Monday, May 24, 2004

The Errand-Boy's Elegy

Yesterday I saw "The Twilight Samurai" at the Cornerhouse Cinema. This film comes highly recommended, particularly as an antidote to "The Last Samurai".

"The Twilight Samurai" functions almost as an revisionist Samurai film, stripping away some of the romanticisation that characterised not only "The Last Samurai", but also the Kurosawa epics which established the tropes of the genre. Focussing less on combat scenes and more on human stories, "The Twilight Samurai" gives us a more rounded, less rose-tinted view of feudal Japan that we have perhaps seen before.

The film's setting, in Japan at around the time of the Meiji Restoration (1868) makes comparisons with "The Last Samurai" almost inevitable. The latter film suffered from a simplistic knee-jerk reactionary point of view in which everything in feudal Japan was wonderful and was only spoiled by the advent of industrial modernity. By contrast, "The Twilight Samurai" gives us a sense that while the passing of old Japan can in some respects be mourned, the modernisation of Japan did bring a variety of benefits to many people. At the same time, there is an acknowledgment that, despite the great social changes which took place in Japan, in some respects there was remarkable, and perhaps regrettable, continuity.

I typically dislike discussing the plot of films that I've seen, and I'm not really going to change that here. I will, though, say that I felt that this film, as a portrait of people struggling with obligation whilst trying to live their own lives, and perhaps trying to turn circumstances to their advantage, is a great success. I also felt that there was a great success in the underplaying of some of the film's aspects, particularly a swift and brutal sword-fight with only birdsong and a gurgling river as background sound. Once again, this is in marked contrast to the bombastic style shown in "The Last Samurai". I also found the somewhat cynical view of the samurai's military role interesting: in "The Twilight Samurai" there are no more heroes any more, and maybe there never were any. At the same time, any death is presented as a tragedy.

All in all, I found the two hours spent watching this film well worthwhile, and as such I would recommend it to everyone that I know.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I Am Still The Greatest Says Stephen O'Brien

Today I finally got confirmation that Liverpool have accepted me as a PhD student for this September. Rejoicing ensued. All we have to do now is wait for that AHRB reply...

Apologies should also go to Vicky, whose name got left out of the last post (for it was her who I met in Lowlanders). She sent me a pseudo-irate e-mail on the subject. To placate her, I may have to send her a free gift.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Back In The DHSS

You don't know how lucky you are, boys...

Yes, I am onvce again going to sign on. Not because I want or need the money, y'see, but to protect my National Insurance stamp. My Dad says that this is A Good Idea. And if your Dad says something...

I have signed up with some temp agencies while I come up with an archaeological CV. I am spending a lot of time watching TV. My exposure to TV again after six months is strange: all my TV-cynicism seems to have dissapated. I find that Yakult ad strangely moving. I also spend a lot of time watching the "UK History" Channel. Last week was 'Hitler week'. "That'll make a nice change", I thought.

Be impressed, for I have also put a new hard drive in my computer all by myself. I was impressed that Windows 98 partitioned and formatted the drive for me, despite claiming that this was something it most certainly would not do. As I can now burn CDs again, some of you can expect compilations off me. If you want one, send me a postal address and wait for me to do something about it.

I should also report that I achieved #14 on my List of Things To Do, spendfing one night before I left London getting drunk in Lowlanders. It was the first time I'd seen her in two years, but we picked iup right where we left off, with her laughing (sorry, "smiling") at my life. I had missed that. Hopefully it won't take two years to do it again.

The tedious AHRB application process is over! They have got my form at last! Look out fdor further highly interesting updates on this matter!