The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice

June 28, 2013

Ochazuke no aji poster.jpg

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Yasujiro Ozu was a contemporary of legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, but is much less famous in the West because instead of making epic, stereotype-enforcing samurai movies, he focused on more low-key, domestic stories.  The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice (Ochazuke no Aji) is a great example of the one of his early comedies that provides an intimate insight Japanese society.  It’s a cute story about a wife, Taeko, and husband, Mokichi, who don’t seem to get on.  She is a shrewish snob who lies to get her way, he is a complacent bumpkin who likes the simple things in life.

It’s set in the post war period, a time of great social upheaval in Japan which informs much of the inter-generational conflict in Ozu’s movies.  The couple’s niece, Setsuko, seeing how unhappy they seem together, refuses to follow in their footsteps and enter into an arranged marriage.  But as the story progresses, the layers are peeled away from the Taeko and Mokichi and it becomes clear that the way they feel towards each other is a lot more complicated than it appears from the outside.  The movie culminates in an incredibly sweet domestic scene that makes this one of the most original love stories I’ve seen in years.

Funny and wise, The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice is well worth chasing down online or at your local library.  Recommended.

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The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson

February 22, 2011

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

The Finkler Question won the 2010 Man Booker Prize, and received glowing reviews from in The Guardian and The New York Times, but if the luke-warm response from my book club and the three star rating on Amazon.com is anything to go by, this book typifies the chasm between critics and the everyday literature reader.

This is not to say that Howard Jacobson’s novel is terrible.  It is funny and well written with some fantastic, witty similes.  But it also self-conscious and trying, and has a central theme which many readers will not engage with. Read the rest of this entry »