„A Mountain Pass Demands a Decision From Us“

Extracts of Makabe Jin and Ogawa Pro

“Passes are places of decision.

The familiar melancholy of parting drifts at passes.

Squeezing the mountain road

The ridges loom over your exposed body

And before long you put them behind you.

Two views are woven together.

Without losing one world,

You cannot enter the other, separate one.

Only by enduring a great loss

does a new world unfold.

When standing on a pass

the path you’ve passed us a charming memory

and the path unfolding below is pleasing.

Paths do not answer.

Paths do nothing but invite.

The sky above the pass is as sweet as a dream.

Even if you know the route

there

you must abandon one world.

To hide such feelings

the traveller stops to pee

pick some flowers

enjoy a cigarette

and take in the view as far as the eye can see.”

– “A Mountain Pass”, Makabe Jin

~

While protesting in Sanrizuka, student-activist Higashiyama Kaoru was shot in the head with a tear gas canister at the hands of a riot police officer. He died shortly after the fact. Kaoru is pictured below.

“When Kaoru was born the leaves were green and the sky was serene. Today is the same kind of day, with serene skies and full of green. That sky sees many tragedies in the world of the humans. A heart as broad and pure as the sky is the finest tribute to my son.”

– Higashiyama Kaoru’s father, from Sanrizuka – Satsuki no sora sato no kayoji

“Humans are amazing, no?

Trees and flowers and beasts in the snow

They can’t live properly.

The time when words are abandoned is coming.”

– Post-screening report card from a 26-year-old woman from Tokyo, re: Nippon-koku: Furuyashiki-mura

~

“Will I support you? If all this means is screening films, then I’m against you. Basically, it’s the problem of peddling humanism. If we can’t provoke revolution, then making films that inspire sympathy is nonsense. The beginnings of struggle may start with sympathy (as long as it does not befall oneself). However, does not one need an after-film discussion that makes this sympathy your own problem?”

– Survey written by a worker from the Nakano Ward Office after a screening of Nihon Kaiho sensen: Sanrizuka no natsu

“After one of his publications, a coal worker broke into the Ueno’s home. He approached the author with a knife, plunging it into the floor and demanded to know why Ueno wrote what he did. Ueno defended his work rather than running away. In documentary, one must bet one’s life. Ueno once wrote: “Don’t be frugal with money; don’t be frugal with time; don’t be frugal with life.” Only Ueno Hidenobu could do this. Ogawa Shinsuke didn’t have the guts.”

– Honma Shusuke (former member of Ogawa Pro) on author Ueno Hidenobu

(all extracts taken from Abé Markus Nornes‘ Forest of Pressure)

~

Makabe Jin in Toge – Zao to Makabe Jin

more: Village Time – Shinsuke Ogawa Pro’s Sanrizuka: Heta Village

The End of Summer/Early Spring

The sun from two hemispheres.

~

„Here’s a song about the sunshine, dedicated to the sunshine“

Health and Efficiency, This Heat

I.

II.

The sun flared and died

beyond my horizons.

The earth rotated

unnoted in my notebooks

– May 16, 1973, Wisława Szymborska

III.

PETRUCHIO –
I say it is the moon.

KATHERINA –
I know it is the moon.

PETRUCHIO –
Nay, then you lie; it is the blessed sun.

KATHERINA –
Then, God be bless’d, it is the blessed sun

– – The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare

IV.

Then tracks were lain
across the plain
By broken old men
in torrid rains
The towns grew up
and the people were still
Sleeping in the midday sun
Sleeping in the midday sun
Sleeping in the midday sun
Sleeping in the midday sun
Buffalo Ballet, John Cale

Roberto Bolaño / Andrei Tarkovsky

– Excerpt taken from the short story Días de 1978 by Roberto Bolaño, from his collection entitled Llamadas Telefonicas (trans. Chris Andrews)

This might be a good time to leave, thinks B. But instead he opens the bottle and offers them a glass of wine, which the pale girl accepts without without batting an eyelid, as does U, although he seems unwilling or unable to drink and takes only a sip, as if not to offend B. And as they drink, or pretend to drink, the pale girl starts talking, telling them about the last film she saw; it was awful, she says, and then she asks them if they have seen anything good, anything they could recommend. The question is, in fact, rhetorical. By posing it the pale girls is tacitly establishing a hierarchy in which she occupies a position of supremacy. Yet she observes a certain queenly decorum, for the question also implies a disposition (on her part, but also on the part of a higher agency, moved by its own sovereign will) to grant both B and U places in the hierarchy, which is a clear indication of her desire to be inclusive, even in circumstances such as these.

U opens his mouth for the first time and says it’s a long while since he went to the cinema. To B’s surprise, his voice sounds perfectly normal. A well-modulated voice, with a tone that that betrays a certain sadness, a Chilean, bottom-heavy tone, which the pale girl does not find unpleasant, nor would the people shut in the bedroom, were they to hear it. Not even B finds it unpleasant, although for him that tone of voice has strange associations: it conjures up a silent black-and-white film in which, all of a sudden, the characters start shouting incomprehensibly at the top of their voices, while a red line appears in the middle of the screen and begins to widen and spread. This vision, or premonition, perhaps, makes B so nervous that in spite of himself he opens his mouth and says he has seen a film recently and it was a very good film.

And straight away (though what he would really like to do is extract himself from that armchair, and put the room, the house, and that part of town behind him) he begins to tell the story of the film. He speaks to the pale girl, who listens with an expression of disgust and interest on her face (as if disgust and interest were inextricable), but he is really talking to U, or that, at least, is what he believes as rushes through the summary.

The film is scored into his memory. Even today he can remember it in detail. At the time he had just seen it, so his account must have been vivid if not elegant. The film tells the story of a monk who paints icons in medieval Russia. B’s words conjure up feudal lords, Orthodox priests, peasants, burnt churches, envy and ignorance, festivals and a river at night, doubt and time, the certainty of artand the irreparable spilling of blood. Three characters emerge as central, if not in the film itself, in the version of this Russian film recounted by a Chilean in the house of his Chilean friends, sitting opposite a frustrated Chilean suicide, one beautiful spring evening in Barcelona: the first of these painters is a monk and painter, who unintentionally brings about the arrest, by soldiers, of the second character, a satirical poet, a goliard, a medieval beatnik, poor and half-educated, a fool, a sort of Villon wandering the vast steppes of Russia; the third character is a boy, the son of a bell caster,  who, after an epidemic, claims to have inherited the secrets of his father’s difficult art. The monk represents the Artist wholly devoted to his art. The wandering poet is a fool, with all the fragility and pain of the world written on his face. The adolescent caster of bells is Rimbaud, in other words the Orphean.

rublev-fresco-2

The ending of the film, drawn out like a birth, shows the process of casting the bell. The feudal lord wants a new bell, but a plague has decimated the population and the old caster has died. The lord’s men go looking for him but all they find is a house in ruins and the sole survivor, the caster’s adolescent son. He tries to convince them that he knows how to cast a bell. The lord’s henchmen are dubious at first, but finally take him with them, having warned that he will pay with his life if there is anything wrong with the bell.rublev-fresco-3

From time to time, the monk, who has renounced painting and sworn a vow of silence, walks through the countryside, past the place where workers are building a mould for the bell. Sometimes the boy makes fun of him (as he makes fun of everything). He taunts the monk by asking him questions and laughs at him. Outside the city walls, as the construction of the mould progresses, a kind of festival springs up in the shadow of the scaffolding. One afternoon, as he is walking past with some other monks, the former painter stops to listen to a poet, who turns out to be the beatnik, the one he unwittingly sent to prison many years ago. The poet recognises the monk and confronts him with his past action, tells him, in brutal, childish language, about the hardships he had to bear, how close he came to dying, day after day. Faithful to his vow of silence, the monk does not reply, although by the way he gazes at the poet you can tell he is taking responsibility for it all, including what was not his fault, and asking forgiveness. The people look at the poet and the monk and are completely bewildered, but they ask the poet to go on telling them stories, to leave the monk alone, and make them laugh again. The poet is crying, but when he turns back to his audience he recovers his spirits.

rublev-fresco-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so the days go by. Sometimes the feudal lord and his nobles visit the makeshift foundry to see how work on the bell is progressing. They do not talk to the boy, but to one of the lord’s henchmen, who serves as an intermediary. The monk keeps walking past, watching the work with growing interest. He doesn’t know himself why he is so interested. Meanwhile, the tradesmen who are working under the boy’s orders are worried about their young master. They make sure he eats. They joke with him. Over the weeks they have become fond of him. And finally the big day arrives. They hoist up the bell. Everyone gathers around the wooden scaffolding from which the bell hangs to hear it ring for the first time. Everyone has come out of the walled city: the feudal lord and his nobles and even a young Italian ambassador, for whom the Russians are barbarians. Everyone is waiting. Lost in the multitude, the monk is waiting too. They ring the bell. The chime is perfect. The bell does not break, nor does the sound die away. Everyone congratulates the feudal lord, including the Italian.

The celebration begins. When they are over, in what had seemed a fairground and is now a wasteland scattered with debris, only two people remain beside the abandoned foundry: the boy and the monk. The boy is sitting on the ground crying his eyes out. The monk is standing beside him, watching. The boy looks at the monk and says that his father, drunken pig that he was, never taught him the art of casting bells and would have taken his secrets to the grave; he taught himself, by watching. And he goes on crying. Then the monk crouches down and, breaking what was to be a lifelong vow of silence, says, Come with me to the monastery. I’ll start painting again and you can make bells for the churches. Don’t cry.

And that is where the film ends.

When B stops talking, U is crying.