|Sake glass in Yanaka Cemetery, December, 2011|
Big Night (1996) - This was the first movie I saw that told its story via food as well as culture. And the music was fantastic. I began to think about food in a whole new way - as part of heritage, as a beautiful thing, as something to be passionate about. Near the same time we joined our first CSA and I met Swiss Chard, burdock, and a bounty of other vegetables fresh from Henry's Farm. Henry's family shared recipes and the stories of how they came to be in a weekly newsletter that I still have in a box in America somewhere. Something in me woke up then, started stirring the pot of my imagination as I pored over those recipes and started experimenting on my own with growing things and food combinations.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - I saw this movie before we moved to Japan and loved it. We picked it up somewhat randomly from the library, I think, and were enchanted. The imagery, the sentiment, and the story were utterly charming. It's the kind of story that makes you wish it was true. It hurts to see it end, and then you're sure it must be true because how could something so wonderful not be? I think it made me even more determined to be an organic gardener, and probably even set me on the road to permaculture that I seem to be traveling now. A slightly disorderly looking space is full of cozy green nooks and crannies that Totoro would find inviting, and chemicals of any kind would only hurt him. Clearly, I could choose no other path.
Super Size Me (2004) - Eden Foods, headquartered in nearby Clinton, sponsored a free showing of this movie at the Clinton Theater in an effort to raise awareness of America's growing food crisis. Each showing was packed to the brim, and we, of course, went. Morgan Spurlock graphically illustrated what fast food was doing to us as a people, as individuals, and as a community. I was sick to my stomach and in my heart. I still can't eat at McDonald's, truth be told. The silver-lining of the evening, though, was a 'first date' with a couple who farmed nearby and remain among our closest friends to this day. There'd be no marmalade, eggplant pickles, or probably even much a garden if it wasn't for Ambry Farms and Morgan Spurlock.
The Secret Garden (1993) - I saw a BBC version of this when I was a kid still living at home with my mother. (We were big into PBS then.) I, unfortunately, hated gardening much to my mother's disappointment, but I loved books and reading and this was a great story. (I also had a budding passion for England based on a youthful enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes and anything considered a 'classic.') I still remember Mary Lennox joyfully digging in the beds, seeing the first white snowdrops, and wandering about this green place that was all mysterious and a child's dream where anything seemed possible. I suppose, now that I'm writing this, that it's not so different than Totoro. I still want to shape my garden into something wild like Mary's was, so alive with possibility, dreams, and joy in the little things.
Big Fish (2003) - Ewan McGregor is cute as a bug's ear, I have to say, and that made this movie even more endearing, although I had no idea he was even in it when I walked through the door of the Clinton Theater that night. We were living in rural Michigan, and I needed to get out of the house. I went alone (a not unusual practice as solitude in those days didn't happen very often and I deeply craved it) and sat in the dark as the tale unfolded before me. I like a bit of fantastic realism (I think life is richer, really, for such fantasies and who's to say whether these things are any more or less real than what I see before me? I can't see the bacteria and fungi working away in my compost bin or soil, but they are there supporting my efforts to grow, literally and figuratively, and setting good food on our table daily.) and I'm not above a good romance, either. I cried like a baby as rich story-telling and beautiful imagery swept my heart away and helped me remember how vibrant life is. I suppose it is what I hope to give my readers a taste of, too.
Ok, so let's hear tell of a movie that influenced your writing, farming, gardening, or whatever it is that you do.