Donald Richie, American author, journalist, critic and expert on Japan, dies at 88.
Smilingly excluded here in Japan, politely stigmatised, I can from my angle attempt only objectivity, since my subjective self will not fit the space I am allotted . . . how fortunate I am to occupy this niche with its lateral view. In America I would be denied this place. I would live on the flat surface of a plain. In Japan, from where I am sitting, the light falls just right – I can see the peaks and valleys, the crags and crevasses.
-- from The Japan Journals, 1947-2004[more inside]
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Via io9: "The first nine Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942 are a wonder of animated retrofuturism, giving us a peek into a world that not only had a flying superstrong protector, but also filled viewers' heads with dreams of autonomous robots, comet-controlling telescopes, and machines that could shake the Earth. These films are in the public domain and have been available on the Internet Archive," but now Warner Bros. is releasing them (remastered) on YouTube. The first short, "Superman" (also known as "The Mad Scientist,") was nominated for an Academy Award. Also see: The Super Guide to the Fleischer Superman Cartoons. Find links to all nine episodes and more inside. [more inside]
Gauche the Cellist [Google video, 63 minutes] is based on a story [Japanese; English translation #1, #2] by Kenji Miyazawa, one of the most-loved poet/storytellers in Japan (Miyazaki and Takahata love his works, and have been influenced by him). The movie was made as an independent project by a Japanese animation studio, OH Production (wiki), and took 6 years to complete. It is rather difficult to make a Kenji story into a movie because there are many Japanese just waiting to rip you apart if you screw up, but Gauche has been highly acclaimed, and is considered one of the best Miyazawa movies (IMDb). The story is about a cellist, Gauche, who becomes a better cellist by interacting with animals who visit his home every night. *
The benshi of Japan were live narrators of silent films. "To many 'silent' cinema fans in Japan, benshi were a major attraction. It was usually the film that drew people to the theater, but it was often the benshi which determined which theater a person would attend. Benshi were huge cultural stars of the time, with benshi earning as much, if not more, than many actors." [more inside]
Unlike many cinematic exports, the Disney canon of films distinguishes itself with an impressive dedication to dubbing. Through an in-house service called Disney Character Voices International, not just dialogue but songs, too, are skillfully re-recorded, echoing the voice acting, rhythm, and rhyme scheme of the original work to an uncanny degree (while still leaving plenty of room for lyrical reinvention). The breadth of the effort is surprising, as well -- everything from Arabic to Icelandic to Zulu gets its own dub, and their latest project, The Princess and the Frog, debuted in more than forty tongues. Luckily for polyglots everywhere, the exhaustiveness of Disney's translations is thoroughly documented online in multilanguage mixes and one-line comparisons, linguistic kaleidoscopes that cast new light on old standards. Highlights: "One Jump Ahead," "Prince Ali," and "A Whole New World" (Aladdin) - "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "Luau!" (The Lion King) - "Under the Sea" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid) - "Belle" and "Be Our Guest" (Beauty and the Beast) - "Just Around the Riverbend" (Pocahontas) - "One Song" and "Heigh-Ho" (Snow White) - "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (Cinderella) - Medley (Pinocchio) - "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2) - Intro (Monsters, Inc.)
"There's something very shabby about a noble grave... Political power and the power of wealth result in splendid graves. Really impressive graves, you know. Such creatures never had any imagination while they lived, and quite naturally their graves don't leave any room for imagination either. But noble people live only on the imaginations of themselves and others, and so they leave graves like this one which inevitably stir one's imagination. And this I find even more wretched. Such people, you see, are obliged even after they are dead to continue begging people to use their power of imagination." - Yukio Mishima via Kashiwagi in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. On this, the anniversary of Mishima's transformation into a headless god, a collection of video links. [more inside]
Ozu Yasujiro.com: "This site is non-profit, based in England, and maintained as a shrine and resource dedicated to the late director."
Absolute Director Move over Steve, iMovie just got some competition. The creative distiller creates the killer Shockwave app. that lets you edit and create your own movies using old Japanese monster films.