Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Twist In The Naked Arse

OK, OK, so I wasn't the only person to note that the short story by Japanese writer and Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata, The House Of The Sleeping Beauties, was the basis for Sleeping Bewdy. That's the alleged fillum and story association/rip-off-thing I was going apeshit over in an earlier post.

So, I finished reading the story today. Very touching, very making of the person introspective particularly if you are an ageing gent of diminishing sexual prowess staying in a hotel not much more than 100m from Nana Plaza.

And so, moving on from the blinding self-pity of your circumlocuter, there is at least one reason why the short story is better than the movie...

Kawabata tell it from the viewpoint of an 67 year old man, Old Eguchi, (Kawabata was around 50 when he wrote it). Eguchi sleeps next to several young knocked-out beauties at night in something of a brothel (maybe they have other rooms upstairs) over a period of several months. When in the room with them, Eguchi seems always on the verge of either strangling these girls, who toss and turn and talk in their sleep (might as well be snoring - get a CPAP!) or taking an overdose himself of whatever it is they are having.

The fillum however, is told from the perspective of one girl, Lucy/Sara (Emily Browning). She is narcotised overnight for the anonymous pleasure of several impotent old farts (are YOU talking to ME?). She is completely immobile when asleep, except for a corny scene where, already drugged, she hobbles (poorly acted, patently false) across the room to place a secret camera on a shelf before her oldfartfriend arrives.

The short story's final twist - won't spoil it - is good. Let me tell you now, you don't receive the same sense of surprise when you see the movie's corresponding ending scene, primarily because of this inversion of POV, man to woman, old to young, sleeper to watcher. In fact there is no surprise at all in the movie: that person was doomed from dinner time.

Perhaps that predictability, counter to the essential strength given by the short story's final irony, is what makes it ultimately an unsatisfying movie. The unexpected doesn't happen. Well, you can say that what is unexpected in the short story is fairly expected in the movie.


House of Sleeping Beauties is a moderately (85 pages) long short story, a touching meditation on old age and death, sex and youth and with the traditional twist in the tail. (And we won't go into the blazing misogyny of both the story and the film at this time.)

"He was much taken with the thought of sleeping a deathlike sleep next to a girl put into a sleep like death.

"...It was a house frequented by old men who could no longer use women as women: but Eguchi, on his third visit, knew that to sleep with such a girl was a fleeting consolation, the pursuit of a vanished happiness in being alive. And where there among them old men who secretly asked to sleep forever beside a girl who had been put to sleep? There seemed to be a sadness in a young girl's body that called up in an old man a longing for death.

"She had been stripped of all defences, for the sake of her aged guest, of the sad old man. She was naked and she would not awaken. Eguchi felt a wave of pity for her. A thought came to him: the aged have death, the young have love, and death comes once, and love comes over and over again. It was a thought for which he was unprepared, but it calmed him - not that he had been especially overwrought.

"... 'The death of an old man is an ugly thing. I suppose you might think of it as a rebirth in heaven - but I am sure he went the other way.'"


The movie, in contrast, shows a lot of Emily Browning's naked arse.


Put it this was, the short story ends with a punch, the movie is more of a sucker.

I'll shut up now and get back to working on the novel. Sorry, E@L will.

E@L, me, E@L, whomever

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