The Home of the Creative Mind

Welcome to PooBahSpiel, the online voice and home of the creative mind of Mark Monlux, Illustrator Extraordinaire. Prepare yourself for an endless regaling of art directly from the hand of this stellar artist. And brace yourself against his mighty wind of pontification. Updates are kinda weekly and show daily sketches, current projects, and other really nifty stuff.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Comic Critic Reviews The Ballad of Narayama

The Ballad of Narayama is not a tale of noble samurai or skilled swordsmanship. It’s about a small, very poor, rural feudal Japanese village in the middle of nowhere, where avoiding starvation is the primary goal. Instead of glorious battles filled with banners flapping brightly in the wind, there is a far more intimate war being waged within the hamlet. And like any war, it’s not pretty. The unfolding story provides tremendous insight to a side of Japanese culture that few see. I was very happy with the DVD, which often had two sets of subtitles going on, one set for the dialog and another set for the definition of words and customs not well known outside Japan. A must-see for those who love films from and about Japan.

1 comment:

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon said...

This gave me a flash-back to San Francisco. Not that San Francisco culture is like this of course! But for almost two years, in 1983 and 1984, I went off to the Kokusai Movie theater in San Francisco's "Japan Town" to watch two (they showed them in pairs) Japanese movies every week. Certain movies stood out - this being one of them. The old woman knocks out her teeth to appear older to help convince her son to take her up to the mountain to die, right? And then she's lucky because it begins to snow as she is praying, indicating that death will come soon, and shorten any suffering.

One movie similarly radically different from US thinking was about a young shamisen teacher who wanted to get closer to his girlfriend shamisen teacher, so he would teach students with his eyes closed. They would giggle and the girlfriend would scold him. Solution? He put out his own eyes and proved his devotion to her. I remember a big American guy in the theater as the movie ended having an argument with his Japanese (girlfriend? wife?) with him basically saying "No-no-no... that's just wrong!"

Taking the woman up to the mountain I could empathize with, but the guy blinding himself... I would agree with that guy in the theater basically. The thing is - people act how they are supposed to act so much, that to convince someone of sincerity, drastic measures sometimes need to be taken - thus seppuku, etc.

Actually - not being a burden on the family is still a reason for suicide here. From what I understand, insurance companies here still have to pay out when someone commits suicide, so it may be that a lot of the high suicide rate comes down to people out of work doing two final things for their families - reducing the burden on the family and generating insurance income.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon