Haiku reflections on Japan

Strange weather

Reading can seem a 

rare pleasure but for me

it still beats n/f.

 

I’ve made quite a bit of time lately for reading lately, thanks to a certain hurricane which meant the time was made for me as online tv/film watching was unavailable but also, pre-hurricane, thanks to certain brilliant books I have been borrowing from the library which prompted me to ditch the online viewing (nf mainly, occasionally yt.) myself. In addition to the brilliant library books, I also decided to go back to ones on my shelf which I bought a year or two ago (and read – no tsundoku here!) but for some reason did not put them in my literature list.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (called The Briefcase in other parts of the world, which is also the title of the last chapter in the book) is a good one from Japan. It shows love in a different light.  Once you put aside the initial weirdness of how the mature woman and a former high school teacher of hers come to meet, the story is quite sweet.   It’s not the age gap that is wierd exactly as they are both now adults (Memoirs of a Geisha is way creepier in that regard), only that he first recognised her as the school girl she had once been and keeps commenting throughout their relationship on her studiousness, or lack of it, in school and saying things like ‘good girl’ and patting her on the head (you wouldn’t even pat a child on the head).  However, they’re clearly somehow meant to be as they find out, despite her occasionally feeling at odds with the association, and I guess more unusual couples exist.    This is a book I bought a few years ago and read at the time but the second reading is better and the humour comes out more on a second reading.  The translator who worked on the book is Allison Markin Powell (I like to name the translator).

Another book I had time to read for the second time, bought around the same time as Strange Weather was Revenge by Yoko Ogawa.  This is a book of eleven dark tales with the main characters in each being connected in the oddest ways.    The translator of that is Stephen Snyder.   This was a very quirky one which also explores loneliness.

By the way, I’m so glad to see the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Kazuo Ishiguro.  He’s such a good writer.  I’ve been meaning to buy one of his recent novels, having read some of his earlier ones.  Nice to see the prize go to an actual author again, and a very deserving one he is.   They might have learned their lesson now and continue giving it to authors. I’ve nothing against Bob Dylan, whose lyrics are lovely, but he didn’t even seem to want it and took his time showing up to receive it!!  What’s more, you don’t know who’ll be expecting one now, using Bob Dylan as a precedent.  I shudder to think.  So, just stick to writers please.

It seems the political climate in Tokyo is going to stay the same for a while with Shinzo Abe’s landslide victory in the elections.   Despite the additional options available this time around, including the current Tokyo governor whom I’ve mentioned before with her Party of Hope, and another new party, the CDP (Constitutional Democratic Party) led by a Yukio Edano, he still won due to his hard line stance, understandably I guess, on North Korea.  This CDP sounds interesting though and might prompt change in certain areas.

 

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Haiku reflections on Japan

Silence

Silence from above,

struck dumb by mother nature

or awe-striking skill

 

Silence, the film based on the (very good) book by Shusaku Endo and which I’ve been waiting to see for a while and mentioned late last year , is finally coming out judging by the advertisements I’m seeing cropping up everywhere.  It stars Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield as the two Portuguese priests who go to Japan to look for their persecuted fellow priest played by Liam Neeson, and is directed by Martin Scorsese.   Ciaran Hinds, another Northern Irish actor, plays another big role. He’s a good choice I think.  I watched a trailer for it today.  I wonder how Scorsese settled on the first two actors here. Their Portuguese accents are actually ok from the trailer but will they hold up for a whole film?  I hope it doesn’t turn out like the actor who played Sam in Lord of the Rings who, I thought anyway, couldn’t stick to the one accent!! Or Hollywood attempts at Irish accents. Cringe.  If they chose actors with a natural non-native English accent, not necessarily Hispanic or Iberian, who also happened to have star appeal it might be better.  Or just not have accents at all.  Andrew Garfield actually looks good with a beard while Liam Neeson is looking super thin in his role (obviously given the conditions he ends up in he’s not going to be well fed but it’s so strange to see him so emaciated looking).   The role of the Daimyo (feudal lord) whom the two young priests and Neeson’s Fr. Ferreira encounter was supposed to be played by either Ken Watanabe or Koji Yakusho but I didn’t spot either of them in the trailer.  Maybe their schedules clashed but the man who seemed to be the Daimyo did look otherwise familiar as did another of the Japanese cast.   If it had been either, I think Yakusho would have been better. He has more of a presence I think.   Still, it’s good to see other actors getting to show their stuff.

In other good Japanese-related movie news, depending on how you see it, Toshiro Mifune has recently been given a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  I say depending on how you see it because if they can give one of these stars to a person like the US President Elect (which was actually vandalized during the elections), it makes it less meaningful to see it being given to a deserving film actor.   He’s not the first Japanese actor or actor of Japanese origin to get one. George Takei and the late Pat Morita (Mr Miyage!) have one well-earned star apiece as well.   George Takei has recently expressed a lot of concern about talk about camps for immigrants by the soon to be new White House resident, given that he himself had to enter one of the World War II American camps for Japanese immigrants as a boy.  He really is going after immigrants it seems.

Japan is somewhat worried at the moment, for one thing because of the earthquake and tsunami that struck yesterday in the Fukushima coastal region – luckily no one died this time but it’s naturally a cause of concern – and on a political level because the aforementioned white house creature has announced he wants to pull out of the proposed TTP agreement.    I don’t know the ins and outs of this agreement but it was something Barack Obama hoped to see ratified before he left office.   Another project of Obama’s that T has no time for it seems.

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Haiku reflections on Japan

Scandal!!

Some things never change

paparazzi and celebs

never did mix well

 

Scandal is a film by Akira Kurosawa, from 1950.   I remember reading Scandal by Shusako Endo, but I don’t remember being that impressed by it.   However, this film is not based on that book, but written by Kurosawa himself who had strong feelings about the press of his time.  Kurosawa’s regular two are in it, Mifune and Shimura, and another actor from Rashomon.

A handsome painter and a beautiful singer (played by Yoshiko Yamaguchi, also known as Shirley Yamaguchi, who really was a soprano singer as well as an actress) are caught together on the balcony of the latter’s hotel room.    They’re merely having an innocent chat and then end up pointing at something in the distance.   The painter, Mifune, had given the singer a lift to the hotel on his motorbike earlier after meeting her for the first time on the way there.   Anyway, the pictures come out, creating a scandal and the painter sues the magazine responsible in court purely to prove a point about privacy.  The only thing is his lawyer, who is in dire financial straits, is deceiving him after being bribed by the owner/editor of the paper to throw the trial.   The lawyer has a very ill daughter to whom the painter is very kind and this affects the plot in that it influences the lawyer’s behaviour and his reason for accepting the bribe.  I won’t say any more but it’s quite a good film.

The motorbike made me think of Marlon Brando.  Both actors played their more famous roles during the 1950s (though of course Brando had that great Godfather role in 1972, while Mifune had Yojimbo and Red Beard in the early 1960s).   Apparently, one thing Kurosawa considered a weakness in Mifune was his rough voice.  I have to say I like his rough voice in the films I see him in.    Scandal for example.  The rough voice suits  the motorcycle image.   It suits his overall look as well.     Then again, in Rashomon, his rough voice adds to his undesirable character so it’s not so appealing in that.

Paparazzi are still around of course, hunting down celebrities and so-called celebrities.  That will probably never change.

Silence,  another novel by Shusaku Endo, is due out soon in film form.  Being directed by Martin Scorsese gives it serious appeal to start with but the story is quite interesting as it’s set in a period of Japan’s history when foreign and Japanese Christians were persecuted by the Shogun.  Liam Neeson has definitely lost some weight for his role in the film.  He also played a priest in an exotic location in The Mission, by Roland Joffé, in 1986 (great film and fabulous soundtrack by Ennio Morricone that I could listen to forever), almost 30 years ago (it will be 30 years by the time this film comes out), so this will be interesting for him no doubt.

 

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