Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sleeping Bewdy

[Do'h! See comments.]

Seduced, mesmerised, captivated, as were we all indubitably, by the gentle pace and the soft visual caresses of that recent Orstrayen fillum, Sleeping Beauty (NOT the Disney pic), E@L allows himself to drift away and lose himself in the obscure world of sex, beauty and death that lies way above our tedious day-to-day existence, into that floating world of timeless daydreaming and soft-core porn.

Sleeping Beauty from Pollen Digital on Vimeo.

Anyone seen it? No? Figured as much. Philistines.

Art? Well it would have made to the select cellar of a hundred million or so unwatched arty-farty fillums, down there with Melancholia and Tree Of Life, but it was not shot in black and white.

So not quite art, perhaps. Not at all in B&W.

But then again, it is a... pale film. There is a lot of paleness to it. Not quite a whiter shade, but it is, you know, pale. Which is not to say it is an insipid or wishy-washy movie. F'kn weird, yes.

You see (no pun intended), Emily Browning - from Sucker Punch and Lemony Snicket - is in a state of near or complete undressedness for large sections for some parts of it, and she has the palest, purest, almost translucent skin. She must have come to HK or Thailand to get some of those skin bleaching treatments which are advertised ubiquitously there/here. Many of the rooms in the flick are white, light grey, cream... such as the cold, clinical white (cliché alert!) of the research-lab where she goes to swallow a gastric tube, yuck, to have her stomach acidity read (by guy looking at a syringe it seems - where the fuck is the proper analyser?). And, um, there are other bits that are white-ish as well. Need to re-watch. Again, wasn't looking specifically for the colour scheme, was looking for breast and butts and lithe female forms.

Yep, a lot of paleness and a lot of flesh. Surely if that don't approach a goddam work of art, I don't know what does. Really, I do not know.

Recently I tried to convince Bruce that it was soft-porn (aka Art), so I re-watched it with him, and no, there's not nearly so much nudity as I thought. He told me there was bugger all nakedness in fact, and that it was a fucking weird flick and he was going to hit me several times quite hard for making him watch it when he could have gone out for a rub and tug...

Grant you that.

Plot: girl gets put into a deep sleep so that impotent old men can look at her naked in bed.

Not much to go on, you say.

Grant you that, too.

However you have to admit Browning does a terrific job of staying "asleep" (spoiler: she is just acting really, at least I hope she is) in this, like, gross-out scene where veteran Oz actor Chris Haywood does some fancy eye- and nostril-licking. Shudder. And then the big guy has a heart-attack (I think) and drops her off the bed and onto the floor... Ouch! Hope the carpet was soft. If only there was an Academy Award for not reacting!

But, getting serious again, it is the gentle pacing of the editing and/or direction (not as slow as the slow bits in Drive - Antonioni remakes Fast and Furious, guffaw) that is reminiscent of something that I can't quite place. Of course there is movement amongst all this stillness, call it action, but it is so quiet and understated that it can become a dream, a sleep-walking state... Not just Emily asleep, but the way all the people in the White House move so languorously: they are never in a hurry; and how they talk softly, in what you might call measured tones if you were fond of clichés. That stirring of the tea, with a whisk, Japanese style.1

It reminds me I think, of the way the more typical modern Japanese literature works. I have read something, somewhere, maybe from Soseki, Tanazaki or H. Murakami that has these qualities. Seriously, I *did* think this movie might have some Japanese origin... The old silence speaks volumes thing, the relaxation that creates tension (maybe it doesn't that 100% successfully here, it is not a completely satisfying film), the speed at which you stay still, the perfect emotional control in a crisis.


Now, sigh, I don't have the movie on my hard-disk because that would constitute piracy (I didn't back it up onto this HDD here with me in BKK) to check the credits so I can only look up IMDB or the website.

But I wanted to know what they say is the true source of this storyline, other than Grimm's Fairy Tales? There seems to be nothing there on the internet - the script is attributed to Julia Leigh, the director. There's no mention of it being adapted from any other source...


SSSOOOooooooo... I was in Kinokinuya in Paragon shopping centre in BKK today (oh fuck, yesterday) in search of a remaindered copy (because I was not aware of a full price copy in Singapore, and he had mentioned it the other day on his blog, and here I am in Bangkok...) of Tim from Cultural Snow's book on the so-called Noughties - so-called because they ARE so called - and of course, having found one eventually: they hid that lost copy pretty damn well, right there under my nose, I continued on browsing.

Beleive it or not, Kinokinuya have a damn fine selection Japanese literature in English, 40% or so of which are written not by Haruki Murakami (this guy has Nobel Prize written all over him, surely, at least if sales are anything to go by. ). One author who is not H. Murakumi is Yasunari Kawabata. A damn great writer whom my friend who did Japanese literature in Tokyo has never heard of, even though, speaking of which, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1968.

Many great little books by Kawabata, some terrific longer ones too (allegedly, I've only finished the short ones), and I disappointed not to be able to locate (in Geelong, well d'uh) a copy of Kawabata's semi-fictional novel, The Master Of Go. This I intended to present to No1 son during the Saturnalia period of gift-giving, to match with the Go set I did manage to find. (Hint: this is significant.2)

Anyways, here in BKK, I did find a book of Kawabata's short stories, House Of The Sleeping Beauties. It is a Kawabata I haven't read, wasn't even aware of. The Izu Dancer (the book that made him famous and loved), The Master of Go, Beauty and Sadness, and Snow Country I have read, some a few times, and this is a small book too, so I purchased it of course. (That, Tim's 0s, and a history of Bosnia [don't ask], but where the fuck am I going to find space to put them?)


The book was wrapped in plastic still, so E@L had no idea if there was any correspondence between these stories and the movie with a similar title. He had only a vague feeling of suspicion, of quiet anticipation, until he unwrapped it. It was one of those editions you only see from Japan: a paperback, with a dust-jacket! He turned it over to admire it. Mainly shiny black, with a gold Klimt image on the left side of the front - The Hydra. Admirable. He looked at the colour of the inner, true, cover. It was bright red, surprising, a hidden dangerous colour, concealed like the harsh sudden contrast of a woman's innermost secret parts, revealed. Kodansha Intl. The title story was originally published, in Japanese, in 1961. This English edition dated from 2004.

He was sitting on a broad chair of Chinese design in a the private room of a gentleman's parlour in the distinguished suburb of Nana, when he read the first sentence. His paramour de jour, a fragrant blossom of a thing whose name, Khun Ying, rang like a tiny bell to his ears, was bent over, filling the large bath and splashing soapy water onto the rubber mattress on the floor, rendering its friction minimal, surfactants releasing the mineral-hidden slipperiness of water. Her left hand was plashing in the bath, stirring up pillows of luxurious foam.

He almost laughed, almost out loud!

He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the inn warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger into the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything of that sort.

"Oh ho! Oh Ho!, It is the same story, it is!" he laughed, out loud.

She turned her heart-shaped face towards him. She was naked of course, facing away from him at first. He paused his reading to admire her more attentively as she eased the shining parts of her soft female machine into a semi-profile. He could see the smooth hillock's outline where her thigh merged with her hip; he could follow the reptilian arc of her spine from its lower dimples to a small inverted triangle of fine hair at the nape of her slender neck where she had tied up the black tresses to keep them from getting too wet and pinned them secure with a white butterfly clip; he could, and did, admire the outline at the soft fall of her small, perfect breast.


"It is the movie," he said. "It is exactly the same!" 3

"Why you say, moowee, wha moowee?"

The light was glistening on her wet skin where water beaded and fell in haphazard rivulets down the dark contours of her body, like condensation on a chilled beer glass. She stood up, placed her hand on her hip and looked at him, challengingly. Still, she stayed still. He felt quite heady under the power of her undaunted gaze. Against this female energy, this independence and will, he tried to assimilate the timeless beauty of her perfect form with the prejudices against her ancient profession. She was beautiful, perfect, classic, and she defied him to say otherwise. She defied him to judge, to say it made a difference, as if anything he could say or think would ever make a difference.

But still he was entranced by the gentleness of her body as she stood there, immobile. The delicate curve of her elbow, her arm smooth and dark as polished ebony (she was from down south), her hip jutting out to hold it, her knee slightly bent in just such a way; these features gave her entire stance the coquettish form of a famous statue, one he once knew but could not quite place...

He had seen her before, in her pure form: somewhere, she was a work of art.


So I read a bit more of this story. I doesn't take long to see what is happening here, another couple of paragraphs.

Plot: a girl gets put into a deep sleep so that impotent old men can look at her naked in bed!

This is it - absolutely 100% it. The plot for Sleeping Beauty comes from this Japanese story by Yasanuri Kawabata...



1. I seem to recall (ther's a lot vagueness in this post) that there is a fairly detailed description of the tea-ceremony in The Master Of Go  (this will make sense eventually, continue reading the post.), or maybe it is in another of Kawabata's books. Green tea powder is whisked to a froth in the Japanese tea-ceremony, as Rachael Blake does with the sleeping draught she mixes for Emily Browning.


2. Browning's character is a poor university student who is doing this sleep thing as an easy way for her to make good money. One of the lectures she walks out on in order to get to another of her on-call sleeping jobs is a lecture on a particular game of Go! "Why would the Master, after spending all this time thinking, make such a bad move?" or words to that effect. I seem to recollect this sort of conundrum being close to a section of that other Kawabata book, The Master of Go where an old master loses to a dashing young challenger (we've all been there).


Ancient Japanese Go-Go girls...

3. Almost. In the movie, Emily Browning as the candidate for the Sleeping Beauty job, is told that she will not, under any circumstances, be "penetrated".


There are other points of correspondence too. The first old man holding, lifting and letting drop Browning's arm - the description of a similar incident in the story is quite mesmerizing and it almost perfectly realized, word for word as it were, in the movie. And then there is... not sure, but there must be more. I'd better read more of the story before I can say.


Anyway, it's a given.

Again, BING!


Obviously all this was no mystery to Julia Leigh: she put that Go lecture in there for a reason. I am just wondering if she duly and correctly attributed the story to Kawabata in the credits. I'll have to wait 4hrs until this new torrent downloads, I mean until I get back to Singapore to view my legit DVD.

So there you have it: E@L the literary detective solves the mystery yet again. (There was a mystery?) The movie Sleeping Beauty is, cunningly and in an attempt to divert suspicion, based on a Japanese story called House of The Sleeping Beauties. Who woulda thunk?


(I know none of you give a fuck about any of this, but it's made my pathetic, wasted-life of a day, such as it was.)

(Also, this post was originally meant to constitute "a full critical analysis" of The Noughties, to be placed "">here (i.e.: Tim's blog) first thing in the morning. With footnotes." Oops. Got distracted, again.)


Mr Upstream said...

Mr Upstream is, by and large, approving of a) naked women and b) women who do not complain. Still, something tells him that this may not be the film for him.

Laurence said...

I haven't seen the credits - but this article suggests that it is a well known fact that it is Julia Leigh's (re)interpretation of Kawabata's short story:

expat@large said...

No, no mention of Kawabata in the end-credits. Written and Directed by Julia Leigh. Ha.

expat@large said...

I put a review in IMDB and altered Wikipedia to reflect my brilliant discovery.

expat@large said...

Lawrence: Do'h!

expat@large said...

I changed the fucking Wikipedia entry. Anyway it was fun sorting out some of the references.

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