Ozu Yasujiro's Two post-war films
Translated from the Japanese by D. A. Rajakaruna
Publishers (Pvt) Ltd., Colombo 10
177 pp Price Rs. 750
Review: Donald RICHIE
CINEMA: In Japan, distinct from other countries, film scripts are
sometimes read as literature. Those written by Yasunari Kawabata,
Junichiro Tanizaki and Yukio Mishima are included in their respective
collected works, and writers associated mainly with cinema itself are
given literary status.
It was this distinction that the noted translator Howard Hibbett
observed when he edited his epochal "Contemporary Japanese Literature"
(1992) and included several film scripts, among them that of Kogo Noda/Yasujiro
Ozu's "Tokyo Story".
The Noda/Ozu script does indeed satisfy the requirements of a
literary work. It is recognized as having important or permanent
artistic value - it is perfectly proportioned, acutely observed, deeply
Such scripts may thus be read as more than a mere aide-memoire. To
read professor D. A. Rajakaruna's careful translations of the dialogue
scripts of these two Noda/Ozu scripts is to again appreciate the form of
the film, to hear the unspoken commentary of the parallels of which they
are constructed, to admire the perfect placing of the scenes of greatest
Dialogue (rather than description) is the medium of the Noda/Ozu
narrative. In the initial script (which is what is published in Japan,
and upon which Rajakaruna based his translation) there are few
indications of other than rudimentary actions and none of the nature of
the shots, their vantage point, angles, lengths, etc.
These appear in the Noda/Ozu shooting script (which is unpublished)
in which the director indicates what this nature is going to be, usually
accompanying each scene with a sketch showing what it should look like.
There is in the Ozu film almost no variation between this shooting
script and the completed movie.
The script was to him as the blueprint is to the architect.
This shooting script was in turn based entirely on the dialogue
script and it was equally rare that a line of dialogue was changed. It
is this considered and tested quality of the Noda/Ozu script that
creates its literary status.
Two of the finest of the Noda/Ozu dialogue scripts are the two here
translated: "Late Spring (Banshun)" (1949) and "Early Summer (Bakushu)"
Both are about a daughter's marriage and how it comes about, but to
restrict the picture's power to its "plot" is to say that Jane Austen is
about proposals, Jan Vermeer is about milk jugs and Giorgio Morandi
about empty bottles.
Rather, a mundane subject is made memorable; the ordinary is
illuminated and returned to its original authenticity. In these films
the characters and the families involved become all of us.
This feeling of the genuine and the original (as opposed to something
that is fake or a reproduction) is created by the dialogue that serves
as a skeleton to the muscles of the finished film. Yet these words,
spoken by the characters, are never woven into what ordinary movies
would consider a proper plot.
For Ozu there was no proper plot. He once said that plot uses people
and to use people was to misuse them.
He and Noda, rather, found patterns in the narrative as reflected in
the dialogue, and it is these that make the texture of their film.
Plot points are, if necessary, ruthlessly excluded all
conventionalization or stereotyping is firmly resisted; none of these
living people is sacrificed for the sake of a happy (or an unhappy)
ending. The result is that - on the page, on the screen - we recognize
truth and we feel emotion.
Rajakaruna has performed a valuable service not only in making these
translated scripts available ("Early Summer" originally appeared in
1997, "Late Spring" is new), but also in continuing to present Japanese
film in readable form.
He has previously published translations of Noda/Ozu's "Tokyo Story";
of Kenji Mizoguchi's "Ugetsu" and "Street of Shame"; Teinosuke
Kinugasa's "A Page Out of Order" (aka "A Crazy Page"), "Crossroads" and
"The Gate of Hell"; and Akira Kurosawa's "One Wonderful Sunday," "Rashomon"
and "Ikiru." In addition he has also translated and published much other
Japanese literature into English, including novels, plays and poetry.
Courtesy The Japan Times
Close-up of a revolutionary
A political profile
Author: T. Perera, Social Scientists Association
Available at Suriya Bookshop, 12, Sulaiman Terrace, Colombo 5
Price Rs. 400, 222 pages
PROFILE: Edmund Samarakkody was a co-founder with Philip Gunawardena,
N.M. Perera and Colvin R. de Silva of Sri Lanka's first socialist party,
the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) in 1935.
Political activist, trade union organiser, lawyer, urban councillor
and MP (1952-64), he rose to prominence when the first strike wave swept
the plantations during the 2nd world war.
He and three other party leaders were imprisoned by the colonial Raj
for their role in providing leadership to the striking workers.
Meanwhile the LSSP, turning itself into a militant anti-imperialist
formation linked to the 4th International (dissident communist movement
founded by Russian revolutionary Trotsky) characterised the war as
imperialist and opposed the British war effort.
Outlawed, the party went underground. In a sensational jailbreak the
prisoners escaped with their guard on the morrow of Japan's air-raid on
Colombo. Re-arrested Samarakkody was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment.
In the mid - 1950s with the rapid rise to power of the bourgeois
nationalist SLFP, the LSSP offered "responsive co-operation" in a
gesture of accommodation. Since the 1970s with the LSSP has participated
in coalitions with the SLFP-led governments.
Opposition by Samarakkody and the left-wing in the party to this
policy of class collaboration was unavailing and led to the LSSP split
in 1964. His politics was in conflict with the parliamentary agendas of
the reformist leadership of the traditional left parties.
Samarakkody was an undaunted champion of the rights of the country's
minorities. To the end, he continued to be so, while former comrades,
once eloquent spokespersons on this issue, backtracked.
The analysis he put forward in the 1980s, in the words of Bob Pitt
(1997): "has just as much bearing on the political situation today, for
his prediction that 'the National Question issue is and will remain one
of the most explosive questions in Sri Lanka for many years to come' has
proved entirely accurate."
Now over a decade after Samarakkody's death, the author who knew him
well, offers a close-up of the revolutionary against a background of
significant events, movement and controversies.
Fundamentals of environment explained
Your Environmental Rights & Responsibilities: A Handbook for Sri
Review: Prof Bertram BASTIAMPILLAI
ENVIRONMENT: A much-needed invaluable volume with this title has now
been produced by the Environmental Foundation Ltd. In Sri Lanka, it is
difficult to identify any person, learned or otherwise, to show concern,
comprehension and consideration for the environment.
In fact, it disappoints many to recognise that only a few have any
idea of the environment. This volume prudently and usefully produced in
Sinhala, Tamil and of course in English, satisfies a much wanted
imperative need in the understanding and enlightening of many a Sri
As the contents of the valuable Handbook indicates, it deals with Sri
Lanka's environment and "You", which will prove to be an eye-opener to
many about the environment. First of all one is lucidly and simply told
what the environment is, about which hardly a few know anything.
The volume proceeds to demonstrate why the public and even private
individuals need to maintain a healthy environment.
Then the Handbook proceeds to delineate environmental issues and
problems in our island republic. Thereafter follows a poignant
capitulation on why anyone should endeavour to sustain a healthy
Thence it sets out on a vital analysis of how environmental
degradation will affect everyone, and the Handbook proceeds to delineate
why the environment is being spoilt - which is appropriate and
indispensable indeed to learn.
The arresting title of the Handbook should capture the attention of
all Sri Lankans and more so since it is with anxious concern produced
compactly and handily in Sinhala, Tamil, and English, all admirably
within one volume.
This prudent attitude should indeed be an example even to the State.
To approach and capture an interest and engagement of anyone whatever is
capsulated should be accessible and intelligible to all of the ethnic
communities who comprise the country's population.
Moreover, the get up of the volume is indeed entrancing, yet another
favourable asset in this indispensable production on a paramount and
immensely important subject.
The main points raised as content-headings in the Handbook are,
briefly, "Sri Lanka's Environment And You; Your Environmental Rights and
Responsibilities Under The Law; and How You can Help and be Helped to
Conserve the Environment."
These are inevitable essentials addressed in each part and merits not
only reading but also demands committed attention and adoption by any in
this island, once called a paradise but now doubted to be so.
The annexures too are thoroughly and helpfully informative and make
the study most beneficial to citizens of our republic.
Environment simply denotes the surroundings in which animals, people,
and plants thrive. Organisms are influenced by the several different
physical features and factors in the environment such as temperature,
water, gases, light, pressure, and other biotic factors such as food
resources, in competition with other resources, and other species,
predators, and disease.
Few realise and react appropriately to what is so paramount in human
life. This the Handbook summarises and does so in an easy to understand
It is high time that one should recognise not only the importance of
a clean and healthy environment but also how one could contribute to
creating and maintaining it, which is a sore need.
This handy, highly educative manual does not merely refer to the
citizens' human rights but also delineates the responsibilities of
citizens towards creating a country with a good record on its
It is indeed a handy Handbook, easy to understand, and necessary not
only comprehend but also to abide by what is pronounced.
Whatever the change be countenanced in Sri Lanka one must first
obtain an account on possible effects of proposed constructions. Sadly,
in Sri Lanka, political patronage, even bought, often allows
constructions deleterious to the environment.
No wonder, contamination of the air we breath, land and water we use,
in Sri Lanka often occurs owing to the environment's unhealthy
construction and development within. This Handbook shows clearly that
such action is wrong and harmful.
This Handbook indicates co-ordination of almost all that is known
today so as to show how one could avoid environment pollution as an
individual or family; and what obligations and responsibilities one owes
to civil society in this regard.
The stress in both on one's environmental rights in consonance with
this emphasises the responsibilities one has to exercise which have been
succinctly discussed and how they should be executed.
Sri Lanka has been notorious in being callous about rights to
maintain an environmental pollution-free milieu, and worse in attending
to responsibilities in contributing towards building a non-polluted
Though a little late, this Handbook on environmental rights and
responsibilities is educative, informative, instructive and, above all,
thoroughly useful and essential to one and all in society.
The questions raised, and answered, in the Handbook facilitates
anyone's understanding about why the environment being well maintained
is in the interest of the entire public in Sri Lanka. Pointedly, part
two of the volume makes one obvious of one's environmental rights and
responsibilities in accordance with the law.
Part three spells out how any citizen can help and be assisted to
preserve and safeguard the country's environment. The annexure recount
the list of environmental legislation, the international conventions to
which our State has subscribed, and is bound to honour. Protected
species and protected areas are informed.
This is most necessary as few know these facts. The punishment for
illegal doings in protected areas is duly informed. Thence follow water
and soil measurements and standards along with corollaries pronouncing
air, noise, and vibration measurements and standards.
At the end, equally useful and vital contact addresses are provided.
It is a full recapitulation of material bearing on how one contribution
to the environment's betterment to make it almost pure.
A useful Foreword at the beginning is followed by information about
the Environmental Foundation Ltd., a necessary and indispensable body of
which citizens should be aware.
The glossary simplifies reading and understanding the Handbook within
about thirty one pages, well printed and in a clear to follow manner
that a citizen is left enlightened about the environment, and why and
how is should be rendered healthy.
Any responsible citizen, indeed all citizens, should master this
valuable Handbook on a subject of paramount importance to one and all.
The Environmental Foundation Ltd. merits credit and public gratitude for
the timely production and release of this fine and worthy Handbook.
A disease-free atmosphere without the incidence of dengue, often
malaria and filariasis, and some water-borne and air-borne ailments can
be created only in a sanitary and clean environment.
Such an environment can be developed with the co-operative endeavour
of citizen following the good counsel contained in the Handbook produced
by the Environmental Foundation Limited.
Nor further elaborate advertisement is needed for this prudent manual
so much urgently required in society in Sri Lanka to establish a clean
and pure environment, with clean water to drink, pollution-free air to
breathe, and sanitarily sold products to eat and even noise abatement.
Interesting coffee table book
The President's House - Sri Lanka
Author: Dr. K.D.G. Wimalaratne
Publisher: Keshawa Publishers & Distributors
Price: Rs. 1990
Review: Prof. M.U. de SILVA
RESIDENCE: The book titled The President's House, Sri Lanka, from a
private residence to president's house, written by Dr. K.D.G.
Wimalaratne, former Director, National Archives is a well documented and
an illustrated account of a majestic building, which was privately owned
during the Dutch period, and became a government mansion in 1804.
This interesting publication traces its long history down the ages
and provides architectural uniqueness of its magnificence.
The story is retold with the renovations and other interior details,
given through drawings, paintings and photographs. Moreover, the inside
story is unravelled, involving its occupants and the people who visited
the house on invitation or otherwise.
It is also important that this publication brings the story of its
occupants upto the present day, which gives the reader more or less a
A very well written book with a flowing style, and rare photographs
is excellently produced, add more colour to the book. This book should
be in every library for reference and reading and also for giving as a
present as it is a coffee table book.
Threats facing Sinharaja Forest
Author: Harsha Perera
Pages: 172, Price: Rs. 675
Review: Dr. D. P. BIBILE, Former Asst. Director General, National
Institute of Education, Maharagama.
SINHARAJA: Several researches have been done on Sinharaja at
different times. Of these the most important is the one made by
Professor Gunatilleke and Mrs. Gunatilleke of the Botany Department at
the University of Peradeniya. There are other publications also written
on Sinharaja time and again.
However, we have seen that most of these publications contain a
fraction of the researches done by the scholars. Or else they contain
certain distorted ideas.
For example, till recently most of the books refer to the residents
at Sinharaja suburbs as a lot of very poor people living in mud-brick
built houses. These are very incorrect ideas.
The reason for this is that those who published such ideas have not
done proper researches, but copied from what others have written and
The other reason is that those who had done research have not
published books on their research material.
However, the book Sinharajaya Sanraksanaya by Harsha Perera has
demolished this concept. He has presented his own research material
along with those of other writers in his book.
This research material that would have been hidden in a university
library has been presented before the general public. For this we should
be grateful to Harsha Perera.
The main point in the research of this book is how much harm and
damage is caused to the Sinharaja forest from the villagers living in
its surroundings. He has selected two out of the 40 villages surrounding
These two are Kudava and Varukandeniya. The human and economic
resources of these villages have been catalogued and indexed. Therefore,
this book has a scientific bias. Not only the historical facts of these
villages, but also that of the Sinharaja forest itself have been
The hindrances caused for the existence of Sinharaja at certain
times, and also the despoiling of its flora and fauna up to date have
been thoroughly exposed in this book.
If the most protected forest terrain Sinharaja is also exposed to
such danger, what talk of those other smaller forest territory. This is
a very bad situation.
If state ministries and departments that are engaged for more than
half a century in the task of protecting forests have done their duties
perfectly, why is it that the percentage of forest land has gradually
fallen down, what steps would be taken to rectify this situation has
been stated perfectly by the author.
The ministries and state departments meant for forest protection
should be termed human protection units, because up till now they have
performed a good job in protecting and promoting the personnel in those
units by providing job opportunities.
When the country obtained independence there was 50 per cent of
forest land, and it has come down to 22.4 per cent during this period of
state ministry and department administration.
Without any state department or ministry, during the days of Sinhala
kings they have maintained about 80 per cent of forestland for many
What the author categorically explains is that in future all the
forest boundaries should be extended and all the unauthorised human
habitation plus the newly planted tea, rubber and such cash crops should
be removed from the proximity of these forests.
For that purpose strict governmental policies should be enacted.
Otherwise it will not serve any purpose if only these drawbacks are
brought to light through books and such publications occasionally.
The book is presented with a good print and a price marked to suit
the high quality.