Friday, July 31, 2009

Calling an old friend

A has decided to go to B.
B is a familiar name to me, as my old friend C lives there.
I've never been to B.
I've decided to call C.
Hi, C. It's been so long. How you doing?
I'm fine, says C. It's been 30 years, you know. Why didn't you call me?
Sorry, I've been busy living. You know, there's this guy A. He's a good friend of mine now.
Yeah. He's going to B. I mean, he's actually there.
Yeah. You don't mind meeting with him and initiate him to the life there?
Not at all, my pleasure. I'll meet him first thing in the morning.
Thanks, C. I really miss you. We should get together one more time.
Sure. Anytime you feel like coming here, as I can't be there myself.
Right. Well, I hope you and A get along well.
Don't worry, we'll be the best of buddies. A's your friend. He'll be mine, too.
Hasta pronto, amigo.
Hasta la vista, pal.
I thanked C and hang up. A, in the meantime, is already there.
I felt consoled and I was rather happy, to tell you the truth.
The only thing that is not quite right is that B is the realm of DEATH.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

R.I.P. Shingo Tsuda (1959-2009)

My friend Shingo Tsuda passed away Saturday night after a long struggle against his illness.

He was undoubtedly one of the most important Japanese editors working in the humanities, made books with such authors as Toshiyuki Horie, Yoko Tawada, Kan Nozaki, Hideki Maeda, Mayumi Tomihara, and myself.

He was a lover of music and islands, walker in the forest, dreamer in the republic of books.

Rest in peace, Shingo, and I will follow you sooner or later! Should there be an afterlife, who knows, we'll find each other again!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Harmony Korine, etc.

Thursday. Re-watched 3 films by Harmony Korine in a row with some graduate students.

Awesome. They keep me breathless. Sheer, strange beauty of things.

Of them, though, Julien Donkey Boy stands out as a true masterpiece. What a story, and what images beyond imagination! Compared to this, Mister Lonely is too mature, too much under control. Or do I tend to be charmed by imperfection of a certain kind?

Other films this year:

47. Luc Jacquet, La marche de l'empereur (2005)
48. The Coen brothers, No Counry for Old Men (2007)

Too much anthropomorphism in 47, I know, and I am very aware of what Werner Herzog has to say on this. Still, its cinematography is simply outstanding. A disgraceful masterpiece to be watched by all humans.

Finally watched 48 and liked it immensely! I love every bit of it. There is a lot in common with Fargo, thematically. Yet this desert landscape of the Texas-Mejico borderlands is irreplaceable. Crazy guys. I'd love to meet the Coens one day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In Another Country

Films this year:

46. Noboru Tanaka, Shikijo mesu ichiba (The Erotic Female Market, 1974)

Osaka is another country, and within Osaka, Nishinari is a desperately precarious working class district. The film depicts a prostitute's life there with a surprisingly fresh and often experimental filmic language.

Overall story is rather corny. But when the white and black narrative becomes fully colored in order to prepare for the mythical sequence of her brother's aimless wandering in the city, the effect is amazing and beautiful.

The film is particularly brilliant outside. Made as a Roman-Porn film, it is way too lyrical to be simply erotic.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Of the used-book market

In the days of Book Off and Amazon Market Place, the used-book market in Japan is totally devastated. There is no chance for a windfall. I mean exceptionally good books at prices next to none.

But this principle of lucky encounter still holds true, to a certain degree, in the case of foreign books and you occasionally come across very good books in more than acceptable conditions at a price less than a glass of Starback's Frapuccino.

The other day I was at Jinbocho aimlessly wandering and picked up the following books nicely preserved. Not read at all, although the color of the paper has somewhat changed brown. I don't care. I just say, You chaps are brown, and I pick them up.

They are: Douglas Bush's Prefaces to Renaissance Literature (1965); J. Middleton Murry, The Problem of Style (1976; original 1922); Donald Davie, Trying to Explain (1979). Nice handy paperbacks, 300 yen apiece! Unbeatable. If I stick to English I can get plenty fuel very reasonably here in Japan to live at the writer's trade.

Davie's is a gem. I remember Barthes quoting Hobbes: "La seul passion de ma vie a été la peur." Then Davie says in this manner something that I have in common with him, Hobbes, and presumably Barthes:

And thus the first thing that I'm made to realize about myself, with this dream in mind, is how constantly, throughout my boyhood but also ever since, my strongest and most common emotion has been fear. Fear, or else perhaps apprehension; for the fear has not been of any one thing or person, not even of any definable happening, but always unlocalized, unfocused, pervasive. I have been a coward before life; always, against the run of the evidence, I have expected the worst. (20)

And this comes from an excess of imagination, whereas somebody like Lévi-Strauss talked about his lack of imagination when he first dared to tread jungles in Mato Grosso.

Hiroshima films

Spent the afternoon watching 3 Hiroshima-related films in a row. They are Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour (1959), Yoshimura Kozaburo's Sono yo ha wasurenai (I won't forget that night; 1962), and Steven Okazaki's White Light/Black Rain (2005).

Watched in this order, they are all the more powerful. Resnais-Duras ask the question "est-ce racontable?" and although I have some criticism against the thematic construction of the film, the question itself is quite legitimate. How do we ever talk about the experience? Okazaki let people speak up, and to a very moving degree, succeeds.

Films this year:

44. Andy Byatt and Alastair Fothergill, Deep Blue (2004?)
45. Kozaburo Yoshimura, I Won't Forget the Night (1962)

44 is curiously recomforting. Come what may, and after the great extinction of the life on the surface, those who live deep in the ocean will survive as if nothing happened. They don't even need sunlight! That beats me.

45 is memorable for the final scene where Jiro Tamiya weeps in the river.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And they endure...

Films this year:

43. Omnibus, All the Invisible Children (2005)

Superb. All the short segments are good, but especially the succession of Spike Lee/Katia Lund shorts is breathtaking. The US, Brasil. Most recommendable for all students.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Look at the mountain, look how the children live

Films this year:

42. Hiroshi Shinomiya, Scavengers (1995)

A great documentary. Truly engaging. There is a slum called "Smokey Mountain" in Manila, where people are reduced to the life of scavengers--hunting for gabbages. In that minimally satysfying condition, their smiles are shining to break your heart. Poverty, hunger, war--such are the director Shinomiya's manifest enemies. A great soul he is. If I can join his spiritual-material quest in some way...