Monday, January 15, 2007

Japanese tell a different story

Japanese stories end a chapter before they would end if they were written in English.
A Chikamatsu play ends with the spectacular double-suicide of star-crossed lovers (climactic death/immediate curtain).
There's no pretense at an explanation/resolution like the feuding-families-finally-make-up ending that comes in "Romeo and Juliet," the ending that should reassures us of Truth, Progress and hope for Justice.
In Japan, life and art aren't about Rationalism/Renaissance-style Da Vinci genius.
Beauty Japanese-style is devoid of Reason.
It is so pure and explosive and mad there's no logic.
This is what is so deep about being Japanese but also what is so frustrating.
Kabuki actor Bando Tamasaburo observes how the ending comes abruptly in "Musume Dojoji."
The woman turned serpent tells her life story (she is a young maiden, she falls in love, etc.) and suddenly she climbs on top of a giant bell in a sheer horrific rage.
Her story is so absolute, he says.
Why do we need that obligatory explanation about how her revenge toward the man who spurned her will be inevitably punished by a Just God?
Tonight, I saw a movie of the duet-version of that dance by Tamasaburo and Onoe Kikunosuke.
The movie allows stunning close-ups that show the nuances of their facial expressions, as well as of their different, but equally convincing, character interpretations and dance styles, all of which you can't experience with the stage version.
I was so taken in by the piece, sitting in the dark half-empty theater (instead of the more well-lit, more croweded Kabuki theater) the hogaku music during the closing credits sounded like funk to my ears.
I am proud to be Japanese.


Anonymous said...

I think Greek tragedy is similar in that there is no logic, no happy end, and the amount of sheer bad luck is just astounding.

I was told that these types of plays produce an effect called "catharsis" in the audience.

Because the play is so horribly tragic, we can happily go back to our own lives feeling "life isn't so bad after all."

Yuri Kageyama said...

There is always "will" in tragedy. If the person didn't make a certain choice, the tragedy could have been prevented. And so it is bad luck or bad choice?