Sunday, June 14, 2009

Strictly for ardent fans of Tora-san.








Anyone who has ever clicked on the profile button of this blog would be familiar with the eclectic nature of my top 10 favourite films. And while some may note the presence of what certain people refer to as "arthouse films", others may wonder what films like Raj Kapoor's "Bobby" are doing there.

Closer to the truth would be those who notice the one constant factor in my choice of favourite films: Sentimentality. And that would explain the nature of my own films which, unfortunately, has been the reason why some people disapprove of them so.

Towards the end of 2002, I stumbled upon a Japanese film called "Tasogare Seibei" (Twilight Samurai), written and directed by an old man named Yoji Yamada. So taken was I with the simplicity of the story, and the basic yet deep and humble emotions that dwelled within it, that I hungrily found out as much as I could about Yamada-san's body of work.

I remember Encik Hassan Muthalib, one of my three gurus of filmmaking, telling me to look out for the Tora-san series. Yamada-san had made 48 films in the series, apparently, so I searched everywhere I could -- in Singapore, Hong Kong, and France -- for the very first one.

Happily, I found a dvd copy of it in Hong Kong. It was the last on the shelf, and it was entitled "Otoko wa Tsuraiyo" (It's Hard Being A Man).

The film opened with a square-faced man in his late thirties, roaming around the Japanese countryside, with his voice narrating his plight. He had left home as a teenager after getting into a fight with his father, his head bloodied as a result of it. He had left behind a younger sister named Sakura, now living with some relatives after their parents had died. It was spring now, and watching the Sakura flowers falling made him think about going home. He sang a song, and in it, apologised to Sakura for having been such an unreliable brother to her.

It all sounds terribly melodramatic, obviously, and in a way it was, but as you can see from the third video above, the film offers laughter as well as tears. There are no heroes in the story, and neither are there villains. Every character on screen is capable of both heroism and villainy.

In other words, they are just like you and me.

I have since watched 30 of the 48 in the Tora-san series. Sometimes you get mad at his rude, calloused ways, but sometimes you can't help but admire his kindness and courage in the face of adversity.

In the end, Tora-san was just a man. Worthy of scorn, worthy of admiration, and most of all, worthy of our love and compassion.

On August 4, 1996, the main actor of the Tora-san series, Kiyoshi Atsumi, died, after two years of battling pulmonary tuberculosis. Thus ended the world's longest movie series, in the history of cinema.

Recently I saw the 48th installation, the last in the series, and Atsumi-san clearly looked weak, despite the laughter and bravado so characteristic of Tora-san.

At the end of the film, when the credits rolled, I wept and wept. I realised then that it wasn't just Tora-san I was weeping for. It was for every man I had ever known and learned to love -- my father, my husband, my brother, nephews, and even my friends.

Husband and I

I wept recognising that no one was perfect, and that if we expected to be loved for all our imperfections, why are we so reluctant to accept and forgive the imperfections of others?

("Otoko wa Tsuraiyo" is now officially my number one favourite film of all time.)

76 comments:

Fi-sha said...

Dear Ma'am,

such a beautiful, moving post.Thank you for sharing - You make my day! Cheerio!

star_LiTE said...

Hmm...I wish I can watch the 'Tora-San' series too. Is there any chance for me? Yes, no one is perfect. It's the imperfection made us perfect.

afams-chan said...

Wow

Honestly i never see the film before. Or I probably watched it when I was a small kid but cant remember. But anyways, somehow i amazed with the songs (especially the 2nd clip). It stops me from doing my work as I want to concerntrate the song (and to watch the video as well).

Very nice song indeed! I like it!~

(nothingness) said...

this post is for everybody. and i agree with fi-sha, very moving :)

kamal said...

I love Tora0san series (eventhough I only manage to watch 2 of the series). I instantly fall in love with Sakura. Not only she's hot (in a very demure way), she is like the gentlest person in the world. Even if you slap her across her face, she will cry and forgive you and say that it is not your fault. Yes, she's that gentle.

And i think in our life, we have met someone like Tora-san. The obnoxious loud man with a heart of gold.

A very good series indeed.

yasmin said...

jom kita buat more tora-san screenings!

afams-chan said...

sensei,

Nak!!!!~~ Jom~

yasmin said...

all those in favour of a tora-san screening say "aye!". if we can fill the quota of 20 people, i'll do it, inshaallah.

afams-chan said...

I say "aye!"

yasmin said...

1 down, 19 more to go!

insane inkling said...

i say 'aye too!'

yasmin said...

excellent! kamal, dear, would you mind playing president and do the tally here?

*cosmic freak* said...

Aye! Tweet it okay? ;)

yasmin said...

abby, i've joined twitter but i don't know how to tweet!

*cosmic freak* said...

Tweet tweet! Must learn! I can teach! Hehehe, but you replied to me, so one step done oredi! :)

yasmin said...

i'm a techno moron!

*cosmic freak* said...

Okaylah, do tora-san screening. I come there teach you. Hehehehe - I like technology sharing. ;)

ary said...

i dun like twitter too..haha..but i know how to twit...cepat mak..let me teach u hahaha

reverie said...

aye! =)

Shana (シャナ) said...

So am I! XP Sibuk aje... I say,"aye" as well! ;D

aki said...

Tora-san.. I hear the name then the theme song will ring in my head. My dad is a big fan of Tora-san series, so does mom. I love it, too :) I didn't even know the actor's name, Atsumi Kiyoshi, when I was in school. Tora-san was always Tora-san.

I can take you to Shibamata where the film was set when you visit Japan next time :D

afams-chan said...

There are 5 people already said "aye!"

or is there any people that i missed the count? Jom ramai2 cakap "aye!"

Uncle said...

I was forced to watch Tora-san (one of the series) while doing a Japanese Language Course. Yawning at first.....banyak pengajaran dalam series tu. Very interesting and if you are an ardent fan, please check with Japan Cultural Center. They do have some available.

karateka said...

apa khabar, kak yasmin :) sorry dah lama tak visit your website, and sbg balasan, i missed your post on "talentime" screening at finas... boo hoo. dah la, i missed watching it while 'twas still playing in the cinema.

if i say 'aye' to tora-san screenings, ok tak? or is this open to frequent commenters, etc only?

either way, just dropping by to say "hi" :)

yasmin said...

of course you can say aye, karateka.

*cosmic freak* said...

ayeyaaaaaa ..... tweet tweet!

I remembered being overwhelmed with emotions after watching the Tora-san screening, becos that particular episode was about marrying Sakura, and I'm very close to my brother. When we were growing up, my brother would ask me, "adik sayang sapa lebih, abang ke, kak yong?" of course I say its him. I was 10. He was 13. I'm still learning to love his imperfection, trying, but love is love.

love. is. love.

(tweet tweet)

kamal said...

i'd be honored to.

so far
1. Afams-chan
2. Insane Inking
3. Cosmic Freak (Abby)
4. Reverie
5. Shana
6. Karateka
7. Kamal

syazana said...

aye!!

*cosmic freak* said...

Can Cosmic Freak aye for 2? A possible plus1?

kekure said...

aye?

yasmin said...

abby, applicants have to submit their own "aye", yang.

Jane said...

Nadrah + 1 can ah aunt min?

yasmin said...

nadrah, read my previous comment, darling.

yasmin said...

oh, and kamal, thanks for doing the tally, sayang.

kamal said...

No problem, ma'am.
The list so far...

1. Afams-chan
2. Insane Inkling
3. Cosmic Freak (Abby)
4. Reverie
5. Shana
6. Karateka
7. Kamal
8. syazana
9. kekure (ke-cure)
10. Jane (Nadrah)

*cosmic freak* said...

okay lah, Abby plus Nadrah. done deal. hehe.

Jane said...

Haha, okay nadrah (jumpingjane) seorang je. Sorry for the confusion! Terima kasih!

Rindu sama semua! Especially kakak Ted :P

YTSL said...

Oooo... as it so happens, just so "Tora-San's Sunrise and Sunset" over at the Hong Kong Film Archive this past weekend. A wonderful film -- that makes me glad that are so many other Tora-San films to watch! :)

crux said...

aye!

lama tunggu nak tgk tora-san lagi..

so...nak bwk keria lagi ke?hehe

yasmin said...

hey, we never decided on what number tora-san we want!

kamal said...

how about "Otoko wa Tsuraiyo"

cikgu ina said...

i say aye! but can we make sure its a weekend? i live in ipoh! hungry for any extra input to my brain.

yasmin said...

kamal, that's the first one, which you've already seen, no?

dr. g said...

"Closer to the truth would be those who notice the one constant factor in my choice of favourite films: Sentimentality. And that would explain the nature of my own films which, unfortunately, has been the reason why some people disapprove of them so."

i hope you will finally get the (overdue) local recognition through Talentime. i really, really hope so :)

kamal said...

I thought the series we watched were 'Our Beloved Tramp' and 'Tora'san's love call'?

1. Afams-chan
2. Insane Inkling
3. Cosmic Freak (Abby)
4. Reverie
5. Shana
6. Karateka
7. Kamal
8. syazana
9. kekure (ke-cure)
10. Jane (Nadrah)
11. crux (Rejaie)
12. Cikgu Ina

yasmin said...

that first one WAS called "otoko wa tsuraiyo". maybe i might play the very last one. or maybe i might screen yoji yamada's "a distant cry from spring" which stars chieko baisho (sakura).

crux said...

what about the one where he got bitten by a snake? yang number 48 kan? googled it and the title is "Otoko wa tsurai yo: Torajiro kurenai no hana"...that is interesting i think...

or maybe the one with the artist?

and bila nak buat the screening kak min?

yasmin said...

yang 48 tu is the very last one. quite kesian tengok dia dah macam weak and sakit.

crux said...

yang snake bite tu yg mana ek?the one with the big controversy...

yasmin said...

i don't recall any snake bite in any of the films between 40 and 48. maybe it's some earlier one.

crux said...

herm..i read about that sometime ago...so macam interested nak tgk...tapi kalau takde according to the guru of torasan..maknanya takde kot..haha..

but i think id like to see the last one...coz i saw the 1st one, and im the kind of person yg suka skip to the last part...hehe

yasmin said...

is anyone else in agreement? i'm fine with it. although maybe people who have never watched a tora-san before might like to see at least a glimpse of some earlier ones. or we could do 2 screenings?

by the way aie, will we have another taste of your famous kuih keria? ;-)

crux said...

i agree with the last one...but i agree more on doing 2 screenings...(maybe more than 2, perhaps?macm dolu dolu)

tho u left out the 'j' in my name (accidentally i think), i think i can find another source for the keria..hehe...and credits goes to the makcik...i just beli je..hehe...

*cosmic freak* said...

saya groupie.

Ada screening, saya pergi, tak kisah nombor berapa, dah ada 48 episode. kalau tengok balik yang hari tu punya pun takpe. sebab kalau cerita tu bagus, tengok banyak kali pun nangis sebaldi sama rata jugak.

maka. yes. I apparently, hope it'll be a weekday, so its easier for me to come straight from the office.

kekure said...

yoji yamada's a distant cry from spring?Yes,Please!

Jane said...

HAHA aie? Kuih keria hari tu tak rasa pun, kenyang sangat. And anything is fine. I've never watched a Tora-San!

yasmin said...

jane! i misschew!

Jane said...

Me too! And everyone else. Are you going to Freeflicks?

kamal-san said...

Yg mana mana pun boleh.

You know what, it would be much awesomer if you guys wear kimono to the screening. I can be the sakura tree. or sin chan.

yasmin said...

ko gatal la kamal. hehe!

karateka said...

thank you, kak yasmin, and kamal for including my 'aye' :) ya, i don't mind any episode since i've never watched any tora-san. :) screening is where/when? pray-pray that work doesn't pop up that particular time!

yasmin said...

hey, you're more than welcomed, karateka. screening time not yet confirmed.

Anonymous said...

ms. yasmin,

sorry, off topik sikit. speaking of imperfections and the source of it- our own emotions- you pernah tengok tak a local artiste named fynn jamal, on yourtube. her 'puisi buat ayahanda' make me cry, or to put it honestly, speechless...

deep, genuine and raw emotions-rolls into one. maybe, if you plan to do tale and time 2, you can include her...

-orang kecik malaya-

nijnim said...

aye~!!
hope i'm not too late~

Hi Kak Yasmin~
i visited your blog before~ but this is the first time i leave a message here~
Wish you have a good day~ :D

Anonymous said...

Hi , remember me, Im Randolf, your long lost friend, we met at Manila Mandarin hotel, i think thats 8 years ago, Congratulation of all your achievements. I missed you my Friend.

Anonymous said...

Hi Yasmin, Its Randolf your Friend in the Philippines for the past 9 years,How are you, my Email add: trackerranz68@yahoo.com

farahin said...

hi :) am eager to catch the tora-san's screening. may a newbie squeeze in?

p/s: i say aye?

Jane said...

Faraaaa I know you! Okay Kamal, Fara masuk okay. Haha :)

farahin said...

ahehe. aye!

yasmin said...

wonder what the tally is now...

crux said...

14...

1. Afams-chan

2. Insane Inkling

3. Cosmic Freak (Abby)

4. Reverie

5. Shana

6. Karateka

7. Kamal

8. syazana

9. kekure (ke-cure)

10. Jane (Nadrah)

11. crux (Rejaie)

12. Cikgu Ina
13. Nijnim
14. Farahin

kamal....hang pi mana daaa...

Jane said...

1. Afams-chan
2. Insane Inkling
3. Cosmic Freak (Abby)
4. Reverie
5. Shana
6. Karateka
7. Kamal
8. syazana
9. kekure (ke-cure)
10. Jane (Nadrah)
11. crux (Rejaie)
12. Cikgu Ina

(Nadrah tolong sambung)

13. Nijnim
14. Farahin

Jane said...

I have a really strong feeling that we'll be meeting during my Final examination days. :(

Kalau boleh, after the 29th please.

Terima kasih!

yasmin said...

ok jane, we'll do it AFTER the 29th, inshaallah.

Anonymous said...

Hi Yasmin,

I'd like to quote your blog in a Tora-san project I'm working on here in Japan. Can you email me at stuart4th@yahoo.com? Thanks!

Stuart Galbraith IV

ravi deshpande said...

Hey, thanx for that post.