Just a few Japanese ukiyo-e paintings from the Weston Collection Ukiyo-e exhibition now at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ukiyo-e’s depict the life of pleasure and leisure of musicians, geishas and concubines.
Expect me to share more of these in the days to come.
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.
One of my favorite Japanese words is gambaru, particularly in the imperative, i.e. gambatte. It’s used all the time to encourage people when they’re challenged a lot of a little. From the helpful, engaging site Tofugu, the definition above captures most of the sense of the word, but click on the link above to get the full story.
To really understand the magic of gambatte, you should at least visit Japan or watch a lot of Japanese media. It does uplift and help prevent someone from giving up.
Hospitalité is a one of a kind movie — or perhaps an odd movie is more like it. The main characters are Mikio, a middle aged man who’s taken over his family’s small printing shop, Natuski, his new, young wife, Eriko, his daughter from his first marriage and his sister who’s divorced. The daughter and the sister are sort of like prompts in that they appear when the plot needs a nudge. Otherwise, I didn’t think they seemed all that real.
The family’s pet parakeet goes missing and the young wife and daughter put up a notice in the neighborhood for it. A strange neighbor presents himself to help find the bird. Before they know it this odd ball Kagawa has been hired and then moves into their small home. A couple days later Kagawa brings his blonde wife to live there. The wife is a liar telling some she’s from Brazil and others that she’s from Bosnia. Chaos ensues. It reminded me of the Cat in the Hat but with the parents remaining home and allowing a nutcase teak over and never clean up.
Kagawa quickly discovers secrets both the husband and wife have and blackmailing them to get his way. By the end of the film the couple have completely lost control of their home as Kagawa practically turns the place like a youth hostel.
I found the film very different and unpredictable, but shortly after it ended I saw loads of holes in the story. Continue reading →