in the subway named Barbara (Fumi Nikaido) and brings her home. Barbara lets Mikura know she doesn’t think too highly of his novels. Mikura ends throwing her out, but he’s intrigued.
At this time I instantly thought that Barbara was going to be a figment of his imagination. That would not necessarily mean she was not real to Mikura. She becomes more or less his muse. She’s also his savior from casual affairs she has with women that turn out to be mannequins or dogs, depicted literally as those. She inspires him back to writing and he falls for her hard, even signing an oath to marry her within an occult cult.
I love how this movie plays out the writer, the artist in love with the inspiration, the muse and how the world eventually wreaks havoc with the relationship. What follows for Mikura is a long episode of despair as he tries to hold on to something that is gone from him. It’s not until the writer puts pen to paper that he’s finally able to let go. Inspiration comes perhaps once in a lifetime to all. We can’t coerce it to stay forever. Our talent comes from letting it go and just keep putting pen to paper.
I have to mention the background jazz music, which should be considered the third main character in this film. I also love how it looks, how the cinematography feels and depicts the world in which these characters live, both elegant and trashy at the same time. The film does have its flaws. Mainly, the way it treats its female cast can be problematic and even misogynistic. It doesn’t tie all its loose ends nicely. Some characters sort of pop in with something of an arc only to disappear without completing it. I do like how it cannot be tied to a specific airtight allegory depiction, but I believe that also illustrates something about life never turning out to be as we planned.
Highly recommended with reservations for an audience willing to accept a flawed, surreal and sometimes even problematic narration. For some viewers it will not strike a chord so this film will not be for everyone. Yes, I might have seen the whole thing possibly in a different context that it was intended. In the same way, the movie’s storytelling is biased to its protagonist. That’s the way that I think art is. We don’t see art as the artist saw it but as we see it with our eyes. To quote Anais Nin, “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
That will do for now.