The yellow jumpsuit and the Onitsuka Tiger trainers worn by Uma Thurman as The Bride in Kill Bill were a bonkers and ingenious costuming decision- few directors know how to create instant nuggets of cinematic iconography like Quentin Tarantino.
I’m no great fan of this film or of Tarantino’s in general, but I can’t help finding this re-imagined poster for The Troc’s midnight showing rather attractive, not least because it so neatly exemplifies the precise knack I mention above.
Nigel Cabourn’s signature.
Croatian enfant terrible Ivo Pogorelić, photographed by Davor Šiftar in the early eighties.
In 1980 at the 10th quinquennial International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, the 22-year old Pogorelić caused a sensation with his radical interpretation and strident behaviour during the competition’s third round. This led to severe conflict on the prestigious panel, with several judges repulsed by his performance whilst others- including Nikita Magaloff, Paul Badura-Skoda and Martha Argerich- voiced strong approval. Upon Pogorelić’s failure to advance to the next round, Louis Kentner resigned from the panel due to his disapproval of their official appraisal of Pogorelić’s performance.
Meanwhile, the ever-tempestuous Argerich (who had won the competition herself in 1965) took exception to the verdict to eject Pogorelić. After declaring the young pianist a genius, she stormed out of the competition in dramatic fashion declaring herself ashamed to have taken part.
The advantage of a competition which occurs once every 5 years is that it gives adequate time for the artistic temperament to cool between bouts in the ring. Although Kentner never returned to Warsaw as a judge, Argerich has been a juror on subsequent panels, including the last competition in 2010, won by Yuliana Avdeeva.
Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor and film director Yukio Mishima (January 14 1925- November 25 1970).
A three-time Nobel Prize nominee, Mishima was a prolific and provocative literary voice who examined various cultural tensions of tradition and modernity in mid-twentieth century Japan. Much of his writing is characterised by a complex and impassioned response to the various social conflicts he saw brought about by the overpowering tide of Westernisation sweeping Japan during his lifetime.
His work, which displays some degree of avant garde sensibility, demonstrates a strong preoccupation with sexuality, death and politics. In his examination of these themes he was profoundly drawn to and influenced by Western culture (of which he was an avid student), but retained a deeper and more powerful conservative adherence to traditional Japanese art, drama, philosophy and martial ideology- going so far as to adopt the code of the samurai’s bushido (a code almost universally regarded as an anachronism by that time) and becoming obsessively devoted to weight-training in the final decade of his life.
The violent clashing of East and West was not an abstract quandrary for Mishima, but rather an internalised struggle that had dramatic personal impact. An emotional and political extremist, his work and lifestyle were widely ridiculed by many- particularly those on the left, who regarded Mishima’s ever-increasing right-wing sympathies as backward.
Outlandish as his politics were becoming, his literary voice continued to reach a broad audience, and many found his work across the arts resonated on a deep, nationalistic level:
Mishima was not the only Japanese citizen to feel their country was in danger of becoming too Westernized, and his novels reflect the conflicted state of Japan’s national consciousness during the Meiji era.
Before the Meiji Restoration the idea of blending Japanese and Western culture was prevalent in the land of the rising sun. It was generally thought that Japanese ideology was superior to its Western counterpart, but that Western technology would be essential to Japan’s success as a modern nation. While the pros and cons of the differing ideologies are almost impossible to get to the bottom of, Japan could not succeed in an industrial global society without adopting Western technology. But along with steam engines and steel mills came Western food, fashion, and customs, threatening long-established Japanese tradition. The Shishi samurai ushered in the Meiji Restoration, and they preached the motto, “Japanese thought, Western technology.” Mishima identified with this philosophy, and did his best to support it in his writing.
(from Shawn Rider’s Yukio Mishima’s Spring Snow: A Novel of Conflicted Japan, here)
Among his best-known novels are Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn and The Decay of the Angel, the four of which constitute The Sea of Fertility tetralogy. Spring Snow (1969) is the only one I’ve read all the way through, and I’m a loss to describe it adequately except perhaps to note that it adopts a strikingly Western flavour (at times coming close to the pace and tone of a Victorian novel) in order to delineate a deeply Japanese perspective. It’s interesting, austere, and rather difficult. Apparently, Paul Theroux called the tetralogy as a whole
"the most complete vision we have of Japan in the 20th century", and whilst it’s difficult to imagine that this verdict would go down well with Mishima’s detractors, there’s certainly a great deal of fascination to be found therein.
Regardless of how we appraise his literary contribution, Mishima for better or worse is most remembered for the strange, gory and somewhat farcical mode of his death, which he had planned for years whilst writing the Sea of Fertility novels. He envisioned it as a postscript to one grand parting political gesture.
On November 25th, 1970, he and four other members of Tatenokai (a fringe samurai militia founded by Mishima himself) gained false entry to the Tokyo military headquarters of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces. Once inside, they entered the commandant’s office, bound him to his chair, and took to the balcony of the compound to address the soldiers gathered below. Ostensibly, their aim was to rally the military into performing a coup d’etait which would reinstate the emperor’s rule of Japan.
His speech was an abysmal failure which stirred only mild irritation and amusement in the crowd. When he was finished, he returned to the commandant’s office and committed the bushido suicide rite of seppuku by stabbing his own abdomen with his sword.
As the final stage of the seppuku calls for an assistant to behead the person undergoing the rite, Tatenokai member Masakatsu Morita stepped forward to perform this duty. Unfortunately, Morita proved rather too clumsy to complete the task properly, and after botching the decapitation several times, he stepped aside to let Hiroyasu Koga, a third Tatenokai member, finish the job.
As if all that weren’t enough of a day out, Morita decided at that point to undergo seppuku himself. Lucky old Hiroyasu thus got the chance to perform two decapitations that day.