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The Koumiko Mystery (1967)

Le mystère Koumiko (original title)

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tokyo japan | japan | essay | See All (3) »

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6 April 1967 (USA)  »

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The Koumiko Mystery  »

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The mosquito woman
16 April 2011 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

The greatest enemy of meditation (at least in the spring and summer months) is actually the smallest, the mosquito. As the itch settles, all effort to concentrate the mind seems to have been in vain. It's all you can do to keep from calling it quits until the next day, yet we can learn something from it. That not only is the mind small and helpless to the tiniest distraction, and that the mind's reaction to even the smallest tingle is the source of consciousness, but also the profound recognition, tangible in that small itch, that we are impotent to really effect control upon the universe down to its tiniest manifestation. Trying to only adds to our suffering. Our only defense is stillness, which we can attain by hard training. The mosquito then becomes our greatest teacher.

Chris Marker is in Tokyo for the '64 Olympics. In the festive uproar of the stadium, his camera settles in on a face in the crowd, that of a young Japanese woman. She takes him on a tour of the city and Marker coaxes answers from her about Japanese life, ideals of beauty and love, purpose in life. Whether or not Marker speaks through her and the interviews are scripted, which is to say whether or not Koumiko is fictional or real, the film essay or documentary, the realization is the same; she's an ordinary woman, facing the same inscrutable dilemmas as the rest of us.

I like how Marker concludes this. Koumiko is one of so many million women in Japan he tells us, one of so many million in the world. Our reward then is not a unique insight but an ordinary one, a snapshot of a soul in transit to the world, yearning or remembering for a few brief instances, which we may recognize from our own struggles for a meaningful life.

Marker has surrounded himself with myth, even Senses of Cinema, an ostensibly serious film journal, lists Ulan Bator, Mongolia as his place of birth. He's not the only director to stylize a persona, Herzog, Godard, Von Trier, plenty have done it, but he's been perhaps the most efficient. Which ultimately means nothing. He's a man with a movie camera, making films. We may know him from them, meaning we may not know the person (do we ever?) but we can know the consciousness.

She is the mosquito bite that awakens a stream of images.


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