Monday, June 23, 2008

Teardrops & War

This was the first time I saw two Japanese movies during the weekend. One was animation called “Omohide Poroporo” ("Memories of Falling Teardrops") and the other, “Iwo-Jima Kara No Tegami” (Letters from Iwo Jima) – both were superb in completely different ways.

When you think of animation, the first thought tat crosses your mind is Walt Disney. It brings forth memories of children’s films, and of the great productions from Pixar – Finding Nemo, Shrek, Monster’s Inc. Animation and cartoons are so strongly associated with children’s entertainment that it is difficult to imagine it any other way – until you see some Japanese classics. Omohide Poroporo is one of them.

Memories of Falling Teardrops is the story of a young woman in the 1960’s travels back to her village accompanied by memories of her childhood.. The world of a ten-year-old in school – lunchboxes with yuk onions, craving things that belong to elder siblings, being punished for throwing tantrums, being teased for childhood crushes – coming of age, periods, napkins and snitches. I loved the Hungarian folk music that Toshio plays for Taeko. Wonder where I could get a copy of that score…

Letters from Iwo Jima, on the other hand, is far away from the world of pastel colors, innocent giggles,and teardrops of nostalgia. It is a gut wrenching story of 21,000 soldiers holed on a tiny (21, barren, volcanic island, defending it against an invasion of 110,000 US troops at the fag end of WW2. Over 20,000 Japanese were killed and only 216 taken prisoner. Ken Watanabe brilliantly portrays the role of General Tadamichi Kuribiyashi.

The dogged defense of this island came at a terrible cost. It convinced the Americans that it was better to drop the N-bombs than risk the cost of invading the main islands of Japan – a move that resulted in an unconditional surrender after two cities were wiped out leaving over 220,000 civilians dead.
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