April 17, 2016

BANKS | A Glimpse into Excess

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I have a nearly 130 page (and ever-growing) Google Doc called “Notes” resting on my laptop.

The notes began as a way for an 18-year-old version of myself to reconcile his understanding of race up until 2013 with the realities of his experiences on this campus. Admittedly, they served as a sort of “personal revenge” against any and all comers — or, in some cases, as an impersonal gratitude. For better or worse, anyone with whom I’ve interacted in a way that felt meaningful to my growth as a human being will find themselves etched forever into this document in some form or another. However, as time has gone on, the Doc has morphed into more than just a collection of notes, becoming more of an unpolished, exceedingly rough draft. Of what, though?

Reading through them, I still don’t know exactly. At some points they look like a narrative on my unorthodox and pluralist academic and professional journey, an endless personal statement for some future graduate school application. At other points, they resemble the psychotic, disorganized ramblings of a self-absorbed, hyper-aware and surprisingly cynical over-thinker. More often than not, though, the “notes” are collections of stories, interspersed with reflections, about life, identity, art, love and humanity. That sounds ridiculously self-important, I know, but this is not my intent. In fact, I’m not so sure anyone will ever see these notes in their entirety, precisely because of how bad and useless they just might be.

Yet  I occasionally do feel as if they could become something interesting one day… just not a column. So now for what will either become one of the most prescient sentences I’ve ever written, or one of the most humiliatingly, hilariously and self-deprecatingly damning: I predict that a large proportion of these notes will published in some medium that is more conducive to their content, at some point in the distant future.

Oh how I’ll laugh (and maybe cry a bit too) if I’m wrong.

Anyway, I’m telling you all of this because I dove through all 127 pages today in search of a column, and nearly surfaced empty-handed. As I said, most of the material is better suited for a book, essay, literary journal or indie film than a column. However, towards the chronological beginning of the document, I found something I wrote shortly after watching The Wind Rises for the first time, back in 2013. Judging by the temporal proximity of this little discovery to my recent referencing of the film in last week’s guest column, I felt like this was a sign. So I am compelled to pour those words, largely unedited, into the empty reservoirs of a mental lake dammed by writer’s block. Drink up:

“Every frame matters, packed to the brim with immaculate attention to detail and poignancy galore. Every single word of dialogue has purpose. I will have to watch the film several more times but I figure my understanding of it will only get more pretentious as I study it more. So I will write what I remember.

There’s a reason love is almost always the end game in films. At the risk of exposing myself, I will divulge that this was the first film I watched after tasting love and I confess, it’s true: watching your loved one do mundane tasks or get passionate about something, even if you’re not remotely involved, is wonderful. The film is frighteningly realistic in every way, and there’s a reason it came from Studio Ghibli. A collaborative, talented, masterful and familial team is required to capture life, history, culture and people so comprehensively with all of their many moving parts on screen. And oh do the parts move! Especially the people. The cinematography used to render them always gets me.

A cluster-spread of epic, reflective, somber, cigarette-smoking scenes and of course endless, seductive, immersive and addictive wind-based imagery. The wind certainly does rise at every conceivable opportunity, and I never get enough. There’s always something in the air, figuratively and literally, as exemplified by the earthquake sequence. Yet nothing feels forced or overly dramatic. Remarkable.

Miyazaki knows how to connect with you so that this enthralling world, his world, becomes our world. In such a world, we can all find ourselves anew (Ugh, what a cliché bunch of crap that sentence was … edits required.) The film takes its time with love and illness and work, or other core components, but skips past the ugliness of war without being afraid of death. The film is not afraid of anything through which it rushes, just as it is not obsessed with anything on which it dwells.

And to think that all of this was drawn! The holistic approach to capturing a city. The nuances and quirks of every setting. Life in all of its colors. Jiro stumbles and falls as he tries to save someone. He is not a suave hero, or a hero at all for that matter, but he is dutiful. The man takes everything in stride. Miyazaki likes awesome stereotype-shattering heroines though. I’m unpleasantly surprised by the lack of strong, independent women, aside from Jiro’s sister. Tisk tisk…

There are many scene-stealing characters, like the boss Hattori, the German Dr. Funker and the Italian Castrioni. There are also scene-stealing scenes, like the one with a Jew being pursued by Nazi thugs, just a brief flash. French, German, English, Japanese … languages galore here too. Language is empathy incarnate. A brief microcosm of the world. Embodying the fundamental humanness of us all. Rightfully so that Miyazaki would go out with this final, brilliant reminder of how he can connect so easily with the entire world. I feel invited to create and be and seek more. Dazzling.”

  What was the point of all this? To dote on Miyazaki? To continue my current trend of alternating meaningful columns with peculiar ones? To procrastinate?

For me, the point was simply to be heard. Take what you will from that.

Amiri Banks is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He may be reached at abanks@cornellsun.com. Honest A.B. appears alternate Mondays this semester.

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