《梦与狂想的王国》生而为人,不忘初心,何其艰难

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《梦与狂想的王国》记录了Ghibli工作室《起风了》和《辉夜姬物语》的创作点滴。 或许是出于市场推广角度考虑,亦或许是宫崎骏先生上下班时间固定(从早上11点到晚上9点笔耕不迭)比较容易被抓到,跟拍摄难度小,宫崎骏先生的内容占了影片的半壁江山。

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这部纪录片将动画创作者的日常捕捉记录呈现给了观众,让大家有机会一睹Ghibli 动画故事里的魔法世界是如何一砖一瓦被构建起来的。

看毕影片, 一度被鸡汤文制造者如地沟油搬反复使用,以至于让人闻之作呕的四个字开始在脑海里久久盘旋-“不忘初心”。

何谓初心? 是最初的梦想?是纯粹的热爱?在宫崎骏先生采访录《Starting Point1979-1996》中, 先生对于自己对动画创作的初心如是阐述:“To my way of thinking, creating animation means creating a fictional world. That world soothes the spirit of those who are disheartened and exhausted from dealing with the sharp edges of reality, or suffering from a near-sighted distortion of their emotions. When the audience is watching animation, they are apt to feel either light and cheerful or purified and refreshed.”如此看来,从《风之谷》到《 起风了》,甚或是宫崎骏更早期的作品,都秉承着如是的理念,竭尽所能创作出能够为观众洗去尘世铅华,给予心灵慰借的动画。

不忘初心始于自我感动却不止于此。要创作出一部打动他人的作品,首先要打动自己。在影片采访中,高畑勋先生曾回忆宫崎骏先生在创作过程中曾多次感情激动不能自已的泪流满面。 可这只仅仅是第一步,如果仅仅沉醉在自我感动中,于作品的创作是有害而无益的。更甚者以初心为噱头赚吆喝做买卖,更无异于杀鸡取卵。不忘初心鞭策着宫崎骏先生更加勤奋在绘画技术,人物刻画,情节设计方面不断完善精进,这为了更流畅的讲出心里的故事,更贴切的描绘梦中的世界。如此耕耘下来使得宫崎骏先生能够创作出层次饱满的作品,既不一味的炫耀智识,也不一味的装傻卖萌。例如 一部《龙猫》既能让我的小侄女为其中萌萌的龙猫欢呼雀跃,也能让我的日本历史学教授为其中的绳文时代陶器纹饰两眼放光。

 不忘初心不意味着不反思不质疑。 这位貌似慈祥温暖的白发老爷爷也不是不曾反思质疑过初心,在片中宫崎骏先生无奈的感叹,“设计飞机的人无论意图多么善良,时代之风会把他的梦想转化为机械文明的工具,从来不会无害,而是被诅咒的梦想。动画亦然。所有人类的梦想皆被诅咒。我们怎知电影具有价值?认真想想,电影不就是个兴趣吗?或许你曾可以做些有价值的东西,可现在呢?我们的世界充斥着垃圾。虽如此,依然【要活着】” 对于初心的反思在《幽灵公主》和《起风了》两部影片中,体现的极其明显。由于篇幅所限不在这里展开。

 不忘初心不仅仅需要一个好记性,更需要坚守与守护。而守护初心,浪漫梦想家与精明实干家堪称完美搭配。在Ghibili这个精明实干家非制片铃木敏夫久先生莫属。以下是铃木敏夫在给年轻大学毕业生的经验座谈会上的一席话 (举双手双脚赞同!)

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能够找到彼此信赖扶持一同成长坚守共同初心的同僚是人生一大幸福吧。

宫崎骏先生在片子快要结束的时候如此讲到:

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听上去难免有些悲观。如果守护住如同孩子一般自由的想象力,是否人生的可能性会更多一些?

生而为人,不忘初心,何其艰难。

The opposite of Love

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Review of Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless (Нелюбовь)

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“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” -- Elie Wiesel

At the beginning of the film Loveless, two protagonists Zhenya and Boris, a middle-class couple going through the final stage of their nasty divorce, are blinded by hate. The two have a twelve-year-old son, whom none of them wishes to take care of. To them, their son is merely a burden dragging them behind as they rapidly move on to new chapters in life, or a haunting ghost from their failed marriage continually reminding them about their ugly faces of hatred. As if their secret wish was granted, their son soon goes on missing. The incident forces the couple to unify. However, the hatred between the two escalates to a new level as they go on a road trip to look for their son at Zhenya's estranged mother's place, where we catch a glimpse of how abusiveness is passed on from generations. As the searching continues, the falling snow absorbs all the noises of complaining, quarreling, and fighting. Eventually, it reaches a moment of silence, when the hope of finding the boy becomes dim. At the end of the story, Zhenya and Boris, finally parted, have come to the opposite of love. They become indifferent toward each other and the missing boy who was once their son.

The film has demonstrated a skillful usage of contrast. Storywise, we see the sharp contrast between the selfish parents, who care mostly about pursuing their individual happiness and shy away from their shared responsibilities of childrearing, and the selfless volunteers who work together trying every possible way to find the boy. Cinematically, we experience the contrast between the spatial tightness and turmoil in the interior quarreling scenes and the openness and quietness in the exterior searching scenes.

There are several memorizing scenes in loveless that linger in my mind. One is the scene where volunteers search around the son's afterschool hideout, abandoned buildings in the middle of woods. The empty and collapsing space once occupied by the boy vividly translate his feelings of abandonment and isolation visually. The buildings, which used to be occupied by families and happiness, can also be viewed as an excellent visual representation of the state of divorce. Another scene is in the end where Zhenya, the mother, unable to bear more suffocating news on the Ukarian war, puts on her Team RUSSIA running jacket (clever choice of the costume), starts running on the treadmill. Seeing Zhenya's lost eyes, I can't help asking: after all the misfortunes and traumas, is she (the nation) really moving forward or just running nonstop at the same spot?

What I'm most impressed by the film is its nonjudgmental yet critical, compassionate yet non-sentimental point of view. All the social commentaries about the contemporary Russian society, technology, sex, and religion are carefully painted in the background of the main story, precisely and naturally. All the flawed characters are treated with care and respect. Take Zhenya's abusive mother for example; after the couple leaves the grandmother's house, the camera stays within the room, forcing the audience to stay with the monstrous and cruel grandmother. Soon, we see this woman taking off her facade, as she rubs her tiring face and reveals her state of loneliness and sadness. The film filled with brokenness surprisingly has a full circle ending.

The story ends with the shot of the loose strand of police tape, which the son threw onto the tree at the beginning of the film, swaying slightly against the winter sky. Somehow, the ending shot reminds me of Pan’s Labyrinth’s ending (maybe because they are both shots of the trees?). “And that she left behind small traces of her time on Earth, visible only to those who know where to look.” The boy in Loveless also left a small trace of his existence hanging on the leafless tree branches. However, sadly, it's almost impossible for his indifferent parents to open their eyes and to look for his trace in this freezing and loveless winter of Moscow.

Beefeaters and Tea-drinkers_____茶の本

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“When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East?” Okakura Kakuzo asks this question in his long essay The Book of Tea. This book can be viewed as his attempt to facilitate westerners understanding the East. Through raising awareness of the disequilibrium of the East and the West, and educating the (sympathetic and well-educated) westerners about teaism, which embraces many aspects of the Eastern values, ranging from religion to aestheticism, Kakuzo hoped to narrow the gap between the East and the West.

Indeed, the West neglected a large chunk of Eastern civilization. However, the East was not doing much better either. In fact, both sides were seeing what they expected to see. For the West, things in the East portrayed in exotic oriental fantasies first drew their attention. As for the East, people’s eyes were fixed on the “keys” to the secrets of Western military and economic success. There were few differences between the beefeaters in Japan and tea drinkers in Europe and the US, the majority of whom ridiculously assumed a commodity as proof of civilization.

Moreover, in this modern (new) world, both sides were busy with struggling for wealth and power. There was a little time for understanding unless there is a practical need such as national security and market expansion.

Is it possible for the two civilizations to reach such a balanced equilibrium as Kakuzo envisioned? Could the “jewel of life” be regained through restoring the balance of the East and the West in modern days? When will “Nikuka reappear and help us fix the grand devastation”? Kakuzo does not offer us a clear answer. So let’s have a sip of tea or a bite of beef. Meanwhile, let's keep pushing the boundaries of our understating through constant questioning, and laugh at our own ignorance. 

P.S. The Beefeaters is a short satirical piece written by Kanagaki Robun. It mocked the peculiarities of Japanese society in the process of modernization during the Meiji period. 

 

 

 

 

Gravities____A Fool's life 或阿呆の一生

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The protagonist in Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's A Fool’s Life is a man floating in a space between two worlds with gravities that pull in opposite directions. “To live or to die?” He lives this question, with which he painfully feeds his creativity.

His rationalist, scientific turn of mind enables him to view humanity from a distance, the way humans might observe the antics of ants. From that perspective, he glances at the modern society and says in a chilling tone, “ Life is not worth a single line of Baudelaire” (Akutagawa 187).  However, he is aware of the danger of such a height, where the air is too thin, the temperature is too low for a human to survive. After all, he is a mundane human himself equipped with only a pair of man-made wings, which can be easily signed by the sun. Still, he chooses to stay. He lingers for what reason? The desire to create, the attraction of self-destruction, or the unbearable detestation toward the modern society and the humankind? There is no clear answer. Moreover, his fear of losing his conscious mind to think and to create draws him closer to the world of death.

Meanwhile, the gravity of living is pulling him back. As I read closely, I can sense his strong attachments to the living world. He has a passion for nature. He is a man who is capable of gazing at a landscape through Van Gogh’s eyes, and of understanding Rousseau’s language of passions. He is also not immune to love: “Her face seemed to be bathed in moon glow even now, in daylight. As he watched her walk on (they had never met), he felt a loneliness he had not know before” (Akutagawa 193). This beautiful cinematic scene indicates how gently this man loves. Furthermore, his guilt towards his wife and children also ties him to the living. However, the combined forces of love, passion, and guilt do not seem to be strong enough to keep both his feet on the ground of living.

His hunger to create and his fear of losing the capability of creating; his desire for people and his loathing toward humankind: two forces of gravities are constantly pulling him apart. And the man-made wings seem to be not sufficient to help him escape from this "cursed" space. Even worse, this man is drowning in an ocean of ideologies without knowing which one to grab on in order to survive. However, I am inclined to conclude that this man longs for the living world, or else he would not have called his final farewell a defeat.

“To live or to die? Why can’t I find an answer to this question, which seems to be so simple to the majority? I must be a foolish man living a foolish life.” I can almost hear the man’s self-mocking voice.

 

 

Microscopic View

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In Abe’s book Woman in the Dunes, he deconstructs the world in reality, restructures the components to a new landscape, and lures the readers with his poetic languages to look into this new landscape from his microscopic view.

 

The film, with its greater capacities for “isolating physical data and reaching their climax in representing it” (Kracauer, Theory of Film, p.298), adds to visualize Abe’s microscopic view of world. The film version of Woman in the Dues opens with a microscopic close-up of sand grains. With their cameras, Filmmakers represent the sand by deconstructing it to diverse minerals. This opening scene, like a nutrition facts label, introduces the microscopic nature of the world that Jumpei presents in. Moreover, the film’s visual images further enrich the textual feature of many elements in the book: the water, the sand, and especially the skin. The microscopic close-up of the skin maximizes the sexual tension between the man and the woman. Now, the skin truly becomes an individual force powerfully penetrating protagonists’ and viewers’ senses.

Woman in the Dunes is loaded with symbols. To balance such symbolic heaviness, Abe strings all his carefully carved metaphors with a straightforward storyline; Teshigahara unfolds the story in a single location with simple yet vibrating images; and Takemitsu injects souls to these images and make them dance with his minimalist abstract painting-liked musical language. Viewers, lured by forces of all these languages, look deeper and deeper into this microscopic landscape. Some unfortunate fellows may end up trapping inside this landscape, essentially a mind maze built up by artists’ languages, just like Jumpei is trapped in the bottom of the sand, and later on in his own ideas.

A journey “home”__Tokyo Story

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In Tokyo Story, we follow an old couple traveling from Onomichi to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children. In my eyes, this journey is not about a new adventure to explore the metropolitan Tokyo but rather an attempt to return, returning to a “home” that the old couple once shared with their children. However, the old couple’s journey is actually a journey without destination. Such a sense of “home” is deeply rooted in the old couple’s memory but sadly not in their children’s. They fail to return to this “home” when living with (shuffling by) their children in Tokyo. To this old couple, Tokyo becomes a city too far away, a city with too many people, a city they cannot truly find a sense of belonging. 

Ozu, like us viewers, also accompanied this old couple along their journey. To him, born and raised in Tokyo, this is actually a journey home. However, was he also riding a train leading to nowhere? The Tokyo in front of Ozu’s camera, which was rebuilt after the earthquake and bombings, was not the same hometown he cherished in his memory. Ozu, an aged man himself, was taking a train back home to Tokyo. During the trip, he came to realize that his hometown Tokyo could no longer be reached in real life. Therefore, he got off the train and started to walk towards his memory. By using very limited shots of contemporary Tokyo scenery, he wished to preserve or reconstruct the old Tokyo in his and older generation’s memory. For viewers who do not own these fragments of memories, Ozu offered a chance to get a glimpse of the city’s vibe through displaying its domestic settings. In this way, the director could revive his memory to a maximum extent on the silver screen.

As the journey continues, it seems like that it no longer matters whether there is a destination or not.  Realizing their children could possibly turn out to be worse, the old couple starts to accept what they have in life with grateful hearts.  When they make the decision to go back to their home in Onomichi, sitting on the seawall in Atami. Their figures are seen melting into the nature, peacefully and harmoniously.

The film starts with a shot of a river running through the frame; it ends with a shot of the same river running through it. These two scenes echo on the screen, as if saying that all the gatherings, separations, laughter, and tear would be drifted out into the ocean of time. And those drifting movements are patiently recorded by Ozu’s stationary camera.

Gazing upon the “beauty” in distance

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representations of women in KokoroSnow Country, Child's play, Sisters of the Gion, and Tokyo Story 

 

Women, in most of the readings and films we have encountered, are subjected to male protagonists’ or viewers’ gaze. Under all the gazes, women are either reducible to an idealized object of male desires or become marginalized figures lacking full-fledged selfhood. No matter whether they are being spotlighted on the pedestal or being shadowed in the corner, those women are kept in distance from male protagonists, viewers and even themselves. Moreover, a sense of helplessness is also pervasive in both cases, following those women as their own inescapable shadows. Strangely, such a mix of distance and helplessness somehow generates a sense of “beauty”, alluring us to step further into the stories.

The male idealization of women lifts women up onto a pedestal against or without inquiring women’s own wishes, which widens the distance between men and women. In Soseiki’s Kokoro, woman is idealized as man’s last resort to seek innocence and beauty within life and human nature. The wife of the sensei is idealized as the purest person in the world by sensei. She is treated as delicate glassware, carefully preserved by sensei. A piece of sensei’s internal monologue after his friend K’s suicide shows his intense idealization towards Ojosan, who is about to become sensei’s wife: “I was glad that she had not witnessed the terrible scene immediately after his death. I was afraid that a beautiful person such as she could not behold anything ugly and frightful without somehow losing her beauty” (Kokoro P.181). Sensei shelters his wife at home, and protects her from the real world, which he thinks is full of ugliness, dirt and danger.  Sensei’s betrayal of K compels sensei to drive his wife further away from his inner world, which he also considers as an ugly and dirty place. From sense’s wife’s conversation with the narrator (student), we can tell that she is not as fragile as sensei assumes and she is helplessly searching for ways to narrow the distance between herself and sensei. However, she does not know that the distance between them is actually vertical. Long ago, Sensei putted her up on a pedestal and has taken the ladder away the day K died.

In Kawabata’s Snow Country, women are idealized as a source of aesthetic experience. And keeping a distance is the essential practice to obtain such aesthetic pleasure. The emphasis of cultivating distance is revealed at the very beginning of the story, by the way Shimamura, the male protagonist, first “see” Yoko. “The light inside the train was not particularly strong, and the reflection was not as clear as it would have been in a mirror. Since there was no glare, Shimamura came to forget that it was a mirror he was looking at. The girl’s face seemed to be out in the flow of the evening mountains” (Snow Country P.10).  Instead of looking at Yoko directly, Shimamura chooses to gaze her from the reflection of the train window. This distanced way indulges him to envision a sort of imaginary beauty, a beauty that should melt into a dreamy nature rather than flourish in an earthy world.  While Komako, the young geisha Shemamura encounters in Snow Country, who has gradually developed her characters and became too real for Shimamura, is ruthless abandoned due to her strong sense of presence. The idealization of women in this story indeed fabricates an aesthetic “beauty”. However this “beauty” is as “cold” as the winter in the snow country. It is hard for us to appreciate this sort of “beauty” without feeling chilling and guilty.

Various female idealizations also generate and widen the distance between women and themselves. In Sisters of the Gion, the elder sister Umekichi, who maintains her loyalty toward her broken patron Furusawa, strictly follows the idealized Geisha code from the beginning to the end. She is an unconscious victim of the male idealization, who came to lose part of her own being and constantly shrouded by shadows, softly yet gloomily.

A blessing or a curse, some of these women still maintain certain degrees of self-consciousness about their true self and idealized self. Struggling to narrow the distance between her own -being and the idealized self, they are helplessly tortured by such internal conflicts. Noriko, the “paragon” of filial piety in Tokyo Story, who always wears a benevolent smile, confesses in the end to being selfish, no longer thinking constantly about her dead husband but rather about her own life and what would become of it. It already took Noriko a long time to reveal her painful and helpless inner struggle, how long would it take her to truly resolve this struggle?

The starting point of women’s self-distancing is gently and cautiously captured by Ichiyo, the only female storyteller we have encountered so far. In Child’s Play, Ichiyo provides us, for the first time, the opportunity to gaze the world through a female character Midori’s eyes, without layering any disguise or creating any distance. We witness her initial moment of growing up from a girl to a woman, the very moment she starts to lose part of her being-ness. “There were things Midori could not talk about. Sad thoughts accumulated, vague thoughts that she could not define herself -thoughts that would never come to the Midori of yesterday… She hated it, hated it, she hated grow up. Why did she have to grow old?” (Child’s Play, P.108) Midori is rather sensitive to notice such unspeakable sadness, and sense such a loss. However, soon the notorious thief “time” will sneak in with its tick-tock footsteps and callously steal this precious string of sadness, which Midori holds so tight in hand at the moment.

“Who are these women? What are their stories? What are their thoughts?” I can’t help asking. Greedy and unsatisfied, I am not pleased with just gazing upon those women from distance and indulging myself in their blurry and man-made “beauty”. I am longing to approach them, to take a look closer, to hear them speak for themselves, and to gaze the world from their perspectives. And I hope the day they ultimately step down from the over-lighted pedestal and walk out of the shadowy corner, we can obtain a broader perspective, a perspective not constrained by gender. 

 

 

 

Kaleidoscope__Roshonmon

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The experience of seeing Roshonmon is like viewing a world through a fractured kaleidoscope, in which stories, meanings, motivations are continually undone and rewoven before my eyes, making me feel dizzy, confused and even a little bit nauseous. Although a black-white film, I see various colors as those protagonists describing the same crime as turning red, then yellow, now blue…

Korosawa is a compassionate director who does not ruthlessly “abandon” his viewers in the chaotic and destructive world of the kaleidoscope. At the end of the film, he kindly provides us a tiny keyhole, from which we see the woodcutter carrying the baby and walking towards us. Even though it’s just a small peek trough a tiny keyhole, we can see a light of hope penetrating through it. Up to this point, it does not matter whether we can find the key and open this door to see the whole picture. Hopefully, the final shots are sufficient to guide us, as we emerge from the dark cinema and return into our world of shadow and light.