Further Research Warranted: Ghost in the Shell (2017)
In Further Research Warranted, our goal is to provide you with supplemental material related to the weekend's biggest movies.
This week, we will focus on Ghost In The Shell, Rupert Sanders' adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s iconic manga and anime series. While the critical response and box office performance were tepid at best, there’s a lot to take away from the film itself.
Be sure to read Matt Curione’s Fresh Eye’s review of the original Ghost In the Shell, and Rob Trench’s review of the adaptation.
Under The Skin (2013) and Lucy (2014)
In my opinion, Ghost In The Shell will serve as a historical benchmark for two things: The end (or beginning of the end) of Hollywood whitewashing, and end of an unofficial trilogy of Scarlett Johansson that started with Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, and continued through Luc Besson’s Lucy.
As a trilogy, the three films dive into the past (Lucy), present (Under the Skin), and future (Ghost In the Shell) of the constructs of the human body, and what it could mean in the future — what limits science can unlock, what a body means to an individual unsure of its identity, and what the future can provide bodies. Beyond the meaning and the limits of the human body, the films have a thru line of body horror and a lack of control over the circumstances of the body, that is ultimately conquered and embraced by the Johansson character. Each film gives further context to the others, and provides the viewer with an additional layer of meaning and comprehension when seen as an arching set of work.
Under The Skin and Lucy are available to rent from Amazon, iTunes and other rental providers.
True Skin (2012)
Stephan Zlotescu’s short film is set in a society where biomechanical enhancements are commonplace and a route to an extended lifetime plays like a "day in the life" of a character in the world of Ghost In The Shell. However, it stars a character who's stolen a valuable cyber prototype that requires a full refurb of his body to hide from authorities. It plays like a "proof of concept" and was optioned by Warner Brother’s into a feature length project that has yet to materialize, but it's a fast, first hand look at a world with cyber enhancements and the possibilities they could provide. If you found yourself distracted by what Batou’s world might be like after his accident, this is a great follow-up exploring a world very similar to what his became.
Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
A landmark of anime innovation, Eiichi Yamamoto’s Belladonna of Sadness is a visual forefather to much of the animation styles that would come to define anime in the later part of the 20th century. An extremely sexually explicit story about a woman who makes a deal with the devil after a violent sexual encounter that turns her into a witch, Belladonna of Sadness stands out for its hand-animated qualities that imbue psychedelic visuals with watercolor and rudimentary animation movement. Much like Ghost in the Shell, the lead character uses their trauma to become a more powerful being than the world around her, exalted and worshipped as much as she is feared. Beyond the roots of anime, Belladonna’s and The Major’s moments of awakening share similar throbbing, multi-colored visuals, set to pitch perfect music of the time period they were created in. Belladonna of Sadness is a foundational work of anime, and man of the key elements of Ghost in the Shell can be traced to this erotic mindbender.
Belladonna of Sadness is currently streaming on Shudder.