Haiku reflections on Japan


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.

Haiku reflections on Japan


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.


Haiku reflections on Japan

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage

`Colorless` young man

seeks answers to a burning

question from his youth


Well, I have seen Murakami`s latest book in a few shops in hardback version and thought about buying it as the paperback is not due out for another few months, both in my country and the one I was recently travelling in.   I held off though and I`m glad I did because just by chance I came across it in my library. yes the library came to the rescue again.    Having read it now, I am kind of glad I did not fork out the cash for the hardback nor will I be buying the paperback which will be out soon.

Overall, it was of friendship and how some friendships cannot last forever.  One person, the Tsukuru of the title, gets cast out of a group of close teenage friends without any explanation whatsoever and he spends a lot of his life living under the cloud this brings about.  It affects his relationships with other people, or rather his ability to build them in the first place.   He constantly feels rejected.  He does manage to make a new friend who he sees a lot of. The reason he gets cast out is awful but I won`t say what it is nor what becomes of his new friendship, in case someone reading this has not read the novel.

Anyway, though I found the book a bit refreshing at first for Murakami, the characters were not too much of a jump from characters in his previous novels, especially Tsukuru, who definitely had shades of Watanabe from NW and Tengo from IQ84.    The classical music fan, the sarky cutter whisky (or whatever it is called), the loner who listens to and drinks each these things.  It brings up the issue yet again about being lonely versus being alone which the character is quite happy being or so he says for most of the book.  The end of the book is a bit weak, tailing out to nothing.  I was thinking `oh that`s it`.

Out of interest, one of the characters in the book says something very wierd at one stage comparing his skills to  that of a nazi.    In an interview with fans a few months ago, Murakami seemed pleased to share his birthday or something like that with a `great` nazi.   I was left thinking 一体!! (What the hell!!)   I know he is not a fascist but (and so) he should really keep such opinions to himself.  That interview was kind of lame anyway and maybe he knew it and decided to throw in that strange comment though he does not seem to court controversy.

Well, that book apparently flew off the shelves when it first came out in Japan so Murakami`s  legend is safe there for a long time yet.    Another legend in Japan is Ken Takakura, unfortunately no longer a living legend as he sadly passed away last November, an event I somehow missed (actually I was away travelling so was not paying much attention to my blog).  RIP Ken.  His last film was Anate He (Darling) in 2012.   He was already in his early 80s when he did that film.   Lovely film.   It has somewhat of an all-star cast.   Check it out.

Anyone else read Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage?   What did you think of it?