Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees
Along the Tidal Basin, peak cherry blossom season means springtime renewal and major crowds. But according to the 1975 film Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees, set in Edo period Japan, the pink flowers were once a harbinger of doom that is perfectly suited to sheltering in place. Prolific actor Tomisaburō Wakayama of the Lone Wolf and Cub series stars as a mountain man who wanders through the forest ambushing travelers, but he tries to avoid a cluster of cherry trees that, during peak bloom, drive men to madness. When he captures a mysterious, beautiful woman (Shima Iwashita), he finds out she’s no victim: She immediately begins to manipulate her captor, questioning his manhood and demanding that he kill the wives he keeps back home, a prelude to a wave of beheadings that is by turns comic and gruesomely erotic. Director Masahiro Shinoda is perhaps best known for his 1971 version of Shūsaku Endō’s novel Silence, which Martin Scorsese adapted in 2016. While that film was a meditation on faith under persecution, this wild horror ride, based on a novel by Ango Sakaguchi, chronicles the moral degradation of a simple man taken in by a pretty face. The National Museum of Asian Art originally scheduled the film as part of a Cherry Blossom Film Festival, and it would have been something to have moviegoers stumble out of a screening into the Mall’s festive scenery, which would have been seen in a newly unsettling light. But you can watch the movie on the Criterion Channel, and Curator of Film Tom Vick will host a Zoom discussion about this film and others in the Movies in the Spirit of the Cherry Blossoms series on April 19 at 2 p.m. The film is available to stream on the Criterion Channel. Free. —Pat Padua
Between Heaven and Earth
As a pandemic ravages the world we know and love, James Hubbell’s artwork offers an escape. In the film James Hubbell—Between Heaven and Earth, director Marianne Gerdes shows how Hubbell’s artwork transcends any one medium, as he strives to find harmony with the environment. A look at his studio, where he has worked for over 60 years in southern California’s mountains, makes clear that nature—broadly, the world around him—is his source of inspiration. He works with glass, tile, iron, clay, and stone, synthesizing materials to make everyday objects like railings and roofs spectacular pieces of art. As Milenko Matanovic, the Slovenian artist behind Seattle’s Pomegranate Center, says of Hubbell, it is the fact that he cannot be classified by any one medium that distinguishes him. Hubbell’s wife, Anne, says he has spent his whole life driven by an impetus to create; his life passion has led to commissions from various churches and synagogues. While pandemic-driven travel restrictions mean you can’t travel the globe to see Hubbell’s thousands of pieces, you can watch Between Heaven and Earth from the comfort of your own home. Gerdes’ film is part of the National Building Museum’s ADFF:ONLINE, the virtual version of the Architecture & Design Film Festival. Drifting away in Hubbell’s sea of rainbow glass and amazing creation is sure to take your mind far away from quarantine and into a world of wonder. The film will screen April 18 at 8:00 p.m. EST and again at 8:00 p.m. PST. A question-and-answer session with Marianne Gerdes will follow the screening. $0.99. —Sarah Smith
A K-pop crash course
Curious about K-pop? Mia Steinle has you covered. A D.C.-based investigative journalist by day, Steinle has channeled her obsession with the genre into Bae Bae—now D.C.’s biggest K-pop dance party—since 2015. With in-person events on pause, Steinle launched a limited run newsletter designed to guide readers through a decade of K-pop’s most influential hits and historic moments. “I named it after Mamamoo’s 2015 song, “Um Oh Ah Yeh” (음오아예) because it’s hard to find actual words to express how I’m feeling these days,” Steinle explains in the first issue. While Steinle has curated plenty of uplifting bubblegum pop hits, the project also showcases K-pop’s fuller emotional and stylistic range, from sultry electronic melodies to bold ballads. The newsletter archive is available for free at tinyletter.com/miasteinle, and Steinle offers two ways to listen along. If you search Spotify using her name, you’ll find a 55-song feast of a playlist titled “Intro to K-Pop.” But the slower (and more rewarding) method is to watch the music videos linked in each newsletter. By the end, you’ll have absorbed a decade of catchy hooks, zany skits, nostalgic fashion trends, and endless inspiration for dance moves. You can subscribe to Um Oh Ah Yeh at tinyletter.com/miasteinle. Free. —Michelle Delgado
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