Boku no Ojisan: Los filósofos también se enamoran

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Con 9 sobrinos y habiendo pasado alguna temporada que otra de mi vida adulta en la casa familiar, no es difícil identificarse con este entrañable personaje de ぼくのおじさん (Boku no Ojisan, Mi tío) encarnado por Matsuda Ryuhei y cuyas claves os explicamos en nuestro podcast sobre cine japonés actual. Atención a las similitudes con Mon Oncle, de Jacques Tati, y a los paralelismos con el discurso quijotesco de las armas y las letras:

 

Aquí está el vídeo del podcast

And here is a review in English of the film.

De nada, como dice mi crítico favorito de Babelia.

Travels with My Uncle or Boku no Ojisan

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“I’m a borderline philosopher. That’s why I read manga”. And the soliloquy goes on with many of the excuses that Masuda Ryouhei’s character in ぼくのおじさん (Boku no Ojisan, My Uncle) raises to justify his indolence and his lack of action (nothing against manga, though).

Working as a 非常勤講師 (part-time university teacher) in Japan can be a tough job if you have to provide for a family and make ends meet, begging for classes here and there. Commuting to different universities on the same day can also keep you half of your day stuck in crowded suburban trains. However, that’s not the case for our protagonist, because teaching only one コマ (Koma, 1’5-hour class) a week, he can have for himself all the time of the world to indulge in a life of laziness and procrastination, as he usually does. His salary, though, is likewise, hardly 30,000 yen (265 US dollars) per month. That makes him a poor among the poor. And he must live at his elder sister’s house with her family, being scolded by all members of the family, including his nephew and his niece, but with whom he keeps a close relationship. The same way the pre-Socratic Stoics claimed that philosophers should be immune to misfortune, he sees himself as a kind of a thinking genius, and tries to overcome the constant humiliations with a simple “Wow!” and quoting Kant.

A single uncle –in this case he doesn’t even seem to have a name, because it is not mentioned in the film– is an interesting figure for children. It’s supposed to an adult, but since it’s not a parent and doesn’t have the obligation to educate, he can become more of a buddy than other thing. That’s the case in this movie, where the middle-school boy, Yukio, is even more mature than the おじさん ojisan, and must takes care of him more than once.

However, there is not only family relations and comedy in the film, because a female character shows up in the ojisan’s life; and that changes everything. He seems to switch from his former good-for-nothing attitude to another one, more of a combative and pro-active man, as in Don Quixote’s discussion about guns and letters,  or even compared to Unamuno’s philosophical character Augusto Pérez’s determination to do anything to get the love of a female passerby. And through Eri, a fourth generation Japanese-American in Hawaii, another interesting topic is grafted in the plot: the descendants of Japanese in the US during WWII, kept isolated in concentration camps, and only at the end allowed to participate in the war in Europe, far from the land of their ancestors. The movie, more interested in showing a touristic Hawaii, doesn’t enter the controversy –now of current concern thanks to Trump–, but the topic is there, ready to be caught by any intelligent spectator.

In summary, this is an unpretentious film that will make you spend a good time and burst into laughter from time to time, thanks to the 空気読めない (Kuuki Yomenai, not able to understand situations) but at the same time likable character of the ojisan, quite well played by Masuda. And great music, by the way, quite cheerful, in the line of The Sting.

Recluta paparazzi Nobi, a la guerra de las primicias en SCOOP!

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Esta semana hablamos sobre SCOOP! (Primicia), esta inusual película “de guerra” de paparazzis japoneses que disparan con sus teleobjetivos los excesos de famosos, políticos y otras tribus urbanas.

Aquí está el Podcast:

 

con vídeo en youtube.

And here is a review in English of the film.

 

I’d do anything for a SCOOP!

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In August 1997 Lady Di died in a fatal car accident while being harassed by paparazzi. Many conspiracy theories were created afterwards, but in general the shutterbugs plus the driver’s taste for alcohol were considered the main causes for the sad episode. In Japanese movie SCOOP! we also have a car chase inside a tunnel, but in this case the paparazzi are the ones being persecuted by the bodyguards of a politician; Shizuka, the protagonist, had just taken a picture of the young, married and faultless public person with his lover in a first-class hotel.

The film is a sequence of different episodes of celebrity hunting and shootings of their excesses with sex, alcohol and violence with the common thread of a couple of paparazzi: a middle-age guy with the most vulgar and politically-incorrect mouth, plus an innocent female journalist, a newcomer to the business who gradually feels the adrenaline of the job and becomes an intrepid scoop hunter.

They can be compared to a couple of soldiers, the veteran and the new private, in a war against society’s hypocrisy, sometimes at the expense of their own physical security, as when Nobi is almost raped by a celebrity’s gang. And from the 先輩―後輩 sempai-kouhai work relationship, strong emotional bonds emerge between both of them, culminating into an inevitable bed scene.

However, above all, this is a story of comradeship among all the members of the sensationalist magazine, especially the senior ones, devoting their private lives to a work they believe in, and supporting each other, even though they can be rivals inside the tabloid. The two sections in the magazine compete for its reading audience: on the one hand, news and photographs of scandals, mainly 不倫事件 (infidelity cases); on the other side, グラビア (gravure), with photos of young models in sexy poses wearing bikini or underwear, which seems to be what is more demanded by the audience nowadays. Here we have an implicit allusion to the consumers of these weeklies and the evolution of their interests.

The turning point of the story with the presence of chameleon-like actor リリー・フランキー Lilly Franky as a deranged drug addict gives a closure to the movie and connects the profession of paparazzi with war press photographers like Robert Capa.

Ya no te quiero, ni siquiera una pizca: Nagai Iiwake

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Las cosas del querer / No tienen fin, ni tienen principio / Ni tienen cómo ni porqué / Así son las cosas del querer.

Y hasta que no las perdemos, no percibimos su verdadero valor, como el personaje de Sachio en esta conmovedora y políticamente incorrecta película 永い言い訳 (Nagai Iiwake, La larga excusa). He aquí el Podcast:

 

And here is a summary in English.

 

Nagai Iiwake: longing for excuses and answers

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Imagine that your wife dies in a traffic accident. Imagine that at that very moment you were having sex with your young lover. Imagine that when you are told the news the morning afterwards, you don’t feel anything: no emotional pain, no remorse; but you have to play the role of a suffering husband because you are a media star, a writer of a one-time successful novel who switched from literature to TV celebrity programs.  That’s how Sachio suddenly finds himself. It’s not just middle-age crisis, it’s the sensation of not being human anymore. This novel and film, 永い言い訳 (Nagai Iiwake, Long excuses) by writer and director Nishikawa Miwa, deeply captures the dissonance between the social roles assigned to people –husband, intellectual, celebrity– and their own desires and values. The 本音―建て前 (Honne-Tatemae) is taken to a maximum level because cameras are in action. Sometimes too much light doesn’t allow you to see the world. And Sachio is dazzled by the media attention, the audience, the couple’s common friends. So many politically-correct behavior scripts don’t let him search into his own past and present feelings. After a nihilistic period of time, he will look for penance, or at least for answers, taking care of two motherless children whose father is exactly his opposite, but with whom he shares a sensation of emptiness.

This is a long movie that has to be because it shows the ups and downs, as in real life, of real people; the getting closer and the moving away of different relationships.  And we see the characters’ hair growing and getting cut again and again, as in a cyclical repetition of life routines.

Reminiscences of Ichikawa Kon’s 細雪 (Sasameyuki, The Makioka Sisters) in the music and scenes of trains departing, along with Kawabata’s  雪国 (Yukiguni, Snow Country); resemblance of the actor Motoki Masahiro to La Bamba’s Lou Diamonds Philips; metaphor of the zigzag railways and the steep bicycle way back home as the endurance of life; and, finally, the possibility of self-knowledge and redemption through art.

 

Nanimono: buscando trabajo desesperadamente

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Hordas de trajes negros que serpentean por túneles japoneses de trenes y metros  / Chicos que abandonan la indolencia universitaria para asistir a interminables entrevistas de trabajo en grupo / Amistades y amoríos que se pudren desde dentro con un twitter traicionero / Bienvenidos a la vida real, no hace falta que toméis la píldora roja.

Esta semana hablamos en nuestro podcast Cine Japonés Actual de 何者 (Nanimono, Alguien), una película que relaciona la búsqueda de trabajo de los recién licenciados con el teatro, la redes sociales y el 本音-建前 (honne-tatemae) japonés:

 

Aquí tenéis un vídeo de los primeros minutos del programa, and here is a short summary in English of the podcast

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