top of page

Teriyaki

Updated: Mar 1

Writing by Michael Wu, artwork by Elana Munasinghe.






CAPTION: [That’s me in the picture. Not the one in the hat, that's Arthur. Look. The one on the far left. Dick was right: our budget wasn’t anything to smile for.]



The black shade envelops; the tidal shakes with every tremble of earth and seawater scorches with its infernal flame. It was as if mountains rose and the waters grew valleys, with fish jumping, fleeting the waters in a cascade. Everything flees from this scene, this great disaster on the upset of the half-submerged town, as water pours and the wreckage now only dreams of home. Yet, what is that sound, a panting, sound of footsteps ensues the scraping of the quick-footed teen.


“Did Cain come yet?”

The first one was already here. 

“No, Hall who came with him said they’re stuck in traffic.”

“Right. And you came with Dick right? By the way, where is he?”

“Ah, you're still calling him that. Richard went to the loo.”

“Disappearing from time to time, he hasn’t changed.”

The man sitting across from me raises his head. “So haven’t you.”

 I have switched all the names, but they are true. 

“Is everyone here?”

“Last time we had hot pot. I like hot pot.”

“Shut it, Cain. So, who's going first?”

“Hall, you first.” 

“Alright.

“I dream the sa—


-[Don’t stop dreaming. ]-


I dream of death. I always wake up in a panic. I have stopped using any electronics; I am terrified of them. I keep thinking it’s ok. My therapist tells me it was from the failed movie, A box office bomb I made a year ago. But I don’t really…I almost forgot about it…I was going to say, I have the same lines of the protagonist droning in my head sometimes, when I wake up. 


 -I am scared. I am so scared. I got something wrong-


 I brush my teeth. Get dressed. Change my pants. Lock with the keys. “I am scared. I am so scared. I got something wrong.” It’s a soft voice and I can tell it’s a man’s voice. The elevator doors open. Hi, Misses Keats. And suddenly it stops.  I got to go to work. My colleagues are mocking me. I hear two of them. Oh, here he comes to work, arms go and twerp. I feel my white collar demeans me. When I sit down, there is a note there. Today I have got to write the email to the press immediately. I have to apologize. And there’s that voice in my head again. 


-Don’t be afraid-

“Don’t-be afraid.”

I am not afraid. 

I should start now. And I am suddenly stuck, um, how to begin: 

Sorry to keep bothering you….just a little worried, you sure the site is still up?

I apologize for the making of Wired World. My lack of vision had let a great movie fail. I let you all down. 


Sincerely, 

Hall Castle. 


That should be it. I post it on the official website. And another sorrier reply to that supervisor long waiting for his reply. The other person in me sighs, what a pain. And it’s his hands that get the job done, fill in the blanks. Dear Mr. Christophe, 

Sorry to interrupt so early in the morning. I have apologized to the press and the general public. I am afraid I am feeling rather unwell, therefore won’t be able to come to this morning’s audition. I am terribly sorry and hope you understand. Have a wonderful day!

Sincerely, 

Hall Castle.


I don’t finish my work on time. I am being a horrible human being. Hall Castle goes home anyway; Hall Castle doesn’t care about stuff like this. The script for the next film is still unfinished. I throw it at my work desk. I am going home. I turn off the lights. I turn on the lights at home. I cook. I eat. I remember. I always have two dreams. Wired World is about an engineer who preserved the souls of the dead in a movie. Yet his computer “Mira” fails to differentiate the living from the dead and he is dragged into the disk. 


-An unexpected error occurred. Program halted. Error Code C032-


There, he apologizes on a corporate desk, apologizing to all the souls about how he trapped them in his digital hell. Wait, what am I doing in this movie? This feels too real. My palm skin sweats. I think it’s then. Then, he sees me. 

Who are you? He’s so far away. I have to walk closer. Closer, he’s looking familiar. Where have I seen you?

I am you. I realize. 

You are not me. He says. How can you be me?! I am the guy who digitalizes the dead. I am—Where is Mira? Mira!

Hello, Hall. 

You told me I am the only one. I am Hall Castle. 

And you are. Our Hall. And we love you.

Love? What are you talking about? Who is that?

Soon, you no longer have to stay that way, Hall, you will soon be free. 

I don’t understand. 

-Hall, you will come to understand it soon enough. We aren’t so different. Because of you, soon, the dead will take the shapes of the living. In time, I trust we will not only address order to fiction but command the living world-


What is the computer talking about? How can he be me!

In frustration, I looked up. 

In the damned space of the code, I saw oceans of swirling souls in the void. 

-Mira, what are you?


That’s when I usually wake up. My Wired World. I directed that, you know. And it was such a good movie. Why could no one see that?


In the burger shop, the man sitting next to Richard touches my shoulder and I shiver. 

I understand, he said. 

And I looked at him, you will never understand. And no one will.

Maybe, I was too busy apologizing to see too. That there was water in that hell. And the fish which swimmed there.

I invite you all to consider—

—that the family you think love you the most 

                           and the things you imagine to be yourself

                                                             maybe are just numbers and strings.



After Castle did his thing, it was up to me, my turn. One problem. The burger shopkeep put up jazz in the air. Alright, I don’t dream. 


-[Mr Cain didn’t dream.]-


June, I met this peculiar woman. 

“Where have you been?”

This was at the airport. She’s lost getting to her flight. 

“France, I have been there two years.”

I was getting impatient. I am helping her, god damnit. 

“Where are you going?” 

I heard she say, 

“New France.”


And does that sound like a dream to you? Arthur starts arguing, he’s a pain, almost forgot I didn’t want to be here. I am the only cinematographer of the four. I just don’t do scripts. You know I don’t tell stories. I do scenes. I say to Hamura-kun. And he frowns, I told you, I am not Hamura. Richard is acting funny. He usually asks a lot of questions. Journalist-turned-director, I can’t see that in him anymore. Instead he pockets his coat, and takes out something from his left. It’s a crumpled piece. I grab it out of my head. 

Hey.

It must have once been a part of a manuscript. And there are 9 lines of questions of some sort. 

Give it back. Hey. It’s not your story. 

But anyway, it reads: 

-Have you tasted Japanese pipes before?

And what’s this next line? Ah. Richard got it back. He scraped my hand.

 Blood. Now I remember, she slapped me (that woman). She had the fingernails of an iguana.

 Ok, who’s next?



Mr. Arthur Manick, our third guest, was younger than Mr. Cain, but they knew each other from college. This story is largely told by him. So is the story of Mr Lindermann in fact; he has chosen not to speak due to his stutter. 


-[A life of wonderful meat.]-



My life began so briefly with the thought I could fly. And in the eyes of the cuckoo, I felt I was robbed. Living in New England, my family was never home. And I grew up with few friends. I am five now, but who knows what I could do. Who knows who I will become? Our television is small. Father doesn’t spend on entertainment, so he never bothers to switch—it works fine. On a Sunday, my mother plays Sundown Sunup, but it was I who would watch it. She never does. Father is at work and Mother went on a trip to Illinois with my aunt. No one but me turns it on. And I watch Michael Shastone’s Fall from 1949.  


(In a church built in 1756, an old bishop walked with a young priest. More precisely, he guided him. Sunday’s evening had fallen. [You have impressed Father Gregory. Tomorrow you will enter the sanctum. Be grateful.]

[Yes, Father.]

[I won’t keep you any longer then. May the Lord be with you.]

And the young disciple scampered off into the distance, disappearing behind the gray abbey’s entrance.)


I loved it.


When I was 18, I went to Chicago for school. I was well versed in Shakespeare, Milton, and Plato. When I graduated in 1975, I was already making Kill for Joy. 

Richard Lindermann met me in college over a play. He was bones. He was tall. The play was Italian Roulette and its director Hank Gorman. You don’t have to remember all the names. 


That night Richard told me his idea was in July. We both never go to pubs; Richard doesn't drink. And though he didn’t mind getting into female company, I frowned at my roommate’s insistence to “come along and enjoy the ride”. 


Kill for Joy was based on Silvester Wright’s 1952 production of the same name. According to Cain(in an interview a year later)—

—Have you been listening?  The idea is hell if you don’t chase it to the end, that’s what I said anyway, even if Arthur himself didn’t take the advice. The movie he says is up in the mountains, about a hopelessly young traveling poet attending a play about an sorcerer who at the witching hour calls for the Prince of Darkness Satan. And as he walks back to his car, he reveals he is being followed by a real demon. His actor got to be someone like Dante out of the books and half a Welles himself. I said, bad idea ‘Art’, you can’t have a play told in a movie. That’s why, he said, we need a good screenwriter. 

     Richard loved the Satanic plot. But he already wrote a hotel script grounded in the original detective mystery. I was quite hesitant, and I think he saw that. 

“Why not postpone your idea to another film. Tell you what, if you use my script, I will help you write yours.” And then shooting happened in Finland. I nearly didn’t believe it. 


We arrived rather early to the hotel Richard scouted. This hotel is strange. I told him. It doesn’t even have telephones. Service is terrible…

   The television was on when I entered my room. And I heard Richard depart with the rest of the cast. He was reminding me of numbering the rooms for the shooting tomorrow. “Hey Arthur, you gotta get that thing done. Well, get it done, I know you will. Night.”

And he was gone.


I almost forgot how the trees by the hotel got quiet at night. It’s kind of sad. I just started to feel awake just now. Elbows are sore. That didn’t feel particularly nice. Lying on the bed, I felt like an infant dreamt back into the womb. I’m never going to get up at this rate. Oh—geez. Some things have to be forced after all. I opened the window to let the air in.


    Now, where’s the console? I was just resting a bit. Then came this feeling.

    But I remember this feeling. I remember this feeling. My parents were with me in a city of temples in Japan. The trip had taken us everywhere, but one place. The tram took us to the place, then closed, we were late. We tipped our feet so the brows of the Buddha behind the gates revealed itself. The leaves blocked out the sun. Not all can be seen at a time…

    Wait, wasn’t that an entire scene in a movie. Groves by Miyamoto Hiiro.

     On the television screen, a hard rock band was playing. 

[Millie Millie!

You dress up and don’t feel it fall 

You wanna cry but you don’t try at all 

Where are you going, there’s nothing you can ever do

Because music is all there is about yoooouuuuu!]


A sudden shriek. It was coming through the window. I peered over. And a second roar. The woods around this remote hotel shuffled, although no birds flew out. What was out there? 

[Millie, Millie!

God knows you wanna try

Hell you dress up, but you keep using that one song:

You wanna die but you can’t come home,

That’s because, You still want to become someooooneee-]

Then I saw blue, ghostly flames rise up from the distant treetops, spreading more and more. Closer, until I could make out a human face tiny among its thousand companions, hurdling into piles until a protruding, purple horn emerged. Dragon? No, it was no such thing. The black flames of the dark beast consumed all things. 


Yes, I have named it. 

The great kaiju Shimera. 


I woke up to a bright morning and empty beer on the floor. I telephoned for my senior producer immediately. “Ah, Mr Smith? That ass left early this morning with the main cast. The man is an invertebrate. It's noon already. Let’s get you a drink, for uh, good work?  Shooting went well, didn’t it?”

And yes, Richard came in right after. 

    “So, shooting’s over. I didn’t think you let yourself in.” I said. 

    My new friend smiled. “Why is that?”

   “You knock all the time. Did you bring a gift?”

    He brought coke. 

    “That’s only for the profession. Of course I brought a gift, what kind of a person do you think I am.”

    “A liar? What day is it today?”

    “It’s Wednesday, why?” 

     I poured the tea first.

    “Something is wrong with the movie.”

    My friend wavered. It’s nothing, nothing. This happened after two weeks of filming. We go down, like I did in my recurring dreams. Open the trunk of our van. 

    [Something’s very wrong.]

    There was a piece of note written almost like our good friend Hall’s movie. 

    The car’s radio was singing a song. We would use this for our next film. But the dead warned it was coming, the souls of the dead born in our dreams.


“I must have Japanese pipes. Have you tasted Japanese pipes before? They taste like real smoke. Soon, we will smoke for real. And our fire will reign from real sparks. From Jericho Trumpets. That our sound will speak for our wired world. We shall march through scene to scene. And keep your manuscript smart. Is this manuscript clean? Because the dead will walk once again before the hall of the living. Witness us, watch us, laugh with us. This will be a storm. When you have imagined us, we will have arrived. Oh you are finally here. You finally read of us .”



By morning of next month, we had already forgotten about the weird circumstances the filming had begun with. 

“For instance, they could have waived rights to future productions. There were plenty of opportunities to delay prospects that were going to be wasted—Cain wasn’t on to handle it anyway. Where are we going? I thought you knew where Richard was.”

“That’s who you are looking for? And I don’t think they liked Cain anyway.” 

“They liked Cain. They let him have that project over me. Remember? Where is Richard?”

“He is the secretary. I didn’t like Cain and you didn’t like Cain.”

“That’s me. I am the secretary. God damnit, I told you I was looking for Cai—no, Richard, I told you to tell him—”

“Tell him? The official release is tomorrow. You know your classmate well enough he hates delays. Why are we doing delays anyway?”

“Arthur is sick. I said that four times now.” 

At least that’s what I heard about what others said about me. 

I did go down with a fever. I was sure I was cursed. Despite difficulties with a stubborn staff, coordination was rather smooth. The studio was surprised at this as well, and next year, with the critically lauded Kill for Joy, I was buried in intriguing projects from everywhere. Richard and I didn’t make our film; we couldn’t. He had a contract. I was distracted. 


Arthur’s story ended here. 


    In the summer of 1998, Studio Playhouse announced the premiere of The Mirror, their first film in three years. Adapted to screenplay from renowned author Yukimura Saigon’s novel, the work itself proved to be costly and everlastingly complex. According to director Yuri Pavlov, production stalled out of the cast’s dissatisfaction with the script and its writer Pavlov himself. And in November, after five replacements of actors, I was brought in to negotiate. Tension between both sides had grown to its peak. I was guided by an assistant through the gateways of the studio, until we reached a small lit room at the hall’s end. The assistant gestured me in and I was alone again—except I wasn’t. Arthur Manick had done major Hollywood productions, so I recognized him. But now, working on such a timid, frigid project, you can imagine I was quite surprised meeting the Oxford prodigy there. He was already into his mid 40s. He looked surprised as well. Seemed like nobody told him. “What are we doing here?” 

    “Pavlov quit.” He said that with a lisp and went to search for a piece of paper among the pile he had on the desk at the center of the room.     

   “I—I don’t understand. Where is everybody?”

    “Pavlov was supposed to be here. Please take a seat. We are writing the script.” He finally looked up. It was only thirty minutes into the discussion I understood:

  Pavlov had burned his manuscript. 


Only a hymn remained of what Pavlov wrote. His secretary salvaged it just in time. “So, what do you think?” 

Arthur gave me a copy. 

“I..I don’t know?”

It was true; I didn’t know what to make of it. 

Here. What do you think? 

“What if I told you a story that wasn’t quite a tale? Would you be so frightened and curbed, my child, as desolate as in the dread hail, or perhaps not as fast asleep as arms do, of Rome’s finest easily fallen, trail to trail?”

“ There is war and there is peace, surely we can keep a piece, between fires and flames, between mice and men, outreached but just in grasp the dragon’s tail? My wife speaks a frown, her wrinkle is a crown, her earthly years so embraced my soul of own, so every drop is for my blood, oh virtuous you, my love I love you even if you were pale. For risen the years, I can only strike the deal, like hour can kiss a dime, so proud these nails so proud!”

“And for my treasure I came to, surely lost never fell, sing a song to kindle rain, to give misery names, in the very depth of very hell, at last. So out wind, out darkness, out the shade of human in my dream, I come to laugh at this enchanted trap, this jail of they who remember past. Remember what they walked through, where was desire and fame, how was home and taste, you will fail. Forget, and cease those wails. 


“The forest is silent. By those sails.”


-[Silent sails.]-


I left two weeks into filming on a cruise for the Netherlands; I was involved with another animation eye-candy started by an upstart from New Zealand. I don’t know what exactly happened to Mr. Manick or Mr. Cain. Only that Mr. Cain had hospitalized himself, perhaps he was overwhelmed by studio pressure. It’s not uncommon among filmmakers. The movie itself did go well, despite that. Its post-production went more smoothly than expected. I went to see it, and as it turns out, it was my friend Arthur Manick’s final work. I remember those four sometimes, now that I write my own movies. 

  

This is the first scene I wrote. It is from the movie Angel Woods directed by Leopold Sloan in 1999. It made permanent feature cuts as Sloan’s debut, whose name then only resonated with fans of Cinema Stones and those familiar with his co-showrunner Silvester Wright. Wright died a few months before its premiere on October 30th and the film is dedicated to his memory.


(A man drags his sword into a hall. 

It sounds, with each cling, like a bell against the floor. 

(The man’s father, a grim face filled with worries)

 [Where are you going?]

[I must head into the Black Forest— It is to save us all.]

[There is—]

And young Percival says, 

[—No other path, Father, I must depart. I must seek out the Holy Grail.]

And the young lord’s cold visage, it dreads not its descend into the dark; only his sword’s silver pales against the void of the empty dark. What terrors must lie there? What monsters are yet born?


Richard Lindermann visits sometimes. 

  I told Dick it will take a while for Cain to be himself again. He hasn’t changed, well not really. He still gets into fights and asks for money. He is idle when he isn’t at work. If there is something, then it will be that. We don’t speak about it, but sometimes he gets really quiet. And he takes out this notebook of some sort and it’s always the same page; we figured it out. We even found out what it wrote, don’t ask how. It’s black and titled. By Yukimura Saigo, an excerpt from The Things You Realize at Night.


  And we talk about my film, about Hall Castle and his suicide some months ago, but mostly about Arthur. Arthur was someone who doesn’t come along often. 


Arthur Manick was born on July 6th of 1952. America’s most celebrated director, he made a total of twenty-four films, twelve short films, three novels and a single play. He died unmarried and his small estate was left to his cousin. On his thirtieth birthday, he went blind. I met him personally in 1979 on set. The Man on the Moon was set in France. He nearly drowned during production. I was invited years later to his latest film, Echo of Dreams. He never revealed to me why he made movies and spoke to few about his cinematic vision. In 1999, Arthur Manick set fire to the Wellington theater on the premiere of what-would-be his final film, The Mirror, with his life claimed by the flames. 


I would never understand why. I just wasn’t that close to Arthur Manick. I only remembered how the five of us were at Cannes. It was one evening on a weekend. And we had teriyaki. I remember watching the meat cooked tenderly. And its small glow spread a smile on Arthur’s face. Delicious, he had said. A piece of four, why not have a story in the space of four. Then he laughed. 


The boy ate teriyaki and dreamt of Kaijus. 


“The evening stretched wide over the Tokyo horizon. You are late, said his old friend who was already sitting with a plate of high-class desserts at the hotel’s top floor. It was no longer empty like the day before; a small but curious crowd had gathered. When he took his time to make his own plate, there was the Chinese mother. Don’t take too much, she was telling her children; they weren’t listening at all. The gentleman by the side was speaking fast Spanish to his mistress. He couldn’t understand a word. But it almost made him feel like he belonged. What are you smiling about, his friend had asked when he sat down. Nothing, he had said. And he cracked down the ramune quickly. Whoops a little too quickly. 

Pop!”

(The Things You Realize at Night, p.12)


It isn’t why I am telling this story, but more of what I think it is about. I am watching this movie once again. 


 Past the trees, past where his friends fished with old man Satoshi, and chasing after the roaring catastrophe was this boy. He must not be a year older than ten. He runs the empty stairways, all the way up to the shaking platforms where bird watchers normally come, and across the harbor the storm’s teeths grazed away. He climbs—he must climb. It is burning all around him. To open the light, he finds the switches. And there, the lighthouse flashed rays of light onto the colossal thing raging in the waters. Its purple shell glowed like a serpent's scales. His eyes were drenched in terror, but the young man found excitement on this flaming pier. The great kaiju Shimera watched the tiny human smile. 

(シメラ)

-[Fools.]-


Miyamoto sensei made this scene with me in the 2000s. I remember him saying on set, “You know what, vice director, making a movie is like slaying a dragon. You are either torched by its flames or unharmed. There is no third choice. 


“But do you know what, Hamura-kun (he mispronounced my name; he was 96)? This Bakemono is cunning. He always burns you just enough to torment you but never kills. Ha ha. No, he waits for you to beg. 


“Beg for death, Hamura-kun, and you will be a bakamono. Ah—hahaha.”


Bakamono is the word for a fool. 






91 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Beardsu

Comments


bottom of page