Saturday, July 16, 2011

Copa America 2011: Japan

Entry #5 of the Copa America 2011 Book & Film Festival.

Book: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

15 year old Kafka runs away from home and finds himself in a new town absorbing the treasures found in the Komura Memorial Library. Nakata can talk to cats and this ability makes him a great cat hunter and he manages to earn some money from these activities. The two have nothing in common but as in other Murakami novels such as Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World & The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, two seemingly unrelated threads are destined to cross paths. As Kafka’s story starts to wind down, Nakata’s story picks up pace and progresses to a pivotal moment only to suddenly pause before the action switches over to Kafka’s tale, which starts building up pace again. This start-pause method continues until both stories’ path converge. In between the pages are many other sub-plots and fascinating elements of psychic driving, World War II lost soldiers, ghosts, time travel, dream navigation, undying love, graphic sex, incest, oedipal complex, prophecies, fish falling from the sky and characters such as Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders. Near the end of the book, a scene right out of a horror movie makes an appearance when a slimy creature attempts to enter the human world. All the diverse elements are neatly put together in the overall framework of the story. A trademark of a good writer is the ability to spin fantastical tales in a smooth easy flowing manner. There is no doubt about Murakami’s talent as he is one of the best writers out there. However, there is no real need to infuse the book with all the minor sub-plots. If some of the elements were chopped out of the 615 pages, the book would not really lose anything. Editing is a useful necessity but it appears that famous authors are allowed a lot more leeway when it comes to getting their works edited. If the same freedom were allowed to filmmakers, then most films would easily be between 4-5 hours in length as directors would find every single shot perfect and something worthy of inclusion. Still, Kafka on the Shore is an engrossing read despite being jam packed with elements of sci-fi, sex, comedy, WWII, coming of age, romance, ghost & horror.

Film: Tokyo Sonata (2008, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s beautiful film depicts the breakdown of a family and eventual rebirth. Ryuhei (Teruyuki Kagawa) loses his job and instead of telling his wife Megumi (Kyoko Koizumi), continues to leave home everyday dressed for work while spending time on the streets or at a free soup kitchen. Megumi is slowly inching her way to independence but yearns for full freedom. Their elder son Takashi (Yu Koyanagi) is disenchanted with his life and believes his life would be better served by joining the American military. The youngest son Kenji (Kai Inowaki) also rebels against his parents by skipping school and using the money from his school fees to pay for secret piano lessons knowing full well that his father is against him learning music. Each character goes through a transformation after reaching a breaking point before awakening to a new dawn. Some of the family’s tender moments and even tensions share a bond with the cinema of Ozu. Overall, a quite sublime film.

Japan & Copa America

Japan first announced they were pulling of the Copa America in April citing the earthquake and tsunami as the reason. However, they changed their mind after a few weeks and decided to send a team to Argentina before officially pulling out again after a backlog of J-League fixtures would have hindered the Japanese national soccer team’s preparations. Japan’s absence at the Copa America has been a loss for sure because their national team showed plenty of technical promise at the 2010 Soccer World Cup. A redeeming aspect is that Japan have been invited to the next Copa America in four years time so that will provide another chance to monitor the progress of the Japanese team.


Sam Juliano said...

That Kafka novel sounds marvelous Sachin! I haven't heard of it until now, and much appreciate the wonderful analysis.

Of course I know TOKYO SONATA well, and actually had in the top ten of it's release year stateside. Who can forget that emotional ending with our young protagonist playing Debussy's sublime "Clair la Lune." But it's Kurosawa's most popular film, and quite a humanist work.

Sachin said...

Thanks so much for your comments Sam.

I have been a big fan of Murakami's novels for a while and he has a unique ability to combine genres effortlessly. You must check out one of his works if you get a chance.

Remarkably, I had missed seeing Tokyo Sonata until recently but it is a film that has been much loved by lot of friends. I am glad to hear it featured on your top ten as well. The ending is quite remarkable and very touching.