Two Novels

February 22,2005

Chaka Khan…Chaka Khan…Chaka Khan…Chaka Kahn!

January 24,2005

Postscript to Dylan Documentary

January 21,2005


January 11,2005

Postscript to Rose and the Monkey Spider

January 07,2005

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January 11,2005

The Japanese have a long tradition of befriending outside culture. They roll, knead, shape and bake it into something that hints at the original but is somehow enriched, or at least different. They are more often enhancers than emulators. So be it with language as with electronics.

To the Japanese ear, the King of Funk, Mr. James Brown, is enunciating “geroppa” when he launches into the “get on up” refrain on his funk anthem Get Up I Feel Like A Sex Machine. This has provided the title to one of the wackiest, comico-pathetic Japanese films of recent years. The casting director has wisely chosen Toshiyuki Nishida, surely Japan’s most accomplished comic actor, as the lead in the role of a declining Osakan yakuza boss (Hanemura), and paired him with the perfect foil, Ittoku Kishibe, acting as his selfless, still-waters-run-deep, right-hand man (Kaneyama). Add the feisty, fiercely independent Takako Tokiwa in the role of Hanemura’s estranged daughter, and you have ample natural chemistry.

As for plot, think Japanese Blues Brothers but fixated on one artist’s music. Hanemura, obsessed with James Brown’s funk music, is about to be sent to the pen for racketeering. Kaneyama will do anything in his boss’s last few days of freedom to achieve two things: to reunite him with his daughter and to get him to a James Brown concert one more time. He then hears that the King of Funk is on tour in Japan. Why not kidnap him for a private concert? By fortunate coincidence a James Brown look-alike is in Japan at the same time and contracted to perform a concert for Hanemura’s daughter’s company. Subplots develop with wild abandon as the film reels here, and here.

Those who do not understand Japanese will miss the salty Osakan gangster dialect and the guttural trilled “r” ’s that are de rigeur for any respectable yakuza. How they have even tried to subtitle the dialogue in English I cannot begin to imagine. No matter. The antics and the raw enthusiasm of the actors would surely carry the movie even during a sound blackout. Please do see.

Bons mots et mauvais mots by the famous and not so famous

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