“Irina Palm”: How Desperate Can You Get?

When I saw the DVD of this movie with the opening menu, I was not quite sure what I was in for. Was this going to be soft porn or an indie film with an unexpected story to tell? As it turned out, “Irina Palm” is so idiosyncratic and original–but not for everyone–that I wasn’t sure if I should recommend it to friends next door who love movies as much as we do. But I did, and they really enjoyed it too!

I’m not quite sure how I found this obscure 2007 movie, but I think it was mentioned in an article I read about legendary rocker Marianne Faithfull (of “As Tears Go By” and Broken English fame) who stars as Maggie, a working-class fifty-or-sixty-something grandmother who is desperate to cover the cost of her critically-ill grandson’s experimental medical operation. Maggie asks for a bank loan but she has no assets to provide as collateral. When denied one loan and prospective job after another, a dejected Maggie resigns herself to exploring the underground sex trade of London and learns to provide “services”. Her no-nonsense boss Miki gives her the “professional” name, “Irina Palm,” the same name as his first girlfriend. Soon men are lining up for Irina, the number-one attraction, so much so that another proprietor offers her an even more generous offer to be his employee at another “salon”.

This movie protrays vividly, without sermonizing, what you will or must do to save the life of someone you truly love. The lack of empathy by those not in such a situation and who cannot imagine what desperation can demand is everywhere–in friends and close relatives. “Irina Palm” presents a range of reactions to Maggie’s work: from her son, his wife, the little boy who knows only that his grandma has a secret, and her close friends. Even a co-worker, who is desperate herself, cannot recognize the degree of desperation that Maggie has encased in every cell of her body.

Co-produced by production companies from five countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Germany and France), “Irina Palm” premiered, to great acclaim, at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. In a controlled performance worthy of international recognition, Marianne Faithfull did receive a Best Actress nomination for her role by the European Film Awards commission.

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“The Conspirator”–Is Anyone Listening?

“The Conspirator” opens with a gripping Civil War battle scene and treats us to incredibly imaginative camera angles, shot in sepia tones to time-travel cinematically to the late 1860’s.

This is a story that sits underneath a story we all know– the history-book narrative of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater. What few of us know is the untold story– of Mary Surratt, (played by Robin Wright), a Southern middle-aged widow who ran the boarding house where Booth and five other conspirators plotted to either kidnap (an important distinction in the movie) or murder not only Abraham Lincoln, but also the vice president (Andrew Johnson), the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of War. Their seditious act was intended to overthrow the government and reinstate the southern states’ hegemony.

Frederick Aiken (superbly played by James McAvoy), is a Union soldier recently recovered from near-fatal wounds at the battle of Appomattox. He is given the insurmountable task of defending Mary Surratt, a civilian, in a trial before a military tribunal, instead of in a civil trial before her peers. Aiken’s revulsion at defending Surratt is palpable. His friends and fiancée’s revulsion is even stronger.

As her defense attorney, Aiken gradually realizes that a military court is trampling Surratt’s rights in order to draw out her son, John, who has fled the state. The viewer does not know whether Surratt is guilty or not, but the evidence is spuriously argued in what is undoubtedly a kangaroo court, and she is unjustly dealt with.

Mary Surratt became the first white female executed under Federal jurisdiction and was photographed in a white hood hanging from a noose alongside her three co-conspirators. This is a tour-de-force courtroom drama with lessons about the U.S. constitution in a time of national fear and war, lessons yet to be learned today. “In times of war, the law falls silent,” one of the military tribunal commissioners, states matter-of-factly. This film is about the unconstitutional acts Americans do when feeling collectively frightened.

I was surprised to find so many critics sitting on the fence on this one. The New York Times called it a “well-meaning, misbegotten movie”. Other critics considered the director, Robert Redford’s treatment of Surratt’s trial heavy handed, undoubtedly due to the parallels the viewer draws between the fear and vengeance of the post-Civil War days and the Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib events of our current political situation. The iconic canvas bags worn over the heads of the conspirators in the film cannot but remind the viewer of the grim photos of Abu Ghraib. The porous border between travesties of justice from the past and those of the present seems to have irked some of the critics.

Robert Redford, as director, has focused on the tragic deceptions people commit in order to save themselves. He has chosen his cast wisely. Robin Wright is the vulnerable pallid-faced prisoner, stoic and fiercely loyal to her son and daughter. The actress is virtually unrecognizable, practically silent throughout, but riveting in conveying subtle expressions weighed down by the burden of grief and bewilderment. At the heart of “The Conspirator,” is the interface between fear and injustice, the crushing of human rights. Who really is the conspirator and who is listening?

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“The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q”–Nothing is Forever

While visiting New York City last week my husband and I had the immense pleasure of seeing two absolutely hilarious musicals, “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q”, the former premiering on Broadway last March,   the latter still enjoying a seven-year run.

“The Book of Mormon” is the hottest play on Broadway right now.  Nominated for 14 Tony awards–one short of the record, it is irreverent, over-the-top, and politically incorrect as only the creators of “South Park”, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, can be.  Yet “The Book of Mormon” is absolutely astonishing for its satire, music, and singing.  Described as “God’s favorite musical,” this show from the co-composer/lyricist of “Avenue Q” features a pair of incompatible Mormon missionary recruits who are sent to Uganda, with a  track record of no converts.   In the course of the show, the two young Mormons gain more insight into themselves as they realize the good nature of the AIDS-plagued, poverty-stricken Ugandan villagers and the deception they are propagating.  Complex moral lessons are sandwiched between outrageously scatological dialogue and raunchy costumes.  If you can laugh at religion’s dark side without feeling wounded, at stereotypes that could be construed as offensive (but no one is exempted), and memorable lyrics in the songs “Turn It Off”, “Man Up”, and “I Believe”, you will find this subversive Broadway show to be amazing.  Its primary comic plot device is the absurdity of religion when it divides and alienates, instead of uniting. Through humor, incredible lyrics, and voices powerful beyond belief, this controversial, heart-stopping musical is a wonder. Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells, the two brilliant young performers playing zealous missionaries, and Nikki James as the young Ugandan woman fervently trying to be open to their missionary message, have mesmerizing, crystal clear voices that are a delight to the ear.  To say more would be to spoil this winner from the  “South Park” creators!

Two days after seeing “The Book of Mormon”, we saw “Avenue Q”, the long-running 2004 Tony award winner, at a small Off-Broadway theater, the New World Stage, for a more intimate performance. Laugh-out-loud funny, this seven year-old musical is far from dated, except perhaps for the Gary Coleman character. “Avenue Q” tells the story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a rundown New York apartment on Avenue Q.  Without the prospects of a job in the near future, (how timely is that?)   Princeton meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet porn surfer), Lucy the Slut , and other furry characters, all modeled after Sesame Street puppets.

The set design is also straight out of Sesame Street, with the characters sitting on the front stoop singing their tales of woe.  Uniquely designed rooms resembling a large doll house add to the reality/fantasy divide underscored by each actor who holds a Sesame Street-style puppet, manipulating the puppet’s mouth while singing or reciting dialogue.  The dramatic convention is highly original and plays to the major theme: young adults who can’t quite believe they’ve grown up.  They’re no longer  on Sesame Street.

When I saw these two musicals within days of each other, I couldn’t separate them. They felt like two sides of the same story:  Bright-eyed young people hoping for success as defined by their dreams but utterly stunned that their prospects are not what they thought they would be.  In “Avenue Q” the songs “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” and “Schadenfreude” say it all.  The lyrics are mind-blowing for capturing the time of youth through the eyes of this decade!  Puppets make the real world seem like fantasy.  In “The Book of Mormon”, the animation genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone comes to life on stage with human characters in the familiar dialogue we associate with “South Park”.  One musical mirrors the other, not surprisingly, since the composer for both musicals is Robert Lopez, and the original director of “The Book of Mormon”, Jason Moore, was the award-winning director of “Avenue Q”.  But the similarity of themes in both musicals can be felt viscerally.  “Avenue Q” just left San Francisco, but it may be brought back by popular demand.   I hope you can see both of these musical spectacles!

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“Road Trip”–a short story

My short  story “Road Trip” has just been released in the Spring 2011 issue of  Calliope,   the official publication of the Writers’ Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. This is a condensed portion of a chapter from my work-in-progress, a novel entitled Things Unsaid.  I really enjoyed writing this “flash fiction” story and hope you enjoy reading it!

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  1. That was a great little read Diana. (The story is an echo of my relationsip with my daughter…and learning how to keep my mouth shut!) I look forword to reading more, that was really nice.

  2. Congratulations on your publication!
    I can relate to your story. We have all been there as moms, so true!
    Evelyn

“Bliss”–A Downward Spiral

A Turkish movie made in 2007,  “Bliss” is anything but.  From the opening scene of the hillside in spectacular cinematography recalling “Woman in the Dunes”, “Bliss”  is a beautifully acted cinematic gem that pits village customs against modern urbanization, religion against secularism, the disenfranchised against a justice system that blames and punishes the victim of the crime, not the criminal.  I found “Bliss” spellbinding.

The story is about three characters.  Meryem, a seventeen-year-old shepherdess, is brutally raped and then ostracized by her community and its leaders.  She is expected to commit suicide or face an “honor killing”.  The male cousin (Cemal), son of the village leader (Meryem’s uncle) is assigned the task of murdering her. A professor they meet (Irfan) gives both Cemal and Meryem shelter.

Meryem’s father and grandmother are inconsolable and powerless in the face of village customs but resigned to accept the tradition of “honor killing”.  Cemal is unaware of the nascent love he is developing for her. Against his own best interests and fundamentalist values, Cemal decides to abandon tradition and go on the run with Meryem, first to the city to see his brother and a friend, then to a distant fishing village. Serendipitously, Cemal and Meryem meet up with Irfan, a generous, exuberant university professor who is embarking on a sailing trip, and needs a crew. Together this unlikely trio sets forth on a journey that will change their lives. In the final half of the film  Meryem, the shy girl who has been almost invisible throughout her life, controlled by others and without a voice of her own,  quietly emerges as a courageous young woman igniting no less than a revolution through her determination to discover happiness, no matter how seemingly inconsequential it may seem to others.

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  1. after reading your in depth review we ordered it…
    it was fabulous…How about more foreign movie reviews in your blog???

    1. Thanks, Eugene, for all of your comments! Will be doing more movie reviews of independent foreign films in the future!

Celebrate Beer!–Awaken Your Senses!

Last weekend my husband and I went to a class in the Artisan Series  at Montrio Bistro in Monterey.  We found it particularly interesting because, although we love beer and have visited microbreweries, we had not been to a seminar on the art and craft of making beer and studying the different types of brews.

There were two different presentations on beer and its production and distribution.  The first speaker represented English Ales Brewery in Marina, and gave a presentation while we tasted eight different beers they made, each placed on a chart in front of us, so we wouldn’t forget which beer we were drinking.  This was a nice touch, since the beers were quite different.  We  learned about the difference between ale and porter,  two types of yeast cultivation (top-fermenting aerobic ale and bottom-fermenting lager), and a rich vocabulary for describing beer–something we had not been exposed to before.  Now we can say that a beer is “hoppy” (has a bite) or ” malty” (roasted, smoky) , “nutty”, “peppery”, “salty”, and “bitter”.  We also got a chance to touch and smell samples of hops and barley, the hops a lovely dried flower and the barley a nice nutty snack in its own right.

After the English Ales Brewery presentation, a husband-wife team from BeerGeek.com talked about the regional differences in breweries they visited throughout Europe with a planned trip to Asia later to study their beer production processes as well as distribution.  This was an entertaining travelogue which demonstrated that one can plan a trip around visiting breweries and having tastings just as easily and with just as much fun as wine tasting.  A great idea for our next trip!

And finally, we had lunch–an appetizer of Wicked Lizard sausage with a mustard tinged with beer and a small cup of cheddar soup spiked with one of the local beers we tasted (Dragon Slayer IPA).  We then had a wonderful green salad with nuts, cherry tomatoes,  and pickled purple onions.  Our main course was an outstanding lamb shank in a delectable mushroom reduction, on top of a very creamy polenta with tidbits of corn.  For desert there were tiny minced meat pies!   The price is $45 per person and includes lunch.  Feel good about what you eat!

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“Lincoln Lawyer”–More Than an Ambulance Chase

We saw the movie “Lincoln Lawyer” a couple of days ago, and it was a highly engaging–not brilliant–courtroom thriller of a movie in the “Grisham” style. Think the best of the courtroom dramas of the recent past: “Fracture” meets “Presumed Innocent”, for example. This film noir, based on a book written by Michael Connelly, is pure entertainment–with a few twists to keep it original and not the same old courtroom drama we’ve seen done well and also done poorly. Michael “Mick” Haller (Matthew McConaughey in one of his very best performances since “North Star” and “A Time to Kill”) is a slick, charismatic Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his Lincoln Town Car sedan–hence, the name “Lincoln Lawyer”.

Having spent most of his career defending down-and-out street criminals, Mick unexpectedly is recommended for the lucrative assignment of representing Louis Roulet (played chillingly by Ryan Phillippe), a spoiled Beverly Hills playboy who is accused of attempted murder. Roulet has been accused of brutally beating a young prostitute he met in a bar. Mick senses there is something incredible about this windfall. If Roulet has unlimited funds and really is innocent, why is he hiring a guy like him, who works out of the back seat of a car? The lawyer has spent all his professional life afraid that he wouldn’t recognize innocence if it stood right in front of him, a caveat from his father. He wonders if he could be staring into the face of evil, not innocence, and is terrified that he doesn’t know the difference.

Fueled by McConaughey’s and Philippe’s bravura, career-reshaping performances, the supporting cast sustains the audience’s attention: Marisa Tomei as Mick’s ex-wife and fellow attorney, Frances Fisher as Roulet’s intimidating mother, and especially William H. Macy, as Mick’s friend and loyal but offbeat private investigator.

McConaughey has brilliantly played the hard-edged law officer before, either as a sheriff or a lawyer with Southern overtones. Returning to that type of role in “Lincoln Lawyer” may indicate that he is heading for a highly acclaimed “Paul Newman”-type of second act (as exemplified by Newman’s Academy Award-nominated performance as a marginal lawyer in “The Verdict”). He effortlessly maneuvers between charm and sleaze as Mick Haller, yet retains some basic human scruples, which will allow him to save his soul. This movie is a delicious two hours’ entertainment, not just another potboiler of ambulance chasers–you won’t be disappointed!

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  1. Encouraged by your positive review we saw ” The Lincoln Lawyer” last night, and were not disappointed. The acting was spot-on, and Ryan Philippe was terrifyingly good. Matthew McConaughey should play only Southern lawyers for the rest of his career…I loved him as much in this movie as I did in “A Time to Kill”. I especially liked the low-level lighting and retro sets, which gave the film a timeless feel. My husband commented ” improbable but entertaining” on the way out, and I agree.

    1. Glad you liked the film too! I forgot to mention the feel of the movie aesthetically and appreciate your mentioning the retro designs and cinematography. Let me know what other films you like. I will try to review some of them on my blog! Thanks again, Alden!

“Swimming with Sharks”–Taking a Dive from the Corporate Ladder

Our son graduated from college about a year ago and has had several internships in the entertainment industry, mainly reality TV and independent movies, while he searches for his next career step. One of his former supervisors recommended “Swimming with Sharks”, for an insider’s view of what working as a low-level assistant for a studio exec is really like. This colleague also stated that the movie did not exaggerate!

While billed as a comedy, this film is anything but funny. Guy (played by Frank Whaley, a vastly underrated TV supporting actor) is a recent college graduate who lands a job as personal assistant–more accurately, “go-fer”–to Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey), an abusive, egomaniacal movie studio exec who withers Guy’s enthusiasm, professional integrity, and most importantly, his self-esteem. Battered by a relentless siege of humiliating and vitriolic attacks, Guy only half-heartedly stands up to Buddy because of his eagerness to climb the ladder of success. This movie is an engrossing but cynical portrait of what soul-selling is required for some individuals to attain their coveted company promotion.

When I first watched “Swimming with Sharks”, the tyranny of Buddy Ackerman was so vile and so over-the-top, that I sympathized entirely with Guy, the poor nebbish trying to please his boss with every cell in his body. Perhaps the most memorable lines are the words of “advice” Buddy gives his young assistant: “I was young too, I felt just like you. Hated authority, hated all my bosses, thought they were full of shit. Look, it’s like they say, if you’re not a rebel by the age of 20, you got no heart, but if you haven’t turned establishment by 30, you’ve got no brains. Because there are no storybook romances, no fairy-tale endings. So before you run out and change the world, ask yourself, ‘What do you really want?'”

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  1. Although, I have not seen Swimming with the Sharks, I can offer a few thoughts on the “Hollywood Dream”… The entertainment industry has found a way to receive free labor (selling of souls, bodies and time) from those people searching for a job in that industry…Instead of having to pay at least the State of California Minimum wage and Overtime. The dream machine sidetracks the law by calling the job seekers interns instead of employees and is free to abuse them. Perhaps one day the Labor Commissioner’s Office will end internship program and the entertainment job seekers will be covered by the Industrial Welfare Commission Order guaranteeing basic employment rights.
    However, the way an employer treats an employee is more of a personal matter. There is no law that an employer has to be nice to someone. Most people are employees at will. Therefore, an employer and employee can end the employment relationship at any time for no reason.

Seattle: A Blast from the Past

On a recent trip to  Seattle, in lightly falling snow, I took a  guided walking tour of the city’s mid-19th century “underground” origins: its musty subterranean passageways of abandoned toilets, pipes,  cast-off furniture and windows that once were the main first-floor storefronts of old downtown Seattle.  Like layers of fossils built one sedimentary deposit over another, the city’s hidden foundations are revealed. Approximately 25 square blocks of wooden buildings were either burned to the ground or flooded during the Great Seattle Fire of 1896.  What were once the first floors of thriving businesses are now 25-to-35-feet high tunnels below street level. Pioneer Square, the city’s birthplace, lies virtually forgotten except for this tour. It was very entertaining!

Next I walked to the historic Panama Hotel, located in Old Japantown,  part of the International District which also includes Chinatown. Built in 1910 by a Japanese-American architect, the Panama Hotel  served as a community gathering place and bathhouse for generations of Japanese immigrants and Alaskan fishermen.  I could see rows of lockers where Japanese Americans stored their belongings before being forced into concentration camps.  Standing on a glass window on the floor of the hotel’s beautifully renovated teahouse, I peered down into the bathhouse, which was not open to the public the day I visited
 Jamie Ford, author of the best seller, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, (whose setting is the Panama Hotel)   stayed here while writing part of this novel.

My third and final stop for the day was the little-known Wing Luke Museum. Wing Luke, the museum’s visionary founder, had dreamt of a place where the healing power of creativity and art embraced by  Asian American communities would flourish in the Pacific Northwest. As not only the first Asian American to hold elected office in the Pacific Northwest but as a supporter of the arts, Wing Luke established this museum to tell a story for all of us.  Dedicated to the Asian Pacific and Native American experiences the museum collection share their stories of survival, success, struggle, conflict, compassion and hope. A Smithsonian Affiliate, the museum is in a beautifully designed new building in which the cultural and artistic legacies of people who are either Asian American,  Native American or both come together for the first time in an exhibit called “Cultural Confluence.”  Heroic art by well-known artists as well as school children is presented, sometimes side-by-side, in original and colorful displays to celebrate life and its unfinished business.

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  1. Next time I’m Seattle, I guess I’ll have to take the underground tour. I’ve always thought about it but never have done it. Now, I know it’s a must for the next Seattle trip. The Panama Hotel Tea Room sounds like it might be another thing to walk into.
    Glad you made the “Asian Tour” of Seattle – sounds like a good thing to do in Seattle.

A Harvest of Images: A Feast for the Eyes!

The Pajaro Valley Arts Council gallery (PVAC) in Watsonville is featuring over 100 images that showcase a wide range of both traditional and experimental printmaking processes, including digital media. The show, “A Harvest of Images”,  was juried by the highly regarded artist Howard Ikemoto, art instructor at Cabrillo College for over 30 years, now retired, who resides near Watsonville. The show opened on February 24 and will close on April 17. Everyone is invited to a reception at the gallery on Sunday, March 13, 2:00-4:00 pm.

The exhibit is an outstanding survey of contemporary fine art printmaking. Located at 37 Sudden Street in Watsonville, on a side street in an old Victorian house.  This ambitious and exciting  show features the work of forty-eight local printmakers from the MPC Print Club (www.mpcprintclub.com), based at Monterey Peninsula College.   Works include etchings, woodcuts, screenprints, monotypes, monoprints, and mixed media prints.

MPC artists capture not only what first meets the eye—the landscapes of great beauty—but also what lies beneath. Some challenge viewers to consider how our fields are tilled and who harvests what and for whom and at what cost. On view are prints that speak to the geography, history, agriculture, labor, culture and habitats of Pajaro Valley. This broad spectrum of new work includes etchings, woodcuts, screenprints, monotypes and mixed media prints.

MPC Printmakers will engage the public in the magic of printmaking, including classical Japanese woodblock,  through artist-led workshops at Pajaro Valley High School and at the PVAC Gallery. The free gallery workshop is March 26, 1-3 pm. A gallery guide (in English and Spanish) will be available for families to learn more about the world of printmaking.

February 24 – April 17, 2011  PVAC Gallery, 37 Sudden Street, Watsonville
831-722-3062; www.pvarts.org

Gallery hours: Thursdays & Fridays 11:00am to 4pm; Sat and Sun 12-4 pm.

Reception: Sunday, March 13, 2:00-4:00pm

Free demo workshop: Saturday, March 26, 1:00-3:00 p.m.

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“Departures”–“Between Life and Death”

For a guest lecture I am preparing for a  course, “Philosophy through the Movies”, I decided to select the Academy Award® Winner for Best Foreign Language Film of 2009,  “Departures”,  (Japanese title: “Okuribito”, lit. “a person sent out or dispatched”), a  look into the in-between of life and death.  What the Tibetan Buddhists would call “bardo”.

Loosely based on Aoki Shinmon’s autobiographical book Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician (納棺夫日記 Nōkanfu Nikki), the movie opens with the main character,  Daigo Kobayashi, preparing a young woman’s body for “sending off” or being dispatched to the next world. After the unexpected happens while tenderly and respectfully cleansing and dressing  the corpse, there is a flashback to Daigo as a cellist in a symphony orchestra in Tokyo.  The orchestra has to disband, for lack of funding, and Daigo finds himself suddenly unemployed.  With his good-natured wife Mika, he moves back to his deceased mother’s house in his hometown in the hinterlands of Yamagata.  (Daigo’s mother had been abandoned by her husband when her son was only four years old and had operated a teahouse or coffee shop in her home to support the two of them.)

Spotting a job listing featuring the word “tabi” (or “trip”) from NK Trading, Daigo applies for the position, thinking he is going to start a new career in the travel industry.  Instead, he is stunned to learn that he will be the Buddhist equivalent of a mortician as well as an embalmer who washes, dresses, and applies makeup to the corpse in front of the bereaved.

Buddhism is  the religion most closely associated with death in Japan. But death is also a taboo or “unclean” subject as it is in the majority of cultures.  This universal fear of death and coming to terms with the death of a loved one are made even more fascinating by the ritualistic preparation of the body in front of the grieving family and friends. Understandably, given the nature of the job, Daigo keeps his new profession secret.  His wife and friends think he is a travel agent.

The theme of karma, the sacred nature of all sentient life, and ritual purification are subtly interwoven.   Death, in all its ambiguity, both a sacred and a profane “departure”, is viewed through Daigo’s eyes as he slowly awakens to the necessity and normalcy of his profession.  “Death is normal”, the movie states, and “Everyone dies”, while the scenes of eating in the office reiterate that “The living eat the dead.”

The themes embedded in every scene of “Departures”–forgiveness, compassion, letting go, and sending off–are about the healing of unhealed wounds.  In the case of Daigo, it is a reconciliation through the stone-letter with his absent father; for his wife, it is the misunderstanding of what death means for the living; and for the NK Trading employer it is the full circle of succession and passing on his experience to the next generation.

“Departures” is a beautifully crafted film, which opened this viewer’s eyes to the essential services that funeral directors, morticians, autopsy doctors and all who handle the dead provide for all of us.  This movie not only demystifies the process of closure, which ritual provides, but also the skillful grace, compassion, and respect for “sending off” the deceased, in order for the living to move on. This cinematic gem is, above all, a profoundly empathetic portrayal of people trying to make peace with the finality of death.

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  1. Dear Diana:
    It is a profound movie, I am so glad we talked about it in the coffee shop. You have such good taste and good choices for movies and for life. Have a good day! By the way, I do like your title and the meaning behind it . Jeanie

BLOOD LOTUS: Discovering New Voices in Literature and Art

I discovered the online journal, Blood Lotus, while doing a Google search for submitting my short stories to small boutique journals.  While spending hours looking for  an appropriate fit for my edgy short stories about growing up with wounds, both healed and unhealed, I discovered this literary and quarterly gem.  Blood Lotus, established in 2006, with the belief everything has not already been written, has a mission to promote not only distinctive writing but also unusual art. Two poets, Stacia Fleegal and Teneice Durrang Delgado, are its co-founders.

Stacia M. Fleegal (co-founder, managing editor, poetry co-editor) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2009 and 2010. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Fourth River, The Louisville Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Pemmican, Blue Collar Review, and The Kerf. She is also co-founder and co-editor of Imaginary Friend Press. The other co-founder and co-editor, Teneice (Durrant) Delgado is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Flame Above Flame (Finishing Line Press 2006) and The Goldilocks Complex (RockSaw Press 2009).

Each issue is predominantly poetry, reflecting the founders’ own interests but, I think, also the need for high-quality poetry journals since poetry is more difficult to get published than non-fiction, and secondarily, fiction, especially by unknown authors.

I particularly liked issue #17, both the art and the literary articles.  The art is a series of woodcuts by Peter L. Scacco, quite abstract and rich in composition.  The fiction and poetry are not mainstream, in the sense that the unexpected happens in offbeat ways.  I particularly liked “Underwater” by Trevor Houser and “Greater than Y” by Cherri Randall.  Check them out!

The theme for the next issue (#19) is the outsider or outlier, one who walks the fine membrane between mainstream and trespasser/interloper.  While my short stories did not fit this theme, the art I submitted fit Blood Lotus‘s “outsider” theme for inclusion in the forthcoming issue.  I hope you check out the issues on line at:  www.bloodlotusjournal.com for new voices, both in literature  and fine art.  The experimental vision of this journal should not be missed!


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