Posts Tagged ‘Yukio Mishima’

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

So much has changed in my life since I became the father of two girls.  Though it is definitely not the most radical, or life-changing transformation, one of the most notably obvious is my lack of control when it comes to entertainment. My television is no longer my own. Instead of Mad Men, I am forced to watch Wild Kratts.  Instead of The Sopranos, I must listen to Curious George.  Instead of Powerpuff Girls….well, okay, we both enjoy the Powerpuff Girls.

Like TV programs, the film choices for our family movie nights are always made by the two girls. Luckily, as the girls age, movie night is becoming more tolerable. Now we get to watch The Muppets, or Hugo, or the first three Harry Potter films.  I enjoy these flix, but even well-made children’s films are still children’s films.

During the last six years,  the world of film has passed me by, but I think I am finally ready, willing and able to do something about it. So, this summer, I have begun to watch some of the critically and commercially acclaimed films of the last couple years. But, to my surprise, I have found big blockbusters  such as The Avengers, or Skyfall, or Avatar generally disappointing.  Before children, I was able to lose myself in such films. It is not as easy now. I think the problem is that I get an overabundance of simplistic scripts, prat falls, and predictable plot twists from most of the movies my daughters watch.  Many Hollywood movies are similar to these children’s films, with the exception of the “ intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking” that marks serious cinema.

I’m looking for a little something more.

Thus, several weeks ago I began to explore those famous, sometimes infamous, always influential films that ‘everyone should see at least once.’  I am talking about the classics. The problem is, I am not sure what I should watch.  Maybe you, dear reader, can help.  Here is what I have viewed so far:

Canalblog_Livres_Mishima_Film

Scene from ‘Mishima’

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) – an artistic, highly stylized biopic of the great Japanese writer who committed seppuku at the age of 45.  Incredible film.

Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Sergio Leone’s epic tale of Jewish-American gangsters living, fighting, and dying in 20th century New York.  Honestly, I felt this film has not held up over the years. It seemed dated.

Seven Samarai (1954) – One of the most influential films by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.  I found the plot strangely familiar, and then I realized it was because there have been roughly 200 movies since Kurasawa’s film that have copied it.

The Seventh Seal (1957) – Probably Ingmar Bergman’s most famous film, largely because of the scenes of a Medieval knight playing chess against a personified death. I was very pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this seventh-seal-chessclassic was.  The film is interesting, funny, intelligent and full of life.

Gary Cooper in 'High Noon'

Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’life. A must see!

High Noon (1952) – This American Western is not your average shoot-em up cowboy flick. The movie deals with a sheriff’s inevitable upcoming gun battle with a psychotic criminal, and the sheriff’s attempt to answer why he is not running away from likely death. I really wished the film ended before the gunfight began, since I felt the cerebral nature of the first 9/10th of the film was much better than the ‘climatic’ show-down.

This is what I have seen so far, but I have a couple films in my queue for the next week.  Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus, and Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita are on the docket.  But, what then? What are some other films that everyone should see at least once?  Let me know what you think.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

Last week, I wrote a Turtle post calling for a ‘Beach Read Revolution’. In that blog, I made the contention that “beach reads” should not be fluffy, forgettable works, but instead entertaining contributions to literature that make the reader ponder life and humanity.  Naturally, I thought we should follow this call for revolution up with some Turtle beach read ideas.  Hence, each day this week, the Flâneur’s Turtle ‘Hall of Fame’ bloggers will be providing their own personal beach read lists.

For my list, I would like to point out that I am going about this in an unorthodox way. Most beach read lists are made up of books that have already been read.  Mine will center on books that I plan to read this summer.  You, dear reader, will also notice that my revolutionary beach read list has a theme as each book is either a family chronicle, or a series.  So, without further ado, here we go:

  • The Family Moskat by Isaac Bashevis Singer – I have been wanting to read something by Singer for a couple years, and this is his novel that intrigues me the most.  It is the story of a Eastern European Jewish family 220px-TheFamilyMoskatliving in Warsaw during the 19th and early 20th century. I am fascinated by the Eastern European Jewish experience during the modern era, and Singer was a novelist who powerfully explored that experience. I am excited to start this one.
  • 9780307834317_p0_v1_s260x420The Sea of Fertility by Yukio Mishima – The Sea of Fertility is a cycle of four novels (Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of  Dawn, and The Decay of the Angel), centered on the changing world of Japanese society from the early twentieth century to the post-Second World War occupation.  I read Mishima for an undergrad class years ago, and instantly was taken by his powerful, yet beautiful style.  Though I don’t agree with his political outlook, his poetic language is second to none.
  • The Red Wheel Cycle by Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn – I believe there are four novels in this cycle, but only two have been translated into English; August 1914, and November 1916.  Both august1914books investigate the Russian experience during the First World War, and the Russian Revolution of 1917.  I am going to give Solzhenitsyn a second chance this summer. In undergrad, I read his famous work One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and was underwhelmed.  With a better understanding of Russian history today, I think I will now appreciate his work.
  • images (13)The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning – I will admit, I know nothing about Olivia Manning or her novels.  I just stumbled upon these recently, and I was intrigued.  The trilogy is the tale of a family living in Bucharest during the beginnings of World War II.  I find the mid-twentieth century history of Central and Eastern Europe enthralling; I have come to appreciate that this history has greatly shaped the world we live in today.  So, why not give this classic series a try?

 

Well, that should keep me busy for the summer months.  Perhaps in September I will revisit these books with reviews for you, dear readers.  Perhaps.  Now, off to the beach with I. B. Singer!