Friday, June 21, 2013

Ginger & Rosa

Sally Potter's "Ginger & Rosa" was the most wonderful film I've seen this year so far. It reminded me of a French novel, "Les Particules Elementaires," written by Michel Houellebecq. Both of them depict the painful struggle with the counterculture parents. The film is about what's it like to be a daughter of a peace activist in the cold war era.
Although set in 1962, this doesn't belong to the 'nostalgic' movies (so I guess; actually, I wasn't born at that time). The least Elvis-kind-of music can be heard, but the most touching song in this movie is Gershwin's "The Man I Love" sung by Ginger's mother. 

(I picked up the song from a production by Pina Bausch.)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kamikaze-esque Suicide in Japan?

The documentary video on Youtube, Saving 10000 --Winning a War on Suicide in Japan, made by a westerner, is a strong persuasive approach to the suicide problem in Japan. It analyzes the taboo with which Japanese mass media can't deal for some reason (maybe some greedy industiries are putting pressure on exposing the truth) from several points of view such as media influence, tolerance in gambling and the problem with mental health services. 
It includes a comment by a Mishima biographer on Japanese writers who killed themselves."Suicidal tendencies among Japanese authors have been extremely high," he explained."...There is nowhere else where suicide of novelists is so prevalent."
That's true. So many famous writers in Japan, for example, Mishima, Dazai, and Kawabata, killed themselves. Recently, Jun Etoh committed suicide in 1999. Did they consider, however, suicide as a 'beautiful ritual' or have some kind of 'kamikaze spirit' when they committed it? Is it really 'traditional' way of thinking in Japan?
I don't think so. In the video, they didn't go into further detail on it, so I would like to add a note about it from a Japanese writer's point of view. It might be simply because writers of Meiji, Taisho and early Showa era are strongly affected by romanticism. In order to catch up western literature, Japanese literature had to absorb everything from Greek mythology to modern decadent romans in a rush, after Meiji era. It was such a crash work like building western style house on the muddy samurai land in a day. Early modern writers must be exhausted with such a frenzy creation, and tend to be extremely pessimistic like some of the literatures in romanticism that they pursue, I think.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Super Active Cloclo!

Saw a French film titled "Cloclo," a biopic of Claude Francois, at the press preview. Though I hadn't known that he was the original songwriter of "My Way" sung by Frank Sinatra, Cloclo (Claude) was, in fact, one of the most famous singers in France.

The film is a big-budgeted entertainment which depicts the star's big success in the showbiz in the 60's and 70's. In between the dazzling scenes of his live performances and TV shows along with hot female dancers, we see in the film so many girlfriends of Cloclo come and go (that I can't remember all of their faces), and tons of screaming fans who wait for him in front of the doors of venues. He is a real star, but unlike many other superstars of the time, he never drinks nor takes drugs. He just works frantically, and has been singing and dancing throughout the film; almost seems like a hyperactive man! (Maybe I shouldn't say 'hyper.' I didn't mean to be rude to his enthusiasm, au contraire, admire it very much. Let's say 'super' active, instead.) Very professional, indeed.

What shocked me most was the fact that he died of an accident (as a result of touching light bulbs while he was taking a bath) at 39, despite his healthy life style. 

After I saw the magnificent film, I googled and found real Cloclo video↓. Il est magnifique! Really! 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Thinking About Japanese Literature Through Cakes

Modern Japanese literature must be very eclectic, like this!
I had this 'cherry blossom mousse with Japanese green tea flavored cake' at a French style cafe/ patisserie. This is like Mishima literature; ingredients are very Japanese, but its making method is completely Western. 
On top of the cake, Japanese national flower, sakura (or cherry blossoms) made with sprinkled icing sugar using petal-shaped template, can be seen like a signature.
Very eclectic, but anything tasty would be appreciated. The same can be said for novels!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Breakers

Finally saw "Spring Breakers" at a press preview. I've been an avid fan of Harmony Korin since "Gummo," (and I even went to see an exhibition about Larry Clark held in Tokyo about a decade ago!) and as I expected, this latest film, too, didn't betray my worship.

When 'indie' directors become celebrities, (it happens also in Japanese theatre world), they often have opportunities to star popular 'idols' in thier movies. Big budgeted indie films can be on the fence, and as a consequence, it's likely that neither people who merely want to see idols nor genuine movie geeks will be satisfied with them. But Harmony Korin is an exceptional director. We can see that he always has his distinctive style regardless of budget.

Young actresses marvelously act cheeky girls who robbed a diner to make money for a spring break. But the robbery scene in this movie is very ambiguous and seems like a contemporary art version of "Pulp Fiction." A drug dealer called "Alien" played by James Franco seems like a reflection of the director himself who bacame rich, and is getting older but still working with very young people. He might feel ambivalent about American pop culture, yet he shows it sentimentally. Literally, he is "Mr.Lonely" in the dazzling world. 


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Protagonists Looking for a Missing Cat

Some years ago, I translated a Martin McDonagh's play, "Lieutenant of Inishmore," for Japanese production. It's about a young terrorist from Inishmore island (one of the Arran Islands, Ireland) who is extremely worried about his missing pet cat. As a member of a rebel group, he kills humans cold-bloodedly, but to his little cat named Thomas, he is very very kind.

Actually, I almost forgot that the play had the missing-pet theme until I watched the DVD of the famous classic movie, "Come Back, Little Sheba" (it also was originally the play of the same title). Needless to say, its style is different than McDonagh's play, and Sheba isn't a cat, but a dog. In the movie, the couple who had the missing dog didn't mention a lot of it, although Sheba is a 'title role'. Anyway, in both "Sheba" and "Inishmore", missing pets evoke intense emotion, and play the key role while they are absent.

In Japanese literature, "Noraya" (means "Hey, Nora") by Hyakken Uchida definitely is the most famous missing-cat-themed book. It's a real story written between 1956 and 1970, in later life of Hyakken. In the form of the diary, he describes how he misses his cat named Nora that left home suddenly. As a matter of fact, nothing happens in the novel (diary?). From start to finish, he has been lamenting. But it has real poetic quality which moves us very much.

Paperback of "Noraya" with mini size Post-it (very convenient!).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I saw movie preview of Terraferma directed by Emanuele Crialese, which impressed me very much. The film is about a family living on Linosa island located in between Sicillia and Africa. They used to make a living in fishing, but made up their mind to change their fishing boat into excursion cruise boat. Ironically, they started to have a hard time dealing with young backpackers from rich family and illegal imigrants they saved on the sea (because they couldn't abandon poor people) at the same time. 

The themes of the film definitely include 'poverty, disparity, and human rights' which are the big problems today's serious directors or writers have to deal with. But unlike some documentary films, there is something mythical in this excellent fiction film.
No wonder it has won many awards such as Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards and Special Jury Award in the Venice International Film festival.

I recommend this to the people bored with 'entertainments.' Don't miss it!