Being a fan of the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, I was a bit sceptical of watching the film version of his most famous novel ‘Norwegian Wood’. Firstly the romantic human drama element in the book is not quite my cup of tea – I’m more of the type of Harukist that is into the faster paced mystery novels like the superb ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’, its sequel ‘Dance Dance Dance’ and the ultimate in surreal captivating storytelling, ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle’, which is one of my favourites. But watching the adaption of Norwegian Wood by director Anh Hung Tran and cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin (who worked on the classic ‘In the Mood for Love’, such a visual delight when I watched at art school), it was easy to forget the book and be carried away by the intensely painterly panoramic shots such as the snow scene, reminiscent of Suibokuga ink painting, and also the striking presence of the figures emerging from the dark beauty of the Japanese interiors. The mood built up like humidity before a thunderstorm, and there was a fair bit of rain too which is always good. There almost didn’t need to be any dialogue at all!
Hearing of Murakami’s influence from Raymond Chandler, I’m currently enjoying reading the hard boiled ‘The Big Sleep’ which has been unexpectedly fun, atmospheric and has some great lingo:
‘So you’re tough tonight,’ Eddie Mars’s voice said.
‘Big, fast, tough and full of prickles. What can I do for you?’
‘Cops over there – you know where. You keep me out of it?’
‘Why should I?’
‘I’m nice to be nice to, soldier. I’m not nice not to be nice to.’
‘Listen hard and you’ll hear my teeth chattering.’
This was another one where the natural elements of hills, palm trees and tree lined streets served to lurk unhappily in the background, gradually permeating the story.
I also watched ‘Poetry’ which I strongly recommend, a recent Korean film which although it starts off with a corpse floating down a beautiful river valley it takes unexpected turns whilst investigating the day to day of the heroine (plus society as a whole), a lady developing alzheimers who struggles to try to write a poem due to various reasons… It is well shot and put together, taking you right into the Korean land and cityscape, and features some very comical and entertaining moments too.