Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reflections, endings and beginnings

This blog is two years old today, and I believe this is the 369th post.

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Work finally calmed down late on Tuesday evening. Over 40 hours of intensive calculation in 3 days left me utterly exhausted. I've never needed to work with quite such fevered intensity as this. I've never been a crammer, exams at undergraduate level were a relatively relaxed affair in terms of timing as the revision was usually well planned. So, the task of pulling a series of very late-nights and early mornings was not something I envisioned enjoying. However, the hours did go between complete fatigue and a strange, work fueled euphoria which was actually rather empowering at times.

Yesterday I was too drained to do anything of any use, so I had a relaxed day in a cafe and then went to see Bergman's Wild Strawberries at D22. An early road trip movie, concerning the realisition of an elderly man about the path his life has taken and what he has lost, both physically an emotionally through the years. It's a reflection not just of the individual, but a look at how we sometimes ignore the mirror of those around us, forming our own crooked picture of the way we appear, and our own moral absolutes. This is perfect Bergman material and well worth a watch. Having seen Through a Glass Darkly, earlier in the year I now realise how adept Bergman was at capturing troubled emotions through simple images - sometimes cliched, but always powerful.

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I wanted to add an extra note about the Kabuki, which I watched twice last week. I'd been pondering the use of the onnagata, the men who specialise in playing women's roles (there are no women in kabuki performances, though there used to be).

As I watched the second performance on Wednesday evening I wondered what it was about a 76 year old man (Kabuki legend Nakamura Senjaki III) playing the role of a young woman, a teenager, dancing on stage, that was so captivating to watch. This sounds strange, I'm sure, but in fact it comes off as absolutely natural and beautiful to watch.

I was trying to work out why one would have men playing female roles, other than through simple discrimination, but I think I have a clue now, after my fourth viewing of Kabuki. The vision of a man playing a woman's role is an entirely de-sexualised one. There is no thought of the player on stage having anything to do with sexual allure, as it might do if it were a beautiful woman playing the role. What you are left with is a neutered form but still retaining all the elegance and grace which may have been masked by any erotic distractions. The stripping of one aspect of attraction to reveal in much more clear contrast another. It may sound strange, but it really is fantastic to watch.

OK, I think that's probably my input on Kabuki for now, but I'm sure it will crop up again in the future.

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I'm still feeling pretty drained but have plenty of work to be getting on with now. Just three full weeks left in Beijing is a fairly terrifying thought - two years have gone very very quickly - thoughts of Bergman resurface!

5 comments:

René Meyer said...

Hi Jon, seems that you will miss Beijing alot. Three weeks to go, and you already realize how many things undone and how many sights unseen in that huge, sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly city. I guess life will be much different in the 100000 inhabitants town (imagine how small it is!) Santiago de Compostela ;-)

Best, and thanks alot for incredible commitment while writing this paper,

Rene

Luca said...

Sorry, Jon, but according to Nakamura Senjaku's website he was born in 1960 ...

Anyway. I hope you'll enjoy what Beijing has to offer for these few weeks and be ready for a new Spanish adventure.
How are things going with your Spanish lessons? And how do you find a way to study Spanish in China?

Jonathan Shock said...

Ah, thanks Luca. That was the wrong link. He was born in 1931, according to his bio. In fact, in the performance, his son who is in his 40s, at a guess, plays his own (real life) father's husband!

The Spanish started well but has been put on hold while I finished my last paper. There are very cheap language lessons at the Spanish institute. Unfortunately it's the other side of the city. I'm using Pimsleur's mp3s for Spanish as they have been so useful for Chinese. I need to get hold of a good text book too in order to start on the grammar.

Jonathan Shock said...

Rene, you're absolutely right. I'm going to miss Beijing a great deal. Of course there are aspects which I will not be sorry to leave behind but on the whole it will not be easy to leave. Spain is going to be another incredible experience I'm sure and moving to such a tiny city, in comparison, is going to be very strange.

It's been a pleasure working on the paper and I look forward to more soon, perhaps in a rather more relaxed style ;-)

J

Jonathan Shock said...

Luca, in fact he and his son have the same stage name. The first link was to his son. I've now fixed the link. Thanks for noting the mistake :-)