Archive for Rashomon

Rashomon, plus 47 ronins, plus…

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2020 by xi'an

Another chance encounter (on Amazon) led me to read a graphical novel entitled Rashōmon, by Victor Santos. Which uses the same short stories from Ryūnosuke Akutagawa as Akira Kurosawa in his superlative film, if not with the same intensity. (The very first sentences are inspired from the first pages of the book, though.) And in a second part builds upon the tale of the 47 rônins which I read last summer in Koyasan. Plus a possible appearance of Miyamato Mushashi, the great 17th Century swordsman (depicted in two wonderful novels by Eiji Yoshikawa). While this is historically impossible, since Rashōmon takes place in the 12th Century and the 47 rônins acted in 1702, the theme cementing the story is the presence of a detective named Heigo Kobayashi, who “solves” both crimes but is nonetheless outsmarted by the novel “femme fatale”… Without a clear explanation as to how she did it.

While I found the rendering rather entertaining, with an original if convoluted drawing style, I was rather disappointed at the simplistic and Westernised adaptation of the subtle stories into a detective story. Calling upon (anachronic) ninjas as if the historical setting per se was not exotic enough. And the oddly modified role of the main female character into an Hammet-like heroin kills the ambivalence that is central to both Akutagawa’s and Kurosawa’s versions.

I am going to take the train next week! [prediction]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on December 6, 2015 by xi'an

“…n’importe quelle personne appréciant le film Rashomon d’Akira Kurosawa, allant au travail en vélo et aimant le couscous va prendre le train la semaine prochaine”

In the Sciences & Médecine booklet of Le Monde this week, I found an interview of Michael Jordan on big data, under the title [I translated as] “We can always twist data the way we want”. (En français, bien sûr!) The content of the interview is great, not only because it comes after a series of poor quality articles on the “big data” revolution, but also because it sets statistics and induction at the centre of the analysis. I also liked the reference to Voltaire and transversal competences as fundamental. (Presumably this interview was done when Michael took part in a “big data” conference last month.) But what I appreciated most is the above quote that a person who likes Rashômon, bikes to work, and appreciates couscous should take a train next week! Michael intended it as a joke on the excesses of prediction, but as it happens, every single entry applies to me. Including taking a train to London at the end of next week…!

True Detective [review]

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2015 by xi'an

Even though I wrote before that I do not watch TV series, I made a second exception this year with True Detective. This series was recommended to me by Judith and this was truly a good recommendation!

Contrary to my old-fashioned idea of TV series, where the same group of caricaturesque characters repeatedly meet new settings that are solved within the 50 mn each show lasts, the whole season of True Detective is a single story, much more like a very long movie with a unified plot that smoothly unfolds and gets mostly solved in the last episode. It obviously brings more strength and depth in the characters, the two investigators Rust and Marty, with the side drawback that most of the other characters, except maybe Marty’s wife, get little space.  The opposition between those two investigators is central to the coherence of the story, with Rust being the most intriguing one, very intellectual, almost otherworldly, with a nihilistic discourse, and a self-destructive bent, while Marty sounds more down-to-earth, although he also caters to his own self-destructive demons… Both actors are very impressive in giving a life and an history to their characters. The story takes place in Louisiana, with great landscapes and oppressive swamps where everything seems doomed to vanish, eventually, making detective work almost useless. And where clamminess applies to moral values as much as to the weather. The core of the plot is the search for a serial killer, whose murders of women are incorporated within a pagan cult. Although this sounds rather standard for a US murder story (!), and while there are unnecessary sub-plots and unconvincing developments, the overall storyboard is quite coherent, with a literary feel, even though its writer,  Nic Pizzolatto, never completed the corresponding novel and the unfolding of the plot is anything but conventional, with well-done flashbacks and multi-layered takes on the same events. (With none of the subtlety of Rashômon, where one ends up mistrusting every POV.)  Most of the series takes place in current time, when the two former detectives are interrogated by detectives reopening an unsolved murder case. The transformation of Rust over 15 years is an impressive piece of acting, worth by itself watching the show! The final episode, while impressive from an aesthetic perspective as a descent into darkness, is somewhat disappointing at the story level for not exploring the killer’s perspective much further and for resorting to a fairly conventional (in the Psycho sense!) fighting scene.

After the quake

Posted in Books, Running with tags , , , , , on April 21, 2011 by xi'an

Another book I read during my trip to Bristol is Murakami’s After the Quake. I was pointed out to it thanks to a column in Le Monde that appeared after last month earthquake. After the Quake takes place after the 1995 Kôbe’s earthquake.  It is a collection of independent short stories. The final short story, Honey Pie, was first published in The New Yorker and is uniquely and outwordly beautiful. If very remotely connected to the eathquake. Landscape with Flatiron is another beautiful and subtle story about the meaning of life and the mesmerizing quality of beach bonfires. Three other short stories contain some supernatural elements, a bit in the spirit of  the fantastic Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. And maybe harder to apprehend, even though Thailand is very moving too. This was my first collection of short stories by Murakami, even though I had planned to read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running for quite a while…. (Ironically, Murakami got the Akutagawa prize in 1976, named after the author of Rashômon, and mentions it as well for a self-portrait writer in Honey Pie.)


Posted in Books with tags , , , on April 9, 2011 by xi'an

On the way to Bristol, I read the short Rashômon and other stories from the Japanese writer Ryûnosuke Akutagawa. This was the first time I had read anything from this writer, which may sound surprising when considering that Kurosawa’s Rashômon is my favourite movie (much to my kids’ despair!). The movie is actually built over two short stories from the book: the one called Rashômon provides the setting for the movie, when several persons seek protection from a torrential rain under the neglected Rashô door in medieval Kyoto. The central plot of the movie is taken from another story called Into the Grove and the way it inspired Kurosawa is quite understandable, with all major characters telling contradictory versions of the rape and murder by the famous bandit Tajômaru. While I really enjoyed reading those short stories, I think Kurosawa sublimed them much further into a soul-gripping circle of death and passion, through long plans with a lot of silences and close-ups on faces and looks where the light is the message medium… (The actor playing the bandit is Kurosawa’s favourite, the fantastic Toshirô Mifune, also appearing in Seven Samourai. This helped, too.) In the introduction to the (French) book, Akutagawa is presented as a Japanese counterpoint to 19th century naturalist writers like Huysmans, but I feel this is a very inappropriate comparison. Akutagawa is much more of a tale writer, building on historical elements and incorporating, at time, fantastic events into the picture. While it is difficult for me to read Into the Bushes without translating it into scenes of the movie, I was totally entranced by the story Hell Screen as it is both terrible and superb in its depiction of a father carried away by his quest for artistic perfection, to the point of sacrificing his own daughter. A major writer, undoubtedly (he committed suicide in 1927 leaving a note about his “vague uneasiness”).