mjj (flemmings) wrote,

The Japan Foundation was having their usual free films back at the old Bloor Cinema which has been taken over and renovated by an outfit that screens documentaries solely. Is why last year's films were at some inconvenient locale. The Japan Foundation's film nights have been cut to two, alas, but they still show three films. However, not up for a double bill, on Sunday I skipped the one about airlines and went to the one about the little village that puts on an amateur kabuki show every year (or every two years, if you're the real little village.) The film's called Someday in English, on account of them assuming American audiences would no more go see 'A Record of the Disturbances at Big Deer Village' than they'd buy a book called 'The Rivers of London.'

It was lots of fun, though I find the renovated Bloor now has much narrower seats, and I *think* has lost some side space downstairs. But venue apart, I was assailed by a particular gaijin moment in the film.

Film starts with a local bus pulling up to the village. Old granny gets off, and a young woman who pointedly ignores the polite driver (later plot point), and then a geeky young woman with the unisex look the 'not determinedly feminine' women in Japan affect, including the kind of haircut those of us whose hair lies dead flat would kill for. Owner of local restaurant has advertised for assistant to help run same, and geeky girl says she's here to be it. He mutters about her informal manners but agrees to keep her on. Her name, she says, is Lion, written with the characters for thunder and sound. I assumed this was a name she'd given herself ('I wanted to come where no one knew me to settle some things in my life') largely because I knew a woman in Japan whose name was Lion, though I've no idea how she wrote it. Lion, or Raion, is in fact her surname, which I suppose is possible. My guarantor's name was Peaceful Interlude, though he wrote it with totally different kanji.

Anyway things happen, like owner's wife returning after almost twenty years with the guy she ran away with-- owner's best friend, in fact. But aging wife is a bit astray in her wits and keeps calling lover by husband's name, so lover figures she wants to come back home where maybe the familiarity will help her remember things better. Wife moves in and helps cook, and Lion is there to assist if she develops some of her compulsions, like eating weird things and shoplifting. So all is well till the night owner comes out of the bathroom to find the washing machine running, and in it women's flowered underpants. 'Taka-chan, are these yours?' he asks his wife in surprise; but Lion comes and grabs them, saying 'They're mine!' Owner looks shocked. Why does he look shocked? Because evidently everyone but me has thought all along that Lion is a guy.

Turns out we're both right, in our fashion. Lion explains that she's always disliked her male body and wants to figure out just what she's going to do about it-- 'Will my heart rule my body or my body my heart?' And I thought 'cool, but did you have to have the transwoman played by a biological woman?' And then thought again and read through the credits when they came on, while large bodies kept getting up and blocking them. But there indeed was Lion played by one Tomiura Satoshi, as male a name as anyone could wish for. (He was also born three days after I came to Tokyo. Now I feel old.)

Granted I'm having blocked ears and tend to zone out in the evenings, but seriously, I picked up nothing in Lion-chan's Japanese to indicate male or female except a stray boku someplace, and enough tomboys say boku that it didn't bother me. And it might in fact have come after the great reveal. To me this is something of a feat in such a gender-marked language: but if you speak polite enough I suppose you can pull it off.

That asiawiki page should not be trusted overfar. Note how the link to Mikuni Rentaro, who plays the wife's aged father, has no information. The man is a veteran actor. Damn kids...

Last night's film was Villon's Wife, and I lasted fifteen minutes. I was in the balcony, which has the old wide seats, and unlike the floor on Sunday night it was almost full, with lots of friends meeting each other, and groups of Japanese chatting together, and a happy theatre ambience all round. The film is set just post-war, in the vanished Tokyo one rarely sees, and Matsu Takako is gorgeous (she was in Someday-- her picture's in that first link) and listening to the levels of Japanese the actors use is most instructive. But there's only so much I can take of "a long-suffering woman's relationship with her brilliant but self-destructive writer husband in postwar Tokyo." Dazai Osamu wrote some amazing stuff but oh em gee was he a 'ditch him, dear, he ain't worth it' dweeb.
Tags: film, japanese, rl_12

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