From Fargo – a great
film – a sad urban legend
has indeed transpired ..
… which is the topic of a new film Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. An urban legend exists that a Japanese woman believing the Fargo story to be true, and fed up with her own dull life, went to the US to search for the treasure and died all alone in the freezing woods of Minnesota. Rinko Kikuchi plays the lead character. I can imagine her in that role given her character in Norwegian Wood (By the way, when I said in a previous post about the pickings for the characters in Silence being predictable I did not mean that in a demeaning way just that they could branch out a little – still hope Ryo Kaze goes for and gets a role). Sounds like a good film which is getting its debut at the moment at Sundance London (did not know there was a London branch of Sundance but there is – you learn something new every day!!). Fargo is such a great film and it has now been made into a tv series about to start this week. If I had a tv I would watch it but maybe I can catch it online. To add another cool element to this urban legend film, the theme song at the end of the film is from a 1970s French band Yamasuki Singers, put together by the father of one of the guys from Daft Punk!! Well, unfortunately, Kumiko did not `get lucky` in most parts of her life and obviously not in this treasure hunt and probably should have done her `homework` on Fargo.
Add comment April 25, 2014 KorubettosHaiku
The death of a great
writer is sad, learning of
another not so
Well, the news this morning was sad for the fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez who died this morning at the age of 87. Anyone who has read One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera or any of his other books will know a great master has passed on. I actually started reading a book of his two days ago - The Autumn of the Patriarch and it`s quite busy text wise in the first few pages so I`m finding it tough to get into but that`s probably because I have another book on the go at the moment and should really stick to one at a time!! Well no, sometimes I can have two books on the go but in this case I can`t.
So I was looking among the shelves of my bookshop today to see if we had any books about Marquez apart from his novels – biographies or literary criticism (I know we have Love in the Time of Cholera, The Autumn of the Patriarch which I am reading – or trying to – and until yesterday One Hundred Years of Solitude). Well I didn`t find either of those two types of books but just while looking I came across Kafu* the Scribbler: The Life and Writings of Nagai Kafu, 1879-1959 by Edward Seidensticker (a well known translator of Japanese novels). Oh joy!! I had vaguely heard of Kafu but was surprised to find him though if Shushako Endo is in store, why not Kafu eh?. A new literary discovery, as I mentioned in my haiku, is always great. One of the other books I have found in this shop Diary of a mad old man by Junichiro Tanizaki was slightly wierd in that it was about the diarist`s obsession with his daughter in law, more than a bit on the hentai side of things. I`m going to swap it for another book from the shop (the joys of working in a bookstore, I might swap it for this Kafu one if it is interesting enough to keep) because though Tanizaki is said to be one of Japan`s most acclaimed writers I`ll have to hold my opinion of him until I read another of his works. Maybe his other works are acclaimed but I wasn`t impressed by this one. Otherwise, my Japanese literary finds have been successful. I also came across Silence by Shusako Endo (and another of his books) which I wrote about in the last post.
* The u in Kafu would have a line over it like the spanish tilde, as is correctly typeset on the book but not here cos my tilde shortcut won`t work!!
Add comment April 18, 2014 KorubettosHaiku
causing trouble in Japan
Silence from above
I was watching a chat show the other day and one of the guests on the show was the current スパイダーman. He mentioned that Martin Scorsese will be directing a film based on the classic Japanese novel Silence by Shusako Endo. This actor will be the Portuguese priest who is the main protagonist.
I think I mentioned this novel before but anyway it is about Japanese Christians in 17th century Japan who are forced to renounce Christianity by the xenophobic Shõgun in situ at the time. Renounce or face torture, and sure death (Japanese people could not leave Japan without permission so escaping was perilous but the priests could, in fact it was expulsion or torture for them). The priest himself faces the dilemma of whether to renounce his faith and avoid torture. The title relates to the silence from the God these Christians have come to worship, silence in the face of their suffering.
I`m not that surprised that it is Martin Scorsese directing as he has a very wide range of interests. So bring it on.
For the role of the local Daimyo (Lord) in Nagasaki, I think that, of the predictable pickings, they should pick Koji Yakusho over say Ken Watanabe or Hiroyuki Sanada. The latter two I just can`t picture in cruel roles but I have not seen them in any cruel character roles so I can`t say. I`m not saying they could not stretch to it as they are both talented actors but I think Yakusho would be more suitable given his appearance (he`s ruggedly good-looking and a daimyo can`t be too pretty-boy looking – or can he? Don`t know any haha), his experience (which the other two have as well) of being in a Hollywood film (two in Yakusho`s case, more for the other two). If they`re going to be speaking English, he`s good at that from what I saw in Memoirs of a Geisha and though that is only one film – from 8 years ago! – his English seemed really natural in that. Acting in a language that is not your own can`t be too easy and I think it shows extra dedication in an actor to even try it (how many `great` Hollywood actors would bother trying it? Kristen Scott Thomas is the only actress I can think of but she`s not really much of a Hollywood head herself – she has starred in quite a few French films). You might say `yeah yeah but they probably get a hundred takes to get it right and they get paid loads of money to sit around in trailers and practice*` but still there is probably pressure to get it right as quick as possible and getting it not just right but natural is another battle altogether, I imagine. And I think Yakusho looked really comfortable with English in that film (though a little uncomfortable at the same time with such awful dialogue, which can`t really be blamed on the actors). The other two actors have obviously also been in English speaking films as I`ve mentioned but I`m voting for Koji Yakusho here.
I`m not exactly sure what age the Daimyo is supposed to be. I must check that out. Well they can make him whatever age they like really for the film but if it`s the 50s age group, Yakusho is the man. Are you listening Martin Scorsese? On the other hand, if they pick a younger Japanese man, they should go for Ryo Kase (he can look pretty sinister I think) or Tadanobu Asano. Shidou Nakamura as I said before is guilty of overacting at times so he might a bit over the top (there`s another guy who has acted in another language – having starred in Red Cliff).
Well, it has probably already been decided who will star as who (apart from the Priest role played by スパイダーman). I`ll definitely be going to watch that film when it eventually comes out. Interesting story, great director. Anyone else interested?
* Quiz: `I will practice my English with you` – says Ken Watanabe in what film?
Postscript: looked up the film and Ken Watanabe is in it but as to which role that is not clear.
Add comment April 14, 2014 KorubettosHaiku
World Poetry Day
today can I think up a
nice new haiku folks?
Or can you? Well, it`s World Poetry Day today and as I work in a bookshop we`re going to have a poetry reading this evening and the window is displayed with poetry books – a blend of international and national poets.
I wonder if they are celebrating this in Japan, whether in bookshops or universities or schools? It`s probably not a well-established day just yet around the world. I know from one of the blogs I`m following that it was Museum Bloggers Day lately and yesterday, the 20th of March, was World Happiness Day.
I went to my local gallery the night before that to watch a film called Happy. Anyone seen it? People from around the world in different situations talk about what makes them happy every day. It was very touching. However, one story was not so happy and it was about people in Japan dying from overwork – karõshi (過労死). The woman they interviewed told how her husband always seemed exhausted and depressed and then at work one day he collapsed and died while making a phonecall to a superior about a technical problem. It`s so sad that people are this pressured by their work that they end up dying because of it. A separate interviewee, also in Japan, told the interviewer that his job was more important than his girlfriend when asked why he was celebrating his birthday with his colleagues instead of with her. `They invited me and anyway work is more important` to paraphrase what he said. To counteract this, they showed an old woman in Okinawa who was 106 years old and was really happy to be alive and could be seen in the video enjoying watching very young children have races in the road with other kids. The other old ladies also seemed to enjoy their lives.
That was very sweet but because Okinawa considers itself to be separate from Japan in history, culture and language etc, I think they could rather have shown someone from the mainland, other than this lady whose husband died and the birthday guy, who did not give into this obsession with work and was happy with his or her lot while not living with much. They could have gone to Hokkaido which is I think a fairly chilled back island despite the big commercial city that is Sapporo. They could have gone to an organic farm anywhere in Japan. Sure, farmers, organic especially*, work as hard as people anywhere else but I don`t imagine there are too many cases of karõshi about because they are not eaten up by consumerism (consumed by consumerism) and tend to make time for non-work activities (just as many people around Japan probably also do, the film just focused on this phenomenon to show a contrast I think to the others).
By the way, this film was only produced in 2011 so it is quite up-to-date with its reportage of karõshi. I guess the recession in Japan in recent years has led to people wanting to work even harder to keep their jobs and life, in Tokyo for one, can be really expensive property wise, so a phenomenon that started a few decades ago is still, unfortunately, continuing.
* They won`t have as much machinery to do the work and not as much pesticides to keep their produce in check, not to take away from traditional farming which is tough as well.
Add comment March 21, 2014 KorubettosHaiku
Well hello there gas
yes we`ll take more even if
it rankles world-wide
The blue font here represents the cold reaction Japan may face in turning a blind eye to Russia`s dubious political procedures regarding Crimea. And turning a blind eye for the sake of a gas deal. I suppose it depends on how seriously Japan takes the sanctions that the US and the EU have imposed on Russia, mostly travel restrictions which is not really a huge thing (so not that seriously) and how they see getting on with neighbours through good politics (ahem). Talk about keeping in with the (huge, powerful) neighbours!! True, Russia`s state energy company helped Japan out a lot post March-11 by supplying extra gas (for free I think) but even so I don`t think this gives Japan the right to turn a blind eye to dubious politics next door. Especially when it might need help (from a huge powerful friend) in the future with any resulting trouble with a certain other (huge, powerful) neighbour.
Add comment March 19, 2014 KorubettosHaiku