Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Satoshi Kon's Paranoia Agent- promise fulfilled

Satoshi Kon's 13 episode series comes to a satisfactory conclusion, weaving the final story from several characters introduced in the first few episodes. Along the way, Kon gives at least a passing node to most of the major characters.

How you view the series overall will depend on your taste and point of view. What appears to some as meandering and unfocussed can appear to others as a real tour de force. The series comprises a variety of animation styles and even narrative styles. It was always a bit of a hodge-podge: Kon said at the start that he wanted to use a number of ideas that had come up during his feature films but that did not fit into the narratives. The series form gave him a great opportunity, as some episodes seem to digress, illustrating a point rather than moving the overall narrative forward. Nevertheless all the stories carry the common thread, and in the final analysis the work stands as a unified whole. The overall form becomes one of a themed anthology.

That being said, the end of the series on this volume is strong. Once I started watching, it was hard to stop. The storytelling is compelling, and the animation was well done in a variety of styles, the two-dimensional world being particularly enjoyable. There's intelligently-written action along with moments of fear, humor and pathos. The commentary track by creator-director Kon, along with the screenwriter and producer, is frosting on the cake. Overall, this disk and this series demonstrate again why Kon is one of the greatest animators out there.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Leonard Cohen Anthology

The 43 songs in this book cover Leonard Cohen's work up through 1988, with his I'm Your Man album being the last one represented. While the 1969 book Songs of Leonard Cohen contained an essay and many photographs with vocal lines and guitar tablature from his first two albums, there are no photographs or extras in this collection.

This book presents vocal lines, guitar chords, and a grand staff for piano arrangements. The typography and layout are excellent, though the piano arrangements cause a number of songs to be run out for six, eight or ten pages. The 43 songs included represent a good cross-section of Cohen's most prolific period of songwriting.