Luiz Gonzaga and son, the human side of a Brazilian legend


Gonzaga: De Pai pra filho’s director Breno Silveira explains the process of the casting for the film: he publicized his search for actors in the Northeast and received 5.000 applicants. Narrowing down that figure to people with a physical resemblance to the real Gonzaga and son, who in addition were able to sing and perform, he still had over 50. After subsequent selections, a few of them spent 4 months with him to finally to make the final decision: two years just to find the main actors but which were well worth the wait, seeing the result. This is the story of a father and his son, the former being the greatest and probably the first Brazilian folk musician and performer, whose sertanejo music can still be heard and danced in Rio’s casas de forró, not to mention in the Northeast, where he was from. A movie with very well administered flashbacks of Gonzaga’s youth, alternating music and life events, the most emotive scenes are those confronting both characters, the son already as an adult, and exorcizing a difficult relationship, cooled down from the very beginning because of Gonzaga’s doubts about his paternity.

One million yen girl, forever young and Freddy Mercury



Roughly, there are two types of people in the world, the ones who seek stability and the ones who run away from her. Usually technological progress and civilization go along with the former attachment to the land, but when it comes to a romantic idea of life, both change and adventure don’t have any match. We have for example cowboys versus farmers, gauchos versus XIX century urbanites, conquistadors and bandeirantes versus accommodated landlords, adventurers of any kind versus salaried workers. In modern literature some venturesome authors and travel writers became their own works’ subjects, too: Lord Byron, Jack Kerouak, Bruce Chatwin, Javier Reverte. But there are also plenty of them who never abandoned the security of their studios, many times extolling the feats of the omnipresent civil servant: Franz Kafka, José Saramago, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan José Millás…

百万円と苦虫女 Hyakumanen to Nigamushi Onna (One million yen and the woman with a sour face), a Bildungsroman in the form of a film, seems to deify the commented adventurous category. The main character’s bohemian attitude displays an on-the-road credible youngster a la japonaise –vade retro, “cool” and pretentious Murakami-, a young woman who grows and learns from experiences. However, at the same time the nomadic lifestyle keeps her forever young (like Alphaville’s classic) and prevents her from entering the adults’ world of responsibilities. As soon as work, economic and/or emotional attachments are developed, it’s time for her to go and search for a new place to make a living. That way she can escape the miseries she thinks she is fatefully carrying; an always convincing Aoi Yuu doesn’t seem to realize that what she considers a curse is actually plain adulthood.

Her everlasting plans for freedom pass through some moments of loneliness and crisis but always a deus ex machina intervention channels back events into her initial scheme. The idea of saving one million yen (百万円 Hyakumanen) and departing is a good one, apart from making a great title. They could have chosen one month, or one year, or something more subjective or twisted, but the money savings account creates the perfect tension in the story and shows occurrences in a more haphazard fashion.

Reader’s Response Criticism is a school of literary theory -applicable to books, films, and other forms of art- that focuses on the reader (watcher) and the way s/he is affected by the content of the book or film. Above all, it analyzes turning points in the story that make the reader (watcher) reflect and realize facts beyond appearance. In this movie there are quite a few examples of these situations, especially when depicting people’s humanity: there is the 気持ち悪いおじさん disgusting middle age man, who changes from a stalker into a protective and good-hearted human being; the apparently inoffensive and friendly 地元社会 countryside community, that becomes an aggressive mob in the line of Dogma’s Dogville; or the dedicated young gardener who becomes a womanizer who becomes a passionate amour fou victim.

And the film is rounded off with a game of encounters in the railways stairs, one of my favourite scenes –along with the one in the bathtub, Suzuko’s eyes wideopen as a cat’s-, a metaphor of real life destiny as a confluence of chaotic, unpredictable and uncontrollable factors. But, as she pleasantly says in the end, “じゃあ、来るわけないか”. And the show must go on.

Hard rock in the temple お寺のハードロック



In the Japanese culture, Aburakusasu is referred to both sides of the sacred, good and evil, altogether, as an indivisible characteristic of life and human beings. Chosen as the title of the film, it depicts the ups and downs of Jonen, a Budhist monk in the middle of his own 40-year-old crisis. Apparently with a happy family and appreciated by the villagers for his job at the temple, he is psychologically unstable and dependant on antidepressants. The remembrance of his past years of college student and amateur musician becomes an obsession, until he decides to perform a hard-rock live concert in the small village, with the consequent astonishment of family, superior monk and people around him, youngsters and obaachan included. This movie deals with the stale themes of high expectations- deception, societal rules, suicide, and so on, but with an original approach, from the point of view of a Japanese monk, showing his humanity in terms of weakness -bordering on mental illness. There is quite an artistic photography and a well achieved scene –my favorite- of the main character, naked, in ontological search of himself and multiplied by many mirrors in the room. With many points in common with last year’s Solanin, this one gives us a slightly more optimistic view of life, with its good and its not-that-good things. The final message is unclear, though. But I wonder if it intends to be: do as you please even if your dreams don’t become true.

CANELA fina en Tokio, pero no la de Luis María Ansón



Hace unos días se celebró en el Instituto Cervantes de Tokio el XXII Congreso de CANELA. La Confederación Académica Nipona, Española y Latinoamericana la formamos un grupo de profesores, investigadores y/o estudiosos del idioma español en un sentido amplio, es decir, que tienen cabida la lengua, la literatura, la historia, el arte y el pensamiento del mundo hispánico –en muchas ocasiones en relación con nuestro entorno japonés-. Actualmente con más de 100 miembros de todos los colores y nacionalidades –incluyendo profesores japoneses- la mayoría somos profesores de universidad en algún punto de la geografía nipona.
Cada año celebramos un Congreso alternando sobre todo entre las áreas de Kanto –Tokio- y Kansai –Osaka, Kyoto- y cada una de las tres secciones de CANELA –Metodología de enseñanza del español, Literatura y Pensamiento- se reúne en sesiones en las que algunos profesores hacen presentaciones sobre sus investigaciones actuales, que suelen publicarse como artículos de investigación en la revista Cuadernos Canela.
Yo estoy en la sección de Literatura, aunque de vez en cuando me cuelo en las otras si el tema me interesa. Este año mi preferida fue la de Álvaro, un profesor venezolano que nos habló de teratologías. ¿Que qué es eso? Eso mismo me preguntaba yo. Se trata del estudio de los monstruos. Este profesor nos hizo un repaso al imaginario literario de los monstruos en Occidente y en Oriente –Japón- uniendo ambos en la figura del escritor mexicano Mario Bellatín, un “monstruo” él mismo.
Pero como no sólo de erudición vive el hombre, también tuvimos un banquete con comida española en el restaurante del Cervantes y un concierto de música barroca con la cantante más atractiva y con mejor voz que he visto en mucho tiempo.

La otra gran asociación en Japón del mundo del español es la Asociación Japonesa de Hispanistas, formada fundamentalmente por profesores japoneses, pero a la que también pertenecemos algunos profesores nativos (del español). También editan una revista académica con artículos de investigación, Hispánica, que ya comienza a tener formato digitalizado y hay un congreso anual, el cuál se celebrará este año en Kansai Daigaku.

Visitors at the end of the semester

As a closing to my Spanish classes every semester at the university, I sometimes try new things such us cultural videos, music, Latin dancing, etc. with different results. But what seems to be almost always successful is to bring guests. This time I was able to introduce to my students Peruvian Akemi and Venezuelan Mario; and both of them, in a cheerful Hispanic style, talked about their lives in Japan and were “interviewed” by a group of shy-at-times Japanese students of Spanish. Afterwards, Akemi sang one of her salsa band’s songs:


De cuando yo era apenas un niño, recuerdo los concursos de Eurovisión como un evento social y familiar a nivel nacional. Entonces no había Internet, teléfonos móviles o miles de cadenas de televisión sino apenas la 1 y el UHF. Todos en la familia nos reuníamos frente al televisor y dábamos nuestras opiniones sobre quién sería el ganador del concurso musical. A todos nos ilusionaba que España -por entonces en la cola de países de Europa en casi todos los indicadores económicos, sociales, políticos e incluso culturales, lograse la más alta calificación. Ahora las cosas han cambiado y el concurso no es seguido tan religiosamente por la población, que tiene otros intereses u otros menesteres.

Este año, la cantante española, Soraya, se quedó en el penúltimo puesto. Al leer la noticia me dirijo a U-tube y veo su vídeo: comienza con un toque árabe -tal vez muestra políticamente correcta de la la realidad multicultural española actual- y continúa con una anecdótica y más que trillada fórmula: la de una buena voz, un estribillo fácil y pegadizo, y un toque disco-gay a lo Mónica Naranjo. El problema es que eso tal vez podría haber funcionado en los 90 pero estamos en pleno siglo XXI. Espero que sea un toque de atención para los que casposamente presentan cosas que de antemano se sabe que van a fracasar ante los algo más depurados gustos europeos. El tiempo de los Julio Iglesias, Rafael y la canción española ya pasó, parece ser la moraleja que se saca de ese penúltimo puesto. Yo habría enviado a Ojos de Brujo, con su flamenco-fusión que incorpora lo nuevo (el hip-hop) y recupera lo tradicional (flamenco).

El noruego Ryback ha conseguido una mezcla perfecta de música de cámara -con su violín-, ritmo electrónico y danza. La escenografía me pareció perfecta, con los bailarines tradicionales noruegos saltando y girando  a su alrededor. Además, la letra de su fairytale tenía algo de atractiva historia narrada.  Y como el chico es guapo….estaba cantada su victoria.

¡Enhorabuena, Noruega!

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