Wednesday, December 21, 2005


There is a film somewhere in my morning commute. Three days a week I have been shivering out at eight in the morning with a few million other souls to pump through the arteries and viens of Tokyo's railways.

My movie starts with our hero’s morning routine: toast, shave, tea, shots cutting to the face of a clock, polished black shoes slipped on in the doorway. Hunchy shoulder walk trying to step ahead of the seconds, winter morning sunshine, figures in black coats flowing through the streets, breath clouding faces. Dozens of bodies flowing through a row of ticket gate, each body flicks off a double beep as it slides through, the beeps sprinkling like heavy rainfall. Feet tapping and shivering at the platform, people staring blankly in neatly marked rows, every one muffling out the riot of jingles and broadcasts that hurtle from the speakers. Train pulls into platform, great dark piley lumps through the heavily fogged windows. Shot from straight overhead, doors groan open, steaming air and black coat bodies pour like coffee from a pot, funneling through the two lines of shivering cloaks waiting to board. Keyboard jingles, lines slithering into car, a series of sharply angled shots of the doors: the recording of the girl tells us the doors are closing, station master’s crackly voice repeats it, passengers suck in their breath and doors shut with a slow hiss.

A shot down length of the car interior: uniform and unisexed bodies packed tight and comfy, dead silence but for the wheels on the tracks. Shots of faces interspersed with advertisements: fifty year old man, twiney gray hair combed straight swaying on a subway strap, eyes looking inside to his day, suited commuter hanging from subway strap packed with faceless gray bodies, clutching his stomach “Stop Diarrhea Fast!”, young woman in front desk dress and overcoat, eyes flicking over novel, cover discretely tucked behind the store’s complimentary paper cover, small brown bottle, “Highest Caffeine Levels on the Market!, Vitamins to improve brain bloodflow!, Stay Awake and Alert for Overtime, Business Meetings, All Night Studying!”, acne, glasses, overwashed hair stripped to brittle mop, shirt, tie, jacket, seated, head drooping over school logo bookbag on lap, face of old woman and young man in suit occasionally sway into the frame, “Live in a Hot Spring Resort! Seventy Minute Train Ride to Tokyo Station, Eighty Minutes to Shinjuku!” white houses fuzzy and glowing among trees, “Work in Tokyo, Live Close to Nature, Now Receiving Buyers! Free Info Session...”, young man in suit with sharp face, eyes blinking at the “Does Koizumi have the Guts to Stand up to North Korea?!” “Exclusive! Border Breaking Haruki Murakami as Interviewed in the New York Times! (Junichi Uegusa trans.)”

Cut away as train lurches to a stop, hero shuffles out, bodies flow among platforms, camera twirls 360 to sound montage of train broadcasts and whistles. Slow motion shot of crowds tramping up stairs, backs of heads bobbing, feet tramping in a slow roar. Cut to cramming into new train, shinier and brighter than last, feet negotiating small inches of space. More jump cuts of train interior, televisions screens blink ski holidays, weather forecasts and station info. Hero’s face blank, we watch him gazing intently at something, cut to thumbs tapping on mobile phone, cut to doors pulling to platform, tromping out, blurry figures fly past bus size poster of a young girl in jeans and sweatshirt newspaper spread over knees, “Read It! (It’ll be on the Test!)”, long tracking shot follows hero down stairs through ticket gates (beeps patter like rain), across street, he gets lost in streams of coats and faces.

Camera floats away, up into buildings, up, up, then turns down on streams of black sweeping through streets, trickling into cracks and doorways.

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