Archive for the 'History/Culture' Category

tagged by meme-sahib

May 30, 2007

My lovely friend Equiano at Lost in Translation has tagged me with a meme – she is now the meme-sahib (reluctantly or otherwise).

I’ve gotta say, kinda like with chain emails, I’m not a fan; I can’t refuse Equiano, however, as her motives are good, I feel.

So, the meme is to reveal eight random facts about myself. I won’t be tagging anyone else – you could say: the meme stops here.

So, the easy ones first:

  • I’m allergic to penicillin.
  • I’m 12 days younger than MLW.

Some that might be a little unexpected:

  • My mother and Harrison Ford have exactly the same birthday (perhaps not down to the hour and minute, but same day, month and year).
  • My father and brothers were all married aged 24 – I married at 28.

Digging deeper now…

  • When I was a lot younger I dreamed of being a Formula 1 racing driver. I grew to be 6ft 4.5in, so that dream turned out to be a bit unrealistic. But hey, isn’t that what dreams are for?
  • Many of my favourite authors and movie stars were born around 1930 (within a year or two each way) – it must be a generational thing. E.g. John Barth, Ursula Le Guin, John Updike, Peter O’Toole etc.

And so, finally, to the competely random:

  • I’ve tasted a lot of different animals, even though I don’t really think of myself as a passionate meat eater. Off the top of my head, the list includes: cow, baby cow, sheep, lamb, pig, piglet, warthog, chicken, goose, turkey, duck, pigeon, pheasant, guinea fowl, ostrich, elephant (strictly legal, but not something I would do again), buffalo, kudu, springbok, impala, bloubok, gemsbok, shark, crocodile… and a long list of fish and seafood, raw and cooked, including but not limited to lobster, oysters, mussels, clams, tuna, chad, yellowtail, mussel cracker, salmon, trout, bream, haddock, herring, anchovy, octopus, squid, barracuda… I don’t think any of them deserved it. (Wow, making that list makes me feel a bit.. weird. I’m pleased to be able to say that a corresponding list of fruit, vegetables and fungi would be much longer.)
  • I find it difficult to name a favourite anything (hence not being a fan of memes etc.) – I like this, I like that, and I can see the merits of the other. Overall, I see this as a good thing about myself, but it is not necessarily a good way to get along in the world of today.

OK – my humblest apologies to Equiano – that was actually quite fun to do.



November 7, 2006

They’ve changed the disembodied voice-of-the-train on the Piccadilly Line from the whining, tired sounding man to a smooth and sexy sounding older woman. I think it’s the news announcer from BBC Radio 4 and The News Quiz – Charlotte Green.

projecting Mercator

September 4, 2006

Have finished reading Mercator by Nicholas Crane.

I have already mentioned that Crane:

  1. Presents more history than biography. No insight is offered as to where Mercator most liked to have a drink, or how he felt about any of his siblings (or anything of that sort). I don’t fundamentally disapprove, as I enjoyed the history of mapmaking that the book presents, but I was a bit surprised as I thought this was a biography and hoped to learn more about the man himself, not just his work. It would be bleak indeed if our work is mostly what defines us.
  2. Elicits a connection between the physcial world of Mercator (and his colleagues) and their discoveries in the world of mathematics and mapmaking. At the beginning of the book you learn that triangulation was an easy concept to absorb in a flat land with straight roads where you could see before you what you were marking down on paper. Likewise, near the end of the book, Crane offers the insight that the course of Mercator’s life – the external pressures he was subjected to – equipped him to make the conceptual breakthrough of making maps that were stripped of silly decoration (big fish etc.) and instead displayed physical reality with abstract relationship overlaid. For example, maps including political boundaries, dominant religion by area, population density etc. All of the types of map we are accustomed to now were devised by a man whose life had been subject to these abstract relationships to physical reality. Mercator and his family had had to migrate across northern Europe in search of work, or religious tolerance, or to escape imprisonment, etc.

Mercator’s projection has outlived its creator and shows no signs of dying out. Apparenly a recent map of Mars used the Mercator projection. Mercator was also the man who coined the term ‘atlas’ to denote a book of maps. A few people had collected maps into a book before him, but Mercator’s was the first to include space for the overlapping of sheets and a consistent grid for aligning multiple sheets.

You can turn the pages of Mercator’s atlas on the British Library site.

Another strong theme of this book (that reinforces its coincidence with Brecht’s The Life of Galileo in my mind) is the entanglement of religion and science (and art, literature, government and so on) at this time. Mercator, in executing and publishing his projection and his atlas must support his scientific and mathematical findings with a detailed account of creation. Likewise, any newly created or redrawn political aspects of a map had to be prefaced by a description of the approach taken, justifying the map maker’s choices.

I enjoyed this book very much. It builds a convincing portrait of the man behind the maps. Crane sometimes hurls 16th century names at one with a reckless disregard for a potential lack of interest in these passing figures. Also, he strikes a somewhat hagiographic note more than once, leading one to question his objectivity: when I read the brief introduction to Mercator’s atlas on the British Library site, I had to chuckle as Crane had made it sound like a divinely inspired work of purest passion, and the Library notes dryly record that it was a commissioned work. But despite these small weaknesses, this is a very readable book that explains some key mathematical and historical concepts with ease and an engaging style.

beautiful brechts

August 22, 2006

On Friday night last, MLW and I went to see a play at the National Theatre called The Life of Galileo. Written by Bertolt Brecht, about Galileo Galilei, directed by David Hare, and starring Simon Russell Beale (last seen by us in the revival of Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers).

The play has three acts, beginning with Galileo‘s ‘invention’ of the telescope and his discovery that Jupiter’s moons orbit it and are not merely suspended in the heavens. This leads him into conflict with the Catholic church authorities and eventually he is subjected to inquisition. In act three, Galileo recants his findings.

The play was excellent in a number of ways. The acting was clear and engaging, and Beale was a very meaty Galileo. Brecht’s Galileo is a man of the flesh, who thinks best on a full stomach, and Beale has the right profile for this part. But Galileo is also a genius and a revolutionary: passionate, intelligent, and quick to anger.

In my ignorance, I’d expected Brecht to be a sort of German Ibsen, producing similarly grey theatrical goo. But, Brecht is beautiful! Humourous, accessible and entertaining. There was even a song at the beginning of act two.

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Full marks go to the director and designer and stage crew (and whoever else was involved), as the stage craft was of the highest order. There was a circular, revolving stage that enabled them to easily switch between indoor and outdoor scenes. Likewise, rooms could be configured differently by arranging four pieces of wall on wheels. What I liked most is that the stage craft was used to enhance what the actors were saying and doing. For example, when Galileo looks through his telescope and watches Jupiter, and enormous image of the stormy planet was projected on the back wall of the theatre, helping us to imagine the impact for Galileo of seeing the planet closer up than ever before. Likewise, when Galileo is first under attack from the church, he sits against a wall (arranged across the diameter of the stage), and a young monk arrives to confront him. The monk begins to argue that it is evil, in affirming Copernicus’s heliocentric cosmology, to disrupt the assumptions of the common man who only understands what the church tells him. Galileo counters that the common man is comforted when what he is told is the truth corresponds to what he can prove for himself, in this case by looking through a telescope. They argue, and as they do, Galileo doesn’t move but the young monk advances along the wall with each shift in his argument, physically moving closer to G. as he comes to understand his thinking. As if G. is the sun, and the monk a body in his orbit. There are more examples of this sort of intelligent direction, and I would recommend you see the play just for this aspect of its success. But the acting and story are great too.

Coincidentally, G. is pitching up in my train book, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet, by Nicholas Crane. This book is a bit of a hybrid: part history of the development of cartography and part biography of the man, Gerard Mercator. There’s been more history than biography by page 84, which is not what I expected, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless. Things are hotting up in Holland, cartographically speaking, because a bloke called Gemma has solved the longitude problem (i.e. take a clock with you) but people have not really noticed that yet, and he’s invented triangulation. Turns out that Holland was the ideal place to invent traingulation because the flat land enabled the genius cartographer to more easily relate what he was seeing to how he was representing it on paper. Also, triangulation requires a reliable baseline, and the roads in Holland were dead straight because when you set out from your home town you could already see your destination.

Seeing maps as a tracing of reality was one of the perceptive warps that would help Gemma’s generation of earth-modellers to break free from the imaginary worlds of the Middle Ages. (p64)

Crane explains how university students were made to learn the imaginings of the ancients by rote, and to question them was to break the law of the university and the church. In The Life of Galileo there is a brilliant scene where G. challenges his fellow scientists to look through his telescope but they won’t, and instead they ramble about Ptolemy’s mathematics and Aristotle’s imaginings of celestial spheres and crystal orbs. The markings on the stage – circles within circles and multi-coloured dots – I took to be clever decoration, echoing the themes of the play, like the projection of planets on wall. They have drawn a celestial map on the floor of Galileo’s world, I thought. During the first interval, MLW explained that these are stage markings so that the scene changers know where to put things for the next scene!

more pepys

July 18, 2006

I recently finished reading Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography of Samuel Pepys.

I’ve subsequently stumbled on a quite brilliant site that enables you to read the Diary on a daily basis, via your browser or, if you’re really smart, via a feed.

The site is here: The Diary of Samuel Pepys

In yet another of those coincidences of art and life, I realised that the man who created the site, Phil Gyford, happened to be working in the same office as me (about 5 metres away) off and on over the last few months, and I had no idea he had done such a wondrous things as putting Pepys’s Diary online in such a clever way.

more beckett

July 16, 2006

I continue to chip away at Anthony Cronin’s excellent biography of Samuel Beckett. I am 236 pages in, and Sam has completed the manuscript of Murphy and it has begun what Cronin describes as its long journey of rejection.

I decided on this Beckett biography, rather than another released at a similar time, based on this review of both in the NYRB by John Banville, which is sadly not freely available on the NYRB site anymore (here is the full text provided by another site).

On completing university, Beckett was encouraged to pursue a career in academia, and a first step towards this was to take up an exchange lectureship in Paris for a year.

In Paris Beckett met James Joyce and the two men developed a friendship, much in the model of master and apprentice.

When Beckett and Joyce were alone together, however, mutual silences were often one of their principal methods of communication – silences, as Beckett put it, ‘directed towards each other’. Joyce usually sat in the attitude familiar from photographs, legs crossed, the toe of the crossed-over foot pointing downwards in its tight, patent leather shoe, or twined round (sic) the calf of the other leg. Beckett adopted a similar posture, the faithfulness and humility of the imitation being emphasised by the fact that he has also begun to wear similar footwear, even though such natty shoes did not suit his feet and he suffered accordingly. (p100)

Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, formed a romantic attachment to Beckett that would become most awkward in the years when her eventual madness was developing but she was not yet institutionalised. Lucia is a sad character and I intend to read more about her in due course; she seems to have been a figure with the same sort of genius as her father but with a madness as well.

Cronin handles the similarities and differences of these two Irish literary masters very well in exploring their early relationship. One of the things he points to is the fate they both suffered, of their writings being taken more seriously than they had perhaps intended:

[Beckett] also remembered the master saying he thought that Ulysses was perhaps ‘over constructed’. But Joyce was also puzzled that even sympathetic critics had missed the humour of the book. ‘Why does nobody ever say how funny it is?’ he asked. (p101)

Cronin is sensitive to the emotional tax involved in moving between home and another place, and on the person who experiences a kind of happiness away from home that cannot be had at home. In Beckett’s case, his home is Ireland, but as I read I find myself relating some passages back to the experience of leaving home in South Africa. Leaving also involves returning:

In the Irish lexicon there ought to be a word for the despair of returning, particularly in youth (returning later on can be a different experience). And if it were a compound word it should include an indication of the particular despair of a forced return for economic reasons, with perhaps a longer word again for the even more acute malaise of a return because of economic and familial reasons. As the years go by and Ireland becomes a more liberal and pleasant place, both in itself and by comparison with the rest of the world, people perhaps feel this less; but between the 1920s and 1950s a return to the old, obsessive, dull, puritanical, provincial Ireland often created a special sickness in the returning heart. (p124)

Now I’m *not* suggesting a direct analogy with the experience of some South Africans of my generation. What I am suggesting is that the feelings of departure and return could be likewise entered into a South African lexicon. Word 1: that one leaves to seek that proverbial broader horizon, each with your own private-public motivation. Word 2: and that one stays away for reasons known best to each person. Word 3: that returning, for however long, has its complications and compromises. Longer word 2 and 3: loving people and things about both places but needing to choose one. Word 4: that this cycle plays itself out again and again because it’s hard to know what’s best.
Like many many young South Africans today, Beckett came to London and lived for a while in a bedsit. Cronin’s description of Beckett’s bedsit living highlights the personality that is developing in Sam by p207 of the biography; a man who holds himself apart, watches and is silent, enjoys isolation but needs human interaction; a man who has talent and the desire to be a writer but has not found his subject or his voice yet; is breaking out of an undisciplined self.

Number 34 Gertrude Street was owned by a Mr and Mrs Frost, who, like many proprietors of boarding houses or houses with rooms to let, were retired servants, he having been a chauffeur and she a ladies’ maid. Mrs Frost was called Queeney and she came from Ireland, from Athlone. He thought she was like a mother on whom you could draw as a barman pulled beer – you pulled on the lever and tea, Sanatogen, hot water and various other manifestations of mothering came out. She was not at all dismayed when he presented her with some Lapsang Souchong, saying he preferred it to the Liptons tea she normally made.

He also like Mr Frost and Fred Frost junior, a dental mechanic who had a great deal of mechanical aptitude and fixed him up a reading lamp. He ate most of his meals in the kitchen, which he found preferable to cooking on a gas ring in his room, and while he found the Frost’s company reassuring, they soon grew used to his silences. At night he could hear Mr Frost snoring next door. Upstairs were a young couple, he a waiter in the Cadogan Hotel and she a maid in an aristocratic house in Hans Crescent. They made nocturnal noises too, occasionally waking up for a bit of quick love-making. He did not object to these evidences of human presence, finding them indeed, like the time he spent in the kitchen, a defence against panic… His own room was large, with linoleum a but like a Braque seen from far away and plenty of room to pace up and down while he was writing. To add to the human and circumstantial advantages of 34 Gertrude Street there was a piano in the front drawing room. Some notes on this were silent, but he liked to play it all the same. (p207-8).

One final South African connection (more factual than imagined this time), that I’d not known about, is that in 1937 Beckett applied for an Italian lectureship in Cape Town. He didn’t get, or, seemingly, want, the post, applying only because of pressure from his mother and brother to get a job. What an intriguing idea though – Samuel Beckett meets Athol Fugard on a Sunday afternoon, somewhere near Paarl. How would literature have been different?

Lady Komachi

July 2, 2006

A description of an historical geisha named Lady Komachi, from Geisha by Lesley Downer:

…raven tresses that cascaded to the floor, a face like a blossom and eyebrows painted into perfect crescent moons. She would glide through the cedar-scented halls in her multi-layered gauze and damask robes, oblivious to the thousands of love letters which lay discarded about her chamber. At night she slept in a room bright with tortoise shell, where golden flowers decorated the walls and strings of crystal beads hang in the doorway. When she passed the cup at banquets, people said it was as if the moon lay on her trailing sleeve. (p315)

medici money

June 29, 2006

Having holidayed in Florence and seen the Medici palaces and treasures, MLW quickly read Tim Parks’ run down on the history of Medici banking and power in Florence. Then she handed it on to me.

Being a somewhat critical soul, I have some things to say about the book. My main gripes are that Parks adopts an arrogant tone, and that he constantly relates the banking and political history he’s recounting to contemporary homosexual figures. Usually with little relevance, and that’s my gripe. Write a book about Florentine banking, or one about Florentine homosexuality, but don’t force the two together.

Anyway, moving on to the interesting stuff… I wanted to highlight three things I’ve learned from the book so far.

The key thing about operating a bank in Catholic Italy in the 15th century was that usury (charging interest on money lent) was classed as a sin by the Church. So, one of the ways the bank made money was through exchanges across Europe. For example, 1000 florins borrowed in Florence to be paid out in England was lent at 40p to the florin (40 000p). It was then assumed that the period of lending was the accepted standard time it took to travel from Florence to England, three months. The merchant draws the pounds in England and uses them to buy wool. The banker in England then writes the replayment slip, assuming another three months until repayment in Florence, and the florins are now valued at 36p each. So, the merchant repays, in Florence, 40 000p/36 = 1111 florins. That’s 11% profit in six months for the Medici bank, and actually no money has physically moved between banks. Very neat. This system of exchanges was also part of how the bank as holding entity balanced its books between its various branches around Europe without having to physically move coin too often. The imbalance was created by so much money flowing into Rome as tithe, and so many goods flowing out of Italy into Northern Europe and netting cash when sold there.

The next thing I learned (and will give a sketchy recounting of here) is how the government of Florence was consitutited. This is actually quite complicated, and as with the exchange concept, Parks does a good job of leading one through it all and towards some dim light at the end of the tunnel. The most interesting thing to learn, though, I think, is that the governing council of Florence was drawn by lot (chits in leather bags representing the key guilds) every two months! So, every two months, you could be called to govern, which meant leaving your home and business and moving into the Palazzo del Signoria to wield absolute power for a short time. Crazy but brilliant, in its way. Of course, all sorts of machinations went on behind the scenes and the history of the Medici at this time is one of how they used their money made in banking to indirectly gain control of government.

Finally, this morning on the train I reached a point in the story where the second of five Medici’s Parks is interested in has lived his life and dies. He is Cosimo, son of Giovanni de Bicci, brother of Damiano (who died at birth), and father of Piero. He had built on the work of his father and the bank was flourishing, and he ruled Florence unofficially. Parks relates how Cosimo, who suffered from gout, spent most of his life expecting to die quite soon. This gave him great drive to see things completed before he expected to die, and because he kept not dying he completed a lot of things! But as he grew older the gout grew worse until he would weep when he had to be moved. Ruling a pan-European banking network that moved money and goods all over Europe, Cosimo struggled to move between rooms in his palazzo and had to be carried up stairs. He retreated to the windowless and frescoed chapel at the heart of his palazzo (which is like a fortress – we kept bumping into it in Florence), and dealt with the great men of his age in a dim religious light, the backdrop a fresco of the procession of the three Magi, featuring Cosimo and his son as two of them, with wild animals accompanying them. When he died, he was buried under the floor of San Lorenzo, the family church, in the very centre of the nave.


June 23, 2006

Some tidbits from Claire Tomalin’s Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self

This book opens with an electrifying description of a most terrible fight between Pepys and his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth wakes Samuel, ‘angry and tearful’:

What was really upsetting her, she said, was that she was lonely. She suffered so much from loneliness that she had written him a letter expressing her unhappiness, she reminded him, and handed it to him two months ago. But he had refused to read it and burnt it without even glancing at her carefully chosen words. (pxxxiii)

She reveals that she kept a copy that she begins to read out aloud to him. Pepys is alarmed by the idea of the contents of the letter getting out into the world. He demands she tear it up; she refuses. He leaps out of bed, snatches her papers and stuffs them into his breeches as he struggles into them. Half dressed, he begins to pull out the papers and tear them up, one by one. Eventually he destroys almost all her papers, burning the pieces in a rage, including all his love letters to Elizabeth (although he calmly spares documents such as a will and a deed). ‘We know all this because he described it himself’ in his Diary.

There is an excellent, blood curdling, description of the operation Pepys underwent to remove a stone in his bladder. He was made to follow a special diet in preparation, and before surgery began he ‘was offered a specially prescribed drink made of liquorice, marhmallow, cinnamon, milk, rosewater and the whites of fifteen eggs’. Then he was bound tightly to the operating table with linen straps and held down by four men – no anaesthetics or alcohol. The surgeon cleaned his scalpel with almond oil and then…

The surgeon got to work. First he inserted a thin silver instrument, the itinerarium, through the penis into the bladder to help position the stone. Then he made the incision, about three inches long and a finger’s breadth from the line running between scrotum and anus, and into the neck of the bladder, or just below it. The patient’s face was sponged as the incision was made. The stone was sought, found and grasped with pincers; the more speedily it could be got out the better. Once out, the wound was not stitched – it was thought best to let it drain and cicatrize itself – but simply washed and covered with a… plaster of egg yolk, rose vinegar and anointing oils… (p63-4)

Pepys survived, although the surgeon’s next four patients did not.

Pepys lived through some of the most interesting events in English history, including the regicide, Cromwell’s interregnum, the Restoration, London burning, and the plague.

Tomalin recounts how King Charles II asserted his authority after the Restoration, and took his father’s revenge:

And Pepys was horrified when he learnt that the bodies of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw were to be dug up and hanged on a gallows on the anniversary of Charles I’s execution. In the Diary he called Cromwell ‘Oliver, as he had been known in the days of his protectorship, and deplored ‘that a man of so great courage as he was should have that dishonour’ – adding carefully, as if in fear of an eye over his shoulder, ‘though otherwise he might deserve it enough’. (p117)

Pepys the pragmatist. I’d not known that Cromwell’s body was exhumed. Tomalin goes on to describe howthe body was put on display (sixpence per person was charged for a close look), then beheaded and the head placed on a spike outside Westminster Hall. It stayed there throughout Charles II’s reign – 25 years – ‘as a warning against rebellion and republicanism’.

In one section of her recounting of the Diary, Tomalin picks out some excellent phrases that Pepys has noted.

And his brother Tom’s description of their Joyce cousins: ‘they are sometimes all honey one with another and then all turd’. (p261)

Finally, in case you ever mispronounced or misspelled Pepys’s name, don’t feel bad – it was subjected to a variety of treatments during his lifetime, including Peppiss.

Ozu’s Noriko trilogy

June 14, 2006

A Japanese film director named Yasujiro Ozu made three wonderful films that are known as the Noriko trilogy, as the main character is a 28 year old woman named Noriko (played by the radiant Setsuko Hara). They are:

  1. Banshun (Late Spring), 1949
  2. Bakushu (Early Summer), 1951
  3. Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story), 1953

MLW and I watched the first film and loved it. It's in black and white, with jaunty music, and generally feels quaint in a 1950s kinda way – you know, cardigans and bicycles with baskets and clean trains. The film begins with a circle of Japanese women performing traditional tea ceremony, sitting on the floor and dressed in kimono. Noriko is within a traditional home, and is close to her widowed, academic dad. Late SpringNear the beginning of the film, a visitor asks Noriko 'How old are you?' and she replies, 'Twenty-eight' and he says, 'Shouldn't you be getting married?' (or words to that effect). And this is the crux of the film: should Noriko stay unmarried and look after her father, or should she 'abandon' him for marriage? Along the way, Noriko must face the first signs of a changing culture and a changing role for women. She considers applying for a job as a typist. She sometimes wears Western clothes, depending on who she's with and what she's doing. Etc. The film runs its course; beautiful and thoughtful and real. Ozu's direction is calm and quiet and allows the elements of the film to do their thing – the actors act, the characters develop, the scenery sets the scene etc. No over-egged puddings in sight. To watch a film like this is such an intimate experience; you are drawn into the story more fully because it doesn't try particularly hard to catch your attention. It feels real, and you invest yourself in it somehow.

So. The first film ran its course and we eagerly awaited the arrival of the second film in the post (thanks to amazon's dvd rental service). We had, of course, expected the story to pick up where it had left off. Well. Quelle surprise. The second film begins and you quickly recognise Noriko, but there is confusion: the empty house is now full of people – children and parents and grandparents. The actor who played Noriko's dad is now her brother (and looking a lot younger). Their parents are both alive and well. Early SummerAnd then someone asks Noriko, 'How old are you?' and she replies, 'Twenty-eight' and he says, 'Shouldn't you be getting married?' And suddenly you realise that this second film is not a continuation of the first but rather a reconfiguration of it. Ozu deals with this in so many subtle ways. For example, this time Noriko already has a job as a typist. All the familiar camera angles in her home are reversed or altered, so that like the characters, the setting is the same but different (v. subtle this one but brilliant). In this film, Noriko's struggle is for independence. Her parents want to see her married before they retire to the countryside. In the first film she accepted that her husband would be chosen for her, but in this film she wants to do the choosing. The other aspects of her life and culture are likewise refigured. But the film is delivered in the same vein, although there is just a touch more light and humour in this one, I think.

Tokyo StoryWe were not that surprised to find, therefore, that something similar happened in the third film. This time, Noriko is the daughter-in-law of the actor who was her father in the first film and her brother in the second. Now Noriko is the widow. Her parents-in-law come to Tokyo to visit their children, but their children's lives have no space for them. So it is Noriko who shows them love and hospitality, and again the question of Noriko's age and marriage (re-marriage in this case) are central to the film. The culture, the country, the people have changed again, becoming less recognisable to the old parents than in the previous two films. In the first film you saw tea ceremony, in the second a Bhuddist temple, and in the third an open-topped bus tour of Tokyo. This is a sad film, we felt, for a number of reasons.

Together, the films are remarkable. Each on their own, these films are remarkable. The lives of the characters resonate in your own life when you watch the films. Intimate and present, these films are amongst the best I've seen (and I've seen a few).

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