June 21st, 2004

Solstice Blues

Happy solstice, folks!

Doesn't the first half of summer go fast! Seems only yesterday I was saying, "ooh, look at the snowdrops!" and now we're on the turn and the days are getting shorter.

When I was doing the full pagan thing I always thought of  midsummer as sad. I must have written yards of gloomy ritual verse about dying kings and what-have-you.

The sun stands still in the height of heaven,
All things must pass away.
The days of summer stretch ahead,
All things must pass away.
Welcome the days of flowers and fruit,
All things must pass away.
Welcome the days of leisure and love,
All things must pass away.
Now is the wedding of Earth and Heaven,
All things must pass away.

Yup, that's one of mine.

And here's a seasonal piece of news. Archaeologists have run tests on a collection of seven 4,500 year old skeletons dug up near Stonehenge and found- from the levels of strontium in their teeth- that the people they once belonged to grew up in South West Wales.

The Stonehenge bluestones also come from South West Wales. Suggestive, huh?

Kurosawa's Red Beard

Red Beard is a Victorian novel. That's what it feels like. It has the amplitude, the digressions, the leisurely pace, the heart-wringing stuff about orphan children, the melodrama, the moralising.

Be kind to one another. That's what it's all about. If Dickens had been Japanese he'd have come up with something like this.

It's a folie de grandeur. K built a whole town for it. The town had streets the camera never ventured down, rooms it never entered. After Red Beard the Japanese film industry went into crisis (not, I think K's fault) and K was out in the wilderness for a decade.

It was the most expensive- and the longest- Japanese film ever made; and yet the scale is domestic. There are no armies, no natural disasters (barring one modest earthquake.) The money all went on texture, the making of an unspectacular but lovingly detailed and wholey convincing ambient world.

It was the last film K made with Mifune.

I love it. It asks to be loved.

And when one of the cooks broke a radish over the brothel-keeper's head I laughed out loud. Not just because it was funny, but because our side was winning.

P.S. this entry has also been posted at akira_kurosawa