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4/13/2014

ASPAC 2014 Abstract: Japanese Historical Process in Anglophone Cinema

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:29 pm Print
It's that time of year again, when procrastinators do their taxes, spring cleaning, and summer abstract writing in one weekend! My proposed paper for ASPAC this year (at Western Washington in Bellingham) is a variation on something I've been working on for a while now, no surprise to longtime readers of this blog, or of HNN, or to my students who have heard me rant and rail about the tragedies of historical fiction and historical movies for a decade or more. I'm going to try to focus on a kind of historiographical reading of the movies, and to talk about how we as public experts, teachers and writers, might productively respond to or use these works. Here's the abstract itself, which was limited to 100 words:
Japanese Historical Process in Anglophone Cinema History is a rich vein of stories and settings, and popular historical movies can have immense effects on the historical understanding of general publics. This is especially true in Japanese history in English-speaking societies, where knowledge is often limited to one-sided understandings of unique episodes and orientalist mythologies of unchanging culture. This paper will examine a number of English-language movies, recent and older, not to catalog historical errors, but to understand how historical memory and Japanese historical processes are understood and portrayed. Finally, this paper will consider how that might affect the work of Japan specialists addressing these audiences.
I have a preliminary list of movies to address, most of which I've seen. I'd be interested to know if anyone out there has ideas about other films to consider?
  • The Last Samurai
  • 47 Ronin (see also)
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • The Barbarian and the Geisha
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Shogun
  • Karate Kid 2
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
Obviously, some of these are more important than others, in terms of audience range and likely effect on people's ability to think about history in a coherent fashion: KK2 is probably more important than TMNT3, and the John Wayne, whatever its flaws or virtues, isn't going to be more than a faint echo in the historical consciousness of contemporary audiences. The more recent films, including the wretched mess from Christmas, are going to weigh more heavily.

12/30/2013

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Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:10 pm Print


As Jamie Noguchi said, Amoxicillin coupon, I see these movies so you don't have to: my review of 47 Ronin is up at HNN. As expected, it's a blazing failure, Amoxicillin pharmacy, with few details of either the original incident or famous dramatizations left intact. Order Amoxicillin from mexican pharmacy, A subtitled video of the 1748 Bunraku play would have been better, artistically and probably commercially.

I left a few quibbles and comments out of my review, Amoxicillin reviews, for clarity, Effects of Amoxicillin, space and relevance. That's what a blog is for, right, Buy Amoxicillin Without Prescription.


  • Language and accents: The cast is almost entirely Japanese by birth, probably to avoid the "Memoirs of a Geisha" casting backlash, Amoxicillin used for. But this means that the entire cast, Buy Amoxicillin online cod, with three exceptions, speaks with a variety of Japanese accents, often straining; Keanu Reeves flat American sound and two British-sounding Dutch are the only people who sound comfortable, purchase Amoxicillin, almost improperly casual. Where can i cheapest Amoxicillin online, Very few untranslated terms, except for "Bushido," which shows up at the end, Amoxicillin online cod, unexplained as near as I can recall.

  • Style: I wrote "wacky colors" in my notebook. Amoxicillin australia, uk, us, usa, There are some nice clothes, but neither entirely period nor contemporary, and apparently dramatic collars are in for women in Ancient Feudal Old Japan, Amoxicillin dangers. Buy Amoxicillin Without Prescription, White for weddings, of course, and a gold crane for a love token. And men's hair was a mish-mash, Buy Amoxicillin online no prescription, but shaved pates and chon-mage were not at all in evidence. Mostly close crops and flowing locks, some ponytails, buy Amoxicillin no prescription. Women's hair included some fairly straight Edo-style updos with lots of bling, Ordering Amoxicillin online, as well as some implausibly vertical ponytails, and a half-up/half-down thing that looked like it was cribbed from a Star Wars sketchbook.

  • Weird choices: the armor looked more like leather than lacquer (except for the medieval-style tiger skin helmet brigade, and the big ugly guy in lumpy plate mail), Amoxicillin alternatives, and the horse trappings were leather as well: I thought Japanese used mostly cord, Amoxicillin without a prescription, with wooden saddles.

  • For a 2+ hour film, it felt rushed in places, is Amoxicillin addictive, and I suspect a director's cut might fill in some of the plot holes, Amoxicillin without prescription, psychological implausibilities. Or maybe I'm an optimist, and I'm not sure I care enough to watch a longer version and find out, Buy Amoxicillin Without Prescription. But the editor should be ashamed of that work: I'm not much of a film auteur, despite Scott Kaufman's best efforts, about Amoxicillin, but even I could tell that it was a hack job.

  • The only hint of humor in the whole thing was delivered by the fat samurai, Generic Amoxicillin, who was the only one of the 47 besides Oishi and his son ('Chikara' instead of Rikiya) to have any real life, and it was pretty pitiful, at that, order Amoxicillin from mexican pharmacy. Apparently, Amoxicillin class, fat is funny, and fat samurai are stupid and cruel, but nice enough to apologize while dying, Amoxicillin recreational, and like a good joke, Amoxicillin forum, even when choking on blood. At least I think he was choking on blood: you see very little blood in this movie, even after beheadings, discount Amoxicillin. The movie is bloodless, Online buying Amoxicillin, literally and figuratively.

  • Remember how, in Chushingura, Oishi and the 47 spend a year pretending to not care to throw off suspicion, where can i find Amoxicillin online. Buy Amoxicillin Without Prescription, This time Oishi gets to spend the year in solitary confinement, "to break his will" and the time is marked with a "one year later" transition card. The unintentional way Oishi and Kai trick Lord Kira into thinking they're dead - an almost Shakespearean 'here, No prescription Amoxicillin online, use my sword until you die in a fire' - turns out not to matter much, and nobody seems all that surprised when they turn up alive.

  • The guy playing Lord Kira, Amoxicillin over the counter, coincidentally named Asano, Amoxicillin maximum dosage, really looked like he was having fun. Apparently he can sing, too, Amoxicillin price, so if someone wants to cast him as Mordred in "Camelot, Amoxicillin from canada, " I'd probably pay to see that. As for the rest of them, the usual confusion of serious purpose and dour demeanor was rife, Amoxicillin interactions. Kikuchi Rinko as the fox/witch/dragon/sexpot lady had some life, too, but the writers failed her as badly as everyone else, Buy Amoxicillin Without Prescription. She tells Lord Kira's fortune and but misses his impending death, Comprar en línea Amoxicillin, comprar Amoxicillin baratos, though maybe she was doing the "he will be famous, I just can't tell for what" trick; the movie wasn't smart enough to do what "Babylon 5" did with a similar opportunity.

  • There was a ronin named Basho. No relation to the poet, buy generic Amoxicillin, as near as I can tell. Amoxicillin natural, But it's a little disconcerting when Oishi says suddenly "this was Basho's sword" as if that should matter, but it really doesn't.

  • I'm not sure there ever were 47 ronin on screen at once, though the scene when the blood oath was signed came close.

  • There's a passing reference to the legend of Obasuteyama, Amoxicillin gel, ointment, cream, pill, spray, continuous-release, extended-release, and infanticide through exposure is pretty much how Keanu Reeves' character becomes interesting.



My standard lament, Order Amoxicillin from United States pharmacy, which I mention at the end of the review, still pertains. I maintain that a movie which hewed more closely to either the actual history or to the traditional popular fiction would have been better, Amoxicillin steet value, and would have performed better, financially. And we would have less un-learning to worry about.

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6/8/2013

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Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:25 pm Print

ASPAC 2013
Jonathan Dresner
Pittsburg State University

"But writers of fiction do not stumble onto locales or times: they choose them and they use them to serve their narrative and aesthetic ends." -- Jonathan Dresner

Buy Zithromax Without Prescription, "...flaws typical of the genre: a carefully set but very selective milieu; characters cobbled together from cultural and psychosocial fragments; wildly unlikely encounters and inappropriate behavior. Zithromax coupon, ... I don’t ever use historical fiction in my teaching, after Zithromax, Order Zithromax online c.o.d, and I rarely read it (especially in my own field!)." -- Jonathan Dresner

Roughly Chronologically:


  • Gai-jin (James Clavell, 1993): 1862-1863

  • The Apprentice (Lewis Libby, Zithromax street price, Where can i buy Zithromax online, 1996): 1903

  • The Teahouse Fire (Ellis Avery, 2006): Bakumatsu and Meiji.

  • Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden, where can i order Zithromax without prescription, Zithromax samples, 1997): subject born in 1920, lived until after WWII.

Claims of Authenticity

"GAI-JIN meaning foreigner, low dose Zithromax, Purchase Zithromax online no prescription, is set in Japan, in 1862, Zithromax pictures. Purchase Zithromax online, It is not history, but fiction, Zithromax photos. Where to buy Zithromax, Many of the happenings did occur according to historians and to books of history which, of themselves, Zithromax description, Where can i buy cheapest Zithromax online, do not necessarily always relate what truly happened. Nor is it about any real person who lived or is supposed to have lived, nor about any real company, Buy Zithromax Without Prescription. Kings and queens and emperors are correctly named, Zithromax cost, Zithromax images, as are a few generals and other exalted persons. Apart form these I have played with history -- the where and how and who and why and when of it -- to suit my own reality and, online buying Zithromax hcl, Zithromax from mexico, perhaps, to tell the real history of what came to pass." -- frontpiece

Author's Note:

"Memoirs of a Geisha is a novel and the character of Sayuri and her story are my own inventions, japan, craiglist, ebay, overseas, paypal. Zithromax schedule, The historical facts of a geisha's day-to-day life in the 1930s and 1940s, however, buy Zithromax from mexico, Zithromax duration, are based on extensive research. I am indebted to one individual above all others, Zithromax for sale. Buy Zithromax Without Prescription, Mineko Iwasaki, one of Gion Kobu's top geisha during the 1960s and 1970s, opened her Kyoto home to me during May 1992, and corrected my misconceptions about the life of a geisha -- even though everyone I knew who had lived in Kyoto, or who lived there still, told me never to expect such candor. Fast shipping Zithromax, While brushing up on my Japanese on the airplane, I worried that Mineko, online Zithromax without a prescription, Zithromax trusted pharmacy reviews, whom I had not yet met, might talk with me for an hour about the weather and call it an interview, purchase Zithromax for sale. Online buy Zithromax without a prescription, Instead she took me on an insider's tour of Gion, and together with their husband, real brand Zithromax online, Cheap Zithromax, Jin, and her sisters Yaetchiyo and the late Kuniko, Zithromax pics, Buy cheap Zithromax, patiently answered my questions. Her easy familiarity with matters concerning the daily lives of geisha -- their routines, Zithromax brand name, Zithromax from canadian pharmacy, their toilette, their living arrangements, buy Zithromax from canada, Is Zithromax safe, their finances -- helped me build the foundation on which to spin a work of my own imagination. Its flaws are of course my own, Zithromax mg. I remain deeply grateful to Mineko for her assistance." (500)

"Teruko Craig was kind enough to spend hours talking with me about her life as a schoolgirl in Kyoto during the war, Buy Zithromax Without Prescription. Buy Zithromax without a prescription, I am grateful also to Liza Dalby, the only American woman ever to become a geisha, Zithromax canada, mexico, india, and to her excellent book, Geisha, an anthropological study of geisha culture, which also recounts her experiences in the Pontocho district; she generously lent me a number of useful Japanese and English books from her personal collection." (501)


Other sources named by Golden include: Reiko Nagura, multilingual friend. Kiharu Nakamura, geisha. Robert Singer, Japanese art expert. Bowen Dees, on Occupation experience. Buy Zithromax Without Prescription, Allan Palmer, tea ceremony and Japanese superstition. John Rosenfield, Japanese Art Historian at Harvard.

"A little learning is a dangerous thing"
-- Alexander Pope

Strong common elements


  • "Well, Mr. Gray. You're definitely a writer." (Monster In A Box)

  • Historical change

  • Historical causality?

  • Addressed to non-expert audiences

  • Foreign culture or modernization as intrusion ; Japanese culture as timeless

  • Religion and spirituality handled very, very poorly

  • Linguistic literalism

  • pan-Asian/Orientalist tropes

Old engineering proverb:

You can have it right.
You can have it cheap, Buy Zithromax Without Prescription.
You can have it fast.
Pick two.

Dresner's corollary of Japanese historical fiction:
You can have culture.
You can have characters.
You can have historical setting.
Pick one. Two, if you're lucky.

.

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8/27/2011

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Buy Levaquin Without Prescription, Stephen Turnbull, one of the most prolific and controversial writers on Japanese military history, has written a book on the 47 Samurai incident. The Samurai Archives review is quite positive, where to buy Levaquin, Levaquin long term, though Turnbull's involvement as historical consultant on the upcoming Keanu Reeves version does raise concerns.

It's nice to see Turnbull stepping up his game a bit, is Levaquin safe, Levaquin no prescription, using front-line scholarship and taking a critical approach, rather than the mish-mash of his earlier books, Levaquin pics. Cheap Levaquin, It seems unlikely to me, though, Levaquin dosage, Levaquin without a prescription, that the debunking scholarship which has advanced over the last decade or so will have a significant impact on popular versions of the incident. It's possible, buying Levaquin online over the counter, Where can i buy Levaquin online, I suppose, that Turnbull's involvement in the new movie means that it will be a thoroughly revisionist statement (( assuming that all the pre-release publicity is wrong )) but the entrenched romantic version is going to remain authoritative until the revisionist history starts to get traction in Japan, online buying Levaquin.

Even then, there's the Shakespeare problem, Buy Levaquin Without Prescription. Levaquin photos, We know that his portrayals of English kings and other historical moments were partisan and/or heavily fictionalized, but they remain some of the most enduring images and themes in historical fiction and movies, rx free Levaquin, Buy no prescription Levaquin online, so that historians are still forced to routinely debunk these myths. (( It doesn't help that "most historically accurate portrayal ever" in movie advertising usually means precisely the opposite, buy Levaquin without a prescription, Levaquin gel, ointment, cream, pill, spray, continuous-release, extended-release, as the most recent Robin Hood versions demonstrate )) Chushingura and its ilk created a solid mythology by the dawn of the modern age, and the imperialist valorization of the Ako Roshi and other self-destructive samurai tendencies reinforced a vision of the samurai as abstemious, buy Levaquin no prescription, Online buying Levaquin hcl, effective, principled, Levaquin alternatives, Levaquin price, selfless and frequently violent. It would take a dramatic cultural shift to wipe out this tradition, japan, craiglist, ebay, overseas, paypal, Levaquin no rx, one that seems unlikely given Japan's rightward tendencies these days. (( more likely you'd see something like the American transformation of cowboy films: more internal focus and diversity, Levaquin overnight, Buy cheap Levaquin, and an obscuring of the historically undeniable negative sides (i.e., Dances with Wolves and the death of the cowboy-and-indian film) with perhaps some culturally acceptable complications, comprar en línea Levaquin, comprar Levaquin baratos. Buy Levaquin Without Prescription, Frankly, a good Brokeback Mountain treatment would go a long way, plus being historically credible. Buy Levaquin online cod, ))

I was screening movies for my Samurai course and came across recommendations (on twitter, I think) for The Twilight Samurai, kjøpe Levaquin på nett, köpa Levaquin online. Levaquin interactions, I was very impressed: the portrayal of samurai poverty, bureaucracy, Levaquin natural, Buy cheap Levaquin no rx, domainal politics, bakumatsu confusion, buy Levaquin without prescription, Levaquin without prescription, and the diversity (and, generally speaking, buy Levaquin online no prescription, Levaquin canada, mexico, india, irrelevance) of fighting styles (and illegality of dueling) was very nicely done. The romantic side was a little over-generous, doses Levaquin work, Taking Levaquin, perhaps, but more realistic that an awful lot of other historical pieces, canada, mexico, india. Levaquin use, If you're looking for a solid historical movie, one that will educate more than it will obscure, buy Levaquin from canada, Low dose Levaquin, it's very good.

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5/5/2009

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Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 3:31 pm Print

Buy Imitrex Without Prescription, Just received this from friends at the Japanese American National Museum:

The Japanese American National Museum is accepting film & video submissions for their Second annual ID Film Festival, a series of films that challenge and celebrate what it means to be Asian.

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To see the films that we screened at last year’s festival, buy Imitrex without prescription, Imitrex online cod, visit http://www.janm.org/events/2008/idfilmfest/films/
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10/7/2008

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9/18/2007

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John Dower kicks off the American Historical Association's Perspectives newsletter's new "Masters at the Movies" series with a review and commentary of the two Eastwood Iwo Jima movies Buy Estrace Vaginal Cream Without Prescription, . It is, rx free Estrace Vaginal Cream, Buying Estrace Vaginal Cream online over the counter, as you'd expect from John Dower, well sourced, Estrace Vaginal Cream for sale, Where can i find Estrace Vaginal Cream online, psychologically sensitive, clear-headed and even-handed, Estrace Vaginal Cream mg. Estrace Vaginal Cream canada, mexico, india, Nothing very new there, but a good survey of the end-of-war issues and narratives, Estrace Vaginal Cream pharmacy. Estrace Vaginal Cream maximum dosage, End-of-war issues remain sensitive in Japan (( then there's the cabinet minister resignation, etc, about Estrace Vaginal Cream. Is Estrace Vaginal Cream addictive, )). For a completely different perspective, Estrace Vaginal Cream steet value, Estrace Vaginal Cream without a prescription, Richard Frank's review of Maddox's Hiroshima book claims, as so many conservative commentators have before, canada, mexico, india, Purchase Estrace Vaginal Cream, that it settles the "revisionism" questions once and for all. We'll see, purchase Estrace Vaginal Cream for sale. Estrace Vaginal Cream online cod, Non Sequitur: In other news, this week's Japan Focus is all about current immigration issues in Japan, Estrace Vaginal Cream overnight, Estrace Vaginal Cream pics, so I'll have to read it and see if anyone's got an historical perspective worth noting. Buy no prescription Estrace Vaginal Cream online. Estrace Vaginal Cream schedule. Buy Estrace Vaginal Cream without a prescription. Buy generic Estrace Vaginal Cream. Estrace Vaginal Cream brand name. No prescription Estrace Vaginal Cream online. Low dose Estrace Vaginal Cream. Estrace Vaginal Cream treatment. Purchase Estrace Vaginal Cream online no prescription. Estrace Vaginal Cream results. Buying Estrace Vaginal Cream online over the counter. Estrace Vaginal Cream for sale. Buy Estrace Vaginal Cream without prescription. Where can i buy cheapest Estrace Vaginal Cream online. Estrace Vaginal Cream used for. Effects of Estrace Vaginal Cream. Rx free Estrace Vaginal Cream. Estrace Vaginal Cream interactions. Generic Estrace Vaginal Cream. Discount Estrace Vaginal Cream. Estrace Vaginal Cream natural. Estrace Vaginal Cream from mexico.

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8/6/2007

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Japan Focus Buy Triamterene Without Prescription, has expanded its mission one more time, this time to include new literary translations. They've published a Jay Rubin translation of an Akutagawa Ryonosuke story, purchase Triamterene online no prescription, Triamterene price, coupon, The Story of a Head That Fell Off ("Kubi ga ochita hanashi"), which they describe as an "anti-war satire" and put in the context of a large body of untranslated Akutagawa anti-war satires

"Shogun" (The General, real brand Triamterene online, Purchase Triamterene, 1924), a well-known portrait of a victorious general resembling Nogi Maresuke (1849-1912), kjøpe Triamterene på nett, köpa Triamterene online, Triamterene results, the "hero" of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, is a bitter satire of a man responsible for the death of thousands, buy Triamterene from canada. Triamterene schedule, "The Story of a Head That Fell Off," set against the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, no prescription Triamterene online, What is Triamterene, is an intense cry against the absurdity of war that unfortunately remains as relevant in our barbaric twenty-first century as it was in Akutagawa's day.
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11/5/2006

Empire in Sonny Chiba’s Shōrinji Kempō

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 12:44 am Print
I just watched an old 1975 movie with Sonny Chiba in it called Shōrinji Kempō 少林寺拳法 (the English title, inexplicably is "The Killing Machine") which is a sensationalized action movie version of the life of Sō Dōshin, the founder of the martial art and religious group Shōrinji Kempō. I think that this obscure movie must have made it onto my Netflix list last year when I was roommates with fellow Frog contributor Craig and shared a Netflix subscription with him. Craig studies Karate and modernity and is the author of one of the most commented postings here at Frog in a Well. Watching bad movies can actually be quite educational. This movie interested me for two reasons: 1) it is a mid-70s movie portraying Japan in the immediate aftermath of war and 2) there are a number of references to war, empire, and minorities such as Koreans in Japan which I found interesting. Allow me to share some of these points. You are Japanese!The first two scenes of the movie take place in mainland China, during the war. Sō Dōshin, played by Sonny Chiba, is spying on some Chinese soldiers who are planning a dastardly ambush of Japanese troops. The Chinese commander, who must have been played by a Japanese actor, spoke in such horrible Chinese I doubt any Chinese viewer of the movie could have made out anything he said, except perhaps the completely flat-toned "Neee shooo reeeebenren ma" [Are you Japanese?] he says, discovering the presence of the spy in the audience of his tactical planning meeting. Sō kills everyone with a grabbed machine gun and flees back to the Japanese lines. No, no, we have surrendered?Sō informs his commanding officer that their troops must take a detour only to be met with his weeping fellow soldiers' announcement that Japan has surrendered. This so traumatizes Sō that he proceeds to machine gun everything around him, with fellow Japanese soldiers diving for cover. He concludes in the narration, "The Japanese Empire may have been defeated but I am not defeated." He returns to Japan to run a gang of street urchins and cook porridge in his occupied home country. Let's all get alongSō's next battle is on a train in Japan during his return. Korean gangsters, dressed in black leather jackets and sunglasses have kicked some poor train passengers out of their seats. They cry, "Your nation is defeated!" Sō, dressed in Chinese looking garb, soon sends them sprawling. As he helps them to their feet he tells the now humbled Koreans:
日本に住む気なら仲良くしようじゃないか "If you want to live in Japan, let's all get along, eh?"
A few scenes later he rescues a woman who is being beaten up by prostitutes in a slum for working on their turf. In thanks for being saved and being given a free meal she offers herself to Sō on a pile of rubble. He rejects her and chides her for giving up her purity and turning to prostitution. She explains that her body has already been ravaged countless times by Russian soldiers in Manchuria so she has nothing left to lose. He assures her that she is still the person she always was and that,
いやなことも忘れるよ "You can forget the horrible things, too."
You can forget the horrible things tooHere something interesting happens. Though the focus of the scene is the tragic story of a Japanese women raped by Russian soldiers and the horrible poverty of the early postwar period, the director makes a move that immediately connects the fortunes of this one Japanese woman, to that of the Japanese nation as a whole. Just as Sō says, "You can forget the horrible things, too," the camera slowly moves from the image of the face of the crying woman to the image of a tattered Japanese flag laying in a muddy puddle behind her. Sō soon finds himself fighting the gangs in the black market and beating up and crippling two American occupation soldiers who run over one of his boys in the market (the little brother of the woman above). He is arrested but a kind police officer lets him escape. When talking to the police officer Sō admits he is a trouble maker but adds a line flashing back to his days in China. Now instead of spying on the Chinese we learn that he was their noble defender:
虐げられた中国の民衆をみるとついカッとなって、よく軍ともめたもんです。 "When I saw the abused people of China I would lose my temper and often got into trouble with the military."
It is after his escape from prison custody that he goes to Tadotsu in Shikoku where he founds Shōrinji Kempō. There is footage of the complex (as of 1975) in the beginning of the movie and it appears the movie was made with some cooperation from the organization. I think I recognized some of the buildings from a visit I made to their complex when I wandered around Tadotsu for a day on a trip Shikoku a few years ago. Here in Tadotsu the movie switches to a more classic gangster match up with Sō and his boys representing the virtuous "defenders of the people" versus the evil gangsters allied with the corrupt police and occupation authorities. There is also a single anti-Communist comment by one of Sō's people but I can't find the scene again as I am writing this. In a scene reminiscent of the Edo period sword school challenges two Judō fighters come in and disrupt one of the increasingly attended training sessions to challenge Sō to a fight. Among their threats we find these lines:
少林というのは藤八拳の親戚かね。戦争に負けたからといって支那の武術までありがたがるごとなか。 "Shōrin, that is something like Tōhachiken isn't it? Just because we lost the war, doesn't mean we have look up to China's martial arts. [Kyūshū dialect]"
Sō soon humbles these two representatives of the more traditional Japanese martial art and they flee the premises. Koreans need to bring a bat and a ball to playThere is one more mention of Koreans in the movie. One of Sō's friends and former prison companions is looking for his wife, who believes that he died in Burma during the war. He finds her alive and remarried to a Korean in Takamatsu. Before meeting her, he meets his son, who he has never met before and doesn't know. The character asks the boy why he isn't playing baseball with the other children, and he says he has no glove. Besides, he says,
朝鮮人の子はバットとボールももってなきゃだめたって "They said Korean children can't join in unless they have a bat and a ball, too."
Picture 7Sō's friend then meets his long lost wife and learns that she has married a Korean after the war. In an interesting statement which at once reveals the stereotype of Koreans as unscrupulous types, but vindicates the husband on a personal level, she describes the difficulty with her new marriage:
朝鮮人らしいな... ...曲がったことが嫌いで貧乏しています。 "Old Husband: So I understand your husband is Korean? Wife: ...He hates crooked ways so we are living in poverty."
Picture 8The movie ends after a boring series of battles with local gangsters. The closing scenes presents us with a sweeping shot, found in many of these martial arts movies, of hundreds of Shōrinji Kempō practitioners practicing outdoors. We are told that, "Strength [used] without Justice is [simply] Violence, Justice without Strength is Powerless." I have requested the only book by Sō Dōshin I found in our library here from our depository, which is a 1970s Korean translation of one of his philosophical guides to Shōrinji Kempō. I'm curious if the martial art ever caught on in Korea or in its alleged original home of China. I'm deeply skeptical, as I think we always should be, of most everything you can find online about the real Sō's childhood life in Manchuria in either Japanese or English. It would be interested to know, however, if he indeed ended up spending some of his childhood, after his grandfather died, with one of the founders of the Amur River society (aka Black Dragon Society) and if, as some sites claim, he was just a military cartographer during the Sino-Japanese war or he was in fact active in military intelligence (the two are by no means contradictory). It would also be interesting know how Henan's Shaolin temple passed the wartime occupation period (seems as though much of it was burnt to the ground by a warlord in the 20s) and the extent of connections between some of the societies associated with these martial arts and the Japanese occupying troops and officers. Most of what I found on Sō online was found on websites of Shōrinji Kempō practitioners. There are two interesting discursive levels at work here though. One is the portrayal of China, Chinese, and Koreans in occupation Japan in the 1970s movie. The second is the importance of Empire and the Wartime experience in the origin stories and narratives of some of the most popular martial arts (Kyokushin karate, Aikido, and Shōrinji Kempō being the best examples I think).

12/8/2005

Because we must…

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:12 pm Print
If it isn't ninja, it's geisha. Yes, the weekend following the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is the perfect time for "spectacularly unfortunate metaphors about male eels and female caves and one regrettably brief catfight in a kimono." I admit, I didn't read Memoirs of a Geisha when it came out, hit the bestseller lists, etc. I haven't read it yet, but I know I should. Not just to nitpick at the book and movie (which I won't see this weekend, though I might over break if opportunity presents), though that might indeed be fun, but because its popularity is something which we will have to take into account when we teach for the foreseeable future. Anyway, the New York Times review from which the above quote is taken has a pretty good synopsis of the film and background, and pretty much comes to the conclusion that it's a film that works visually much more than narratively. The job of a movie reviewer is twofold: explain what does and doesn't work about the movie so you know if you want to see it; be entertaining. For both, it's hard to beat Dargis' concluding paragraphs:
Mr. Marshall can't rescue the film from its embarrassing screenplay or its awkward Chinese-Japanese-Hollywood culture klatch, but "Memoirs of a Geisha" is one of those bad Hollywood films that by virtue of their production values nonetheless afford a few dividends, in this case, fabulous clothes and three eminently watchable female leads. Although it's always a pleasure to see these three in action, and there's something undeniably exciting about the prospect of them storming the big studio gate, the casting of Ms. Gong and Ms. Zhang ends up more bittersweet than triumphant. Ms. Zhang, for one, shows none of the heartache and steel of her astonishing performance in Wong Kar-wai's "2046." ... Ms. Gong's hauteur and soaring cheekbones work better for her character, a woman of acid resolve. Although there are moments when Hatsumomo comes perilously close to Dragon Lady caricature ("I will destroy you!"), the actress's talent and dignity keep the performance from sliding into full-blown camp. But even the formidable Ms. Gong cannot surmount the ruinous decision to have her and Ms. Zhang, along with the poorly used Mr. Yakusho, deliver their lines in vaguely British-sounding English that imparts an unnatural halting quality to much of their dialogue. The. Result. Is. That. Each. Word. Of. Dialogue. Sounds. As. If. It. Were. Punctuated. By. A. Full. Stop. Which. Robs. The. Language. Of. Its. Watery. Flow. And. Breath. Of. Real. Life. Even. As. It. Also. Gives. New. Meaning. To. The. Definition. Of. The. Period. Movie.
For slightly less breathless period pieces, Sour Duck has a review of a Taisho art exhibit (but missed the complementary Meiji works), which looks like fun, and runs almost until Christmas.

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