Some reflections on the resilience of beauty
Now we can go back to the tabloids. We’re told, the antics of the raccoons–the unexplained, the shocking, the thrilling–were abandoned in favor of the scandals of the politicians & celebrities. Anger at injustice & the unleashed eroticism of democracy blind the people to the stories Isao Takahato wants to tell. These passions are too immediate in their effect, one could say. Who can keep up with them! Keeping up with them is at any rate a matter of staying current–but Takahata wants to turn us a generation back to the time when post-war Japan first enjoyed American prosperity.
Why do the tabloids matter? They are a debased form of folklore. They are also the self-defense of the passions in face of the new capitalist society that’s all about saying knowledge is scientific knowledge, that the known is the made, the artificial, as opposed to the spontaneous or natural. Somehow, the made dislodges the made up–people no longer pay attention to stories.
What’s the revenge of the poet? Well, science may rule by day, but by night people give themselves over to fantasy–we see nightmares walking the streets, taking over the town. This recalls the public-private distinction: Publicly, we’re all for science & facts, but how about our insistence that private life is more important, where we give ourselves over to our passions? The old problem of the sacred returns–for a place to be habitable to human beings, the sacred & the political have to be put together & separated in the right way.
The sociological sign of the problem comes up as construction work. The workers are treated as crazy or criminal by their boss &, respectively, the police, when accidents happen. The imposition of order cannot show any respect for or allow any discretion to the people actually doing the work of making the ordered, artificial world in which we live. Their experience cannot be allowed to matter. There is apparently a certain moralism embedded in the conquest of chance…
This is how we get to the new Japan–the movie’s title includes a reference to the new era measured by the new emperor, starting in the Nineties–the son of Hirohito, who was emperor during WWII, & the first Japanese heir-apparent to be kept out of military school. Now, the forest-dream of the Japanese people shows up as conservationism. Somehow, the land of Japan recalls to them their pre-modern dwelling & ancestors.
Strife shows up in the imagination as a sense of loss that accompanies the achievement of peaceful prosperity. The imagination does not really seem to be forward-looking, but backward-looking, guided or at least driven by a longing for another, less ugly way of living.