Artsy Movie of the Week: Tatsumi

The Museum of Modern Art’s film society presented the US premier of Tatsumi last night as part of its ContemporAsian film series. This is an animated biography/animation of the life and word of Japanese “cartoonist” and manga pioneer, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who led the movement in the late 1950s to move Japanese manga out of the realm of children’s comics to the art form now recognized as long form graphic novels.

I was into comics about as much as the next kid, but never really geeked out over them and have never been drawn to Japanese manga or anime. Speed Racer was about as much as I could take.

The film, directed by Singapore director Eric Khoo, intersperses a animated biography of Tasumi (based on Tatsumi’s autobiography, A Drifting Life) from his childhood during World War II through his life in the post-war 50s and the economic explosion of the 70s with animated versions of his “novels”, a form he invented and dubbed gekiga,  or “dramatic pictures.” There were five stories retold in the film. The first was a very heavy story about a young photographer who snaps a picture of a shadow of a son comforting his mother at the instant the bomb went off over Hiroshima, baking their silhouette into a wrecked wall. There was a terrible tale of a factory worker who lives alone with a pet monkey, loses his arm in a machine accident, and decides to free the monkey by dropping it into the monkey cage at the zoo, only to watch in horror as the zoo monkeys tear it to shreds. A story of a post-war whore who takes up with a GI and performs drunken incest with her father. A failed manga artist who decides to move from children’s stories to porn and is caught drawing lewd grafitti on the wall of a public toilet (lots of vomit and poo in that one). A retiree who hates his wife and wants to go out with a bang by having one last love affair but winds up being impotent when he gets his chance …..

This was heavy stuff. Some of the audience would get up and walk out towards the end when things got particularly heavy. But most of the audience was composed of Japanese ex-pats, and my sense was Tatsumi is a very good story teller with a penchant for getting into the complex post-war Japanese zeitgeist in a way an American can never really understand. Good film. Glad I went. Made me uncomfortable, choked me up, and I loved the blend of biography and fiction.

Having been to Japan a grand total of two times, I can barely claim to understand the culture, but Tatsumi seemed to confirm, in a bleak way, my darkest projections of what life must have been in that fascinating society in the days following the nuclear explosions through the astonishing rebirth as a world power; all told across the span of one man’s life.


Opening Day

Lester on the mound vs. Verlander in Detroit at 1 pm today. I’ll be in the car doing my best to drown the polar bears by driving the way-too-familiar 250 miles from NYC to Cape Cod. As a card carrying member of the BLOHARDS (Benevolent Loyal Order of the Honorable Ancient Red Sox Diehard Sufferers of New York) offer this listening tip for any fellow Bay State commuters who carry the ring into Mordor every week on Route 95.

The first solution is to drive a contemporary vehicle with SiriusXM and listen to the game via satellite. That isn’t in my cards, nor is bluetoothing the MLB app on my Android phone into the car’s speakers. That’s way too hipster and just … weird. So, for your old school listening pleasure, here is the roster of radio stations to code into the pre-sets listed in order of a return from the land of Darkness back to the Promised Land. There really isn’t anything to compare with listening to Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien call a game through the 1950s-tinny crackle of an AM radio.

  1. Manhattan to Bridgeport — 1490 AM WGCH in Greenwich
  2. Bridgeport to New London — 1080 AM WTIC Hartford (best signal in Connecticut)
  3. New London to Warwick — 1440 AM WILI Willimantic (unneccesary if you switch to from WTIC to the station below around Mystic)
  4. Warwick to Fall River — 103.7 FM WEEI Providence
  5. Cape Cod — 96.3 FM WEII Cape Cod

The full list of stations in the Red Sox Radio Network is here.

Now, with everything possible before us and no real numbers on the board (sorry, but the Mariners vs. the A’s kicking things off last week in Japan does not constitute a real Opening Day in my book) the slate is clean, everyone is without sin and hope springs as eternal as …. Spring. My prediction for the 2012 season: the Tigers win the World Series. Ok? Got that? The Beloved Red Sox duke it out with the Blue Jays to finish above Baltimore at the bottom of the AL East, arguably the most difficult and competitive division in any pro sport.  The Sox just don’t have the pitching this year in the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation to have any hope. Dice-K might  be resurrected like some apparition rising from the ashes, and pigs might fly, but there just isn’t any there there when it comes to the starting pitchers. So, let’s celebrate Fenway’s 100th birthday and get all mushy about the lyric little bandbox,  put d’affaire de poulet et biere behind us, give Bobby V. his honeymoon season and hope the Money Men do well with their hedge funds and can afford some new arms next winter, because they didn’t spend diddly this year.

Oh, and one last thing. I already miss Tim Wakefield, my favorite Red Sox since Bill Lee. The man was a hero to all men of a certain age and I once rode an elevator with him at the Mass Eye and Ear Clinic. So I have that going for me.

And another last thing, since every purple-prosed baseball poet has to end the season with that weepy Bart Giamatti quote about baseball seasons ending and breaking our hearts, every cliched Opening Day post must embed this classic sonorous James Earl Jones panegyric to the pastime from Field of Dreams:



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