Thursday, January 30, 2014

Newsreels of War (Part 1)

On July 8, 1937, the hostile confrontation at the Marco Polo Bridge ignited the full-scale war between China and Japan. It was the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937 - 1945), which eventually developed into the World War II in the eastern hemisphere. Japanese Imperial Army and Navy fought fierce battles in Beijin, Shanghai, Nanking and other major areas in China, expanding the Empire's territory. 'Our Soldiers Attack Enemy's Front !', 'Our Imperial Soldiers Fire Back At Hostile Enemies !', "A White Flag on the Enemy's Hill !", these audacious headlines were splashed across the newspapers almost every morning. As in many industrialized nations in the first half of 20th century, Japanese newspapers played the decisive role in forming national opinion and sentiment during the war. Their day-to-day reports from the battlefront were rarely objective data and facts, but read like fanatic pamphlet written in boiled blood.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Literary Genealogy of Rashomon (Part 2)

Robert Browning's Signature on the front page of the original Old Yellow Book
from Cornell University/

Robert Browning composed The Ring and the Book, a long dramatic poem, based on a real-life murder trial in 17th century Rome. In 1698, Count Guido Franceschini was accused of a murder of his wife and of her parents and sentenced to death. He protested and even appealed his innocence to the Pope, who denied his plea eventually. The Ring and the Book is comprised of twelve separate books, the first and the last being the narration by a third person, presumably Browning himself. The remaining ten books are testimonies and discussions by witnesses, the accused, the lawyers and the Pope. This poem was inspired by yet another book Browning found in a stall in Florence (it is called Old Yellow Book). This book was from the 17th century, the time of Franceschini case and contained the actual letters and documents relating to the case.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Literary Genealogy of Rashomon (Part 1)

The Model of Rajoumon (Rashomon) (The Museum of Kyoto)

The word 'Rashomon' has now firmly acquired the place in English vocabulary. Even a person who has never seen the Kurosawa's film uses the term. In Wikipedia, the word "Rashomon Effect" is defined as a term "to refer to contradictory interpretations of the same events by different persons, a problem that arises in the process of uncovering truth". The word also found its entry in OED in the recent edition. In the film Rashomon, there is a crime and there are witnesses (suspects and victims). Each witness tells a story about the crime, - how it happened, who did what, - but each account is different from one another. We speculate why they contradict each other, - these may have been altered by their various emotions, cheated out by their vanity or obscured by their conscience.
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