Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee

Being set in Fukuoka Prison at the end of the war this novel piqued my interest and also additionally the translation is from Chi-Young Kim whose translation of The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly I read recently. Written by Jung-Myung Lee the book incorporates a fictionalized retelling of the life of the Korean poet, Yun Dong-Ju, it opens with the murder of Sugiyama, a guard of the prison known for his merciless treatment of the prisoners, Sugiyama is found strung up with his lips sewn together, another young guard, Watanabe, takes up the investigation of the murder and inside one of Sugiyama's inner pockets Watanabe finds a poem written out on a folded piece of paper. Something which impresses about Jung-Myung Lee's prose is his ability to weave the story seamlessly between each of the character's pasts with that of Watanabe's investigation in the present tense. The first and primary suspect is prisoner Choi Chi-su, a notoriously violent inmate who is repeatedly sent to solitary after attempting to escape many times, as well as exploring the past lives of Sugiyama and Choi Chi-su and their paths to the prison we are given a portrait of Watanabe, whose father went away to war, leaving him behind with his mother who set up a bookstore in Kyoto, there's an interesting description of the store being a 'fortress of books', but then Watanabe receives his red letter calling him up and eventually his being stationed at the prison.

Watanabe's lines of inquiry into Sugiyama's past also lead him to another inmate, Hiranuma, (Yun Donj-ju's given Japanese name), who was imprisoned for organising political meetings and his involvement with the Korean independence movement, as the novel progresses it becomes apparent that Sugiyama who despised intellectuals and reading begins to have found himself becoming absorbed into the world of books and reading. Posted on Ward 3 of the prison, known for its violence Sugiyama was put in charge with censoring the mail going in and out,  Hiranuma being able to translate Korean to Japanese and only letters written in Japanese having any chance of passing the censor, Hiranuma writes postcards home for the other inmates, whilst writing these cards Hiranuma begins to include in them references and phrases of his favourite authors, in particular the poets Rilke and Jammes which sends Sugiyama searching through the library's shelves to check if they contain anything seditious and should be censored, slowly he begins to be lured into the world of books and the written word.

The book is told with a deep sense of humility and humanity, the jacket mentions that it is perfect for fans of The Shadow of the Wind - a book I've yet to read, but in writing this book and it's appearance in English translation Jung-Myung Lee and Chi-Young Kim  have done a great service in bringing attention to the life of the poet Yun Dong-ju, as well as this the novel is imbued with an appreciation of reading and the ability of the written word to transform lives and outlooks. The plot is full of the enigma's and cruelties of it's times and Watanabe's investigation leads him into uncovering an uncomfortably dark truth about the prison and its practices, the riddle of Sugiyama's death is left unsolved until the last pages of the novel.

The Investigation at Mantle/PanMacmillan

Sky, Wind and Stars at Jain Publishing


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Thief - Fuminori Nakamura

The Thief is narrated by a compulsive pick pocket who steals beyond his needs and although being at the centre of the book there are a number of interesting characters floating around, off camera so to speak with lives which we are only given a glimpse of, most prominently is, Saeko, who the thief has had a relationship with in the past. The novel was awarded the 2010 Oe Kenzaburo Prize, and translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates, as of yet it's the only winner of the prize that has been translated into English, Yu Nagashima, who was awarded the prize in 2007 with Yuko-chan no Chikamichi has been translated into Spanish, and Toshiki Okada who was awarded the prize in 2008 for, Watashitachi ni Yurusareta Tokubetsu na Jikan no Owari, has been translated into German. Although quite a slight book its dimensions are at times broad, and in some ways its a novel of two parts, or perhaps a number of shifting perspectives of befores and afters. The thief, (in one quick scene his real name is revealed as Nishimura, is it?), is involved in a burglary where the real target is not money but a cache of documents, the crime involves himself, two men he knows and has a history with, but is organised by a bigger gang, headed by Kizaki who he is not familiar with but the money is good, although money seems to have relatively little value to him. After the burglary they are told  to leave Tokyo, parts of the narrative is made of the thief's memories of his friend Ishikawa, (whom he sees with a touch of sentiment, as being a master pick pocketeer), that drift back prior to the burglary, Ishikawa's history eclipses but falls short with that of the narrator's in the present tense, as we learn that Ishikawa was killed after the burglary by Kizaki.
Another story line that arises is that of the thief's relationship with a young boy who he observes stealing in a supermarket, noticing that the boy is being watched by the store detective, he lets the boy and his mother know that they have been seen, afterwards the boy attaches himself to the narrator following him to his apartment, the narrator falls into being a somewhat reluctant father figure to the boy giving him money to buy the items on a list given to him by his mother, rather than letting him to continue stealing them. The boy's mother works as a hostess, albeit as a slightly free agent, she provokes his memories of Saeko, and more details of their relationship begin to emerge. Kizaki re-appears with the request, (more of deadly ultimatum which potentially involves the boy and his mother), that the narrator carries out a couple of pick pocketing jobs for him. Whilst Kizaki sounds him out about the details of the two jobs, he relates a story about a French nobleman and a boy whose fate he chooses to control, in the story the malevolent nobleman orchestrates events in the boys life throughout his life as he gets older, the story sounds like it could have been lifted from the writings of de Sade but it presents an interesting conundrum about the nature of fate which is mirrored in the relationship between Kizaki and the thief, and also by a further extension between the thief and the boy that he is trying to steer onto the right path, it's an interesting moment in the novel, juxtaposing the harsh nature of fate whilst also pointing to Sartre's famous quotation: 'We are our choices'.

In some ways and places the novel is slightly formulaic, the omnipotent knowledge of the evil Kizaki reminded me slightly of Koyama in Matsuura's Triangle, but this aspect is redeemed in that the novel's concerns supersede them and creates a space to contemplate these themes and portrayals, and ultimately their consequences, there's a scene where the thief contemplates a scene from his school days, where the thief takes a valuable watch which breaks and his teacher scolds him by chastising that it was: Too good for trash like you!, and this comes across as being central to the book, a portrait of the distortion of values in a society where value is held or only estimated in material worth, by thieving the thief is attempting to escape or transcend these values, or in addition to deny their worth, and to keep that cryptic tower at bay.

The Thief at Soho Press and also Corsair

for Oe Kenzaburo Prize page at Kodansha         

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three-Dimensional Reading

Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911-1932 
Simply put this anthology contains some essential reading, aside from one story, Yokomitsu Riichi's The Underside of Town, the stories here are firsts seen in English translation, Three Dimensional Reading comes with the subtitle: Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911 - 1932, so the time line is set primarily across the Taisho era along with a small overlap with late Meiji and early Showa, the anthology is also accompanied by some remarkably detailed and imaginative artwork by Sakaguchi Kyohei. The spaces concerned vary in nature over the stories, external, internal, and with one situated in colonised Korea, many of them it could be said are Tokyo-centric, the anthology brings pieces together by well known names of the age such as Soseki, Kawabata, Akutagawa, Tanizaki, as well as some who are lesser known in English, in particular a story that I was looking forward to reading being Hori Tatsuo's Aquarium, from 1930, translated by Stephen Snyder, a story of an obsessive lesbian love, after recently reading Hori's later short story Les Joues En Feu, (1932), which is also a nuanced psychological study of a same sex love triangle set in a boy's high school dormitory, Aquarium has a more subjective feel, and of being a tale related rather than being from an internal psychological viewpoint.

Edited by Angela Yiu, who also translates a number of the stories the book is divided into three segments each highlighting a particular theme - Scenes of the Mind, Time and Urban Space and the third part being Utopia and Dystopia, each of the stories are accompanied by fully comprehensive introductions by Yiu. All coming under the umbrella of being examples of modernism the stories do vary stylistically, Yiu's translation of Yokomitsu's Machi no Soko does reflect the story's more abstract elements to slightly further degree than perhaps the previous one by Dennis Keene, abstraction is something that can also be seen in Ryutanji Yu's Pavement Snapshots, translated by Alisa Freedman and Angela Yiu, a story which in a way resembles Yokomitsu's Machi no Soko as it offers a city view, although where Yokomitsu's is at times more panoramic, Yu's is more quick fire in it's representations although remaining multifarious in it's scope. An interesting aspect throughout some of these stories is the points of overlap between them, authors referencing each other or each others works, another aspect which is curious to note is the absence of any female voices within the collection.

The temptation is there to give a synopsis of each of these stories, each of which carry their own unique perspectives, Tanizaki's A Golden Death, translated by James Lipson and Kyoko Kurita, is a story that first appeared in 1914, which reads as being an inspiration for Ranpo's Strange Tale of Panorama Island, (1926), which sees the narrator in a protracted disagreement with his school friend, the son of a wealthy family on the aesthetics of beauty, as in Ranpo's Strange Tale, the story features the building of a fantastical theme park complete with living statues and interpretations of famous, (predominately Western), artworks, Mishima criticised the story. Sato Haruo's A Record of Nonchalant, translated by Yiu is a fantastical dystopian vision which astonishes when pausing to consider it was written in 1929, set in the twenty ninth century the story conveys the injustices and prejudices of a tiered society, between the haves and the have nots, daylight and the air that you breath are commodities under strictest control in this subterranean world turned on it's side, in some ways it could be seen that the story in some ways could have served as an inspiration for Abe Kobo's 1949 story Dendrocacalia. Inagaki Taruho's Astromania, translated by Jeffrey Angles is another story that bears witness to a subtle convergence between East and West which sees two young friends construct a diorama. A fascinating and informative collection offering highly valued perspectives on modernist literature of the period. 

Three-Dimensional Reading at University of Hawai'i Press

online gallery of art by Sakaguchi Kyohei        

Saturday, March 22, 2014

New Murakami Haruki collection - Onna no inai Otokotachi

Piece of book news, just as Murakami Haruki's latest novel is due to appear in English the author has a new collection due for publication on April 18th, his first collection since Tokyo Kitan-syu was published back in 2005. Published by Bungei Shunju, 女のいない男たち - Onna no inai Otokotachi - Men Without Women, brings together six stories, five of which have appeared previously in the publisher's magazine, including the story 'Drive My Car', which saw the author caught in controversy. The collection also contains one story, the title story, previously unpublished.

Onna no inai Otokotachi at Bungei Shunju



Friday, March 21, 2014

Cage on the Sea

Recently published by new imprint Bento Books Cage on the Sea by Kaoru Ohno looks to be a novel of epic proportions, translated by Giles Murphy the book is available in a number of formats, to read more about this novel, an interview with author Kaoru Ohno and more on Bento Books click over to their website.

Cage on the Sea at Bento Books

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Triangle by Hisaki Matsuura

Forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press, Triangle is translated by David Karashima, it could be said that it could be added to the slowly growing number of titles that feature the presence of two celestial globes, although Triangle predates another well known one, (Murakami's 1Q84), by some years, it seems that perhaps the presence of two moons or two suns could become the common motif of novels with characters that find themselves caught in alternative realities, maybe one of the earliest appearances of this could be in The Invention of Morel by the Argentine novelist Adolfo Bioy Casares which was published in 1940. Perhaps the protagonist of Triangle, Otsuki, doesn't find himself in an alternative reality in a literal sense, but does find himself becoming embroiled in dark circles which he struggles to comprehend across this at times unsettling novel.

With an unsettling film at its centre the narrative style of Triangle also feels in places cinematic and could perhaps be described as being a blending of somewhere between Yamada Taichi and the darker side of Murakami Ryu, much of the novel is situated in Tokyo's Taitō District in particular San'ya, a notoriously rough and rundown area. Otsuki is a rather dissolute character, a recovering drug addict, who on returning home one night encounters an old acquaintance, Sugimoto, standing out in the street in only his boxers and vest, (this rather enigmatic incidence is returned to later in the novel and given it's fuller and darker context), through Sugimoto's insistence and the offer of easy work Otsuki is introduced to Koyama, an older man whom Otsuki begins to understands is a renowned calligrapher whose home is labyrinthine with glass panelling and conservatory, at first Otsuki imagines that he is needed to act as a translator into French, but Koyama shows him a film that he has been working on. The film is experimental in nature, a young woman or teenager is seen having sex with an older man, these scenes are cut and interposed with close up images of various insects, later Otsuki is introduced to the young woman as being Koyama's granddaughter, Tomoe, Otsuki is propositioned with completing the film.

To degrees the novel's concerns could be seen as being about the fabric of identity, over the course of the book and through scenes of violent intimidation and torture, at the hands of Koyama's brutal henchman, Takabatake, who also turns out to be the man in the film with Tomoe, Otsuki is faced with re-constructing and de-constructing his own identity, in the past he had burnt out in a normal 9 to 5 job, but finds himself unable to live with the alternatives and finds himself seeking again the reliable safety, albeit the emptiness of this kind of existence. Another interesting aspect to the novel is some of the parallels going on subtly with the narratives, Otsuki's voice is that of the contemporary man and his dilemmas, the extremes that he faces in the novel represent in a way extremes that the age faces, counter to his is Koyama's, the elder established man, in another way Koyama, who we believe at first to be a darkly cultivated aesthete offers the deeper, although much darker, philosophical voice, added to this the narrative poses some post-modernist musing about the fallible nature of representation in the arts. Throughout the novel, Otsuki is caught between two women, Hiroko, a married woman who he is a having an affair with who offers to leave her husband for him and also, Tomoe, the central and most enigmatic character of the novel, (there are at times rumours of levitation), whom Otsuki becomes increasingly infatuated with. Otsuki finds himself filming in San'ya above Takabatake's shop which in places is a curiously laid out and reconstructed replica of Koyama's house.

The threads of the novel begin to come together, or perhaps untogether when Hiroko's husband begins to drop clues after her disappearance, pursuing Otsuki over an incriminating ledger filled with names and also begins to fill in the blanks concerning Koyama whose past holds the truth to his assumed identity, Hiroko's past as well is not what Otsuki believed it to be and forges links to places he'd rather not acknowledge. Dalkey Archive describe Triangle as a moral tale gone wrong, and the darkness here seems to swamp the light, it fuses and defuses in almost equal measure, unnervingly, rather than concluding it seems to point to further darkness, further corruptions and whilst reading it provokes questions on the dilemma of how modern or contemporary novels might depict or mirror the contemporary world that create them.

Triangle at Dalkey Archive 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

Found myself caught up in this short novel that follows the progress of Sprout, a hen who hatches a duckling's egg, allegorical in nature the narrative is full of depictions of the harshness of the yard she lives in, under the constant threat of the weasels and the eyes of the farmer and his wife, all she wants is to break the bonds of her existence, and to look after her adopted sibling - baby, later renamed Greentop. Through this tale of survival and loss, the story of Sprout struggles against the oppressive forces of convention. Translated by Chi-Young Kim, (more information on her translations), the book also contains inter-chapter illustrations by Japanese illustrator Nomoco - Kazuko Nomoto, also illustrator of Gina Ochsner's People I Wanted To Be. The book originally appeared in 2000 and has sold over two million copies, the inside cover likens it to Orwell's Animal Farm, it's a fantastically absorbing fable. 
video via Penguin Korea

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Phoenix Tree and Other Stories


The Phoenix Tree and Other Stories collects four stories by Akutagawa Prize winning author Kizaki Satoko - 木崎 さと子, who received the prize in 1985 for her story Ao giri, which is included here translated by Carol A. Flath as The Phoenix Tree. Kizaki had also previously been shortlisted for the prize with her debut story Rasoku - Barefoot, which won the Bungakukai Prize in 1980. Born in 1939 in Changchun, (then under the occupied name of Shinkyō), Kizaki started writing in 1979 at the age of 40 and had previously lived in France and also in the U.S.A for a number of years, nations which feature in the lives of some of the characters in theses stories as well as being the locations of some of their settings. The first story Barefoot sees the narrator, Seiko, returning to Tokyo to live in a house of her Uncle's after having lived in France for some years. As she prepares a meal she hears the names and shouts of politicians canvassing for votes through the window as they drive pass the house, one in particular Narashima Yumiko the communist candidate stands out to her. As Seiko's observations progress she realizes the extent of how she has slipped out of being Japanese, comparing udon with spaghetti, and later when her Uncle visits she forgets that its her place to dote on him, in routine things like preparing a washcloth for him to wipe his hands, on her return, still in a stage of transience she observes that all Japanese faces appear the same to her. The story also sees Seiko recall her relationship with Henri a man she had met in Paris, a hypersensitive man who had come from a rural area who had an inert fear of the city, Henri as well as being an albino was an alcoholic who suffered from epilepsy. A common theme in these stories is that the narrator has been orphaned and has been taken care of or adopted by relatives, the title story has it's main narrator, Mitsue raised by her Aunt, the narratives are often explorations into unknown family histories, in Barefoot Seiko relates how her Uncle's son, Kuniaki, had used her to vent his lusts for a number of years before being married, another of the stories themes is that of the shallowness of appearances, from the smiles on the politicians posters, she imagines them running through the town barefoot or without make up Narashima she visualises as an Esmeralda running barefoot and dishevelled begging for votes with fabricated urgency. Through Seiko's musings she returns to her relationship with Henri and his eventual spiral into suicide and cross examines her feelings of guilt at her involvement with him.

The second story, Flame Trees, is remarkable for the slightness and originality of it's setting, the Hata's - Makiko and her husband, Motoo, have travelled from France to Pasadena, Motoo is a Professor of Plant Physiology, before setting up in their own apartment they stay at the Ide's, a family of second generation Japanese Americans who Motoo had previously stayed with. The story opens with an international meeting of other Professors, two wives of which feature prominently in Makiko's perceptions of the small non American community, Lyudmilla, and Helga, whom like Makiko is pregnant. Flame Trees also sees narratives delving into the past lives of it's protagonists, the Ide's history of being interned during the war and their managing to build a living through building up their farming business is depicted, whilst watching the coverage of the assassination of Kennedy the time period of the story's setting begins to take shape. Through Makiko's observations life in America is slightly disorientating her, slowly the story of her past becomes revealed provoked by observations of the Flame Trees growing in the area, memories of the evacuation of Manchuria at the end of the war, watching her mother die, earlier there is a discussion on the definition of life, of 'it' - 'something like a crimson flame blazing up', this image is subtly juxtaposed in the narrative with the flames and smoke of her mother's cremation rising up. Another aspect to Kizaki's narratives sees her characters trying to fill in the missing portraits of family members from their pasts, these are scenes provoked from everyday observations, her father's disappearance in broad daylight, taken away by the Russian troops, here one minute gone the next, Makiko visualizes the possibility of him being still alive somewhere in a Serbian prison camp, another as the time draws nearer to her giving birth provokes the memory of seeing a foetus as a child in a neighbours home in Manchuria, which leads to her evacuation with her nanny Neiya, and the fear of eligibility of returning to Japan under the one adult one child policy.

Although the shortest story in the collection, being a little close to amounting to twenty pages the third story Mei Hua Lei displays Kizaki's brilliant subtleness at being able to synthesize imagery and metaphor in depicting the predicament of her characters  caught between past, present and potential futures. Ueda is another character whose past is linked to the evacuation of Manchuria at the end of the war, but in Mei Hua Lei sees him returning to the country some years later and has a guide in Mr Feng and translator Xiao - hong. During his trip he picks out souvenirs for his wife and daughter, among these, a scarf, a dried deer's heart, that is valued for it's medicinal properties and also some silverware which Kizaki imbues with metaphor that resonates across the story, along with the deer's heart which later on is visualized by Ueda's daughter as still beating with life. Purchasing the silverware unlocks Ueda's own memories of the evacuation and of his mother, and the seller tells him that it was taken from the Japanese by advancing Russian troops, the seller adds, 'They come and go don't they?. Who knows, maybe this coaster will return to China sometime', with the inclusion of this silverware comes the awareness that it's presence is relating to something much larger, perhaps the nature of the relationship between the two nations and of each of their prosperity. Ueda keeps the silverware hidden in a draw away from Mari and Yasuko, his wife and daughter, the narrative observing of him that - 'he didn't want to expose these things to the eyes of people who didn't know the land of Manchuria'.

The Phoenix Tree is a novella in size, the narrative comes from Mitsue who receives a call from her cousin Shiro announcing that Oba-san is unwell and that she is returning home to the dilapidated wing of the family estate where Mistue lives with her brother Kohei and his wife, Kazumi. Another story that features an extended family which is split between Mitsue and Kohei who were adopted by Oba-san when they were young and Oba-san's natural siblings, Shiro and his sister Haruko, who remains largely absent in the story until nearing the end, who is living in America raising a family. Shiro explains that Oba-san wants the fact of her return to the ancestral home and her illness to be kept secret from the local villagers and that a doctor shouldn't be consulted, Mitsue is awed by Oba-san's courage in facing death unassisted, and slightly fortuitously for Shiro offers to help to nurse her, he returns to Tokyo sooner than expected. Mitsue is described as a bit of a recluse not having ever lived outside of the village, remaining unmarried, she also carries an unsightly scar across her face from a childhood accident. Although she refuses to see a doctor and hasn't had an official diagnosis Oba-san's illness is breast cancer which is in an advanced state. As she struggles to look after Oba-san Mitsue recalls the days of her childhood, of Oba-san struggling with the burden of raising additional children, and also imagining her relationship with her Uncle who had died prematurely through TB, Mitsue envisions rather romantically that her aunt's return is her wanting to die in the same place as that of her husband. In these stories which are informed by the autobiographical, Kizaki has a great ability in creating complex family scenarios where her characters are left to fill in the blanks of the histories of characters now passed, another incident that remains unclear is the circumstance of Mitsue getting her scar, Kohei tells Mitsue that he witnessed Oba-san amidst an accident of spilling hot oil push Haruko clear leaving the oil to spill and scald Mitsue instead, the revelation of the episode leads Mitsue to readdress her feelings towards Oba-san after it was believed that a maid had been to blame. The situation is compounded when it becomes known that it's Oba-san's desire for Mitsue to have plastic surgery to remove the scar, she wants to see Mitsue as she was before the accident, but is it to assuage her guilt?, it remains unclear. The story is full of incidences offering insights into the complex family relationships to one another, there's constant reappraisal of the relationship between Shiro and Haruko vs.  Mitsue and Kohei who have stayed behind remaining in the village as opposed to Shiro and Haruko having successful lives away. Another facet to this is that Mitsue is secretly attracted to Shiro, but these feelings through the events of the story undergo a transformation. The Phoenix Tree of the story's title refers to a sapling planted by Oba-san in ground opposite the house's veranda years before, as the estate is falling further into dilapidation it's possibly the only thing that'll remain, at the end of the story the family wonder what to do with it, a suggestion made is to transplant the tree or perhaps that Kohei will move in and look after it. Perhaps the kanji in the title of the story is different, the reader can't ignore the possibility that Kizaki is using the title with a slight play on words, as giri in Japanese is a term also meaning 'obligation' or the 'burden of obligation', finishing the story the impression left is that this is what is being passed on by Oba-san, or maybe the Phoenix tree or the wakagiri left behind is a symbol of an obligation or duty served. Overall a fascinating collection.

Carol A. Flath's translation of Rasuko and Aogiri won the Japan - U.S Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature.                                          

Wednesday, January 22, 2014



Apologies, not quite a review of the book as of yet, but I couldn't resist getting more acquainted with the story of Confessions, the novel, Minato Kanae's debut, Kokuhaku, originally appeared in 2008 and the film adaption was released in 2010 directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. Third Window Films in the U.K released the DVD with an additional disc of extra's including a short programme of Q & A's with the child actors cast as the class along with original trailers and a more lengthy programme which features an interview with director Nakashima in which he describes his process of adapting the novel to film. During the interview Nakashima and the production crew talk through among other processes, the unique lighting approach as well as the layered sound recordings used, the film was awarded Best Film for that years Japan Academy Prize, along with Best Screen Play, Best Director, and an award for the film's editior Yoshiyuki Koike.

The film opens with a classroom scene, the class are rowdy and are largely ignoring their teacher, Moriguchi, as she explains that she is intending to resign as their teacher, Moriguchi's narrative develops into describing the events leading up to the death of her daughter, Manami, which the police believed to have been caused through an accident, although Moriguchi believes that her daughter was murdered. As Moriguchi talks through the clues surrounding and leading to her daughters death they begin to point to two of the boys in her class, whom she names as student A and student B, as the film progresses we learn that the boys are named Shuya and Naoki. Pointing out that as they are children they will be exempt from prosecution, Moriguchi begins to describe the method of her revenge, by infecting the two boys milk ration with the blood of Manami's biological father who is dying of HIV, from this moment the film begins to open up into telling each of the characters own confessions or perspectives and motives relating to the death of Manami. The film is far from being a straight forward crime story, underneath each character's motives and involvement a differing number of issues facing society arise and their results are depicted, child abandonment, bullying, a girl's involvement with a deadly teenage cult,  behind these themes it very much feels that the story carries a social commentary. The film is impressive with its slick visual style and soundtrack, it'll be interesting to see how it measures against the translation of the book.

In his interview Nakashima mentions the inclusion of some scenes in the film which don't appear in the original novel, these were added, he mentions to give more insight into Moriguchi's character, aspects that are hinted to in the book are given a fuller interpretation in the film. Many modern films I find sometimes suffer a little from dipping into being extensions of rock or pop videos, maybe this happens on occasion in Confessions but maybe not to a distracting degree or to the extent that it relies upon it, the soundtrack is very impressive, featuring among others Radiohead, Last Flowers is the film's swansong, and also the song Arco-Iris/Rainbow from Boris/Michio Kurihara's album Rainbow.

The film at Third Window Film

film critic Mark Kermode's take on Confessions.

Kokuhaku soundtrack at CD Japan

The Snow White Murder Case, Kanae Minato's 2012 novel is due out in March in a film adaption directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Tiny Tokyo - The Big City Made Mini

A book I'm keen to flick through is Australian artist Ben Thomas's Tiny Tokyo - The Big City Made Mini, 18 months in the making, this looks like an intriguing way to get to know the city.
flick through some of the images over at Ben Thomas's blog
at Chronicle Books