Sweet Bean (An)

Though I can’t stand Japanese sweet bean paste, the movie Sweet Bean is another story.  Loner Senato runs a snack shop in Tokyo where he makes and sells pancakes stuffed with sweet bean paste when one day Tokue, a cute old lady, comes along and begs for a job. She begs to for a job, but he’s sure at 76 she’s unable to do the lifting and hard work he needs.

When she comes by again bearing a batch of the most incredibly delicious sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted, he relents and hires her. The next morning she’s there at 4 am to make the beans replacing the canned glop used before. Soon there’s a line around the block for the snacks.

Wakana, a student whose single mom wants her to stop studying and get a job, is drawn to this pair of loners. She shows how wonderful friendship is with someone much older. She shares her dreams and memories with Tokue and keeps Sentaro on the right path regarding sticking up for Tokue.

In the midst of the business’ success, the shop’s meddling owner pops in and insists  Sentaro fire Tokue because her knobbled hands are due to leporasy. She’s a health risk. She’s got to go.

The film goes into new territory and explores friendship, loyalty and isolation in a beautiful way. I loved this film. My only quibble is that I wanted to know what happens with Wakana. Even though I still can’t choke down a sweet bean pancake and highly recommend this movie.

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Poem of the Week

Love and Friendship

by Emily Bronte

Love is like the wild rose-briar,
Friendship like the holly-tree —
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
But which will bloom most contantly?
The wild-rose briar is sweet in the spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again
And who wil call the wild-briar fair?
Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
That when December blights thy brow
He may still leave thy garland green.

Poem of the Week

You smile upon your friend to-day

By A.E. Houseman

You smile upon your friend to-day,
To-day his ills are over;
You hearken to the lover’s say,
And happy is the lover.

’Tis late to hearken, late to smile,
But better late than never:
I shall have lived a little while
Before I die for ever.

Poem of the Week

Inviting a Friend to Supper

by Ben Jonson

Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I
Do equally desire your company;
Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast
With those that come, whose grace may make that seem
Something, which else could hope for no esteem.
It is the fair acceptance, sir, creates
The entertainment perfect, not the cates.
Yet shall you have, to rectify your palate,
An olive, capers, or some better salad
Ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen,
If we can get her, full of eggs, and then
Lemons, and wine for sauce; to these a cony
Is not to be despaired of, for our money;
And, though fowl now be scarce, yet there are clerks,
The sky not falling, think we may have larks.
I’ll tell you of more, and lie, so you will come:
Of partridge, pheasant, woodcock, of which some
May yet be there, and godwit, if we can;
Knat, rail, and ruff too. Howsoe’er, my man
Shall read a piece of Virgil, Tacitus,
Livy, or of some better book to us,
Of which we’ll speak our minds, amidst our meat;
And I’ll profess no verses to repeat.
To this, if ought appear which I not know of,
That will the pastry, not my paper, show of.
Digestive cheese and fruit there sure will be;
But that which most doth take my Muse and me,
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,
Which is the Mermaid’s now, but shall be mine;
Of which had Horace, or Anacreon tasted,
Their lives, as so their lines, till now had lasted.
Tobacco, nectar, or the Thespian spring,
Are all but Luther’s beer to this I sing.
Of this we will sup free, but moderately,
And we will have no Pooley, or Parrot by,
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men;
But, at our parting we will be as when
We innocently met. No simple word
That shall be uttered at our mirthful board,
Shall make us sad next morning or affright
The liberty that we’ll enjoy tonight.

Poem of the Week

Do the Others Speak of Me Mockingly, Maliciously?

by Delmore Schwartz

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man”

Do they whisper behind my back? Do they speak
Of my clumsiness? Do they laugh at me,
Mimicking my gestures, retailing my shame?
I’ll whirl about, denounce them, saying
That they are shameless, they are treacherous,
No more my friends, no will I once again
Never, amid a thousand meetings in the street,
Recognize their faces, take their hands,
Not for our common love or old times’ sake:
They whispered behind my back, they mimicked me.

I know the reason why, I too have done this,
Cruel for wit’s sake, behind my dear friend’s back,
And to amuse betrayed his private love,
His nervous shame, her habit, and their weaknesses,
I have mimicked them, I have been treacherous,
For wit’s sake, to amuse, because their being weighed
Too grossly for a time, to be superior,
To flatter the listeners by this, the intimate,
Betraying the intimate, but for the intimate,
To free myself of friendship’s necessity,
Fearing from time to time that they would hear,
Denounce me and reject me, say once for all
That they would never meet me, take my hands,
Speaking for old times’ sake and our common love.

What an unheard-of thing it is, in fine,
To love another and equally be loved!
What sadness and what joy! How cruel it is
That pride and wit distort the heart of man,
How vain, how sad, what cruelty, what need,
For this is true and sad, that I need them
And they need me. What can we do? We need
Each other’s clumsiness, each other’s wit,
Each other’s company and our own pride. I need
My face untamed, I need my wit, I cannot
Turn away. We know our clumsiness,
Our weakness, our necessities, we cannot
Forget our pride, our faces, our common love.

Poem of the Week

Invitation to Hsiao Chü-shih

Written by Po Chü-i | Translated by Arthur Waley

Within the Gorges there is no lack of men;
They are people one meets, not people one cares for.
At my front door guests also arrive;
They are people one sits with, not people one knows.
When I look up, there are only clouds and trees;
When I look down–only my wife and child.
I sleep, eat, get up or sit still,
Apart from that, nothing happens at all.
But beyond the sixty Hsiao the hermit dwells;
And with him at least I find myself at ease.
For he can drink a full flagon of wine
And is good at reciting long-line poems
Some afternoon, when the clerks have all gone home,
At a season when the path by the river bank is dry,
I beg you, take up your staff of bamboo-wood
And find your way to the parlor of the Government House

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Speed the Plow


Another David Mamet play seemed a fitting read as I’m currently taking his MasterClass online.

I’d seen the play at the Remains Theater in 1987.

The play is a satire of show business. Charlie Fox brings a movie deal consisting of a hot star and a blockbuster-type script to his long time buddy, Bobby Gould, who’s career is on fire since he’s gotten a promotion. He’s got till 10 am the next morning to get a producer to agree to make it. So he trusts his pal to make the deal, which will earn them boat-loads of money.

They talk about the business and their careers.  They dream of what they’ll do after this life-changing film is released. In the background a temp secretary bungles along with the phone system. Eventually, she comes into the office and winds up having to read a far-fetched novel as a “courtesy read” meaning she’s to write a summary of a book that’s not going to be adapted to film.

 
After she leaves the office, the men make a bet, a bet that Bobby Gould, whom Karen is working for, will succeed in seducing her. Karen’s not in on this but she agrees to go to Gould’s house to discuss the book she’s to summarize.

Karen finds the book about the end of the world life-changing. Like many 20-something’s She’s swept up by its message. What’s worse, when she goes to Gould’s house she convinces him to make the crazy book into a film and to leave his pal in the dust. The book and play are brisk and, as you’d expect, contain rapid-fire dialog. I enjoyed this book, but can see how some would find problems with Mamet’s portrayal of women. I think he portrays Hollywood quite realistically.