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Zack Davisson (Seattle, WA, USA)
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English Steak: Best of
English Steak: Best of
Offered by samurai_media_JPN4CA
Price: CDN$ 56.10
16 used & new from CDN$ 13.02

4.0 out of 5 stars A pink and glittering collection, July 19 2004
This review is from: English Steak: Best of (Audio CD)
"Shonen Knife - Millennium Edition" is a decent "Best of..." collection, featuring the hits of everyone's favorite Japanese bubblegum punk girls. All of the songs on here are tops, representing what makes Shonen Knife so unique and wonderful. No one else sings silly songs about food in quite the same way. "One Week" in particular is a fun song, detailing a week in the life of Shonen Knife.
The only drawback to this CD is that it contains only English-language songs, which may not be considered a drawback to everyone. However, some of Shonen Knife's best songs are in Japanese and any "Best of..." collection entirely in English is going to be incomplete.
Also, "All I Want For Christmas..." is a great tune, and I believe this CD is one of the few places you fan find it. The cover of The Monkey's "Daydream Believer" is also a lot of fun. Too bad they didn't include their Carpenter's cover as well.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes Collection (1986)
The Return of Sherlock Holmes Collection (1986)
DVD ~ Jeremy Brett
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 75.29
20 used & new from CDN$ 32.60

5.0 out of 5 stars More brilliance, July 15 2004
"The Return of Sherlock Holmes Collection" continues the almost-perfect adaptation of Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes cannon. Jeremy Brett returns as Holmes incarnate, slightly less exuberant due to his illness, but lacking none of the spark and charisma of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." Edward Hardwicke takes over as Watson so completely that David Burke is hardly missed.
All of the high-production values, including excellent location shootings and costumes and such, are carried over along with the cast. Granada Television really put care into this series, and it shows.
There are some great episodes here, such as "Silver Blaze" with Holmes and Watson investigating a missing race horse, "The Devil's Foot" with Holmes battle against his own addiction as well as crime, the wonderful "The Six Napoleons" and the eerie "The Musgrave Ritual." Actually, they are all top-quality.
This series is the finest Sherlock Holmes adaptation, bar none, and the high quality contines in this set.

Geisha: A Life
Geisha: A Life
by Mineko Iwasaki
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.71
92 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Geiko of Gion, July 14 2004
This review is from: Geisha: A Life (Paperback)
Most people outside of Japan do not realize just how exclusive and secret the world of the Geishas is. Connections and wealth buy a seat in an Ochaya, and on the streets of Gion in Kyoto catching a glimpse of a Geiko (Geisha in the Kyoto dialect) is as rare as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. Geiko move fast down the streets and alleyways, and a sighting is something to tell your friends about.
With "Geisha : A Life," Mineko Iwasaki lifts some of the veils of this fantasy world and shows that, underneath the make-up and fancy hairstyles, Geiko are just women, with the same thoughts and feelings and pride and emotion as everyone else. In some ways, this destroys the fantasy, being able to see "behind-the-scenes." The life of a Geiko is very difficult and somewhat...boring. Like a dedicated ballet dancer, the bulk of their life is training and practice, trying to achieve a near-impossible idea of body and movement.
"Geisha: A Life" is not compellingly written, nor as fascinating as the sexualized and fictional account "Memoirs of a Geisha." It is not as academically insightful and full of details as Liza Dalby's "Geisha." But it is honest and real. Mineko's account of her life is straightforward, without much decoration. After reading it, you will know what it is like to be a Geiko.
Woven into this account, perhaps unintentionally, is the loss of Japan's disappearing past. Mineko doesn't bat an eye when telling the story of how she leveled their 100-year old Geisha residence, in order to build a modern night club and hair salon because she thought it would make more money. She talks with hope of her artist husband someday becoming one of Japan's legendary Living Treasures, but doesn't see how she should belong in the same category. She feels loss for the fading world of the traditional Japanese arts, but keeps destroying them along with everyone else.

Sansho the Bailiff
Sansho the Bailiff
VHS

5.0 out of 5 stars A man without mercy is no man, July 12 2004
This review is from: Sansho the Bailiff (VHS Tape)
There is much praise heaped upon Mizoguchi Kenji's "Sansho the Bailiff," including the box cover calling it "one of the finest films ever made." I probably wouldn't go that far, but it is an excellent movie ranking amongst the best of the genre, standing tall with Kurosawa Akira films such as "Red Beard." It is very heavy, with a strong message.
Like Kurosawa, social responsibility is a strong theme in Mizoguchi's works. In "Sansho the Bailiff," we see a blending of the social classes, as an honest aristocrat is exiled, his wife sold to a brothel and his children made slaves, all because the aristocrat believed peasants deserved happiness as well, and that the aristocratic class had responsibilities to the peasants. Mixed together, you see cruelty and mercy amongst both classes, from the tyrannical Sansho and his friendly son Taro, or the martyred slave Namiji and the cruel Zushio willing to brand another slave on the head with a hot iron.
To this there is the message of mercy. "Be hard on yourself, but merciful to others" is the mantra passed from parent to child. A sacred image of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, is a family heirloom, passed down from generations as a reminder.
As in all Mizoguchi's films, it is ultimately the women who suffer, bearing the sins of men on their capable shoulders. Mizoguchi is considered a feminist in Japan, although the standards are different and most Americans would probably not consider "Sansho the Bailiff" a feminist film.

The Woman in the Dunes
The Woman in the Dunes
by Kobo Abe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.00
48 used & new from CDN$ 3.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Sand sticks to everything, July 11 2004
This review is from: The Woman in the Dunes (Paperback)
"Woman in the Dunes" is on every short-list of "must reads" for Japanese literature. It is an incredibly powerful and intense story, with the ability to make you feel as suffocated and trapped as Jumpei in the sand pit. Of all the Japanese books I have read, I found "Woman in the Dunes" to be the most direct, the least subtle. The entire story happens out in the open, naked and vulnerable, raw and hurting. However, there is some metaphor here, but I think each person will find their own.
What gripped me about the story was the sometimes hopelessness of life, of being trapped inside the endless task of working without gain, putting all of your sights and ambitions of some small purchase you might make with your efforts, perhaps a radio. Fighting against the walls of your prison at first, you eventually find that you have become comfortable with your slavery, and then there is no more need to lock the doors. Your comfort has become your chains.
An emotionally challenging and sometimes uncomfortable book, but very rewarding. I won't be able to look at sand again in the same way. It doesn't seem quite so innocent anymore.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
DVD ~ Klaus Kinski
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 88.90
11 used & new from CDN$ 45.94

5.0 out of 5 stars The doomed quest for El Dorado, July 10 2004
This review is from: Aguirre, the Wrath of God (DVD)
I am new to Warner Herzog, and "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" is the 2nd of his films that I have seen. Like many directors with strong artistic visions, I have found his style a bit hard to adapt to but I am appreciating it more and more. The grotesque colors he uses are particularly noteworthy, lending a feeling of unreality that contrasts with the naked realism of his films. The visual images are haunting, and linger after the film is over. The Wrath of God and 400 little monkeys...
"Aguirre: The Wrath of God" is by no means an easy film to get into. The characters are brutal and uninviting, and it is impossible to sympathize with their plight, the conquest of the native peoples. Like the river they travel on, the armored conquistadors move slowly but relentlessly forward, pieces of their humanity and sanity falling off along the way. At one scene in particular, the soldiers dispassionately watch their fellows trapped in a river eddy, discussion whether or not they should attempt a rescue with no more urgency or care than wondering if they should have coffee or tea. The peruvian natives are equally unsympathetic, picking off the soldiers slowly from the jungle, invisible and dangerous. One can see the influence it must have had on"Apocalypse Now."
People call this film dreamlike, and that maybe, but it is also brutally realistic, dirty and harsh. There is a sense that this is exactly what it would be like. There is a definite sense that animals were harmed during the filming, and that people were harmed as well. No camera trickery or artistic license is taken. All deaths are ignoble. Klaus Kinski, as Aguirre, is an uncharismatic Richard III,. slightly hunchbacked and ugly, leading his followers down a mad path that can have only one destination.

No Regrets for Our Youth
No Regrets for Our Youth
VHS
3 used & new from CDN$ 19.00

5.0 out of 5 stars The choices of youth, and their repercussions, July 6 2004
"No Regrets for our Youth" is a drastically different film that I had assumed from the box cover and title. It gives every appearance of a winsome love story, full of smiles and charming tragedies. It is, instead, a political powerhouse that speaks of sacrifice, betrayal of ideals and iron will in the face of adversity. The particular cause in this film is the rise of the militarists in Japan, and the suppression of academic freedom.
The story is a love-triangle between three people, Noge, the driven political idealist, Itokawa, the practical idealist, and Yukie, the lovely daughter of a college professor who has been sacrificed on the political alter. Yukie must chose between a life of suffering with Noge, or a life of relative comfort with Itokawa, knowing that to chose him means betraying the ideals that her father suffered for.
Setusko Hara, known in Japan as the "Eternal Virgin," is simply incredible in "No Regrets for our Youth." I am more accustomed to seeing her in Ozu's films, playing the light-hearted and affectionate daughter. Here, she shows incredible strength in body and spirit, finding her heart by hard labor in a farmer's field. Kurosawa obviously saw something in her that Ozu did not, and brought out a surprising side to the lovely and popular actress.
"No Regrets for our Youth" is a political film, a feminist film, and a film of high ideals. It is also a great film to watch. Kurosawa tried to balance his message with his entertainment, and this film is heavier on the message than his later works, but it still shows his style and flare, and is completely enjoyable.

The Sound of the Mountain
The Sound of the Mountain
by Yasunari Kawabata
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
33 used & new from CDN$ 7.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This too, shall pass, June 30 2004
"The Sound of the Mountain" ("Yama no Oto") should have been a script for an Yasujiro Ozu film. All of the elements are here, with the kindly aged father Shingo who cannot gain his children's respect or love, ready to be portrayed by Chishu Ryu, and the lovely and loving daughter-in-law Kikuko, far more understanding than his real children, designed exactly for Setsuko Hara. The family who has left its rural home to uproot to Tokyo, following the jobs, losing their heart in the process. It really is too perfect.
Instead, the story is guided by the gentle hand of Yasunari Kawabata, who gives us the Japanese family, still disheveled by the end of the war and not quite certain what their roles are and dealing with their loss of identity. Confucian ideals, such as respect for the elder parents, have been swept aside in the post-Occupation reality. Shingo's son Shuichi has come back from the war an indifferent, cold-hearted man, flaunting his affairs with neither spite nor pleasure. Shingo's wife, Yasuko, is an ugly reminder of her sister, whom Shingo loved in is youth yet died. Their daughter Fusako is a burden, returning home with ugly children, her husband a waste and their marriage broken. The only pleasure in his life is the daughter-in-law Kikuko, whom his son wounds daily with his lack of caring.
In the Kawabata style, there is neither complaint nor surface rage at life's inconstant fortunes, but rather an acceptance and perseverance. Life is about moving forward, even at the advanced age of Shingo and Yasuko, who take their burdens as they come. Shingo is the main character, and so this is a book of old age, of looking back at life's mistakes and longing for fading pleasures. "The Sound of the Mountain" is a brilliant, cherishable book, one that captivated and moved me.
Interestingly enough, "The Sound of the Mountain" was eventually made into a movie, and while Ozu didn't get to direct, Setsuko Hara did get the part of Kikuko. Someone else must have had the same idea.

The Gangs Of New York: An Informal History Of the Underworld
The Gangs Of New York: An Informal History Of the Underworld
by Herbert Asbury
Edition: Paperback
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars When New York was really wicked, June 30 2004
"Gangs of New York" is an energetic and entertaining history book, detailing a time in American history that most people, myself included, are largely ignorant of. It tells the tale of the creating and the taming of one of the US's great cities, once a den of crime and vice unimaginable in today's society. Murderers for hire, unbelievable multi-storied monuments to prostitution and drinking, riots and the like are laid out in grim detail.
Gangs like The Dead Rabbits, The Plug Uglies, The Gophers, The Daybreak Boys and The Bowery Bois ruling vast sweeps of New York turf like The Five Points, Hell's Kitchen and Satan's Circus...names to conjure with. Add into this setting a cast of characters such as Hell-Cat Maggie, Kid Twist, Gyp the Blood and the Paul Bunyonesque character of Mose the Bowery Boi, who even then was known to be a Tall Tale and not a real person, and you have the recipe for some interesting history.
However, the book is not all shock-value exploitation. While written with an eye for excitement, these are real stories of real people, complete with photographs of several prominent gangsters and magazine artwork from the time illustrating the manuscript. It tells you something of the creating of a city, and how structures are put into place and wildness is tamed. I was surprised to find out that The New York Times is older than the New York Police Department. A newspaper was a greater priority than either a police department or a fire department.
Anyone expecting an adaptation of the film, however, will be disappointed. Scorsese pulled characters from history and jumbled them altogether, regardless of the years separating their lives. It would be like a Western featuring Jessie James, Billie the Kid, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hitchcock, Bat Masterson and several others who were not alive at the same time. Also, this is a history book, so there is no story as such. Just the passage of time.

Thousand Cranes
Thousand Cranes
by Yasunari Kawabata
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.00
46 used & new from CDN$ 5.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stain of a dead woman's lipstick taints the rim of a teacup, June 26 2004
This review is from: Thousand Cranes (Paperback)
The metaphor used in "Thousand Cranes" is tea, but not simple dried leaves in boiled water. Along with tea, in the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony, is the complete picture created by the individual pieces of the art, bowels and whisks and jugs for carrying water. The various utensils, each with their own pedigree, are only able to find their true use in the hands of a Master of tea.
In this story, the metaphor is skillfully brought to play in Kikuji, who has inherited his father's women and guilty past in the same way that he has inherited his tea cottage and collection or rare cups and utensils. Chikako, a discarded mistress of Kikuji's father, is the poisonous Master of tea, manipulating others with the same subtle skill she maneuvers the ceremony. In equal measure, Fumiko, daughter of Kikuji's father's favorite mistress, also struggles under the burden of inherited guilt, even while seeking to escape, giving her mother's tea items to Kikuji as gifts yet not able to free her mind with the same ease.
True to Kawabata's style, the unsaid rings much more loudly than the dialog, and surface tone of calm belies a raging whirlpool sucking the characters deeper and deeper. I found "Thousand Cranes" a captivating read, and was unable to put it down until I had finished the story. A small book, it does not lack for power.

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