Thanks for offering information and critical comments at key points in the writing: Julia Lesage, David Andrews, J. B. Capino, Gina Marchetti, Larry Knapp, and Jyotsna Kapur.
1. A detailed narrative summary: Tom Mes, Agitator: The Cinema of Takshi Miike [revised edition](Surrey: FAB Press, 2006), 206-215. [return to page 1 of essay]
2. Here I will sketch in salient points. A later essay will provide a critical review of the expanding recent literature on disgust as a biological, aesthetic, social, and cinematic concept.
3. It can be argued that video games have a tactile dimension via the use of controllers, and interactive touch-screen devices also provide tactile sensations. I’ll address some recent critical discussions o “haptic” viewing and synesthesia in the next installment.
4. “The Class Imaginary in Fruit Chan’s Films,”
5. “Ocean Girl” is clearly a fantasy creature, but she evokes a profound discussion with the young man about environmental degradation and the future, a concern he carries with him. What if ocean creatures could talk to us about what they are experiencing?
6. A commonplace trope in Chinese film (PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong) is depicting a little boy peeing in public space. In general it seems to be considered “cute”; to a cultural outsider, like me, it seems different from Euro-American visual culture. It is so ordinary, that when I’ve asked Chinese friends about it, they claim they never noticed it. Yet once you are aware of it, it seems very frequent. A well-known example (used in a more narratively complex way) in an earlier Fruit Chan film, Little Cheung, involves the title character, a boy, being punished by having to stand on a post in the street. When he has to urinate, he has to do it out in the open.
Male urination also appears in rather simple narrative service to show vulnerability (of a victim) or alpha-male power display (of an aggressor.) For example, Mad Detective (Sun Taam) d. Johnnie To and Ka-Fai Wai (HK, 2007). For a much more complex use of urine and excrement in narration, The King of the Children (Hai Zi Wang, 1987) d. Chen Kaige, as analyzed by Rey Chow, Primitive Passions: Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography, and Contemporary Chinese Cinema (NY: Columbia University Press, 1995), 108-141. And Zhang Yimou, d., Red Sorghum (Honggaoling, 1987), examined by David Leiwei Li, “Capturing China in Globalization: The Dialectic of Autonomy and Dependency in Zhang Yimou’s Cinema,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 29:3 (fall, 2007) 293-317.
7. The clip seems to be from the Pakistani Urdu film Insaniyat/Humanity (1967), (d. Shabab Kiranwi). The singer is credited to Noor Jehan, (1926-2000) who was a child star in the 30s and after partition moved to Pakistan and made films there into the early 60s, and then was a playback singer. In the scene, she is singing (as a playback voice?) to a group of men, accompanied by two dancers, but also to female star Zeba (b. 1939 or 1943, "The Elizabeth Taylor of Pakistan") who sits closest to Jehan. (At least the person who posted it says the female is Zeba) It seems the song is in Urdu, and recognizable as a popular genre song. In addition the footage is in black and white. The clip can be seen on YouTube, but there it is attributed to Aadmi Aur Inssan (d. Yosh Chopra, 1969) which is a Hindi film in color:
I would appreciate any expert advice on this rather confused matter, and will use it to correct the attribution. In terms of the film I’m discussing, this film-within-the-film represents the pleasure of watching a well done music and dance number, since the viewers-within-the-film do not know Urdu, which then fits with Public Toilet’s overall themes of global migration and cosmopolitan culture.
8. A joke in which the Hong Kong director indirectly addresses the late 1990s surge of Korean commercial films, often with expensive effects. Although a bare bones, digital video work, Public Toilet was financed with Korean capital and played in festivals as a Korean entry. [return to page 2]
9. Fruit Chan’s undramatic realism here contrasts with the well known Robert Gardner film, Forest of Bliss (1986) which presents an extremely romantic and lyrical documentary vision/version of Benaras. Gardner’s film has received extensive criticism from anthropologists for being unscientific, Orientalist, and obscurantist. In response, the Harvard professor dismisses any and all criticism by those who can’t grasp his genius. For a detailed consideration, see Jyotsna Kapur, "The Art of Ethnographic Film and the Politics of Protesting Modernity: Robert Gardener's Forest of Bliss," Visual Anthropology, vol. 9, pp. 167-185.
10. What isn’t presented around the toilet theme is also significant. There is no allusion to men’s toilets as homosexual meeting places for casual and anonymous sex. And there is never any mention of a particularly female aspect of sanitary concern: menstruation.
11. With my admittedly limited knowledge, as I understand contemporary Japan, the emotional inexpressiveness of salaried middle class men is often discussed as a social problem, illustrated by the need to get drunk and sing karaoke to let out emotions, etc. That men are not in touch with their inner selves and deny their emotions is part of a rather banal social commentary about masculinity—the kind seen on TV. I believe that Japanese feminists have a much richer, more complex and nuanced analysis of this, but their views seem to be effectively silenced by the media, the Japanese academy, etc. [return to page 3]
12. The inevitable interviews with Miike about this affirms that the performer, Shugiku Uchida, a famous manga artist, had recently given birth and was actively producing milk.
13. Vivian Sobchack, “Inscribing Ethical Space: Ten Propositions on Death, Representation, and Documentary,” in Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004)
Bill Nichols, “Axiographics: Ethical Space in Documentary Film,” in Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 76-103.
14. José B. Capino, personal correspondence, June 2010.