I’m watching this movie called Red Beard, and it’s a cool Japanese movie, even though it doesn’t have any sword fights. It does have Toshiro Mifune in it, who was a Japanese movie god in his day. For Japan, he was like Clint Eastwood and Robert DeNiro put together, except his face didn’t look as weird as either of theirs. He’s a doctor in this movie, and after he pounds the ever loving shit out of about 20 guys, he sends his orderly to carry them back to the clinic to get all their shattered arms and legs splinted. Then he tells his intern how bad it was that he, a doctor, beat the crap out of these guys, and how he’s a weak-willed person, and that it was an all-around awful thing he should be ashamed of. And he says it without sounding pathetic, or whiny, or preachy—like he’d do it again if he had to, but he’d be sad about it later. And you totally believe it.
That’s how god damn cool Toshiro Mifune was.
The really fun thing is that right after that scene the movie stops for an INTERMISSION. I mean, music plays and the screen shows a Japanese character that I assume says “intermission,” because that’s what the subtitle says, and that lasts about five minutes. That’s how long it takes me to jog out to the men’s room, drop off 36 ounces of Diet Coke, and jog back, so an intermission is a pretty neat thing to have in a movie that’s three hours and forty-five minutes long.
Somebody once asked Alfred Hitchcock how long a movie should be, and he said the length should be proportional to the endurance of the human bladder. The director of Redbeard, Akira Kurasawa, who himself wasn’t exactly Mortimer Snerd when it came to making movies, clearly agreed with Alfred. At one time, if a director made a film much over two hours long he showed some mercy on his audience and their urinary tracts. Long movies like My Fair Lady, Gandhi, and The Great Race all had cozy little intermissions.
But now movies like Independence Day, Dark Knight, and anything with hobbits in it give their audiences a stiff punch in the bladder. And what was up with that god damn Titanic? Three hours into the thing I leave for a five minute restroom visit, and when I come back I have to ask my wife, “Why the hell are they running around below deck with freezing sea water up to their nipples? Does this have something to do with the old lady’s necklace? Did you take notes?”
Even The Avengers pushes two and a half hours with no break. Apart from the fact that some of it’s funny enough to make me pee, I’d like to be able to hang in there to see the after-credits fun without an embarrassing accident. Come on, Joss Whedon, you’re a rebel. We know you’re on our side. Don’t be afraid to stand with giants such as Hitchcock and Kurasawa. Bring back intermissions, and help us out. It’s hard enough for young people to get a little action on a date without having to waddle out of the theater like a penguin with a crotch infection.
Image from Doctor Macro.