I have a soft spot for classic French cinema (who doesn’t?) and one of my favourite films ever is ‘Ma nuit chez Maud’ (Éric Rohmer, 1969). One of his ‘six moral tale’ series. This is a film with only one or two scene changes and densely rich in dialogue. The subject matters are religion, atheism, love, morality and Blaise Pascal’s life and writings on philosophy, faith and mathematics. This makes it sound shit, but it’s amazing and makes you wonder why you exist and what the point of being free is.
But, I must admit that it is also important to combine music and images to really get me into a place where I really get into something, so for that reason I will have to pick ‘Tony Takitani’ (Jun Ichikawa, 2004), an adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story. I won’t ruin this for anyone yet to see it but it’s a very tragic tale with exquisite music by Ryûichi Sakamoto and the way the monologue commentary runs against the very stylised cinematography is such that I find myself being upset with anyone who doesn’t think it’s in their top three films ever. In the same way that I cannot understand people who look at me oddly when I suggest that I consider myself to have been altered on a structural/DNA level when hearing ‘Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten‘ by Arvo Pärt for the first time. I have Aspergers and the manner in which internalised cognitive isolation and self contained sadness was expressed in ‘Tony Takitani’ was something which really spoke to my own existence and problems interacting with the world.
I read a lot of stuff from all sorts of genres, I might have picked something by Murakami, Bukowski or Fernando Pessoa, however the type of work that I find conveys truths about life and the reality of substance and meaning more than any other genre, is manga. Here it’s a painful choice. I would ordinarily go with the amazing god of manga, Osamu Tezuka. So one of his sprawling multi-volume stories like ‘Black Jack’ or stand alone pieces like ‘Swallowing The Earth’, or even works by people like Hiroshito Tatsumi, the Hernandez Brothers or Jacques Tardi. However I am picking the huge epic, ‘Lone Wolf and Cub‘ by Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima. I am really interested in Japan and the manner in which this story deals with how feudal era Japan worked in addition to the almost unbearably sad story of a former shogun executioner who has been destroyed by false accusations and whose journey to the resolution is rendered both literally and visually in a manner which renders me speechless for days at a time. Truly essential literature.
(Click on the photos to view full-size gallery)
I have been lucky enough to travel through parts of the world which really move me, like Japan whose understanding and appreciation of craft and design is really important to Johanna and I as we like to see lots of architecture and everyday items given focus and attention. I think the manner in which Japanese people approach each task and the value which is imbued within each simple preparatory task, even something as simple as food or how things are presented and experienced is really moving. I also really like the calm and respectful mannerisms of that culture.
However I have to pick a place which holds my family together like no other. There is a peninsular opposite the city of Liverpool called ‘Wirral‘, on the northwestern tip of this peninsula, near to Hoylake is a stretch of coastline referred to locally as ‘Red Rocks’ due to the shade of colouration of pre-historic rocks there. This is a wild section, with dunes covered in reed and seedheads washing over those into an area of swamp, also densely covered with high reeds. When we are there Johanna and I walk quietly, listening to our children play and well as the wind as it sings through the reeds and seedheads in its search for a place to rest. Someone once said that ‘all boats seek a place to sink’, this is our battered but lovely harbour. It tethers us to this world, and we are grateful for that.