I may have mentioned this before, but an old co-worker of mine once said that you can tell he is in a bad place when he isn’t reading. Up until a few years ago, I read on a regular basis. Then everything changed and reading was no longer fun. I just stopped. And now I am so out of practice, it takes me months to finish a novel. But at least I’m trying! I figure it’s either my state of mind or my selection of books. I can’t seem to keep my mind from wandering after a paragraph or so. In order to correct this, and as is my all-or-nothing style, I decided I need a plan – a challenge – to get me up and running again. I took the advice of a friend and challenged myself to read every Dickens novel I hadn’t read before. A great idea, but once again my self-imposed regimen was so restrictive, I shut down and lost interest.
My new approach is to stop trying so hard. No challenges, no expectations. Just go back to what feels right. And instead of tackling a list of classics or discovering my next great author, I’m going back to my list of favorites: Tyler, Kingsolver, Atwood, Harris, Murakami, etc. They have never failed me in the past, and I already know and love their voices. I recently finished Joanne Harris’s Peaches for Father Francis which was, quite possibly, my favorite of her’s thus far. I am currently reading Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and find I have a hard time putting it down. I may just be on the mend after all.
I have not seen a current movie in a cinema in about 13 years. I know this because the last movie I saw was Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, which I saw with my friend Jennifer in Atlanta in 2000. I do not enjoy the theater-going experience, and to be honest, I don’t really care for mainstream movies. But I adore foreign films. I watched Chocolat for the third time a couple of months ago (if that qualifies as foreign). And since I’m reading Norwegian Wood, I thought I’d re-watch that movie, too. I actually watched this movie a couple of months ago, but I didn’t understand it. After reading a bit of the book now, I see that many relevant details were left out of the movie. I am convinced that when I finish the book, the movie will make more sense. At least I hope so, because I really want to love this movie.
So, what’s the point here? There has been an uncanny connection between the books and movies I’ve gravitated towards recently. This is not the result of one of my silly schemes to get myself back in the saddle. It’s all just coincidence, or serendipity, or Absurdity (thank you, Camus). I love when things come together without actually trying. I can’t wait to see what happens when I try even less.
Again, I watched Norwegian Wood a couple of months ago. It didn’t work for me, but it inspired me enough to watch another Japanese movie. Fortunately, Netflix had a recommendation for me posted at the bottom of the page. The movie is called Departures.
If you like foreign films at all, you must check it out (now streaming on Netflix, by the way.) I loved it so much, I watched it twice in a row. Based on my infrequent movie-watching behavior, that’s saying something.
The plot is ridiculously simple: A professional cellist loses his gig and gets a “real” job in the mortuary services industry. Except for a couple of small sub-plots, that’s it in a nutshell. The move is just about humanity and connections and family and life and death. It flows from sentimental to quirky to grotesque to funny so quickly at times, you won’t know how to react. But if you have a heart at all, you will cry. [Or, if you’re like me, you will sob uncontrollably until your eyes swell and glue shut.]
The music is beautiful, the cinematography is outstanding, and the ceremony scenes are pure poetry.
Did I mention this is a must-see?