別腹 - betsubara
When we went for Yakiniku the other day, I learned the most amazing Japanese word: betsubara. It loosely translates to extra stomach and it is used to describe a woman who always has room for dessert. Which is me. Everyday.
I remember at the brass, even after the endive salad and a full order of moules et frites, I would still order EVERYTHING ON THE DESSERT MENU (actually everything) because hi, my name is Kiki.
Bean refreshing the kettle at her Japanese Tea Ceremony Class (May 22nd, 2012). Today we attended Bean’s Tea Ceremony class. We wore kimonos thanks to Nikami-Sensei and her sister. They GAVE me the beautiful green one which I wore - I was so honored. I really mean that even though it’s impossible to sound sincere on tumblr. Pics are forthcoming and video - Bean did great today; the tea was delicious and frothy!
“MY MATCHA BRINGS ALL THE BOYS TO THE YARD” - Bean
KIKI’S TOP FIVE FAVOURITE JAPANESE FILMS: NUMBER 1 - Battle Royale
“Quelle surprise, Kiki,” you say. Well, I like what I like, okay? You may as well get used to it. I never said I was sophisticated.
Bean and I probably watched this film for the first time when we were still in high school. We (I?) transitioned out of a kung fu/martial arts films phase and into an anime/ultra violence phase which included films like Blood: The Last Vampire and Kill Bill. I remember looking it up on the interweb after we saw it, because it had impacted me and to be honest, confused me. It could have been that we watched a version which had been poorly subtitled; I would like to watch the latest release of it and see if things have been more fully explained for the intended western audience. Anyways, when I looked it up I came across a website which explained some portions of the film - like Noriko’s dream sequence and the ending - by basically saying “In Japan, films don’t have to make sense.”
I used to think that gaps in the narrative or inexplicable happenings (such as Kitano’s character appearing out of nowhere to give Noriko an umbrella) were plot holes and a sign of a terrible film. Seeing Battle Royale and thinking about it afterwards, I realized that as a viewer, I can and do fill in the blanks when I’m trusted by a filmmaker to make assumptions. I think in many scenes (which I won’t mention so as not to spoil the ending) the film is trying to provoke the audience into wondering WTF and wondering it for days afterwards - and I’m not just talking about the depictions of graphic violence.
Ultimately, I see Battle Royale (and the manga) as a character driven peice. The strength of the film lies in is how quickly it gets you emotionally invested in the characters and their relationships. Considering how many characters there are, this is actually quite a feat. Sure, to a certain extent the film draws on archetypes and genre conventions (some of which might be more familiar to a Japanese audience) but there is a specificity of detail which makes even minor characters memorable. By engaging the audience with the characters and letting their relationships and emotions guide the story (as opposed to the action, of which there is plenty) the stakes are high, every death matters to the audience and there are a lot of them. Which is perhaps why I was so bored with The Hunger Games: despite the action and suspense which seems to be inherent in the premise, and the clarity with which the plot is presented, somehow the characters didn’t elicit a similar emotional investment from me. But I digress. Battle Royale: Watch it, or else:
BEAN’S TOP 5 JAPANESE FILMS: NUMBER 5 - IKIRU
It’s my turn now! I found it very difficult to choose my favorite Japanese films. This is not because I have seen so many, which is true, but because there are many films I love and I think everyone should see- but I have no interest in seeing again.
So I’ve decided to cut those films out for now and focus on my watchable favorites and not the ones I think you should see. Maybe I’ll make a “5 Japanese films I think you should see but will probably scar you for life” list later.
Ikiru is a film about a classic ‘salary man’ bureaucrat in a broken, useless government job who realizes he wants to find meaning in his life. It’s a sweet, heart-warming film that makes you want to live life to the fullest! It’s also a really good look-if not a slightly caricatured version- of what life is like working for a Japanese company or Government office. While things aren’t that bad for some, many people in Japan do work ludicrous hours for no over time and are unable or feel unable to take days off. They work all day long and at least from what I’ve seen, they often aren’t working hard, they just feel obligated to look like they are working and stay late.
This being one of Kurosawa’s earlier films I feel like his style is a little raw and even over the top- in a good way. Kurosawa frames scenes to visually represent the feelings and relationships of his characters, all over the place. Seriously just pay attention to the how the characters are placed in a scene and you’ll realize that practically everything around them informs you about who they are, what they feel, or what their relationship is with the other characters in the scene.
A very fun and interesting watch.