Love in the Classic?
It was a love at first sight—actually a love at first hearing because I had a crush on Emily as soon as she played “Maiden’s Prayer” on the piano.
It was soon after I entered junior high school.
I don’t recall exactly what kind of occasion it was.
Anyway, about 900 students gathered in the auditorium, where Emily appeared on the stage and played “Maiden’s Prayer.”
I was quite impressed by the piece.
“Wow! How charming it is! What a romantic piece it is!”
I listened to that particular piece of music for the first time.
I knew Emily for years because she was a pretty girl in my next-door class while we were both pupils at Gyoda Central Elementary School for six years.
Although I was somewhat attracted to her, I had never talked with her for those six years.
I learned that she was a daughter of a wealthy industrialist in Gyoda-city—60 miles to the north from Tokyo.
Naturally, we knew each other because Emily and I were kinda rivals while we tried to become the top achievers in the exams.
When I entered Gyoda Junior High School, therefore I really wished that Emily and I would face each other in the same class.
Unfortunately, we had never belonged to the same class for three years.
Then Emily entered Kumagaya Girls’ High School while I studied at Kumagaya Boys’ High School.
These two high schools were prestigious in a sense because those students were top-ten achievers of each junior high school in the region.
Although I had taken part in a joint home-room meeting with a class of Girls’ High School on several occasions, Emily had never been in that class.
During those three years at high school, Emily and I had taken train every weekday to attend the school, but we had never chatted in the train.
She studied music at college while I took an engineering major at university.
I had never seen Emily for those four years.
Instead, I happened to see “The Great Gatsby,” in which Robert Redford played James Gatsby.
In 1917, during his training for the infantry in World War I, 27-year-old Gatsby met and fell in love with 18-year-old debutante Daisy Fay, who was everything Gatsby was not: rich and from a patrician Louisville family.
In a sense, I identified myself with Gatsby, and Emily with Daisy Fay because I was nobody while Emily was a daughter of a wealthy industrialist.
Suddenly, I remembered the day when Emily played “Maiden’s Prayer” in such a charming and romantic way while in the film I watched a green light sparkle on and off at the lighthouse.
On impulse, I bought a sheet of music for “Maiden’s Prayer” on my way back to my boarding house from the movie theater.
From then on, I practiced almost everyday to play the piece at the piano in the house.
My landlady asked me, “How come you’re so keen to play that tune?”
“Well…, ‘cause this tune is the ticket to see Daisy Fay.”
“Huh? … Daisy Fay? Who is she?”
For summer vacation, I went back to my hometown and phoned Emily.
“It’s Kato… We went to Gyoda Junior High School together, though we’d never been in the same class. Besides, we were neighbors, so to speak, at the elementary school. Do you happen to remember me?”
“Yes, I think so… But what can I do for you?”
Amazing! Emily remembered me!
“Well … To make a long story short, I still remember that you played Maiden’s Prayer marvellously in the auditorium, and I practiced to play it myself. Look! I wonder if I come over and play the piece on your grand piano.”
Emily must’ve been surprised—if not insulted, but she remained calm and composed.
Anyway, she agreed with me, and the following day, I visited her at her sumptuous mansion.
Next to the mansion was a small house where she kept a grand piano.
Although she was a music student at college, she taught children as a teacher.
I played the piece for her.
That day was the first and the last for me to chat with her.
Now I don’t know whether or not she still plays the piano as a concert pianist.
I’ve never seen her since that unforgettable day.
To tell you the truth, I’ve never known who the heck composed that particular piece of music.
It is a composition of Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska (1834–1861), which was published in 1856 in Warsaw, and then as a supplement to the Revue et gazette musicale de Paris in 1859.
The piece is a medium difficulty short piano piece for intermediate pianists.
Some have liked it for its charming and romantic melody; others have described it as “sentimental salon tosh.”
The pianist and academic Arthur Loesser described it as “this dowdy product of ineptitude.”
Probably the most memorable use of “Maiden’s Prayer” is in the 1930 opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.
The song appears midway through act I; it is played on an out-of-tune piano at a honky-tonk frequented by prostitutes and their clients.
Jakob Schmidt, one of the denizens of Mahagonny, refers to the song as “ewige Kunst” (“eternal art”).
“Maiden’s Prayer” is heard off-stage in Act IV of Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov.
“Maiden’s Prayer” appears as an insert piano song in the anime series Strawberry Panic.
“Maiden’s Prayer” is also played by garbage trucks in Taiwan.
As residents have to take out their own trash, the garbage truck signals everyone to do so with the melody of this piece.
Well… it’s too bad for this piece to get associated with garbage in Taiwan.
Polish composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska died at the age of 27.
If she hadn’t composed “Maiden’s Prayer”, I would’ve never chatted with Emily in my life.
I earnestly pray the peace for her in Heaven.
Kato, what happened to Emily after you met her for the last time?
I have no idea.
Do you really mean that Emily and you met only once and never talked again with each other since?
Yes, I do… You believe or not, that’s the way it is.
I can hardly believe it.
They say, fact is stranger than fiction.
Yes, I know, but you spent so many hours to play the piece and eventually you met Emily, and you played “Maiden’s Prayer” for her. Right?
Yes, I did.
If somebody made a movie based on your experiences, Emily and you would make love after that. And accordingly a baby would be born a year later.
Diane, you have an exceptionally great imagination, haven’t you?
Well… that’s the way the following movie went.
■“Actual Catalogue Page”
Letter from an Unknown Woman
In Vienna in the early twentieth century, Lisa (Joan Fontaine), a teenager living in an apartment building, becomes fascinated by a new tenant, concert pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan).
Stefan is making a name for himself through energetic performances.
Lisa becomes obsessed with Stefan, staying up late to listen to him play, and sneaking into his apartment and admiring him from a distance.
Despite her actions, they only meet once and Stefan takes little notice of her.
One day, Lisa’s mother announces her marriage to a wealthy and respectable gentleman, who lives in Linz, and tells Lisa that they will all move there.
Lisa resists her mother’s plans and runs away from the railway station and goes back to the apartment, where she is let in by the porter.
She knocks on Stefan’s door, but no one answers.
She decides to wait outside for him to return.
Early the next morning, Stefan returns home with a woman.
After seeing the two, a distraught Lisa travels to Linz where she joins her mother and new stepfather.
In Linz, she is transformed into a respectable woman and courted by a young military officer from a good family.
He eventually proposes to Lisa, but she turns him down, saying that she is in love with someone else living in Vienna and is even engaged to be married to him.
Confused and heartbroken, he accepts her situation.
When they learn about Lisa’s actions, her mother and stepfather demand to know why she didn’t accept the proposal.
“I told him the truth”, replies Lisa.
Years later, Lisa is estranged from her parents and works in Vienna as a dress model.
Every night she waits outside Stefan’s window, hoping to be noticed.
One night he notices her, and although he does not recognize her, he finds himself strangely drawn to her.
They go on a long, romantic date that ends with them making love.
Soon after, Stefan leaves for a concert in Milan, promising to contact her soon, but he never does.
Lisa eventually gives birth to their child, never trying to contact Stefan, wanting to be the “one woman who never asked you for anything”.
Ten years later, Lisa is now married to an older man named Johann who knows about her past love for Stefan, for whom she named their son.
One day while at the opera, Lisa sees Stefan, who is no longer a top-billed musician and rarely performs.
Feeling uneasy, she leaves during the performance.
He happens to leave at the same time, and so they meet while she is waiting for her carriage.
Stefan does not remember her, but once again is oddly drawn to her.
Lisa is still uncomfortable with this, not wanting to anger her husband, and when her carriage arrives, she is met by a clearly vexed Johann.
A few nights later and against her husband’s wishes, Lisa travels to Stefan’s apartment, and he is delighted to see her.
Despite a seemingly illuminating conversation about Stefan’s past life and his motivations for giving up music, Stefan still does not recognize who Lisa really is.
Distraught and realizing that Stefan never felt any love for her at all, Lisa leaves.
On her way out she meets the servant and the two exchange a long glance.
Sometime later, after her son dies of typhus, Lisa is taken to a hospital and is gravely ill herself.
She writes a letter to Stefan explaining her life, her son, and her feelings toward him; the letter that narrates the whole film.
After Lisa dies, the letter is sent to Stefan, along with a card from the hospital staff announcing her death.
In shock, Stefan thinks back to the three times they met and he failed to recognize her.
“Did you remember her?”, he asks his servant.
The servant nods and writes down her full name, Lisa Berndle, on a piece of paper.
Still in shock, Stefan leaves his building and sees the ghostly image of a teenage Lisa open the door for him, the same way she once did when he first noticed her all those years ago.
Outside, a carriage waits to take him to meet a dueling opponent, Lisa’s husband, Johann.
Finally intending to take responsibility for his actions, Stefan decides to engage in the duel.
SOURCE: “Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948 film)”
You see, Kato, Lisa and Stefan made love, and later Lisa gave birth to their son.
I know…, I know… ‘cause the above movie is based NOT on the real events BUT on the fiction—actually, the novella of the same name by Stefan Zweig.
But, Kato, you also watched the above movie and you even jotted down the comment.
Yes, I did… As I said, it is one of the greatest romances, but I can hardly believe that such an unbelievable love story existed in reality.
Kato, but you also wrote, “fact is stranger than fiction.” You accepted the above story, didn’t you?
No, not wholeheartedly… The reality is indeed much simpler—just as Emily and I met only once, you know. Never together in bed after I played the piano.
Then, that would be boring, wouldn’t it?
Tsk, tsk, tsk … Diane, your imagination goes too wild, doesn’t it?
Well… God only knows.
Listen, Diane… I also watched the following movie.
■“Actual Catalogue Page”
“John Smith” (Ronald Colman) is a British officer who was gassed and became shell shocked in the trenches during the First World War.
He is confined to an asylum as an unidentified inmate because he has lost his memory and has trouble speaking.
When the war ends, jubilation erupts in the nearby town of Melbridge and the gatekeepers abandon their posts to join the celebration.
With no one to stop him, Smith simply wanders off.
In town, he is befriended by singer Paula (Greer Garson).
She guesses he is from the asylum but as he seems harmless, she arranges for him to join her travelling theatrical group.
After an incident that threatens to bring unwanted attention, Paula takes Smith away to a secluded country village, where they marry and are blissfully happy.
“Smithy”, as Paula calls him, discovers a literary talent and tries writing to earn a living.
Paula remains home with their newborn baby while Smithy goes to Liverpool, for a job interview with a newspaper.
There, he is struck by a taxi.
When he regains consciousness, his past memory is restored but his life with Paula is now forgotten.
He is Charles Rainier, the son of a wealthy businessman.
None of his meagre possessions, including a key, provide any clue how he got there from the battleground of France.
Charles returns home on the day of his father’s funeral, to the family’s amazement as he had been given up for dead.
Fifteen-year-old Kitty, the stepdaughter of one of Charles’ siblings, becomes infatuated with her “uncle”.
Charles wants to return to college but the mismanaged family business needs him and he puts off his own desires to safeguard the jobs of the many employees and to restore the family fortune.
After a few years, a newspaper touts him as the “Industrial Prince of England”.
Meanwhile, Paula has been searching for her Smithy.
Their son having died as an infant, she returns to work as a secretary.
One day, she sees Charles’s picture in a newspaper and manages to become his executive assistant, calling herself Margaret (Paula being her stage name), hoping that her presence will jog his memory.
Her confidante and admirer, Dr. Jonathan Benet, warns her that revealing her identity would only cause Charles to resent her.
As Kitty grows up, she sends Charles love letters.
Eventually they become engaged.
Margaret has Smithy declared legally dead, seven years having elapsed since he left her, dissolving their marriage.
However, a hymn that Kitty is considering for their upcoming wedding triggers a vague memory in Charles.
Kitty realizes that he still loves someone else and heartbroken, breaks off the engagement.
When Margaret hears Charles is in Liverpool, trying one last time to piece together his lost years, she rushes there.
They recover his suitcase from a hotel but he recognizes nothing.
Charles is then approached to stand for Parliament.
After his election, in which Margaret provided invaluable assistance, he feels the need for a wife in his new role.
He proposes to her, more as a business proposition than a romantic one and she accepts.
They become an ideal couple, at least to all outward appearance.
She is the perfect society hostess.
They sometimes discuss his lost past and at one point, she tells him of her own lost love, without disclosing that it is Charles.
He hopes their life together can fill the void they both feel.
Desperately unhappy, Margaret decides to take an extended vacation abroad by herself.
Before her liner sails, she revisits the hamlet where she and Smithy lived.
Meanwhile, Charles is called upon to mediate a strike at the Melbridge Cable Works.
Walking through town, the familiar surroundings and the celebrating workers begin to unlock his lost memories and eventually lead him to the cottage he and Paula shared.
Hesitantly, he tries the old key he kept, and finds that it unlocks the door.
Margaret, who had been about to leave for the boat train, makes a casual remark to the current innkeeper about the former owner.
The innkeeper remarks that someone else had just that morning asked about the same woman.
Margaret goes to the cottage and calls “Smithy!”; he turns, memories flooding back; he cries out “Paula!” and they embrace.
SOURCE: “Random Harvest (film)”
Do you know, Diane, any good story has four elemets?
Oh yeah? What are they?
Once a famous 14th-century Chinese poet said that they were 起承転結 or introduction, development, twist and conclusion. Here is a specific example by the famous Japanese poet Sanyō Rai (頼山陽):
Introduction: There are two daughters of a wealthy merchant in Osaka.
Development: The elder daughter is sixteen and the younger one is fourteen.
Twist: Throughout history, samurais killed the enemy with bows and arrows.
Conclusion: These daughters kill men with their eyes.
Hmmm … Quite interesting.
The same pattern is used to arrange a short essay:
Introduction: In old times, copying information by hand was necessary. Some mistakes were made.
Development: Copying machines made it possible to make quick and accurate copies.
Twist: Traveling by car saves time, but you don’t get much impression of the local beauty. Walking makes it a lot easier to appreciate nature close up.
Conclusion: Although photocopying is easier, copying by hand is sometimes better, because the information stays in your memory longer and can be used later.
But, Kato, how come you’re telling me all this?
You see, Diane, the above two movies have these four elements, but the Letter from an Unknown Woman movie has a tragic conclusion while the Random Harvest film has a happy ending.
Well… you asked me, “Kato, how come you didn’t meet Emily again?”
Yes, I did. Tell me the answer. I’m all ears.
Well…, something deep inside told me, “Don’t go beyond this point because love might turn into hatred.”
Is that the reason you stopped seeing Emily?
Yes, it is. Emily might’ve thought that my performance was lousy.
Well…, I did my best, and I was satisfied with my playing. Yet I had some weird feeling deep inside, you know.
So, to be on the safe side, you simply stopped seeing her. Is that it?
Yes, I believe that life’s theme is NOT success, let alone war and hatred, BUT love. Up until that moment, I felt enough happiness with Emily, but beyond that point, nobody knew how it would go along. It might end up as Lisa and Stefan did.
I see. So you didn’t take any risk at all, huh?
No, I didn’t.
How romantic you are. I didn’t know that you’re such a romatic person.
Now, you know it, don’t you?
I don’t think Kato is a romantic person.
Once in a while, a person should take some risk to be romantic.
Don’t you think so?
Here are another kind of love stories.
Please take a look at the following list.
As Kato said, “Touching the Sound (1315)” and “Like father, like son (1307)” are two of the gripping and heart-felt movies.
I was really moved while watching the above.
As a Japanese woman, however, I was attracted to the following two movies:
This is a 1965 Japanese period drama directed by Akira Kurosawa about the relationship between a town doctor and his new trainee, based on Shūgorō Yamamoto’s short story collection: “Akahige shinryōtan (赤ひげ診療譚).”
Trained in a Dutch medical school in Nagasaki during the 19th century, the arrogant Yasumoto aspires to the status of personal physician of the Shogunate, a position currently held by a close relative.
His father is already a well-established, highly competent physician.
Yasumoto believes that he should progress through the safe, and well-protected, army structure of medical education.
For Yasumoto’s post-graduate medical training, however, he has been assigned to a rural clinic under the guidance of Dr. Kyojō Niide (played by Toshiro Mifune).
Called Akahige (“Red Beard”) because of his reddish beard, Dr. Niide may seem like a tyrannical task master, but in reality he is a compassionate clinic director.
The film looks intot the problem of social injustice and explores two of Kurosawa’s favourite topics: humanism and existentialism.
“Sansho the Bailiff” (Trailer)
This is a 1954 Japanese period drama directed by Kenji Mizoguchi (溝口健二), based on a short story of the same name (山椒大夫) by Mori Ōgai (森鴎外).
The film follows two aristocratic children who are sold into slavery.
The children grow to young adulthood at the slave camp.
Older sister Anju (安寿) still believes in the teachings of her father, which advocate treating others with humanity, but her brother Zushiō (厨子王) has repressed his humanity, becoming one of the overseers who punishes other slaves, in the belief that this is the only way to survive.
Anju hears a song from a new slave girl from Sado which mentions her and her brother in the lyrics.
This leads her to believe their mother is still alive.
Zushiō is ordered to take Namiji (波路), an older woman, out of the slave camp to be left to die in the wilderness due to her sickness.
Anju accompanies them, and while they break branches to provide covering for the dying woman they recall their earlier childhood memories.
At this point Zushiō changes his mind and asks Anju to escape with him to find their mother.
Anju asks him to take Namiji with him, convincing her brother she will stay behind to distract the guards.
Zushiō promises to return for Anju. However, after Zushiō’s escape, Anju commits suicide by walking into a lake, drowning herself so that she will not be tortured and forced to reveal her brother’s whereabouts.
It is a gripping and heartbreaking story.
“Sansho the Bailiff” bears many of Mizoguchi’s hallmarks such as portrayals of poverty, a critical view of the place of women and elaborately choreographed long shots.
In any case, it is one of the Mizoguchi’s finest works with Ugetsu (雨月) made in 1953.
I hope Kato will write another interesting article soon.
So please come back to see me.
Have a nice day!
Bye bye …
If you’ve got some time,
Please read one of the following artciles:
■“Happy New Year”
■“Merange & Sabina”
■“Beauty in Spa”
■“Love @ e-reading”
■“Love & Loyalty”
■“Amazing Two-legged Pooch”
■“Life with Music”
■“Biker Babe & Granny”
■“Heaven with Mochi”
■“Travel Expense Scandal”
■Happy Gal in Canada
■Roof of Vancouver
■Better Off Without Senate
■Trump @ Vancouver
■Otter & Trump
■Fiddler on the Roof
■Flesh and Bone
Hi, I’m June Adams.
Kato is a real movie lover, who tries to watch 1001 movies.
As a matter of fact, he has already accomplished his goal.
Kato watched “The Arabian Nights” or “One Thousand and One Nights” as his 1001th movie.
You might just as well want to view it.
The stories in “the Arabian Nights” were collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa.
The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian and Mesopotamian folklore and literature.
In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Caliphate era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hazār Afsān which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.
What is common throughout all the editions of the Nights is the initial frame story of the ruler Shahryār and his wife Scheherazade and the framing device incorporated throughout the tales themselves.
The stories proceed from this original tale.
Some are framed within other tales, while others begin and end of their own accord.
Some editions contain only a few hundred nights, while others include 1,001 or more.
■『軽井沢タリアセン夫人 – 小百合物語』
タグ: Letter from an Unknown Woman, Maiden's Prayer, music classic, Random Harvest, Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska