Derik Badman's Journal

2021-02-06 11:08

Nice lazy relaxing day yesterday. Read a bunch: mostly catching up with stuff on my computer, but also more of JR. Watched Hong Sang-Soo's In Another Country. This one was pretty light, probably too light. It had a framing narrative about a woman at the seaside with her mother, having fled home because their uncle/brother-in-law... did something that caused them to lose money? The woman then starts writing three stories about a foreign woman (played by Isabelle Huppert in all three) coming to the same seaside lodging. The frame story never returns, and I never saw anyway it interacted with the three narratives. It was kind of pointless, like there could have just been three stories in the same location with the same actress and it would have been as effective. Nothing much happens in any of them, but they repeat actors (most/all of them playing the same character except for Huppert) and settings and plot points, but I didn't really... feel anything about any of them. In the end the Huppert character from the third story picks up an umbrella hidden by the Huppert character in the second story and then walks off and... I don't know. It all felt too clever for the lack of depth or payoff. Not as successful as some of Hong's other more playful formal films like Right Now, Wrong Then or Hill of Freedom.

I finished up Aria: The Masterpiece vol. 7, the end of the series, and as it always does it made me cry a little. It's bittersweet evocation of change, seasons, cycles, is so classically Japanese. The protagonists grow up at the end, or at least, they graduate and get jobs. Thinking about it more, though, the utopic setting is not quite so utopic. We never see or hear any indication of money throughout the series. The characters can always see to get the few things they want (mostly food it seems). We never hear any indication that anyone is paid. All the characters, both the younger students/apprentices, and their adult mentors work excessively. It's a ongoing lament by the older adults (which then becomes one by the younger at the end) that though they are amazing friends they can never find time to see each other. They have to coordinate their days off (and find it hard to do such) and seem to work the whole day long (else they could at least get together in the evening or morning for a meal). They work and work and work. We see this through a lens of them loving their work and being amazing at it, but that refrain about friends seeing each other seems to undercut it. Shouldn't this utopic place at least allow for a decent work week and time off? There is a contradictory sense of what constitutes the ideal, but the endlessly hardworking workers is a very conservative vision.

(Having just sat reading JR some more...) One thing Gaddis does superbly well in JR is transitioning scenes. There are no chapter breaks; there are no headings; there are no triple asterisks (what is that called in a novel?). Everything just flows together, so he transitions scenes kind of like a camera following one person into room and then following another one out of the room. He uses all sorts of narrative events to do this, in one I just read he shifts characters via a telephone conversation. One character is talking with another in a room, the one answers the phone and is talking with a third character, the scene then smoothly shifts to the room the third character is in talking to a fourth character (who is then followed out the door to the next scene). It's often disorienting, as the lack of dialogue attribution means you have to read a but to pick up the right context for the new scene.