3 days ago
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Its Super Bowl Sunday, but I can't really get into the mood.
Bomber and I took our expansion Fantasy Football team to the Bowl game earlier this year. We ending up losing, but received no money for finishing second, both in the regular season standings and in the playoffs. I still have a sour taste over that, and my NFL interest waxes and wanes on a three year cycle anyway. I don't know the personnel as good as I used to when I toyed around with the idea of writing a book about the entry draft in professional sports, particularly hockey and football. That project, like many others of that time, fell stillborn from my imagination. These days, however, I have a couple other projects gestating that I'm pretty convinced will see the light of day.
On the eve of Super Sunday, I decided to have one of those old fashioned, messy movie nights and live the Good Life. I loaded up on the artery encrusting munchies and picked up three as yet unspooled titles.
The Informant! had its moments. I didn't know what to think about Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans . Either it was the first work of genius from Werner Herzog since the 1970s, or it was truly execrable. Irregardless, it needs to be seen to be believed. And no, its not as good as Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, although everyone involved denies that it is a remake.
But the highlight of the night was Tokyo Sonata. I've loved each and every film that I've seen by Kiyoshi Kurasawa (the "other Kurosawa"), and that did not change. I had previously seen it described as his first departure from, for lack of a better term, the "horror" genre, but this seemingly Ozu-esque domestic drama displayed all of the signs and markings of the very best Kiyoshi films.
In the course of watching it I was transported back to my last years in Vancouver.
My last years of sessional serfdom.
After spending many Calypsodic years in the bucolic beauty of the Land of the Lotuseaters that was Point Grey and Kitsilano, I served my last two years in the edgier and eastern part of town. House sitting at Broadway and Main showed me a new side of Vancouver, and I have to admit I spent a lot of time (and money) ekeing out a bohedonist living. But it was in the final year of my west coast adventure that I started to consume a lot of Asian films, especially Japanese ones.
I was the only white guy living in a Sikh neighbourhood. A neighbourhood where all the streets bore suitably Scottish names like "Waverley", "Dumfries", and "Argyle". The only other non-South Asian guy in the area was my Chinese landlord and his family.
It was during that year, in between the thrice-weekly commutes to the university college buried in the Fraser Valley, that I introduced myself to the often ragged and twisted glories of Japanese cinema. I discovered a place called "Happy Bats Cinema" on Main Street that seemed to specialize in well-known and obscure films from way Across the Sea. It was wonderful to see the traditional yakuza, samurai and melodramatic genres refracted by the new and different sensibilities of the new generation. Many Japanese people I know tell me that the majority of Japanese filmgoers prefer their mainstream manga and melodrama. Their J-Horror. Even eiga pink soft porn. But the film festival favourites always made me wonder what the hell had happened in postwar Japanese culture that made these films so unusual and taboo-shattering.
Watching these films in my east end garret helped to build my levee and salve the wounds of depression and self-sabotage. My Chinese landlord had relatives who, counter-intuitively, owned a Japanese restaurant, and about once per week he brought me a bag containing a week's worth of "unused" sushi. During those frequent lapses of reason when I didn't worry about the freshness of the otherwise quite good sushi, I would enjoy it while watching my Japanese films. By the time I moved out, I had a freezer full of uneaten sushi than had to be jettisoned.
With the passage of time, these have become fond remembrances that have added to a treasury of meritorius memory from that time and place.
Five years ago, I couldn't wait to get out of Vancouver. Now, every time I see the familiar scenes from that place, I feel the tug of nostalgia.