27/01/17, Ghost in the Shell (1995)
It came and went in a single night on special release; I was lucky to catch even that. Having turned up casually at the Cameo asking for a ticket for Ghost in the Shell, I was told it had sold out days before. I stayed in the lobby until the trailers were finished and with a few seats untaken, the staff let me join their exclusive audience.
I was right at the front of a small-screen room. That might explain the effect of the film on me. Ghost in the Shell is a hypnotic, murky anime of constant seriousness and flat emotion. There is plenty of exposition. At one point, I think I fell asleep. I like varied emotions. I can love a plot-heavy film without getting its plot, as long as the emotions are in full orchestral strings and horns and loving harps and the gentlest triangles at silent moments. I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) at least three times before getting the story, but I loved it, Benedict Cumberbatch and Gary Oldman, playing three-dimensional chess against Colin Firth, Toby Jones and others, with cool emotional cameos from the likes of Tom Hardy and Cathy Burke, and silent ambiguity from Mark Strong. I bring up this latter film of humanity mixed with plots, because Ghost in the Shell is mainly a one-tone movie, especially regarding the characters. There is a kind of beauty to the main protagonist, the sexy, largely impenetrable cyborg agent Motoko Kusinagi. She works with other cyborg agents against villainous cyborg agents. Speech is minimalist, largely used for profound or melancholic reflections. It is how simulated humans might act with sufficient self-awareness.This is both the strength and weakness of Ghost in the Shell. It doesn't give you a traditional boy-meets-girl or cops n' robbers. The characters are not inhuman, but they could be described as a-human. There's a detachment to them that may well depict a cyborg world, and it isn't quite of our world. At the end, I felt emotionally uninvolved and I was glad I had chewing gum to keep me awake. It shows you a world simultaneously of greater technological complexity, and a deadening emotional simplicity, and to its haunting soundtrack you find yourself watching without attachment, as if you too are a cyborg.