Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cowboy Bebop Session #25: The Real Folk Blues [Part I]

I guess the question here is: Is that sweat or is that the rain? We're about to find out.

Wow. Christmas is over. Just like that. Those holidays go by far too quickly. I'm probably in the minority here, but I think I'm going to miss the Christmas music. Well, eveything but that stupid song, "Christmas Shoes." Just horrid stuff. Just don't play me like that. Funny thing, there are already a number of versions of that song by different artists just pleading to sing it. Good grief. Why? They're all horrible. The One To Be Pitied agrees.

Here we are. The official start of the big finale. I've been led to believe over the years this is one of the finest moments in the series. I hope so. The series has been entirely uneven for me. I would even go so far as to say Cowboy Bebop is slightly overrated. It's merely my opinion and you know what they say about those. Nevertheless, I do hope to see it exit with a bang!

A sweet female voice opens the installment and it is the lovely blonde woman we know as Julia. Truly, and this is the thing about Cowboy Bebop, we've seen twenty four episodes and know very, very little about Julia. We know who she is [sort of]. In the end, we have learned very little and been exposed very little to some of the key secondary characters in the series. That has been disappointing for me. I thought many of these players would be a greater constant throughout the show. This is why I believe the series could have benefitted from a longer run. Still, I think we're about to find out more here. Julia enters her room. A message is left for her. "The Elders are making their move. You're in danger. Go quickly, but quietly." On the gentle notes of a female ballad so begins Cowboy Bebop, Session #25, The Real Folk Blues [Part I].
*
Vicious, his loyal crow, and his loyal crew sporting suits ands machine guns enter a dark room, and shoot it up real-good-like. The lights turn on and from above an elder calls Vicious' attempt to make a hit on him a foolish decision. Vicious is surrounded by gunmen from above. Vicious has attempted a coup on the Elders. The Elders clearly look down upon Vicious as an arrogant punk puke undeserving of the position. Vicious demans to be killed, but the Elders assert that he must learn "humility." He cannot determine his time of death, that shall be left to the Elders. The twisted Vicious is clearly fearless and unfazed by these old codgers. They lead him away in chains. He parts with these words, "Don't forget, a serpent's venom poisons slowly after the bite." He's a really happy-go-lucky fellow isn't he?
*
The Bartender gets a taste of a Bloody Mary.
Elsewhere, Jet and Spike are sharing some drinks over at the appropriately dubbed Loser Bar. Nice. Let's not sugarcoat it now. Let's not mince words. You're a loser! Come in and have a drink with us. HA! Now, why on Earth [or Mars] would anyone want to go to a bar called the Loser Bar?. That is unless of course you are a loser. Kidding aside, I certainly don't look at Jet or Spike as losers, perhaps a bit down on their luck at times, but not losers. As they sit contemplating the state of their situation with Faye and Ed gone, Spike senses the rush of footsteps from behind. Both he and Jet know that a hit is in the making and quickly dart to the left and right evading the rain of machine gunfire that fills the bar. The bartender - not so lucky.
*
A battle ensues reminiscent of the kind of excitement found in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid. Spike takes down one man. An unexpected shot to Jet's leg gushes red. Spike takes down the assailant with a shot to the head gushing more of the red stuff. Froze the TV just right on that shot. A young man rushes toward Spike. He fails to fire. Spike recognizes him as Jin, the brother of Linn. We first met Linn in Session #12, Jupiter Jazz Part I. It appears Jin has decided to bail out of his committment to the Syndicate. Spike informs him, "Once you cross this line you can never go back to the Syndicate." They fight like something out of Director Antoine Fuqua's The Replacement Killers [1998]. It's a pretty nifty fight sequence. Jin fills Spike in. Vicious is going to be executed. Spike and Julia are targets too. Jin tells Spike to head for Darsus City. He covers Spike's escape with Jet who is aided with an arm around Spike.
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This shot reminded me of Chow Yun-Fat and Mira Sorvino in The Replacement Killers. Ironically, both Cowboy Bebop and The Replacement Killers were released in 1998.
An external shot of the city comes complete with an image of a billboard featuring a karate man. Did you know a karate man "bruise on the inside" not on the outside? Eddie Murphy told us that in Director Walter Hill's 48 Hrs. [1982]. Jet is worked on by a doctor. Spike is on the lookout. Jet worries for Spike and the hunt by Red Dragon [the Elders]. Jet is a firm believer the door to the past should remain closed. The bullet is removed from Jet's leg. Having a bullet in your leg has to got to hurt like hell. Jet tries to remind Spike he's no longer involved with the Syndicate. Spike knows, but he also knows he'll never be free of the Syndicate. He's always operating with one eye over his shoulder. Clearly this mob's tentacles run long.
*
Spike flashes back. He says goodbye to Julia when he informs her he's leaving the Syndicate. He urges her to do the same and to meet at the graveyard. Julia wonders what then. "Live, be free," urges Spike. Moments later, we see Julia speeding in a covertible. Julia flashes back to that same day. Vicious visited her with a gun to her head that day. She asks Vicious if he is going to kill Spike. He tells her she will kill Spike for him. If she refuses to do so she will die along with him. There's very much a love triangle here.
*
Meanwhile, Faye is at an airport. She sees a black man named Alfredo speaking to his mother. She figures there's something about that guy. [This seemed sort of random in the end]. Spike reaches out to Faye via Red Tail communications. Spike wants her to meet him in Darsus. She suggests she might not be returning despite her concern in discovering Jet's leg was shot up real-good-like. She terminates communication and as she exits her craft sees the speeding car of Julia being fired upon by men in suits. Faye, the pistole packin' mama that she is, pulls out her gun and shoots out the tire of the men in pursuit. Julia pulls up next to her and Faye hops into the car. The men continue in their pursuit and with a perfect shot to another tire she disables the vehicle permanantly.
*
More smoking. Julia and Faye light up. The two ladies light up and speak. They haven't met. Julia realizes Faye is a bounty hunter. Faye offers Julia a chance to partner up with her. Julia can't because she has to take care of business. Julia tells Faye she's looking for a bounty hunter. Faye looks at her almost as if she realizes this is Julia and she is looking for Spike. They exchange names as they drive away. Faye definitely has some idea about Julia here. This is a Cowboy Bebop cool moment.



I've certainly never had a problem with the painterly perfection of the splendid animation.
Julia is referring to the graveyard in that clip. Julia's voice is much gruffer than I had originally suspected based upon our earlier introduction to her via images. She looked as if she would sound more angelic and somehow softer. Not sure why I feel that way. How dis Julia know Spike and Faye were connected? Could it be insider Syndicate-type information or woman's intuition as they say.
*
In flight, Jet is back on his feet aboard the BeBop. He shares a story with Spike that mirrors Spike's current siutation. Jet simply can't understand why Spike won't let go of his past. Spike tells Jet what's missing: Julia. Well, he doesn't say Julia, but we know what keeps pulling him back to the past. It's always the women that pull us back eh? Speaking of the ladies. Faye returns. Jet tells her not to return to the BeBop for her repair needs. Jet is looking for a little more from Faye here. He's looking for loyalty, a connection of some kind. Faye tells Jet she was asked to relay a message from Julia. Jet receives a communication from one of his old police buddies who informs him there was a coup attempt on the Red Dragon. He tells Jet the new guard tried to take out the old guard, but the old guard won. The old guard is attempting to execute anyone linked to the new guard. Spike is on their list. The old guard clearly wants to tie up all loose ends. He tells Jet to run. Get away from Mars and get out of there. Ships are inbound upon the BeBop.
*
Faye enters Spike's room. "Ya got something?," asks Spike. The ships fire upon the BeBop before Faye can say anything. Spike hits the Swordfish and gets hit with some pretty important information from Faye.


*
The saxophone plays over Spike while in the dogfight of his life. The BeBop is taking some heavy fire. Julia waits in the rain. Vicious is moments away from execution. Faye takes to the air in her Red Tail and aids Spike. Vicious' coup ain't over. His crow floats down from the high ceiling and explodes. Men are shot. New guard insiders turn on old guard players and free Vicious. The BeBop is getting lambasted and so are the Elders who are being summarily executed by sword and gun. I think I know why they call him Vicious. He is all that. He's got the ice in his veins. Faye's Red Tail is wacked by a missile. The Swordfish is in good fighting form evading hit after hit. Spike is successful in taking out the fleet of ships. This is a sweet moment from Jet to his friend Spike.


*
If you love somebody set them free right? The music really feeds the story there. The sax reminds me of the love theme from Blade Runner. Jet knows he had to support his friend and let him know he was behind him and it had to be hard for him to say that to Spike because he does love him dearly. Yes it has to be tough to be Jet.
*
Elsewhere leadership has changed hands and Vicious' "power is the only power." Noir-like, in a cemetary, in the rain, Spike arrives to find Julia there. He picks up a rose. Julia holds him at gunpoint. Will she shoot? Will she kill her former lover? See you next time space cowboys. Seriously, where was this Cowboy Bebop throughout the series? If we had more of this kind of storytelling and excitement throughout it would have been an entirely different experience for me. This was pretty top notch for Cowboy Bebop. It was filled with the kind of promise I had been hoping for all along.
*
The Real Folk Blues [Part I]: A-

As for Director Antoine Fuqua's fusion of American action with Hong Kong style, you may want to check out The Replacement Killers. This was the film that turned me onto Chow Yun-Fat, the actor and supercool action star. Sorvino is hot and serviceable in the film, but it was the general idea of this film that got me looking into Chow Yun-Fat's back catalogue. I'm told Hard-Boiled and The Killer are must see Cantonese action classics from Fat, but they are near impossible to find in their intended versions and The Killer is no longer in print at the moment. Nevertheless, here is the sequence that I remembered instantly while watching Cowboy Bebop.
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That my friends, is just straight-up, kick ass, traditional action cinema with real style. I always dug this film on style points.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aw, you didn't recognize the man in the airport with his mother? Alfredo, I guess he was called? It's the host of Big Shots! the bounty hunter show that we saw get cancelled in... Brain Scratch, I think? A big clue is the last part of the convo: "What about your cohost, that blonde woman?" "Oh, she's marrying her agent."

This is a great episode, glad you think so too!

Are you going to do Cowboy Bebop: The Movie? Not the upcoming live action one with Keanu Reeves, of course, but the anime one that came out in like 2003?

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Ah, Big Shots! Of course. Thanks for that. It seemed so random but I like that. I like that kind of continuity inside the show. I missed it.

But yes, I did like this and I do have Cowboy Bebop The Movie. I do hope to watch it soon. So I do plan on it.