Misery Around the World

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You think your life is shit. You wallow in misery and contemplate about your pathetic existence while listening to emo/screamo like it has not gone out of fashion years ago. But fret not, as world cinema shows us, your life could be much, much worse.

 

Tokyo Sonata

At its core, Tokyo Sonata is about Japan’s economic stagnation and the dismantling of the traditional Japanese middle –class family, where the father is the sole breadwinner while the wife trades career advancement for a mundane and unfulfilled life at home. Ryuhei had the typical middle class Japanese life, until his job was outsourced to cheaper Chinese workers. Like the traditional Japanese man he was, Ryuhei had to suck it up and put on a brave face while pretending to still be gainfully employed, a ruse he perpetrated with workman-like diligence. While seeking aid on the streets, Ryuhei ran into an old friend, Kurosu, who was also retrenched. In a sly commentary about the sad plight of the traditional Japanese working man, Kurosu, who was also keeping up appearances after his dismissal, committed a double suicide with his wife after the latter became suspicious about his unemployment.

Even as Ryuhei was preoccupied with his own problems, his estranged family was slowly falling apart.   His eldest son, Takashi, wanted to join the US military for some arcane reason while younger son Kenji, a musical prodigy, used his lunch money to secretly take piano lessons, much to the disapproval from his father. Meanwhile, Ryuhei’s wife, Megumi, was gradually becoming fatigued from an unrewarding life as a homemaker.

If it all sounds very drab, that’s because it is. Things came to a head when Megumi ran into Ryuhei while he was secretly tolling away at a cleaning job. Then all sort of surreal shit started to happen. You really have to watch it to get what I am talking about.

Lessons learned: Being married with children is no insurance against the one shit day that will send your life unraveling.

 

Gomorrah

The Tokyo life may be drab and miserable, but well, at least the inhabitants need not worry about staring down at the wrong end of the barrel of a gun. Well, not on a daily basis, anyway. To that end, Gomorrah is probably doing wonders for the state of tourism in Naples.

Gomorrah is essentially five loosely connected tales about the Camorra syndicate that operates in Naples and Caserta. As terrible as the syndicate may be in exacting vengeance against perceived slights (whether justified or not), it is quite eye-opening to witness how ingrained organized crime are in the life and economy of Naples. The syndicate has their fingers in industries as diverse as waste management to haute couture. Life is cheap. Death comes quickly if you are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or if you are wrongly perceived to be working for the competitor, however innocuous your job may be. Or if you are vaguely related to a rival gang member.

Gosh, life is fun.

In any case, the five tales never really come together as a cohesive whole. The movie has a slice of life, documentary-kind of feel to it, thus there is no resolution to speak of, but it’s worth investing your time in the movie anyway, you know, before you book that trip to Naples.

Lesson learned: Your job may be shit, but at least retrenchment in your case does not end with a bullet in your head.

 

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Despite living in a Louisiana bayou imbued with magical realism, the shit can still hit the fan, even if you are too poor to own a decent fan.

Hushpuppy and her dad lived idyllic lives in the aforementioned bayou, until a storm of epic proportion came and flooded their home town. The town folks went on to blow up some dam to drain the water, but drew the attention of the authorities who tried to take the magic out of magic realism by offering modern medical care. Of course, Hushpuppy and daddy would not have that and ensconce to their homes. Realising that daddy does not have long to live, Hushpuppy went on a lovely field trip to find her mother, but only managed to return with some croc meat nuggets for her ailing dad. Daddy died shortly after. Meanwhile, some beasts named Aurochs ran around.

Well, I do like this movie quite a bit, even though I can barely make sense of the significance of the events in the movie. I suppose the fantastic soundtrack and lovable performances from Quvenzhané Wallis help tremendously.

Lessons learned:  Even if your life is brimful of magic, it can still be brimful of shit. Co-exist, the xx would say.

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