Finished Saiyuki, and was rather disappointed to find so many filler episodes. I might need to skim the manga again though, I don't remember much, although I'm pretty certain there was quite a big difference. Oh, and the seiyuu...*grins*...everyone knows the main four, so I'll leave them out, but I recognised Okiayu ^^ (*still likes his Fujimi voice best* XD ) and having Morikawa Toshiyuki there, I'm sure, would have set a certain type of fandom off, especially with regards to one of the main seiyuu. But enough on that. ^^
I finished Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness a while ago, and I don't quite know what to make of it. It's not a long novel, and being mostly from a first-person perspective*, allows for a rhetorical questioning of the society of that time, the era of African colonialisation - imperialism, or, as the summary says, Marlow's "own nature and values (and) the nature and values of his society". Kurtz is quite clearly considered mad in the eyes of the other whites, although, through Marlow, it is shown that it's a matter of perspective. The undiscovered Africa comes across as mysterious, untamed, but is that where the madness lies? What about the colonisers trying to force their society onto another? Or is hiding behind layers of bureaucracy and jargon, denying the truth of what one's society is actually doing, madness in itself? The heart of darkness resists civilisation, but why?
* or rather, it's embedded...it's an interesting technique, because the author can't quite be as long-winded and philosophical as in omniscient 3rd person or what I'll call a 'true' 1st-person, but has to remember that this is a person telling a story, and the short phrases, and the way Marlow clarifies himself, as if he's thinking on his feet, is pretty well done, although the tale still reads a lot better than I'd expect from someone telling it from his head.
When I caught up with NK for Christmas, we went to Lygon street for ice-cream from Il Dolce Freddo, the place where they have some strange flavours (I will get around to trying the durian flavour one day, it just isn't such a good idea when you're there with a friend...), and ended up venturing into the Nova cinema to catch a film. The Nova's probably the only reason I'd seriously consider living in Carlton - it shows some of the best independent films released, and is usually more worthwhile than going to other theatres.
This time, the film was The Constant Gardener, directed by Fernando Meirelles (known probably for City of God), with Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and various other British character actors one might recognise, and based on a novel by John le Carre. Believe it or not, it's a thriller (never judge a book by it's cover, after all), and as such, it's probably best to see it knowing as little as possible - but the summary of the film on the Nova's brochure is perfect. On the other hand, for those who've read a le Carre novel (and I WILL join that club soon), it might not be all that surprising. This gripping film begins with departure and death, and the course of it unravels the surrounding mystery. When his wife is found brutally murdered in an isolated part of Kenya, Justin Qualye begins to look into her secrets, leading us through their relationship even as he discovers what it really meant to both of them.
That, however, is just the romantic side of the plot. Much more important are Tessa Quayle's secrets, her work that she concealed from her diplomat spouse. The Constant Garderner is actually about politics, about large companies, specifically, 'big pharma', and their exploitation of people in developing nations, particularly in Africa, all with the consent of first-world governments. Basically, if you think that exploitation ended with the end of colonialisation, think again. What are we, the people of the developed nations, really doing in Africa? Are the services we provide, the medical care and food supplies, coming from a desire to help our fellow human beings or so that we have another testing ground which doesn't cost us the resources that proper clinical trials do?
I'm not sure there really is such an evil conspiracy - if there was, wouldn't the government have stopped le Carre's book from being published somehow? Unless, of course, they have reasoned it as I have just done (pulling strings to prevent the novel's publication would be suspicious)... But it brings up questions (that might have been raised with the release of The Corporation) regarding the way big companies make decisions, and even the way we consumers make decisions about what to buy. With our capitalist mindset, we want everything for as low a cost as possible, whilst corporations are looking for the greatest profits possible. This means making research, development and production as cheap as possible, leading to the exploitation of poorer peoples around the world. GI has mentioned several times the arguments of various economists that capitalism is the only way the human race can continue to advance (this reminds me, there's another book I have to find and read), but does the price justify it? Is there a humane answer to this dilemma?
Final word: I'll admit it, this is another movie that made me tear. Tessa loved Justin so much that she kept everything from him in order to protect him. And when he realised just what she sacrificed, just what he lost... I expected the ending (NK didn't) because there wasn't any other way their story could have ended. And now, it is up to us to continue fighting for human rights.
And that finally reminds me - one thing I feared in the initial half-hour of The Constant Gardener was that it would be in a similar style to another film I saw whilst in Perth, that it would consist of a series of events not depicted in chronological order, which the audience would have to piece together. The first film I saw with such a technique was Pulp Fiction, and the most confusing is probably Mulholland Drive (although it wasn't the 'non-chronological order thing' that threw my brother and I, it was David Lynch), but 21 Grams nearly drove me up the wall.
21 Grams deals with the lives of three people brought together by, at the most basic level, one man's death. Technically, the film is quite powerful - the directing, the acting, the script etc, I just wish it had been seamed a bit more coherently, because those intertwined lives were hard enough to deal with as it is. I didn't really like it - I don't think one can - let's just say that there are reasons why organ donation is anonymous (and that life can be really messed up, to put it mildly).
But the meaning of the title is interesting, and this isn't coming from a religious viewpoint.
How many lives do we live? How many times do we die? They say we all lose 21 grams... at the exact moment of our death. Everyone. And how much fits into 21 grams? How much is lost? When do we lose 21 grams? How much goes with them? How much is gained? How much is gained? Twenty-one grams. The weight of a stack of five nickels. The weight of a hummingbird. A chocolate bar. How much did 21 grams weigh?