first and foremost a filmmaker. often a photographer. usually a writer. always a music enthusiast.
I have this weird thing where if the title of a movie refers to a certain time of the year, I try to make it so that I will watch that film at that respective time, i.e. watching Blue Valentine on Valentine’s Day. I believe that by doing this my experience will somehow be more immediate, more pure. Or maybe it just gives me an excuse to watch something without having to “choose”. So far, this approach has worked wonders, so don’t knock it.
Seeing as we’re approaching the end of April, I felt like it was finally the right time to tick April Story off my watch list. I’ve been hesitant to approach any work by Shunji Iwai after All About Lily Chou-Chou left me somewhat dumbfounded when I saw it back in my senior year of high school. I think I was much too young to really get it, the soundtrack however has remained an absolute favourite of mine even till today. Perhaps it’s time I revisited that film.
Unlike Lily Chou-Chou, April Story is very light-hearted and straight forward. Through the iconic 90s super soft lens filters, the cherry blossom snow and spring rain look ever so graceful. It also doesn’t hurt that the then 21 year old star Takako Matsu has a face that you can’t help but to fall in love with. I had no idea it was the same actress that played the teacher/mother in Confessions. For the actors, film can help to preserve their youth and beauty. For us, film can help to document a time and place in society. Short, innocent and sweet, I like it.
12 years ago, right around when I first became interested in movies and filmmaking, I saw the 74th Academy Awards. It was a very memorable ceremony for many reasons. But one thing really stuck with me even after all these year - this short montage edited by Penelope Spheeris paying tribute to documentary filmmaking. Watch it.
Koreeda Hirokazu is perhaps my most favourite contemporary Japanese filmmaker. I love the way he frames humanity. Using his experience as a documentary filmmaker, he is able to give his fictional work just the right amount of realism, such as the way his characters and sceneries are observed. Yet he remains dramatically interesting, never boring. After Life is a great example of this perfect marriage between documentary and fiction. A brilliant concept executed with beautiful simplicity. I’d like to make a film like this some day.
The film touches on an existential idea that has fascinated and troubled me for years - our memories and its purpose. Our identity is almost entirely constructed out of memories, what we have done defines who we are. Yet as we get older, our memories start to slip away, some memories seem like they might as well have been from another lifetime. We have happy times that we try to remember, but we can’t; bad experiences that we want to wash away for good, but they won’t; and then there are times that seem to hold no significance whatsoever, but they stay with us until death. At the end of your life, if you could choose only one memory to take away with you, what would it be?
As I was on my way back home from the gorgeous Naoshima in Kagawa prefecture (my 23rd prefecture visited! oooh yeaaa! more that at another time) and passing through Osaka, I got that familiar vibe again. The big city hustle and bustle vibe that you always get in great old Osaka. And it reminded me that while I love the tranquility of small towns and faraway islands, the big city just excites me. There’s nothing here really worth “visiting” per se, but what a joy it must be to LIVE amongst these crowded streets, to have restaurants, bars, shops, clubs, sports stadiums at your disposal until late hours of the night. It’s not as clean nor as friendly, but it makes me curious how the others survive and thrive. Knowing that I am merely one of a few million people residing in a giant bubble gives me the drive to do better, to get busy and to stand out. And that is the feeling I hope to embrace when I eventually go to New York City. Just as I was lost in my own thoughts, the overhead speakers in Osaka station stated that an accident has happened in Tsuruhashi Station (a very important and central station), thus all trains going through there, which was the majority, and all Osaka Loop lines, the line that everyone uses to get to anywhere in Osaka city were at a stand still. I left the station after half an hour of no trains moving, which was crazy by Japanese metropolitan train system terms. Although I’ve heard a lot about this, but this was my first time experiencing it first hand, the delay was most definitely caused by someone jumping on to the tracks to commit suicide. There’s something you never get in small town living.
Tomorrow, I will be making a small dream come true by seeing the great composer, pianist, experimentalist, genius, one of the most prolific musicians and a personal idol of mine - Ryuichi Sakamoto live in concert with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. YAAAAH! This is one of my all time favourites by him - The Last Emperor Theme.
After debating a bit about whether or not I should alter my golden week plans in order to save 1 day of paid leave allowing me to catch Shiina Ringo live in Osaka, I came to the conclusion that OF COURSE I HAVE TO! Seeing her live has been a dream for so many years, and who knows if she’ll have another concert during my time in Japan. I’d hate to kick myself for missing the one chance to see her. Wish me luck that I’ll able to get a ticket and she’ll play some of her classic jams!
I often think about why…why is it that my life here in Japan is so amazing. The great days are in abundance and the bad times never really last very long. Trust me when I say this is not how I’ve always felt for the most part of my life. I believe that answer is…because my time here is limited. Although I have a job here that consist of routines just like any other job in any other part of the world, life here is still a holiday, a break from “reality”, I know that in no time my journey here will come to an end, so whatever time I have that I don’t enjoy will be lost. Most of the reservations and instincts to procrastinate I’ve had before gets washed away because I actually won’t have all the time in the world to do the things I want to do here. This is why I pack my weekends and off days with exciting things to do and see, because I don’t want to leave with any regrets.
If I can maintain this mentality every day for the rest of my life, regardless of where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing and what stage of my life I’ll really be in, how amazing would that be? It’s the way I SHOULD approach life because our time on Earth is indeed limited, we just often forget about it.
Before Sunrise gives us a glimpse of what romance would be like if we knew exactly how much time we’ll have together. This is my favourite scene in the film.
'Tis the season of graduation, and with that, comes a hint of inevitable sentimentality on my side. Seeing the piles of year books and memorabilia lying around the teachers' room, I wish I was just a little bit closer to my students of the the large junior high school and knew them a little better (something I can't really change because of my limited time at each school). But also, it made me miss my own school days, not so much the studying or the mundane routines, but of the leaving process, that end of an era feeling, and of a time when I had all the time in the world as I swam in the endless ocean of youth. 青春万歳！