Asia Society Recommends: Social Distancing Edition
What we're reading, watching, and listening to
While we stay safely socially distanced, it’s a great time to catch up on all those unread classics and plow through your watch list. A few Asia Society staff offer recommendations for staying entertained indoors.
Anne Kirkup, Program Associate, Asia Society Museum
Read: A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
A novel of Tolstoyan proportions (1,300+ pages in one volume! The longest novel ever written in the English language!), this historical family drama is set in the early days of Indian independence. When it was first published in the early 1990s the joke was that it could cause wrist injuries to the reader. Not so now with e-readers! No time like the present to sink your teeth into this sweeping epic.
Watch: Dreams. 1990. Japan. Dir. by Akira Kurosawa
Keeping in theme with the upcoming Asia Society Triennial, “We Do Not Dream Alone,” check out Dreams, one of Kurosawa's last films. Often described as a film of magic realism, the movie is actually a series of short episodes based on dreams that Kurosawa experienced repeatedly during his long life.
Ami Li, Content Producer and Marketer
Read: Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, Fuchsia Dunlop
I’ve been cooking a lot, and drawing creative inspiration from chef’s memoirs. My recent favorite is Fuchsia Dunlop's uproarious account of her lifetime of cooking and studying Chinese food. It’s a perfect time to get in the kitchen.
Watch: To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. 2020. USA. Dir. by Michael Fimognari
This is the rollicking sequel to a heartwarming story about some letters that should have remained never sent. Based on Jenny Han’s best-selling novels and starring half-Korean protagonist Lara Jean (and her mischievous, loving family), P.S. I Still Love You features Lara Jean receiving a visitor from her past just as her romantic present and future seem to fall into place. Can her heart accommodate two loves?
Kelly Ma, Assistant Director, Global Arts and Collaborations
Read: Kitchen, Yoshimoto Banana. Translated by Megan Backus
What happens when everyone in your family has departed, leaving you behind to endure loneliness? Mikage, a young woman in her twenties, is now faced with this question. She sleeps on the kitchen floor in the home she once shared with her recently deceased grandmother, who was her last living relative. Perhaps in a society where we desperately want to be recognized as individuals, we also seek the physical and intellectual embrace of others, as Yoshimoto elegantly portrays in this modern (love) story and debut novel that won her many accolades upon its first publication in Japan in 1988.
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
On the surface, Kathy H. is just like those of us struggling to resolve the many questions of our youth. In her case, she never quite understood why (or how) she drifted apart from her best friends at her elite boarding school, Ruth and Tommy, and why her favorite teacher, Miss Lucy, was suddenly let go from the school around the same time. In Ishiguro’s delicately written novel, the uncertainty of the everyday and the inevitable end together bear the weight of being.
Watch: The Housemaid. 1960. South Korea. Dir. by Kim Ki-Young
The Criterion Channel
Bong Joon-Ho cites this (and this genre of Korean films) as one of his inspirations for his Oscar-winning Parasite (2019). For a happy middle-class family, the introduction of a young, naive maid to help around the house—when they are expecting a third child and renovating the house—couldn’t be more welcomed. Or should they have chosen more wisely?
Rachel Rosado, Associate Director, Community Outreach
Read: My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh
What better time to be inspired by our nameless—and slightly deranged—narrator, whose goal is to sleep for a full year? Aided by a dizzying array of prescription meds, an enabling psychiatrist and an opportunistic artist, she works towards achieving her goal in this darkly comedic rumination on an existential crisis.
Watch: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. 2014. USA. Dir. by Ana Lily Amirpour
The Criterion Channel/Kanopy
A nod to the Iranian New Wave, this stylish and sleek vampire film follows a mysterious young woman who spends her time skateboarding and dancing alone to music... among other things. She meets a man who is lost in his own struggles—including a heroin addicted father—and the two form a bond. Talk about finding love in a hopeless place.
It’s leaving Criterion at the end of this month, so no time like the present!
Shogun Assassin. 1980. USA. Dir. by Kenji Misumi and Robert Houston
The Criterion Channel
This beyond-camp, made-for-American-and-British-audiences, samurai film is a fever dream of decapitations, spurting blood, voice-overs and flying swords. Based on Japanese movies (which were based on the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series), it follows Ogami the Lone Wolf, a master samurai whose very existence is stressing out the Shogun. He murders Ogami’s wife, and forces him into a wandering existence with his toddler son (our narrator!). Needless to say, Ogami is filled with rage and on a quest for revenge. It’s dubbed in English to hilarious effect, and the action never stops. Totally fun, totally funny.
And finally, a curated playlist from the Deputy Director of our museum (and resident DJ!)
Ken Tan, Executive Director, Global Artistic Programs and Deputy Director, Asia Society Museum