[interact_list] [Japanese movies] from Sennjou no Merry Christmas to Totoro

  • From: Akio Fujita <A.Fujita@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: interact_list@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 30 Jul 2001 22:33:11 +0100

Director - Nagisa Oshima
Actors - Takeshi Kitano, Ryu-ichi Sakamoto, David Bowie

'Sennjyou no Merry Christmas'

1997 - Kobe had huge earthquake, almost lost everything people had 
reconstructed from nothing - after 1945. 

6000 lives were lost with seconds of rattle of the shell of the planet 

- and fortunately I never lost a single of my friend or acquaintance in
this disaster. I remember I surfed the web to check the list of names 
of casualties. 

Everyone got hurt inside. I remember I walked through the streets of 
Kobe after the quake - all those old buildings and churches European 
immigrant families have built for 150 years - most of them were 
terribly damaged - rabbles and bricks were everywhere - huge buidlings 
were lying on the main streets. Each corner and scenes were cherished 
ones - for everyone - and there was a cold winter sky. 

We were all hurt - but we started to walk, make steps again, slowly and
slowly. There was a very collective memorial old station - it sustained
but terribly damaged so has to be dismantled - fire brigade cars 
started to shower waters over the station dome and iron balls strated 
to crash down the structure from its top - 

when it started to gone - lose its shape - everyone was crying. 

We went through Spring, Summer and Autumn, and in Winter - very 
silently - wondering - about some painful thoughts - I cannot write it 
down here - but now it turned out in more casual joke - as I often say 

'We are living over the volcanos, it's not even a island.'

And there was a Christmas of 1997 and there were some special TV 
programs for Christmas. 

There is a comedian called 'Takashi Matsumoto' - a one of those 'genuis'
kind of young comedian - he is I think almost a billionare - because 
his performance is almost artistic. We have a tradition of 'loving those
eccentric and genuine commedians' - we even respect them. 

So he had his TV show in that Christmas. It was a series of only 
nonsense -stupid Western Japanese (Kann-sai Jinn) stuff. And it went 
for an hour and a half. 

Studio, just has been broadcasted all those frenzy shows, got dark, 
comedians had gone, it went silent - and there was Takashi - standing 
alone and I think he said 

'I am not exactly from Kobe - but most people know I'm from Amagasaki- 
pretty close - and I don't like sentimental stuff - so I don't do 
donation or charity much - I pay tax enough - 85 % - so -
and I asked to Ryu-ichi Sakamoto - can you play piano live - from Kobe 
island (artificial island in the Kobe dock) -

it's winter - cold - but Sakamoto said 

Okay, if you want me to play, I will play. 

And I heard it later that Sakamoto don't play that tune - 
the tune I like from 'Sennjo-no Merry Christmas' - in live - 

So it is special. 

Heck, fuck sake, what's special. 

Good night. 

Ah, and last, I asked how much I should pay for this to Sakamoto.

He said he needs not to be paid for such a thing. 

I ashamed myself. '

And the tune continued 3 to 4 minutes, it was actually played from the 
piano placed on the windy and cold square in the middle of that dock. 
The musician, Ryu-ichi Sakamoto was sitting and playing in the middle 
of the wind. 

We suffered 80s. Suicide of kids were the most issue we always gazed 
and felt hurted. We had one or two 'representitives' of our voices -
but they all gone - died - because of drugs and stuff. 

And we spent most of the 90s numb. Now our apathy were turning back to 
us - not only members of the society is leaving society daily - 
commiting suicides - people started to attack people -

AUM, I had one of my study mate's friend in its assasination squad 
leader - from similar background.

Wakayama Poisoning - a region which has 'normals' and 'caste' 
and the region one of my ex-girlfriend - engaged - grew in that town,
right across the river bank, she can see the place where 13 or so kids 
were poisoned to death by food from, the park she played when she was 
small. (The woman commited crime was from caste. Also, AUM's guru and 
central members were all from caste too.)

The movie itself is not reflecting our historical grievances or context
- at all. It's rather sur-realistic - nonsensical collections of images
and footages - from Japanese eye, there is no realism. There is no - 
real presentation of issues of 'Jap' and 'Whites' relations. 

'Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence!'

That smile was mysterious - Takeshi Kitano - his movies were another 
series of 'eccentric' and 'nonsense' stuff.

We were largely lost until late 90s - since late 90s we started to 
notice - that we have 'monitors' of this society and its foreign 
relations - academics, novelists and all sorts of experts from bankers,
businessman to high artists and low artists - those who can show about,
where we are from and where we need to go and reach. 

And after the earthquake, mysterious things started to happen in Kobe, 
from the summer of the next year - we started to witness nature's 
return. Strong return. Plants, trees, bushes started to grow larger and
taller. We started to witness return of kinds of birds, insects, fishes
- we lost a decade ago because of urbanisation and industrialisation. 
As if - nature regained its earth power again, it was mysteriously all 
strong - but it was really happening. We soon started to increase of 
numbers of wild bores and dears in the mountains - 

And at around this time - the movie 'Totoro' was created. 

It is about a imagined family of creatures living in the forest - 
one family of humans moved in a rural village - and they started to 
notice the existence of all those good old monsters. 

The movie is made by 'Hayao Miyazaki' - who - works in the realm of 
animation but who really cares about the context of Japanese culture 
and history - (although his sense is very simplistic and really 
cartooninsh) - a series of work is known with the name of 'Studio 
Ghiburi' - he also has, alike Kitano, wide fans among US and overseas. 

The theme was 'Tatari' - vengeace - revenge from Nature - 

We destroyed our lands, forests, mountains, rivers and oceans - 
for modernisation sake and for feeding up those contractors/developers 
sector - we really tortured our nature - 

So we will and we shall, have pay-back time from the Nature. 

They(Nature) will do it - sooner or later - and we have to accept it 
we cannot avoid - cause we did bad and terrible to them. 

And this turn was one of those 'symptoms' of late 90's Japanese culture
- we started to review everything ecological/environmental in our land. 

It is hard - cause there are markets and interest holders but good 
thing is all those 'counter powers' are coming up with all kinds of new
ideas and always awaiting to the chance and moment of actualisation.

In this sense, we aren't lost anymore these days. 

Thank you to the our old blood in our culture - that of animsm, and 
shinto - and early buddhism. They made us easier to 'reset' our minds. 

'Ah, we can't keep going like this anymore.' 

And we see grounds, recall those small streams we played when we were 
child and we recall evenings and mornings when sun was so beautifull 
there - everyday. 

So, Totoro is about 'return of nature' - nature got some message and we
have to listen to it with our minds. 

And two sisters - interact with those large monsters from the forest - 
always walk along unpaved roads sided by tall trees. They are 
still young and small. And it signifies 'We can, and should, push reset 
switch - at any time.' 

- 'We don't have to be in this way and we can try to be different - 
and there is future.' 

The history of our - Japanese's - movie making is not that context-less,
there are trials, questions and answers we come up with - it is 
possible to observe certain good context and meaning in why every 5 or 
10 years - Japanese movies shift their issues - styles drastically. 

Totoro was that kind of pivotal work - and under-introduced in UK, 
(Pikachu - is like - I don't know - it's marketing...)

The thing is we all watch it - from 2 years or 3 years old to very 
elderly people. 

We live close to nature - which makes you feel like actually each of 
them have some character, personality, comes to talk to you. As far as I
see it is a totally different environment from that of England - 

- still, sometimes I find I can talk to hedgehogs on the streets at 
night though.


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