I discovered my copy of Seven Samurai is not in the case. I last had it for the flight to Annapolis because I watched it on the plane. It has not turned up. This is a reasonable excuse for me to get a copy of the newly restored version on DVD. I also need to replace Throne of Blood, because what I have is a Chinese release with really odd subtitling.
Let's see, we did Throne of Blood with the weird subtitles, Rashomon (Staffan had never seen it), dinner break, Hidden Fortress and rounded out the night with Big Trouble In Little China.
We made the two open bottles of shochu go away, plus most of a 350ml Kurusawa Kimoto sake. Somewhere along the line, we came up with a new game. Essentially you take a drink every time
1. Mifune walks around with balled fists.
2. Mifune laughs, defiantly or otherwise.
3. Mifune scratches self.
4. Mifune says "Hime." (Hidden Fortress variant.)
5, Mifune (or someone else) cries "Kuso!" ("Shit," though the subtitlers frequently render this as "Damn.")
6. Comic peasant is comical.
Which explains why we ended the night with Big Trouble.
In other news, I have been informed that the Great Hero of China has been offered knighthood in the Kingdom of the Outlands. We talked this morning and he is supposed to give the king his answer next week.
He has asked me to be one of his spokespeople. Which means I should
Except I ALSO just got an inquiry for a commission.....
EDIT: Woot, found exactly what I needed in my library for a Nara outfit - the Nuikata book even has pattern schematics. And I may even have some suitable pieces in the stash to do some of it! It's slightly later, however, it still demonstrates Chinese influence on Japanese dress, it's a really pretty look and I have enough of my own hair I may be able to do cool things with it.
Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins" opened locally today. A classic revenge-and-honor tale in the tradition of the "47 Ronin," a group of samurai attempt to assassinate the sociopathic brother of the shogun. It'll make up for the casting of Keanu Reeves in an upcoming "Ronin" remake. Two unreserved thumbs up!
layla_lilah and I went out to see "La Princesse de Montpessier" last night as her gamelan rehearsals and performance schedule has kept her busy this spring. Did dinner first at the always reliable La Mediteranee up on College Avenue, after a detour into the Organic Apothecary because my dinner companion is a cosmetics/perfume/skin care junkie. Not cheap, but I decided to try the caffeine eye cream on layla_lilah 's recommendation. (Smells nice, felt soothing and non greasy when I put it on this AM. More importantly, it did not cause eye irritation, unlike a certain Neutrogena eye cream I tried recently.) The salesgirl (college age, I can SO call her a girl) was very sweet and tossed a bunch of samples in my bag for us to split.
Anyway, the movie was very good, including my "Ooh, wheel-locks!" geek moment during a skirmish under the opening credits, appreciation of the use of on "Une Jeune Fillette"* as a recurring theme in the orchestral score, and two rousing, tragic thumbs up for the storytelling. Lambert Wilson (Matrix fans will know him as The Merovingian) is wonderful as the loyal, doomed Chabannes, from whose point of view much of the story is told. Melanie Thierry (reminds me of a young Jeri Ryan) is the title Princess, suitably luminous. Everyone falls in love with her, including her husband in an arranged marriage, Chabannes who is assigned to look after and tutor her while her princely husband is fighting Huguenots, and her old flame Henri de Guise.
*Lovely vocal version of it here from another beautiful and depressing French film, "Tout les Matins du Monde."
Oh, and I discovered that my "bike-ku" was good enough for an honorable mention on the SF Chronicle's bike blog:
"Spokes ticking the time,
I cannot pause for sunrise
And still make my train." :
Each collar is 75" long. Each collar works out to about 12 and a half feet of hand stitching. THAT'S why it takes so long, particularly given the properties of the herringbone silk the uchigi is made of.
This is neither a complaint nor a - OK, you caught me, it is a boast. Because given the choice, I'll take hand sewing over machine, any damn day of the week. It looks better, it feels better, it wears well - especially the way I finish my seams, no nasssty sserged bits, my Precious.
I was kind of hoping to do the false layers for a yuki-no-shita kasane in time for Twelfth Night, but I'm not sure I have time to cut and dye what amounts to a crapton of bias tape and get it assembled by next week. It'll still be gorgeous as-is, it's just going to be less formal.
And after Twelfth Night, I need to get going on dyeing and assembling a pair of jinbaori, not to mention mon-ifying the Cynaguan Swan and painting it on the back of each.....
EDIT: The uchigi is done. Giving my hands another break before the last bit of collar on the uwagi, which is mostly on except for about the last 25 inches or.
THAT was interesting. I screened the last of the Kurosawa boxed set, starting with "Sanshiro Sugata II" this morning and I just finished watching "The Most Beautiful." "Sanshiro II" is more martial arts adventures of the hero, somewhat uneven, but reasonably entertaining, if predictable. The print they used was pretty beat up, but as advertised, it's a very early work and we're probably lucky to have what we've got.
"The Most Beautiful", filmed in 1944, is Kurosawa's contribution to the Japanese War Effort. Filmed in semi-documentary style, it's about the Flower of Japanese Young Womanhood, doing their bit to Destroy America and Great Britain (it says so in the script!) making gunsights and military optics. There's marching and singing and corporate speeches, there's begging the house mother to let you keep working when you're sick, there's coming back to work on crutches, there's staying up all night to recalibrate two-days' worth of lenses because you mislaid one and some brave Japanese soldier might die because of it. , And yet, even through all the propaganda and jingoism and girls who seem almost too good to be true (or were they simply very, very Japanese?) , there's genuine humanity, the guard who teases the girls about tanuki haunting the garden, the tears in Watanabe's eyes as she stays to inspect lenses instead of going home to mourn her mother, the affection of the dorm mistress for "her" girls. Definitely interesting for what it is.
Ironically, the woman associated with the famous "We Can Do It" poster passed away this week.
(Classics? Really? Ron Freaking Burgundy????? Who came up with this dumb ass list? Where is "Master and Commander?" "The Hunt For Red October?" "La Vita e Bella?")
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Erupts from the rawhide skins.
Bodies sway and strain.
Through the whirling sticks I think
"I'd better not hit poor Clint!"
Seriously. Sensei decided it would make things more interesting and "stagy" to move the drums closer together tonight while we worked on "Friday Night Gig." A lot closer - as in keep your moves in the correct plane or risk whacking the person next to you. Or cracking yourself in the knee. Or whanging your knuckles against the edge of your own drum. No accidents, but it surely cranked the intensity all the way to eleven.
Caught part of a rather interesting French movie called "Angel-A" directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) on Sundance this afternoon. It's as if Besson turned "It's A Wonderful Life" on its ear, with George as a down-and-out hustler in debt to the mob and Clarence as an impossibly leggy, chain-smoking blonde. Liked it enough I'm going to see if I can catch another screening this month so I can see the beginning of it.
Throne of Blood has to be one of those titles some marketing person came up with when the film was released internationally. The Japanese didn't HAVE thrones. "Kumonosu-jo" translates to "Spider's Web Castle." Take The Scottish Play, move it to 16th c. Japan, trade three weird sisters for a single old one with a spinning wheel and a vanishing hut, toss in some elements of Noh and lots of fog on the slopes of Mount Fuji. Isuzu Yamada's icy Asaji (the Lady MacBeth character) is one creepy mother, hems squeaking constantly across the polished floors, the perfect foil to Toshiro Mifune's Washizu. I doubt the couple in front of me had seen it before, given the audible gasps during the scene in which Washizu finally and spectacularly meets his end. Rightfully a classic and certainly one of my house favorites. Note to self, must mention the use of horagai (conch bugles) over on the Tousando, since someone was asking about them the other day.
The Bad Sleep Well opens with what has to be the most excruciating wedding banquet ever filmed. A clever and convoluted tale of corporate corruption and revenge, I don't want to spoil it by trying to describe it. Mifune is almost unrecognizable as the perfect corporate secretary who marries the boss' daughter. The bad are bad and the protagonist, whose journey is driven by revenge, isn't a whole lot better. Liked this one a lot.
Yojimbo is the first Kurosawa movie I recall being exposed to. I even know the date: July 4, 2000. Gaius decided to throw an "It's too hot to barbecue" party at his old apartment. I cooked, James brought a couple of videos. I was in the kitchen cleaning up so I missed the first few minutes of what got popped into the VCR, including titles. Several more minutes in, as the plot became apparent, I commented, "I think I've seen this movie. Only it was in color and I think Clint Eastwood was in it." I got the video box lobbed at me. Much further along I said something to the effect that Mifune makes Eastwood look like a pussy. Don't get me wrong, Eastwood has done some movies I enjoy a great deal, but, I still like Yojimbo better than the Sergio Leone remake and I still think Sanjuro makes Joe look like a pussy.
The light was pretty coming out of the theater at 7:20ish or so, so I yanked out my camera and shot the marquee, above.
Oh, and I want this Italian poster for Rashomon. The art is fabulous. WANT.
The beef stew has a sour Guinnessy tang which is not bad, but I think I still prefer red wine.
"I Live In Fear" was made in 1953 (the year I was born), a scant 8 years after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Takashi Shimura plays a respectable dentist who moonlights as a mediator for the city's family court where the following case is presented. A 60-something foundry owner (played by then-33 year old Toshiro Mifune in age makeup and coke-bottle glasses) is at odds with his family, who want him declared mentally incompetent. Why? Because he is so terrified of the atomic and hydrogen bombs that he wants to sell everything and take his family and move to Brazil. Who is right? Who is wrong? Is he crazy to be so afraid? Don't they get that he wants to protect them? There are no easy answers. There aren't supposed to be.
"High and Low", from 1963, is a terrific crime drama, based on an Ed McBain novel (according to our nice friends at IMDB). Mifune plays a well off executive who has mortgaged everything he owns and is about to buy enough stock to take over the shoe company he works at. In a case of mistaken identity, a kidnapper grabs his chauffeur's son instead of his and demands a ransom that will ruin the executive. The ensemble cast is great and the ensuing action is well crafted and dramatic with an elaborate police search to find the perpetrator. The Dope Alley sequence is particularly chilling - substitute ghosts and demons for junkies and it could be a kaidan. And although the movie is in black and white, one shot incorporates color for dramatic effect. Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" includes a similar device, quite likely inspired by Kurosawa's having done it here.
Spent the afternoon in the dark with a very young Toshiro Mifune and Takeshi Shimura. "Stray Dog," and "Drunken Angel" are two very early Kurosawa films which I had not previously seen. "Dog" is about a rookie cop (Mifune) whose pistol gets lifted while he's on a crowded train and the hunt to find the gun and the "stray dog" who's got his hands on it. In "Drunken Angel," Mifune plays a yakuza with TB. Shimura is his curmudgeonly doctor who drinks too much. Both well worth a look.
I hadn't seen "One Wonderful Sunday" (1947) before and it was a delightful surprise. Isao Numasaki and Chieko Nakakita play two young people with 35 yen between them and a Sunday afternoon to kill. Alternating between the depressing realities of trying to get by in postwar Japan and almost Capra-esque hope, it ends on a positive note as Yuzo sees Masako off on the train with a promise to meet the following Sunday. (DVD renters, this is part of a Criterion boxed set called "Eclipse 7: Postwar Kurosawa.")
"Ikiru" (1952) I had seen previously on cable. A mousy bureaucrat discovers he has terminal stomach cancer and how to live in the time he has left. The wake scene after his death goes on a lot longer than I remembered as far too many members of the city government have to put their two cents in about what happened and why, but this one is all about Takashi Shimura's heart tugging performance. Seven Samurai fans will recognize Isao Kimura (the youngest samurai) in a brief appearance as a sympathetic clinic doctor and Bokuzen Hidari (the rubber faced peasant) as one of the protagonist's coworkers.
Rashomon was as breathtakingly good as I remember it. Mifune, Masayuki Mori and Machiko Kyo (what's she doing wearing my hat!) in multiple retellings of the same incident run the gamut of motives and emotions. Which version is the truth? Now a cliche sixty years later, Rashomon's multi-version plot was revolutionary in 1950, winning a number of film festival prizes and bringing Kurosawa and his cast notice before Western audiences. (And those woods! Maybe that was in the back of my head when I lost my mind in Muir Woods and shot 300 pictures in two hours last fall.)
Scandal, made the same year, was one I hadn't previously seen. A painter and a singer meet innocently, a photo is exploited by a trashy tabloid and Mifune (the painter) vows he will sue. Mifune gets to look cool and handsome here, but it's Takashi Shimura as his deeply flawed and unsuccessful lawyer that'll break your heart.
Upcoming later this week: a double feature of Ikiru (1952), starring Takashi Shimura as a bureaucrat who decides to live differently when he discovers he is going to die, and One Wonderful Sunday (1947) in which a poor couple try to have a nice time on 35 yen.
J and I met outside as planned. His handshakes are awfully tentative, but other than that, he was good company.
The Stanford Theatre is a gorgeous old-timey movie palace from the 1920s, complete with a big Wurlitzer organ that was being played as J and I paid for our tickets. We got front row seats in the balcony - I mean, when was the last time I could go to a theater that HAD a balcony??? Chatted a bit over the Wurlitzer until it swung into a spirited rendition of the theme from "The Magnificent Seven," at which point I cracked up. The lights went down and people actually began applauding as the titles came up and the curtains swirled open.
It wasn't a DVD projection either, it was film, because the opening few minutes had a little "confetti" on the print as well as some tinny sound, which went away as the movie played. And what a movie. Shichinin no Samurai is a classic because it is a good story well told and well acted. Toshiro Mifune is wonderful, of course, as the mercurial Kikuchiyo, but Takashi Shimura as Kanbei, the leader of the samurai, is the rock, the leader. Bokuzen Hidari's Yohei, the long faced peasant, provides great comedic touches. "The farmers have won, not us," Kanbei says, surveying the graves at the end, while the peasants sing and plant their rice.
So worth it. I'm going down Sunday afternoon for a double feature of "Rashomon" and "Scandal," if anyone cares to join me. "Rashomon" starts at 3:55.
Seven Samurai is an epic two hours and forty minutes. Anybody out there interested in trying to catch tomorrow's 2 PM matinee?
EDIT: And then my body said, "Unmotivated, huh? Have a headache, bitch!" I'm wondering if I picked up the summer cold Dad was complaining of, because it feels like a sinus thing, not migraine.
"Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day" is an unabashed period romance set in 1939. Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), having just been sacked for a string of failed governess assignments by her agency , steals a client's card off her employer's desk and presents herself for work at the door of aspiring actress Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). Pettigrew is soon involved in untangling the mess that is Delysia's love life and career as her social secretary. I was hooked in the first 30 seconds as a big band arrangement of "Brother Can You Spare A Dime" followed Pettigrew through the London streets, then hooked again by the instant conspiratorial chemistry of McDormand and Adams. A comedy with a shamelessly romantic heart and a satisfyingly happy ending (particularly for us garret dwelling spinster types!) involving breakfast with Joe (Ciaran Hinds).
"Millions," directed by Danny Boyle ('Slumdog Millionaire"). Days before the UK switches over from the pound to the Euro, a bag of money quite literally falls from the sky onto Damien's playhouse. Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon are terrific as the two young brothers who struggle with what to do with the fortune that appears to have dropped out of Heaven. Funny and thought provoking at the same time, as well as fairly kid safe, though there are a few scary bits involving a stranger who wants his bag back and some conversations between Damien and a number of saints which may provoke some interesting theological discussions. Though you have to admit, if you're supposed to play Joseph in the Christmas play, who better to advise you how to say your lines?
Read a chapter of Magnificent Desolation over my lunch break this afternoon. It should be fairly interesting, though I have to wonder if Dr. Aldrin's writing evens out further along. Bits of this chapter read as though he'd swallowed a thesaurus. The occasional heapings of adjectives notwithstanding, it should be an interesting read. Though I may have to get my hands on Michael Collins' Carrying The Fire at some point. I read it years ago and I recall it being an extremely well written and absorbing account of the Apollo mission. Yes, Virginia, The Curmudgeon is a space geek.
Some of my friends from various parts of the Known World have found each other in Bangkok and are trying to form an SCA branch there. One of them is trying to credit me as a "partial founder" for having put them in touch via email. That's a bit much. I'm just happy they hit it off and are playing happily together.
My friend from work told me his wife thinks the computer I gave him is "too nice" to let the kids play with. There's room to install a bit more memory and she's going to use it instead. Even if I did type most of the letters off the ergonomic keyboard I sent over with it.
Pardon me while I squee quietly.....
Kagemusha and Ran have the most full-color costume eye-candy.....
Nobunaga gets all the COOL clothes again: http://www.kurosawamovies.com/
Oda Nobunaga's "Life is but a dream" dance: