Thursday, September 16, 2004

Another day, another elementary school. This time Numosato Shogakko. My beliefs that the strange Kimiga elementary school in the backwater of Edosaki is unique unto itself with its rabidity has been confirmed. Numosato was wonderful, with exciting students and classical music piped into the classrooms during lunchtime, and the little surgeons outfits were worn while the children served each other. I realized only today that the Kimiga students didn't do that. How uncivilised. (hehe, considering how I'm used to being in American schools where we don't serve each other our lunch but rely on cafeteria workers, and don't wear masks and white gowns to keep germs off, I've quickly become a fan of the Japanese school lunch feels so well, all I can say is we enjoy lunch together...very Japanese, enjoy, together).

Which reminds me. When I arrived, the children were practicing for their Sports Day (the elementaries have theirs the weekend after the Junior Highs). I was made to run out onto the dirt field, get up on a podium before 500 kids who had just got done practicing a dance to a Japanese remake of "Oh Mickey", you know, that Toni Basil song from the 80s, and give a little speech in Japanese to them. Japanese people seem fond of speeches, both opening and closing ceremony speeches, and all sorts of varieties of speech in between. I am not much of a speech maker even in English, so this has really tested a part of my social identity. And that I have to do it often in Japanese really really tests me. So I introduced myself to the kids and told them I was going to be their new English teacher and I kept trying to remember how to say it would be fun, and suddenly I couldn't remember how to say that, and I kept mentally parsing through my limited vocabulary, "Is it Tanashii? Tanoshii desu? No, that's present tense. Is it Tanoshii deshoo? Is that even a really statement? Oh man, is it omoshiroi? Or does that just mean it will be interesting? Oh crap, what do I say, they're looking at me, all five hundred of them) so I finally say, in English, "Let's enjoy it together! Gambatte kudasai! (Do your best please!) and raised my fist in the air, like they do when they say gambatte. To which 500 hundred little fists rose up with me and cheered, and suddenly I felt very much like a Communist.

Anyway, it was a long day even with all the togetherness, then a trip back to Edosaki Junior High to help the speech team prepare for their English monologues contest in October. Came home, wrote a little, drank a couple of Chu-hi's, Japan's version of wine coolers which somehow have more alcohol in them than beer, and watched The Village.

I'm not sure what to say about The Village. I was able to predict its "surprise" just by watching the trailers when it first came out. So I wasn't expecting much going into it, and I guess that's why I have to say I found some things I really liked about the movie, probably because I didn't have high expectations. Shyamalan, as always, has a really good, individual style of film making. In this movie, his slightly wooden sounding dialogue is actually made good use of, do to the faux Colonial setting, and that's really smart of him in and of itself. I loved Ron Howard's daughter, like everyone seems to. She totally won me over to care about the movie and not let the stupid things Shyamalan slacks on turn me off. And the setting was nice, and I'm sorry, I actually liked Lucius, Joaquin Phoenix's character. But I'm a softy for the seemingly inarticulate articulate dark brooding outsider boy. He had me at hello, so to speak. And there were just nice touches in the camera work that really added some grace notes to everything. Sorry, but right now The Village is a winner for me. I do wish Shyamalan would challenge himself in the realm of his twist endings, and figure out a way to reinvent himself plot wise, but in the realm of style and setting and atmosphere, he's really doing something beautiful. I have to segment my reviews so that the things that need criticizing get criticized, but I also have to pay some attention to the things a person does well. I don't really believe in the perfect story or the perfect film, although I do think some people make stories and films etc. better than others. But sometimes there's a writer or filmmaker, musician etc., who has failings but make up for those failings with something they can offer that no one else is out there doing. And I appreciate that. (Although I reiterate, I do wish he would figure out a new way to plot and surprise, or maybe just try a different sort of genre altogether).

So, that's my two cents, months late. (Oh, Adrienne Brody, for me, was the biggest turnoff in the whole movie. Bleah. Bad village fool.)

If I failed to mention it, go read Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart. Really good book. Japan's Jonathan Carroll, only he's really appreciated and like a national idol.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it makes you feel better, after six years living there and four years studying the language at university, I still don’t know how to clearly express futurity in Japanese. (There isn’t really a future tense.) The web suggests using -tsumori desu, which I've always understood as expressing intention... but whatever.


1:03 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Those crazy Japanese people. Thanks for the tip, though, and the great conjugation site!

4:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you, trin, are the cutest of the cutes. We should learn how to say -that- in Japanese, because really. The "communist" thing made me laugh out loud. Hee.

and yes, everything you say about The Village is why I liked it too. I love to be "won over" by simple stories that aren't out to shock or wow or amaze me but just let me have fun for a while in a setting that's as spooky and as believable as I make it.

and I loved Joaquin's character too. I didn't understand for a long while why the "fool" was the 'bad' guy, and then I realized it would have been really hard to do any other way and I got over it. But whatever, Joaquin is fantastic, always.


10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

christ. the japanese have this all backwards. you, chris, need to be singing "oh mickey" to them.


12:39 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Well, to be fair to Numasato Shogakko, they are as yet unaware of my karaoke skillz.

Oh, one other thing I forgot to post was how the women teachers were all giggling around me and talking about me, and the head teacher, a male, said, Girls Girls, you better watch what you say, he knows a little Japanese and has a dictionary with him. Then all their giggling stopped and their eyes went wide and suddenly one of them said to me, "I make you second husband."

Then they all started laughing again.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Murakami. Have you read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle?


12:11 PM  

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