Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Whicker man and St Trinians

Sensitivity and empathy has been more of a curse than a blessing for me although I do not regret the nature of my feelings. I wrote this in the morning as a passing thought. I then knew it was important to think about the week ahead and undertake some actions, including attending to matters put in the pending tray. The overwhelming majority of items are still there and in fact I can now only remember attending to one. So however insightful and understanding we are, we believe what we wish to believe, especially about ourselves and self deception is the King even if sensitivity is our Queen.

The reason why I did not attend to matters pending is that I enjoyed a morning of preparing for the week ahead, listening to AOL music radio. The Black- Keys Have love will Travel rated 5. Chris Isaak- Baby did a bad thing 7. Duffy- Hanging on too long Rockferry album 8.Blues Brothers- Shake your Talkfeather 5.John Mayer-Belief album continuum 8.Howling Wolf-Three hundred pounds of Joy album the Chess box 6.Tom Watts-Please wake me up 0. Worse record ever category. Kate Melua-In my Secret Life 7 from Pictures. Nina Simone-Since I fell for you 6.Mississippi John Hurt- Frankie 8.Stevie Ray Warne and Ray- Life by the Drop 6. BB King and Eric Clapton-When my hearts starts beating like a hammer 7.Mark Knofler- Baloney again 7.Jimi Hendrix- Born Under a Bad Sign 6 Then I had intended to listen to tracks from some of the alums which were also available but became sidetracked by the arrival of a DVD which I had added to the list to view but its arrival did lead to shaking of the head, are you really going to use valuable time watching this although it would give another connection showing changing times between those of previous generations to the present. I watched the film over lunch and playing chess and hearts, it was that kind of film. Later winding down after the cricket I watched another film with full attention, a film I have seen several times before and have the DVD and realised there were also connections.

The two films raised an issue which has become relevant for all parents landing one couple according to media reports to be reported to the police by a major photographic developing company because it contained photos taken of one of their children in the bath,. There is good reason for public concern and social vigilance not just because there is a trade in such photos which usually indicates more serious criminality, but it also shows insensitivity by parents about how their children will react to such photos, however innocent, in the future. Most parents want reminders of what their babies and children were at all times, often to mark a time when they as adults were as innocent as their children. Sometimes it also is an indication of a parental attitude towards the wearing of clothes and belief that we if see and accept the body as it is, we are more likely to see ourselves and others, and life as it is, and therefore be able to cope more effectively than is often the situation.

On one hand I grew up sharing a bed with three adult women until an age long after I should have been, but my attitude towards my body was shaped by the headmistress of the Catholic preparatory school who advised that we should never reveal our bodies to others and always dress behind a screen which at the time others in the class thought as funny, as presumably they like me did not live in a home where bedrooms had dressing screens, and a fiction created by Hollywood, along with married couple having individual bedrooms or twin beds. And everyone wearing pyjamas. Nowadays do you see any adult wearing pyjamas in contemporary films? These two approaches towards the body are covered in the two films although in very different ways.

The original Wicker Man has become a highly regarded cult film, usually as a mystery film with a horror ending, and because it appears to show the body of Brit Ekland, although in fact a body double was used for the scene when she attempts to seduce Edward Woodward who plays an ultra conservative policeman also a lay preacher who is engaged but is a virgin who does not believe in sexual activity before or outside of marriage.

The film is not to be confused with the more recent remake which some might enjoy who have not seen the original but not the two teenage girls who also the film one afternoon in the Sunderland multiplex along with half a dozen others.. I do not know if they were familiar with the original but as the film ended one said to other in a voice which addresses the cinema that was a load of……… which I added a silent amen. I say this has the ending of the film had a similar effect on me as when I saw The Passion.

The original film is a story about a environmental ancient God worshipping group of islanders somewhere off the coast of Scotland blessed with a climate which enables the growth exceptional fruit and vegetables run by the Lord of Island who encourages the kind of flower power freedom from childhood until the ending of the physical body which although came to the fore in the sixties has always held an attraction for some among the intellectual classes as well as rural primitives. Edward Woodward receives an anonymous letter addressed personally but post marked on the Island claiming that a named teenage girl has gone missing and appealing to him for help. That he embarked on the trip alone and without appearing to make any preliminary enquiries is a flaw which needs to be overlooked

Unable to fathom the situation and horrified by what he finds after arriving he stays on accommodated at the only Inn. He is incredulous by what eh sees and an hear especially at the local school where for some unexplained reasons the girls are taught separately from the boys and by the attitude of the Lord of the island who asks Woodward if he refreshed by the sight if a group of unclothed teenage girls who can been seen in the distance jumping over fire in a ceremony prior to May Day. Putting to one side the question of child nudity on screen the more important issue is the extent to which parents should be allowed to raise children in their particular beliefs including religious beliefs without some independent socially appointed supervision. Should circumcision ever be tolerated? Should regarding female children as only baby producers, domestic slaves and doing the work in the fields while the men set the rules for society, and take all the political, professional and managerial roles ever be regarded as acceptable whatever the over hanging and religious structure. It is one thing for educated adults to make decisions about their beliefs and behaviour but is it ever justified in relation to children without ensuring they have all viewpoints and have reached an age to be able to make their own assessment and decisions? The film rightly carries an adult certificate not because of the implied nudity but because of the issues raises and its ending.

There is a scene in St Trinian's 2007 in which a teenage girl is robbed of her clothing while taking a shower and the product is shown immediately on the internet while girls in the sixth have created a nice little earner from sex chat lines and other contemporary money makers although the scrupulous handling of the events on screen would not embarrass maiden' aunts or contemporary Mrs Whitehouse’s, although I would hope they like me would conform the overall morality of morality of the film even if does accurately reflect contemporary behaviour. I first came across the St Trinian books before I moved from the Children's section of the Library to the adults and was still at school when the first film with Joyce Grenfell was made and starred a young George Cole. Later films included Margaret Rutherford and Alistair Sim in Drag and one in the 1960's Frankie Howard and Reg Varney. St Trinian's is an expensive fee paying boarding school for the daughters of criminals of all classes outwitting the Department of Education and its Ministers, bearing other Girl schools by foul means and operating various profit making scams. In the books and early films the girl smoked, this is now taboo and drank and gambled, which girls at such schools have always done and do.

St Trinian's is based on a real school St Trinian in Edinburgh which practised in 1922 the revolutionary education concept that discipline should be self imposed rather than imposed. The school continued until 1946 when the head and founder retired. During the war two girls who attended the school were evacuated and are reported to have told of their experiences at the school to Ronald Searle who after spending part of the War in a Japanese camp returned to create Cartoon's for Lilliput magazines which explored what such a school could become like, including visiting team hockey plays slaughtered with pitch forks.

The approach appears to support the content of the Lord of Flies that in a world run by school boys the bullies and the criminals take over and the weak and the young are exploited and killed. On Wednesday afternoon I listen to the a series this week about siblings of various kinds where those who had experience of children's homes, while highly critical of carers spoke with considerable understanding and affection for the relationships which emerged between the children. There was also the experience of one former foster child who had grown up treated no different from the children of the family including going to church only to have his whole life turned upside down and inside out when an older Jewish brother came to claim him.

As to the 2007 version Rupert Everett continued the tradition developed of the headmistress being in drag and Colin Firth plays the Minister of education with Russell Brand Flash Harry. Girl's aloud also have a cameo role as St Trinian school girls. According to Wikipedia another is planned for 2009 called the Legend of Fritton's Gold. I would be inclined to discourage teenage daughters to see either although I believe such an establish would provide a good education for learning to survive in a world ruled by money lenders and international corporations.

The main event of the day was a cricket match, This as not just the opportunity for the team and its supporters to reach a Cup Final day in successive years, but for me it would be something of a pilgrimage to mark a year since the admission of my mother to hospital for her final week's of life. I was quietly confident given recent results although having on paper such a stronger team might prove not the blessing some suggested. It was a perfect Cricket playing evening, warm, sitting in the shade and that intensity of light which is rare in England even in summer. The public responded in their thousands to the small entrance fee for adults and there were many more children of all ages able to enjoy the spectacle, with free parking and free scorecards and the Durham proceeds of the evening donated to charity.

The match was far from one sided with both sides losing early wickets, then gaining runs until with a quarter of overs left both sides had achieved the same runs and loss of wickets. However whereas Durham had added significantly in the last two overs the ability of Glamorgan to do like wise was the question. Unexpectedly, given the performance to that point, they collapsed and Durham had made it and the joy was immense. I am sure many of those present will return for similar games next year and hopefully some will attend other forms of the game and some of the youngsters inspired to take up the game themselves. That should have been that apart from placing on record my appreciation for the effort put in by the club in difficult circumstances, given my previous criticism. Sadly there was a situation which could affect the role of some members as Ambassadors for the club on their travels to other grounds. However, hopefully as this was restricted to a small group, I have decided that the less said in public the better. There is another match tomorrow evening in the 40 over league so I will not be able to see the approach taken by regional media although I may be able to assess the reaction of Members, depending on where I decide to sit.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Shoes of the Fisherman and Hadrian

I watched again the Shoes of the Fisherman, my second most favourite film to Casablanca. I watch every time it is shown on television, and I have a second printing in 1965 of the 1963 Australian edition of the Morris West novel. He is also the author of the more book also made into a commercially popular film, the Devils Advocate. There are several reasons why I can watch the shoes of the Fisherman time and time again and find new profundity.

Kiril, recently created Cardinal Lakota, spent twenty years in Russian Labour Camps in Siberia, before being released in a deal between the new Russian Leader, Kiril's former chief interrogator, and the Vatican, in the belief that he could act as a bridge in a world increasingly at the brink of catastrophe as the capitalist nations are unwilling to allow a China facing starvation to buy grain in their market. The reluctant Arch Bishop is first made a Cardinal to fulfil his allotted role and then is pressed into being the Pope when the incumbent suddenly dies. He quickly finds himself called upon to act as a bridge between China and Russia, and between China and Russia and Capitalism. At his inauguration ceremony as Pope he announces that the church will divest of its wealth to help feed the starving and he calls up everyone else to do likewise. So a romantic and idealist swipe at the way the Catholic Church has become corrupted by power and the money lenders? It is that and so much more.

It is a film which also explores the nature of Christianity and Catholic faith in the contemporary material and scientific world and achieving a balance between the forces of reaction and revolution, and between change and stability at a time of great threat and crisis. Today the environmental threat and the terrorist threat has replaced the communist threat as the means by which states can hold power over their people. Although this is not imply that the threats do not exist and require states to take action in defence of the prevailing values and power structures as the Roman Emperors once did against Christians and the against the Jews, Christian then fighting against Muslim, Non Conformist against Conformist, Muslim against Jew and on and on and on and on.

It is a film about so much more, the loneliness of hold office, the imprisonment by systems with their innate and healthy conservatism, the relationships between men and women and the nature of love and marriage, and the complexity of having principles and sticking to them whatever the circumstances.

Had I not noticed the showing of the film later into the evening I would have given first priority to Hadrian, a comprehensive consideration of his role and lasting influence in an excellent BBC documentary to mark the holding of a British Museum exhibition about the Roman Emperor. Like most people, I suspect, if I had learnt more about his life than he was responsible for the seventy odd miles of wall between Wallsend on the north bank of the Tyne a little way up river across from where I live at South Shields, and which continued on towards the Solway firth on the West Coast in what is now Cumbria. I had forgotten if I ever knew that this wall, stretches of which survive and are conserved along with the remains of the forts used to guard the British boundary to the Roman Empire, was the second shorter length of a wall which marked the northern limits of the empire across the rest of Europe, and that through North Africa and the middle east there were the southern stretches, shorter because of the natural boundaries of nature, desert and mountain, Nor had I known that he spent the greater part of his time in office touring the empire, not just improving the defences but development the 400 or so cities not just as places of power but also of recreation and culture. However his public works were designed to strengthen his own power and regard during his lifetime and in the belief that he was not just divine but a great one. Although he has come to be regarded as one of a group of five overall good Emperors, such an opinion is only held by non Jews because of the way he put down their rebellion against his determination to turn Jerusalem into a Pagan city, killing over half a million people, destroying their towns and villages by the hundreds. Despite his standing today he would have rightly been condemned and convicted of racist war crimes,

After Life and The Wedding from Japan and Russia

Friday 18th July has been a day of slow and solid working in preparation for the activity over the next fortnight, weather permitting, and then a film a significance and then a failure to progress for several hours. I will talk first of After Life, a film made in Japan

Twenty two people of varying ages have died and find themselves in a decaying and poorly furnished building when they are informed they have three days to select the one memory they would like to remember for eternity at the exclusion of all others. Having selected the memory it is recreated as a film with actors and cinematography effects to ensure it is as they wish to remember. It has to be an authentic memory and the organisers of the situation are able to provide video tapes of all previous experience for anyone who has difficulty in deciding or remembering. On the seventh day the films are shown and then they go to where they may well spend eternity.

Anyone who has read anything of what I have said about my work will understand that this film is at the core of my concept although as with two of the twenty two in the film I baulk at having to select just one memory and I recreate as much as I can, everything both happy and sad, interesting, unique, everyday and boring, while also adding to the total of experience, attempting to outweigh the bad with the good, as I do my overall contribution to humanity. even if I don't write about what I do and think because it is confidential or too painful to attempt to put into words. I am obligated to what I believe to include all experience.

I suppose if one only has a good memory or a memory that is important to you and no others there is no sense of loss, emptiness, guilt, failure, disappointment, fear on pain. It is therefore impossible to make a judgement whether this form of being would be better than my present all embracing experience recreation.

In the film there three souls when they died, one towards the end of World War II who help the new arrivals to select a memory and then ensure that it is recreated as they would wish on film and therefore are crucial facilitators into the passage of the newly dead into a good eternity. It emerges as the film progresses that these three failed to come to a decision, hence their role in this limbo, in which it is evident they continues to remember their lives. It is presumed that those whose life end without redefining qualities have moved straight into a hell where they are locked into a bad memory, where ones sense of justice hopes it will be appropriately horrific and painful according to the weight of their sins.

Only of secondary interest was the moments which individuals selected and which reflected the overall nature of their lives and personalities. I found that the film had a bleak view of life, albeit a realistic one. Although also realistic in its appraisal of individual lives and human behaviour, the Russian film The Wedding was a much more enjoyable affair, confirming my long held view that the communist or any from of ideology is doomed to failure when imposed upon an uneducated and predominantly. peasant population because all they want to do is eat, have sex and make merry and will support any individual or group who promises this in the present or in a future life. Appealing to Christian and socialistic values is something which will only having meaning and significant to a minority.

I continue to marvel at the Royal Albert Hall as a building and as place to celebrate good music. I should must check to see if there is a tour on my next visit to London was well as the promenade concert. My three days where the highlight was to have been the visit to Lords begins to have as good an appeal. The sight of the Royal Albert hall at the first night of the Promenade concert brings back the memory of that first time as a seventeen year old when I purchased a first half seasons season ticket with entry to the first night and where I then went to most concerts arriving home for bed to get up in time for a trip back to London and work for the day. Last night I only caught the second half of the programme which feature music of the musical mind rather than the romantic soul, especially the solo piece on the renovated organ with its thousands of pipes and I was taken back to a church in the South of France on a very hot summer's day where the organist whether intending to do so or not gave a recital to the otherwise deserted building for an hour or so.

After midnight it was a replay of the best of last weekends T in the Park, the Scottish Glastonbury and where it became evident that there are a small group of A list bands who are doing the festivals across Europe, with Amy, The Ting Tings. The Kings of Leon, the Fratellis. The Raconteurs, all appearing this year and with the exception of the Ting Tings listed for next. This appears to be much more of a Rock fest than an environmental harking back to flower power days with approaching 200 bands listed on some nine stages over the three days. Such is the amazing support for this festival and 40000 early bird tickets for the 2009 event were sold out within ten hours of launching yesterday. The style of the fest voted the best of 2008 is on safety and security. Young people aged between five years and sixteen can only attend if they pay the full price and have appropriate guardianship documentation and there is strict regulation designed to ensures that everyone enjoys the music with the minimum of the usual side problems associated with such gatherings. For around £1000 there is a Tip ready erected tent available with car parking and hospitality passes still available for the weekend for two with the option of additional 4 tickets at the rate of £230, so the total cost for a party of six sharing a tent is around £2000, around £340 which is not bad.

Mama Mia and Sway

To-day Thursday July 17th will be remembered as Mamma Mia Day. Between the mid nineteen seventies and 1982 I adored Abba, the Swedish Group Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni Frid. I have a CD and a Video of their greatest hits, enjoyed the film of their stage performance and rarely miss a programme about the group and their music. I have wanted to see the stage show although I knew little about its construction, except it was built around the 1968 film caper Buena Sierra Mrs Campbell which starred Gina Lollobrigida who is confronted with her past twenty years after the end of World War 2 when the three GI's who could be the father of her daughter return on a reunion trip.

I had forgotten this when I went to see the film Mama Mia at lunchtime today and found the theatre over half full although the film it is over a week since its opening. Given that a significant percentage of the audience were born after the group ended and their music is rarely played on the radio I was interested by what had brought them to theatre, especially as afterwards I discovered that the film has had mixed reviews. Perhaps they have seen the stage show on a visit to London or when it has been on tour. I assumed that any story was a loose framework for a celebration of the songs. I was wrong and contrary to several reviews that I have read, I thought it was a wonderful film and a great musical film which I now place alongside the Sound of Music, Cabaret, Evita, Moulin Rouge and the Phantom of the Opera. However the two best musicals I have seen on stage are Les Miserables and my favourite Miss Saigon which I saw at least three times and where in both instances I have the full show on tape and still listen from time to time on long journeys.

The story has been updated to the eighties when the music when Abba music was at its peak but the basic storyline remains that of a young woman who became a sixties hippy on a Greek Island, whose twenty year old daughter is having a formal wedding, and discovers from her mother's diary that her father could be one of three men. The weakness in the story is how after twenty years, the daughter manages to track down all three men in time for them to arrive just before her big day to enable her to work out which is her father and walk her down the aisle. Leaving this question to one side I marvelled at the way the lyrics were effectively built into the story and how the strong cast managed to combine several well acted and serious moments especially involving Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep with genuine humour, a sense of fun and having a party. There are 24 hits in the 108 minute film which I plan to see again and buy the DVD when it becomes available as a special offer. I might even see if I can get a special offer ticket for the London show when I am next in Town.

This morning I delayed going for a blood test in order to then do a shop, and have a sandwich lunch before the cinema visit on what has remained a poor weather day with regular drizzle and on the cold side. Unfortunately I had not read the form which I was told to take in the advisory letter and which stated that I should not eat or drink anything from 10pm the night before. The penalty is that I have to get there first thing in the morning, preferably first in the queue before 8.30 in order to get the results back in time for my health check on Monday. I will need the alarm so will do a test after the evening meal.

I did find out that the Japanese film about two brothers where one is charged with the death of a their shared love interest is called Sway. I watched the third and fourth parts of the Elizabeth Gaskell's story Wives and Daughters, another brilliant BBC adaptation along with the best of Bronte and Jane Austin. I saw the second part yesterday but missed the first.

Pan's Labyrinth, again and Dark Knight

I experienced Pan's Labyrinth again. The DVD arrived over a week ago but I delayed viewing until I felt in the mood to give the work my undivided attention. Usually when the story is familiar I lose the emotional engagement. Afterwards I attempted to obtain the Wikipedia review as a marker that I had seen the film again but was unable to find one, but what caught my eye was a review or Blog headed one of the greatest films of the 21st century. That is a premature boast given we are yet to completed its first decade, and in fact a judgement only possible in about a century from now. I suspect that by then it will be possible for everything we do and say to be experienced by anyone, anywhere, anytime with the technology and the only difference between what I do now and that situation is that there will have been a comprehensive record from birth and until death. Will the fictional film have been abandoned as all the real life events of everyone everywhere become viewable?

Pan's Labyrinth is a brilliant film combining the impact of the Spanish Civil War upon a small local community with the imagination of an unhappy young girl who has lost her father and whose mother has taken up with a previous acquaintance who becomes a ruthless local commander of the fascists, but he could just as well as have been a ruthless local commander of the communists. The mother character would have been happier living among the Maasai tribe which was the subject of Tribal Wives last night.

I was much happier dozing through the Black Knight during the afternoon after a lunch of beef stir fry. There is a film of the same name opening this week in theatres but I was and remain too lazy to find out the connection. In this film which appears to be part of a comic book type of series Ivanhoe and his mate Rebecca enter a monastic citadel when called in by the Abbot because his star pupil has been taken over by 1000 year old Black Magic demon out to destroy Ivanhoe and his good deeds. The core of the story is a labyrinth maze game in which Ivanhoe as the white knight races with the monk and his accomplice as the Black Night to reach the centre area of the board and gain power over a super demon devil. Nothing the Abbot can do will stop the game playing board until the good guys and gals realise that board game is merely the representation of events going on in the labyrinth below the citadel. The film is risible and it is difficult to see who would take it seriously now given that Abbot and Ivanhoe and his mate are educationally challenged as they give up their weapons to the monks because "we have no weapons in this place" and then set off to combat black magic and real devils with only their courage and their stupidity, Lara Croft was turning in her fictional grave throughout.

The Hane Austin Book Club filom and another film from Japan

On return around 4pm I had the salad and the two remaining Danish pastries. Later a glass of wine although I had to decant as the cork went back into the bottle. Later still I had three chicken pieces and the remaining strawberries, followed by still water, created Artman signature card and did some set making and watch not one but two new films after watching the Jane Austin Book club DVD last night.

This is a curious film where a knowledge of the novels will add to the enjoyment but is not essential. The story is of five diverse women who come together to discuss the six novels once a month with each leading a discussion. The sixth, is man brought in to comfort the wife deserted by her husband after twenty years of marriage. The core of the film is to show how individuals, (including a French teacher at High school who has never been to France) react to literary art or all art work for that matter, according to their own personalities and experience. Thus the jilted wife concentrates on the aspects of characters who are loyal and face up to their responsibilities. She has a good ending because her husband sees the light. I was not quite sure about the authenticity of their lesbian daughter, but she served to underline the belief of those who look in the novels for great meaning about the role of women in society, their relationships with men and with each other. This theme of the past and present roles of women in society is covered by one character who has been married six times and continues to have the time of her life, again a fictional creation because life is never like that, Then there is the character played by the delicious Emily Blunt whose normal male in business husband has to give up a trip to Paris with his wife because his boss requires him to go elsewhere but in the USA. He is portrayed as think and uncaring. This is the excuse for the Emily to start an affair. A friend of the six times married women is a dog breeder grieving over the loss of her special canine companion and it is she that brings in the male as the sixth member of the club. She has never married because she needs to have absolute control over every aspect of her life but is attracted to the man she brings into the club to befriend the grieving jilted wife. He is again a creation without authenticity single handsome., wealthy and clever and the ideal modern woman's concept what she wants all men to be like except the man she wants to control her natural emotional and manipulative instincts. I thought the characters were rubbish and the story a fictional contrivance to show off a knowledge of the works of Jane Austin

The best way to read any book of fiction, in my experience, is to submerge yourself in the experiences described by the author, no different from any play or film or work of visual art. Do you enjoy, are you stretched and challenged? It is only on the second experience that you should, if you wish. take the work apart and try and establish what the creator intended and perhaps why, and if the creator was successful in their intention. Most people do not have the time or inclination to do this. I thought this was silly film about people who were primarily self centred and self satisfied seeking only their own pleasure and well being with little regard for the world at a large. However they were all much more worthwhile than the sub human single dimensional creatures who inhabited perhaps the worst film experience of the year called the Summer of Sam. In 1997 a single man living alone at Yonkers went on the rampage killing young people at random who were mostly in their cars and or walking alone at night in the white Italian area of Brooklyn although there is one killing within the black district.. He was eventually caught after the efforts of 100 strong task force failed as is the resources of the local crime boss which appears to be an acceptable part of every American city along with crime related unions.

New York is shown as populated by primitive and uneducated drug taking and fornicating yobs and I could not resist the passing thought that Son of Sam as he became dubbed in the media would have been awarded a community service medal if he had been more discriminate in his executions. He is serving six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life The film is a pathetic attempt to commercially exploit the disco club mania which swept western civilizations promoted by Joan Collins films and John Travolta with the gore genre designed almost exclusively for young men who want to frighten their girl friend's a little before trying out their seduction techniques. The genre opened up our cities to the development of clubs and bars for young people, and the very politicians and civil leaders who allowed the development have now the gall to complain about the consequences. The trouble is that it is the sons and daughters of everyone else who understandably become curious and get harmed through the misuse of drugs and alcohol and to the misuse by men.

I only half watched this film as I came too having slept through the ending of a fascinating Japanese film called Let's Live or let's Stay alive, or similar. The film is about a young woman who mistakenly joins a coach tour planed by a group of men who all wants to end their lives and because they want their deaths to appear an accident rather than a suicide the organiser insists that the girl must join them. The tour provides an insight into the reasons why each man wants to die and something of contemporary Japanese culture. Just as the finale was reached I went to sleep and will have to watch again to find the outcome.

a Chinese and anJapanese film

There has been a variable mixture of watching and listening experiences over the past few days. My first choice is a Chinese film Seventeen years which was a revelation. A middle age Chinese couple have daughters by previous marriages and the daughter of the wife kills the daughter of husband and serves seventeen years in prison. She is discharged in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations because of exceptional good behaviour and after her family fails to respond to an advisory letter a prison officer accompanies the young woman, she has become, to the parental home, only to find they have moved, and it is late in the day when they are found. The wife admits to receiving the letter about the visit but puts off telling her husband for fear how he will react. He is stunned by the arrival and goes off to sit in the dark in the bedroom while his wife prepares food for their guests as well as having tea from a keep hot container.

Eventually the husband is able to talk and confront his step daughter. He explains that he has dreaded this day and had thought of moving out of the home, and he would have done this had his wife told him in advance. Then in one of the most truthful and moving moments in the cinema he communicates his love for his wife, the loss he has felt and his wish for them to become a family and the prison officer discretely and with equal sensitivity leaves them together. For once fundamental issues of crimes and punishment within a family are dealt with honestly, realistically and with great love and understanding. It is one of the best films I have seen this year and was shown on the Australian Sat channel World Vision. I appreciate that the film can be regarded as a propaganda message to the Chinese people about how easily a small incident, in this instance a few coins of little value can lead to such great tragedy and years of suffering within the family and one suspects that in real life the outcome will never be as good, but this does not take away from what I have said about the film overall.

I also part watched a Japanese film about two brothers who become infatuated with the same girl and when she dies, one brother is accused of her death and her other brother and their father support, until the trial when it is first revealed that the girl had a lover which begins to explode the defence and then when the brother is supposed to provide good character testimony he stuns everyone, especially the defence lawyer by revealing that he witnessed his brother push the girl off the bridge. The film moves to several years later but it was at this point I decided I needed to concentrate wholly on something else and that I would watch the film with attention another time as it has also been listed several times on the new World Movies channel. I only mention now because of the similarity between aspects of the two films.