Weekly notable news (W43-44)

The first week was totally uneventful; another quiet but tiring week (with the usual craziness at work). However, the second week was very busy with all sort of outings and events! First we had a family brunch to celebrate my mother’s 87th birthday. Then I finally received the (substantial) back-pay for the retroactive raise since the signature of our collective bargaining (the two good things that work brings: the pleasure of books and money! — but there’s only 550 weeks to endure).

Wednesday, I finish work early and the museum is opened late, therefore I took this opportunity for a last-minute visit (last week!) at the Museum of Fine-Arts exhibit on Toulouse-Lautrec. Thursday, not only Apple released new hardware, but it was also the beginning of the 33rd Japanese Film Festival of Montreal at the Cinémathèque Québécoise. There was a sake tasting, a few speeches and then they screened A Tale of Samurai Cooking. I went to see a second movie on Saturday: Sue, Mai and Sawa. That was wonderful. I felt alive. It’s good to get busy since we don’t have that many good years left.

I also tried to read a little. I have so many books piling on my bedside table (haïku compilation, numerous mangas, Solaris #200, etc). However, I find it so hard to read lately. I am so busy that whenever I can read, I feel guilty and this sentiment is a distraction that make it difficult to concentrate on my reading. Quite annoying. And there’s plenty of other distractions… like watching TV! Beside the U.S. presidential election madness and the returning shows (7th season of Walking Dead, 2nd season of Poldark, 10th season of Murdock Mysteries, 14th season of NCIS, 2nd season of Blindspot, 3rd season of Z Nation, 8th season of Vampire Diaries, 4th season of A Place to call home), there’s very interesting newcomers like Westworld and Tutankhamun, or others like Class (a Doctor Who spin-off)! I’ve also watched on Dvd the Michael Moore documentary Where to invade next.

Maybe all that activity was too much, because I caught some bug (cold, stomach flu?) that left me tired, congestionned and with an upset stomach. But there’s no rest for the wicked and now I must work on my monthly accounting and pay the bills.

However, before I do that, I’d like to share with you a few notable news & links that I came across lately. Because, even with all this activity, I will always find some time to stay acquainted (a bit) with the affairs of the world. Here they are, after the jump, in no particular order, in both french and english):

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Opening of the 33rd JFFM

As I mentioned before, the 33rd Japanese Film Festival of Montreal was held at the Cinémathèque Québécoise on October 27th and 29th. This free annual event is co-organized by the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan in Montreal.

Before the screening of the first movie, A Tale of Samurai Cooking, the attendees were treated with a few canapé and a degustation of sake. There was a presentation by the a staff member of the Japanese consulate in Montreal, followed by allocutions of the Cinémathèque general director, Marcel Jean, and the Consul General in Montreal, Hideaki KURAMITSU.

Here’s a video of the opening allocutions (available on Vimeo):


You can also check our comments on two of the three movies presented at the festival: A Tale of Samurai Cooking and Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship.


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A Tale of Samurai Cooking

“Haru has an excellent sense of taste and unsurpassed skill in the kitchen, but her impetuous character leads to her husband asking for a divorce after only a year of marriage. One day, she is approached by Dennai Funaki, a samurai chef from Kaga, to marry his son and heir, Yasunobu.”

“Serving the Lord of Kaga not with the sword, but with the kitchen knife, the Funaki family has been known as “Kitchen Samurai” for generations. However, Yasunobu’s lack of culinary skills has placed the Funaki name in peril. To save her new family and its status as “Kitchen Samurai”, Haru decides to teach her new husband the refined art of Kaga cuisine from her point of view. Inspired by a true story.”

(Text from the Cinémathèque website)


WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

Haru is a maid for Lady Otei. She is now orphaned but she grew up in her parents’ restaurant and is an excellent cook. The Lady Otei arranged her marriage but her spirited and rebellious character displeased the husband and she was sent back. During a banquet she succeeds to identify all the ingredients in a mystery dish, thus impressing the Maeda family head’s Master chef, Funaki Den’nai. So much that he asked her to marry his second son, Yasunobu. His first son was supposed to take over his position of Master samurai chef but he died of a disease and now the responsibility fall on Yasunobu who would rather practice fencing than cuisine in order to be a “real” samurai. The father hopes that Haru could helps Yasunobu become more passionate toward his new job and improve his skills. She refuses at first, but with the Master Chef insistance she finally accepts the challenge and eventually finds her way into the samurai heart.

It is primarily a romantic story and the dramatic tone is provided by a backdrop of political power plays inside the Kaga clan. It’s a little complex to detail but, in a nutshell, a high-ranking (and powerful) Kaga samurai, Denzo Otsuki (the lover of Lady Otei), wanted to do fiscal reforms, but is opposed by a faction in the clan who put him under arrest. In revenge, his supporters (including Sadanoshin Imai, Yasunobu’s fencing instructor and friend) attempt to kill the Lord. There was also a power play between the Maeda family (head of the Kaga clan, in Kanazawa, Ishiwaka prefecture) and the Tokugawa clan (both being the top two richest clans). Those events (the so-called “Kaga Disturbance“) and characters are historical — even the Master chef, Funaki Den’nai, who wrote books about Kaga’s cuisine. Strangely, the Japanese political situation was not dissimilar to Louis XIV court, where the king was trying to keep the nobility busy at court with banquets and inner struggles in order to prevent them plotting against him.

Japanese drama often have a strong comedic undertone (which can annoy western audience who is not used to such a mix). In this case, the comedic aspect is more subdued. The whole set up of banquets and qualifying cooking competitions for a prominent position on the domain’s kitchen reminded me of the Japanese TV cooking show Iron Chef. And, surprise!, the family head, Naomi Maeda — who is never seen before the end, is played by none other than the Iron Chef‘s show host Takeshi Kaga! Coincidence? I don’t think so.

A funny anecdote: a friend of my wife, who’s not used to Japanese movies and culture, found the samurai’s hairdo rather ugly. It made me realized that I was so used to it that I never wondered why samurai wore such a strange hairdo. This traditional topknot style was called Chonmage and was not only the symbol of the samurai status (hence cutting the hair in defeat or disgrace) but was also used “to hold a samurai helmet steady atop the head in battle”. Fascinating!

A Tale of Samurai Cooking is an interesting jidai-geki movie that is somewhat similar to Abacus & Sword, where the protagonist is a samurai accountant. It teaches us about Japanese history (Edo period) and shows us plenty of beautiful landscapes and local dishes while entertaining us with a very good love story. It’s worth watching but, unfortunately, it is not available in DVD here (although there’s a R2 Dvd with english subtitles).

A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story (武士の献立 / Bushi no kondate / lit. “Warrior’s Menu”). Japan, 2013, 121 min.; Dir.: Yûzô Asahara; Ass. Dir.: Masanori Inoue; Scr.: Michio Kashiwada, Yukiko Yamamuro, Yuzo Asahara (based on the novel by Naoki Oishi); Phot.: Yukihiro Okimura; Music: Tarô Iwashiro; Prod.: Yoshio Ishizuka, Hideaki Miyoshi; Cast: Aya UETO, Kengo KÔRA, Kimiko YO, Toshiyuki NISHIDA, Riko Narumi, Tasuku Emoto, Kenta Hamano, Hana Ebise, Ayane Ômori, Toshiki Ayata.

Film screened at the 33rd Japanese Film Festival of Montreal on October 27th, 2016 (Cinémathèque Québécoise, 19h00 – the small theatre was filled to the last seat). This free event is organized each year by the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

A Tale of Samurai Cooking © 2016 「A Tale of Samurai Cooking」movie. All Rights Reserved.

The trailer is avaialble on Youtube:


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Sue, Mai and Sawa

“A heartwarming drama based on Miri Masuda’s comic strip series, Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship offers a warm and tender depiction of the lives of three women, former colleagues whose friendship has endured over the course of 10 years. Now in their thirties, the three friends each harbor anxieties about their future, their professional paths, their love lives, and their family ties.”

(Text from the Cinémathèque website)


WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

This movie is based on a josei yonkoma (4-panel comic strip aimed at an adult female readership) by Miri Masuda. This style of comic is very popular in Japan. Sū-chan “follows the daily lives of women who deal with their anxieties regarding love and work”. It is published by Gentosha and “has sold over 280,000 copies” (up to March 2013). Four volumes have been released between April 2006 and November 2012 (the first volume came out in paperback in August 2009; a preview of the first six pages is available online — opposite: pp. 4-5). (Sources: ANN, Wikipedia Ja)

The movie adaptation, titled Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship, is a typical Japanese feel-good movie. However, despite the light tone, it seriously tackles the anxieties of Japanese single women. It tells the story of three women in their thirties who find themselves questioning their life situation and how they more or less succeed to find happiness.

Yoshiko Morimoto, nicknamed Sue-chan, is 34-year-old and works in a coffee shop where she can put to use her talent for cooking. She has feeling for the manager, but her hesitation prompts a younger, more aggressive colleague to secure his love before she can do anything. However, the owner ends up offering her the manager position. She’s insecure at first and makes mistake, but she slowly grows into the responsibility. She has good wisdom and is a great help to confort and give advise to her friends.

Maiko Okamura, nicknamed Mai-chan, is a 34-year-old office lady working in the sales department of an OA manufacturing company. She is stressed by the pressure at work and frustrated with the fact that her affair with a married man is going nowhere. When her dermatologist suggests that she should give up on some of her life’s problems, she decides to dump her boyfriend and registers with a marriage agency. One year later, she is married and pregnant. However, she worries that motherhood would change her, but finally learns to say goodbye to the woman she was and accepts whom she has become.

Sawako Hayashi, nicknamed Sawa-san, is a 39-year-old web designer. She helps her mother take care of the grandmother who’s bedridden and suffers from dementia. She worries that if she ever marry she would leave her mother to do the care-giving by herself. She meet by chance a former classmate and starts going out with him, but when he appears more concerned with having a descendance and requests a “fertility certificate”, she gets angry and dumps him. She comes to term with having to take care of her grandmother.

The movie feels a little like a sketch comedy in the beginning, but it quickly gets structured into a more uniform storytelling. It might have been intentional, in order to allude to the original 4-panel format which is, by definition, a series of short stories ending with a punch. Food is also a recurring theme in the movie (and a theme shared by all three movies screened at the festival this year) as the friends always gathered around a meal to discuss their problems. But since Ozu it seems that food and meals has been a frequent theme in Japanese movies.

All in all, Sue, Mai & Sawa is an interesting movie that provide some reflection about life and a good entertainment.

Sue, Mai & Sawa: Righting the Girl Ship (すーちゃん まいちゃん さわ子さん / Sû chan Mai chan Sawako san). Japan, 2013, 106 min.; Dir.: Osamu Minorikawa; Scr.: Sachiko Tanaka (based on the 4-koma by Miri Masuda); Phot.: Gen Kobayashi; Prod.: Yoshitaka Takeda; Cast: Yôko Maki, Shinobu Terajima, Kou Shibasaki, Shota Sometani, Arata Iura, Hana Kino, Gin Pun Chou, Akiko Kazami, Megumi Sato, Mio Uema, Aoi Yoshikura, Ai Takabe.

Film screened at the 33rd Japanese Film Festival of Montreal on October 29th, 2016 (Cinémathèque Québécoise, 15h00 – the small theatre was full). This free event is organized each year by the Japan Foundation (Toronto) and the Consulate General of Japan.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

Sue, Mai & Sawa © 2012 「Sue, Mai & Sawa」Production Committee.

The trailer is avaialble on Youtube:


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Toulouse-Lautrec: Affiche la Belle Époque

Toulouse-Lautrec: Affiche la Belle Époque

Mercredi après le travail je me suis dépêché d’aller visiter l’exposition sur les affiches de Toulouse-Lautrec au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal qui se termine dimanche.

“Cette exposition présente une collection particulière d’exception qui comprend plus de quatre-vingt-dix estampes et affiches, couvrant presque toute la période de la production lithographique de Toulouse-Lautrec, de 1891 (…) à 1899.”

Même si on y retrouve que les affiches de Toulouse-Lautrec (pas de peintures), c’est tout de même très intéressant. Lautrec était vraiment un illustrateur de talent. Toutefois, c’est une petite exposition qui ne comprend que quelques salles et j’en ai donc fait le tour assez rapidement (en un peu plus d’une heure). Comme à mon habitude, j’ai photographié les pièces de l’exposition qui m’interpellaient le plus afin de garder un petit souvenir de ma visite.

Voici un bref diaporama des mes photos que j’ai converti en video sur Vimeo:


Voir aussi mon album photo sur Flickr (avec titres et détails des affiches):

Toulouse-Lautrec
(iPhone 6s, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, 2016-10-26)
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Weekly notable news (W42)

Not much happened this week. Same old, same old, as we say. Some aberrations at work keep exasperating me (but there’s only 552 more weeks to endure). On the way back from a doctor’s appointment, my wife and I walked through the mountain to admire the colours of fall. It was superb and I wonder why we don’t do this kind of walk more often. We’ve also spent time watching more of the American presidential insanities, two excellent animated features (Miss Hokusai and Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha Movie 1: The Red Desert! It’s Beautiful) as well as a new episode of Poldark. For my part, I’ve also started a promising new series (Westworld) and watched the season finale of Halt and Catch Fire. And I probably did a zillion other things (like updating my anime & manga bibliography) that I can’t even remember. But, does it really matter?

However, I do remember that I managed to find some time to stay acquainted with the affairs of the world. I therefore share with you a few notable news & links that I came across lately (in no particular order):

Funnies


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