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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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On not doing the right thing

From: John Zulovitz, Columbus, OH

You made a point of saying how "Crash" took the issue of racism in a direction it had never before gone in film; and, given that (considering statements you'd made in past reviews and interviews in regard to another film), left me confused and disappointed.

There was something about "Crash," you see, that didn't sit well with me. Upon a more recent viewing of Spike Lee’s "Do the Right Thing" (as well as "Crash," and studying both screenplays, as well), and thinking about your statement regarding "Crash," I understood what had happened: Mr. Lee's film was far more honest and superior; "Crash" was no more than a tired, stereotypical retread.

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If there is a difference, I suppose it would be that Mr. Lee deals more honestly with the issue of racism, and during the third act of his film does not step back and start shuffling together contrivances disguised as resolutions. Perhaps he understands better than Mr. Haggis and Mr. Maresco that one cannot make a "realistic" drama about so multi-layered an issue and then commence tying the story up with a nice little bow.

Understand, I do not despise "Crash" (2005). It's just that it's neither "daring" nor "original." As for a tired retread (if you will permit me a pun), it's not a bad film to watch to pass a couple of hours. What's quickly becoming upsetting is the manner in which the film is being praised, without other, better films (from which "Crash" has... shall we say "borrowed" or "stolen"?) being mentioned, as well.

Upsetting, too, are those people who live in Los Angeles who are infuriated with the film. And African-Americans. And Asian-Americans.

Were it that the makers of "Crash" had not purported to make a film that is a sledgehammer that shatters a mirror of our society (to paraphrase the producers' Academy Award acceptance speech), this would not be so troubling.

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