Notes: Crying Out Love From the Center of the World/ Sakuran

Isao Yukisada’s film Crying Out Love from the Center of the World focuses on the relationship that develops between Sakutaro and Aki, a terminally ill girl, as high school students. The film blends the past relationship with the present as Sakutaro’s current fiance, Ritsuko, suddenly heads back to their hometown. While he is back home looking for Ritsuko, Saku retraces his memories with Aki as they fall in love and her illness becomes more severe.

The film initially sets out a stark contrast between the past and the present using color. Rather than a direct split through harsh cuts or a character’s reverie into scenes with softened edges, the most telling difference between the past and the present is the colors used in the scenes. In scenes from Aki and Sakutaro’s first interaction, the colors are yellow-hued, flooded with light, and oversaturated with color. Of course, this aesthetic follows along with the seasons that are depicted. For example, during the principle’s funeral, which takes places in the summer, the sun is high overhead and the cicadas do their yearly high-pitched cry. The sun is only cut through by the summer storm that again relents to the summer sun’s power in the scene where Aki asks Saku for a ride on his scooter. This scene is prior to typhoon #29, which brings gray cloud-filled skies and gloom, which approaches again in the present. The present adult Saku in the film, even in the scenes where he has returned to his hometown, are all filled with gray clouds. It is not until Saku and Ritsuko go to Australia and visit the center of the world that Aki mentioned while he was alive that the color again is vivid and bright.

The point where the past and present converge is the scene where Saku is listening to Aki play the piano in the auditorium. Although the scene is mainly in the gloom pf typhoon 29, when the scene is shown back in the past where both characters it shifts back into the sunny summer. Yet, these two seemingly discrete whether conditions blend together with the past and present as Aki is seemingly physically there with the adult Saku.

It is also important to note the past is also brought up by Saku’s listening to the cassette tapes Aki has recorded for him during their high school days. In this scene, Saku is following the treasure hunt Aki had set up through the cassette tapes. It eventually leads him to the auditorium, where she tells him to close his eyes, and she plays the piano. When he opens them, he sees her there, and they embrace each other while Ritsuko watches. Aki’s presence, however, is not concrete because when the audience sees through Ritsuko’s perspective, Aki is not there. Only Saku is there crying. Aki’s presence is only reinforced through the sounds from the tape. These tapes are the only trace that is left behind aside from her ashes, and they serve as reminders of both her presence and absence. Thus, through the tapes, Aki is the ghost that permeates the adult Saku’s present through the trace left by her voice in the physical form of a cassette.

Unlike Crying Out Love, in the film Sakuran, the past and the present is perpetually illustrated in hypercolor with red taking up most of the frame and other warm colors jumping of the screen along with jazzy tunes. Sakuran depicts both the past of Kiyoha being sold into the brothel, rising to the position as oiran, to her present with Seiji in the same aesthetic style. This identical style of imagining the life of a girl rising through the ranks of a Yoshiwara brothel conflates the notion of a linear progressive time. While crying out love set up a distinct past and present in order to show the phantoms and traces that remain in the present, Sakuran does not visually do so. There is instead no distinction at all, and the only thing setting the past and present apart is Kiyoha’s body whether it is in its childhood, adolescence, or prime. In other words, Sakuran and Crying Out Love both address love, time, and place, but they do so not in the same way. In fact, their two modes of dealing with time are extremely visually different.

The issue of place is also taken up in Sakuran and the lack of difference between here and there.  dealing with the past and present, here and there, not in the same way. Rather than a visual que, the characters themselves address this sameness. While Kiyoha is a child rebelling at the brothel trying to run away, Tamagikuya-Oiran asks her why she would want to run away when outside of Yoshiwara is the same as inside Yoshiwara. Later on when Kiyoha is in love with Sojiro, she makes up her mind to see him on the outside. As the rain pours down, she sees him step outside, and he smiles at her. This moment is her realization that the inside is the same as the outside as she thinks to herself that he is a smiling demon.

Although the passing of time is signified through the Kiyoha’s body, at the end of the film, the notion of sameness is also invoked with Kiyoha’s identity. Kiyoha’s first customer’s, now on the brink of death, comments that their names are always changing and how difficult it is to keep track of one person’s name because after Kiyoha becomes oiran, her name changes to Higurashi-Oiran. The name marks a change in her identity from a normal prostitute to the position of oiran, but the customer’s slip of the tongue when he first calls her Kiyoha shows that she maintains that image as well.

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