March's EIGA ARTS programme comments
Thu Apr 1 02:43:54 EST 1999
This sounds great, I:d like to see a night.
Where in Japan does this happen? What:s the summer plan?
please let me know, thanks!
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> This is cross-posted to a few lists, so apologies if bits sound weird.
> monthly ramblings from Japan...of possible interest to people running small
> venues or thinking of starting one. Comments on films can be quickly found
> if you scroll down to the stars.
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> This is not a review of films but rather comments on films, the place where
> they are projected, the people that come and go and the ups and downs of
> putting a monthly screening together. This month's EIGA ARTS was quite
> thought provoking.
> I seem to have slipped into the habit of showing two separate programmes of
> films at EIGA ARTS. It is certainly easier that way. Putting the evening
> together takes less time trying to match Japanese and foreign work if kept
> apart, but it's not how I imagined EIGA ARTS to be. It would be better if
> I accepted the responsibility of 'curator' instead of 'programmer' (there's
> a difference, right?).
> Saturday's show included a large selection of Super 8mm films. I'd hawked
> my still camera to buy an Elmo ST1200 8mm projector for EIGA ARTS and was
> very pleased with the projection. I'd heard that the projector would
> benefit from an arc lamp conversion and a new lens, but found that I could
> already fill the screen with a very bright image. Tachibana Kaoru's FLESH
> looked amazing. Brighter and crisper than anything else shown.
> Regrets, I've had a few......and here's some I'll mention...
> Last night's show went on too long. I realise now that when previewing
> work at home, it's all too easy to forget how the films will be seen at
> EIGA ARTS. Craig Lindley's Super 8 films are beautiful, poetic, surreal,
> hand processed meditations. He sent me the original films (a large portion
> of his work from the last two years, God bless you!), as did Tachibana
> Kaoru, and I was pretty excited to be able to get away from video
> substitutes. His hand processing (black and white as negative and colour
> tinting) looked wonderful. My regret is that I wanted to show too much and
> should have cut a couple of the black and white films from the programme.
> The B/W films are dense, deeply symbolic, silent films that would probably
> be better programmed as a show of their own. Including all three in a
> second programme that extended over 70 mins exhausted me and most of the
> audience. After dropping the films off at home, I went out and drank
> heavily until 5am.
> Oh, yes. About 40 people showed up. Craig's programme attracted about 10
> more people than the first, Japanese, programme. Donations were down this
> month. The cost of putting the night together was about 27,000YEN ($226).
> The venue fee (5000YEN/$42) was kindly paid for by the Department for
> International Relations in City Hall. Other costs (running around getting
> spare lamps, shipping back a projector mistakenly lent to me, phone bills
> that have doubled recently, faxes, programme notes, etc), are difficult to
> predict and keep track of. Donations came to 15,000YEN ($130). I always
> indicate that donations should not exceed 1000YEN ($9...the usual ticket
> price at a local cinema is 1600YEN or $13.50) and I guess some people are
> donating nothing or next to nothing. It's OK. EIGA ARTS is free.
> No-one's ever going to be turned away, but I'm broke at the moment and it's
> hit me hard this month. I have always budgeted thinking that I would put
> $100 of my own cash into each month, but I was hoping I wouldn't have to
> this month. Ah, well. The show must (and will) go on!!
> With last month and this month attracting 40-50 people, I've decided to
> change venues. The current venue is good. It has excellent facilities,
> etc. etc. but is too big (seats 90 with loads of standing/sitting room) to
> create much of an atmosphere. I'm looking for gallery space, already
> having one in mind, where I can set up my own projection equipment, give a
> beer to people who want one, bring people together in a more intimate
> environment and sit around and chat afterwards with no rush to leave. The
> gallery I have in mind has its own restaurant downstairs which would be
> great. Where I am now, I'm always scrambling out the door at the last
> minute with the security guard on my back. There are enough like minded
> people (judging from the growing mailing list) that would probably want to
> hang out afterwards. So, as of June, EIGA ARTS will be undergoing several
> changes. I'm going to change venues, run very slightly shorter, start
> 'curating' specific programmes, show more of a mixture of old and new work
> and make more of an effort to create a social scene out of it rather than
> just have people show up, me say a few words, project, and then lose
> everyone as I'm hurrying to pack up and leave, catching up with only a few
> people later on.
> Having said all of this, last night, on the whole, went well. Reactions
> from people were very thoughtful and each film was someone's favourite.
> There were a lot of new faces in the audience as well as regulars and I was
> particular moved by one Japanese guy who has come to each screening so far.
> He watches the films intensely and scribbles notes during the intervals,
> during the reel changes, and even after the building is locked up and I'm
> getting into the car. I thought I'd thank him for his support before I
> drove off and he in turn thanked me and simply said that he "loved cinema".
> A lot of people have thanked me, said that the city needed a place for
> alternative cinema, and it seems EIGA ARTS has stimulated a local filmmaker
> to run a 16mm 2 day workshop where each person makes a film from a 100 foot
> roll. Great news.
> And there ends, the first part of this month's self-reflective ramble.
> Onto the films.....
> Drifting VM (Jp: VM Hyouryuu) (also translated as VM Drifting) by
> Yamazaki Mikio
> I'm pretty sure it won an IMAGE FORUM prize but I can't find the details on
> which one...Grand Prize 1990? It begins with images of a man walking down
> small back streets of a city. The shots are hand held, from the waist up,
> seemingly drawing him to a destination. The colours are faded and since we
> only see the man from the front, we don't know where he is going. Hand
> processed (orange tint, perforations) portions of the same shots begin to
> drift in and out of the frame as do black and white images of a woman
> sitting by a river bank. More hand processed film ruptures through the
> 'walking' shots, as do misaligned frames in printing, each technique
> bringing the material aspect of film to the foreground. The journey (as is
> indicated in the filmmaker's comments) concerns film and sex, the beauty of
> each but finally their inadequacy at bringing meaning to the filmmaker's
> drifting existence (clearly symbolised by the walking/journey shots). As
> the film continues, fewer and fewer images of the walking man appear,
> increasingly replaced by light and darkness tearing apart shadow profiles
> of the man and the woman's faces. Drifting VM becomes a journey through
> several landscapes (some literal), stripping away layers of emulsion and
> with each, a memory, to reveal nothing but light and darkness. Images are
> accompanied by a very moving score performed on cello. It's a gentle,
> repetitive accompaniment, that invites you to drift with the filmmaker.
> Flesh By Tachibana Kaoru
> The film is a portrait of a man in a gym. The first shot is a close up of
> a very hairy chest, gently breathing. Cut to the same chest again but
> deeply breathing as he lifts weights. The heavy, slow movements of his
> arms and the metallic sound of the weights clashing together, unite man and
> machine and this relationship is examined further by editing shots of limbs
> (always dislocated from the whole body by the camera's frame) with close
> ups of the gym equipment. A cut to two men arm wrestling begins to humanize
> the portrait and one man's defeat under another brings a moment of silence
> before the camera cuts to the man's face for the first time. Gentle music
> fades in, the backlight behind the man's face is overexposed and projects
> an aura, almost angelic, around his face. His eyes are gentle, thoughtful
> and he is at last human. Tachibana's first film.
> Northern Light By Mitsuki Ai
> I made the mistake of showing this on video because the Super 8 film is
> with IMAGE FORUM as part of their upcoming festival. A stupid decision on
> my part since Mitsuki's film is a silent play with light and the grain of
> Super 8 film and has to be projected on film to really appreciate what is
> being offered. Having watched it several times now, I see there is a very
> vague narrative to the film. It is a road trip to some woods with friends.
> The camera films whatever the filmmaker sees along the way but there is an
> obsessive interest in light and often the lack of it. Occasionally we see
> the 'cast'. Two friends, driving, playing around during rest stops along
> the way. It is a playful film, abstract to all but the closest viewing.
> The film is grainy and dirty, the exposure is intentionally taken to every
> extreme, light reflects off the lens often and one can see what the
> filmmaker is trying to do: play with light, in her hands, on film and with
> our eyes. My only criticism of the film would be that it is perhaps too
> long. The film speaks quite clearly and even though only 15 minutes, it
> could offer just as much beauty in half the time. I hate saying a film's
> too long.
> The Lingering Image of Summer (Jp: natsu no zanzou) By Onishi Kenji
> I showed this because it complements Northern Light well, in that it is
> dark and abstract. Rather than a play with light, this is a play with
> colour (of which very little oozes out of the grainy Ektachrome images).
> It is a home movie, of 'memories' of the end of one summer: The sea, an
> old lady moving slowly up a street, a sunflower, and other images. The
> sound is barely audible except for the repetitive clicking of the camera
> and a loud electronic rumble at the end (sounds like low pitched static or
> something: this is on the video dub too so I guess it's intentional) which
> woke everyone up out of the dream (or nightmare). The film conveys a
> definite sense of time passed and reveals layers of the filmmaker's
> memories as rapidly leaving for some place else. The film, and particularly
> the unstable, grainy Ektachrome, will surely change over time, as memories
> must. One member of the audience said that he pities Onishi if that's what
> his memories are like. Another person thought it was a brilliant film. I
> like it a lot (of course, I programmed it!) but after Northern Lights, I
> should have perhaps have ran FLESH. Visually, FLESH is a very sharp, tight
> film, whereas Onishi's is, like Northern Light, generally out of focus and
> quite demanding on the audience. All his films are demanding. In
> Japanese, you can say, "minikui" which can mean "ugly", or "difficult to
> see/watch". His films are not at all ugly (quite the opposite, he's a very
> fine cameraman) but are difficult to watch at times.
> Craig Lindley's films
> The three silent, black and white films, BLACK SUN, MYSTERIUM and NATURE
> MORTE were all hand processed as negative which distances the viewer from
> the images creating a surreal, remote world of memories, myth making and
> imagination. Clearly, the images were once 'real' but when projected,
> become remote, ghostly, lifeless evidence of a possible time and place. The
> images are both haunting and sad. Each film offers highly symbolic,
> sometimes mythical, fragments arranged by association, suggesting a
> narrative that may only be realised through meditation upon the images. As
> I mentioned, the films deserved their own separate screening, if only
> because of the absorption that they demand. My favourite images come from
> Mysterium, which towards the end, shows a lone swimmer crossing the frame
> "in freedom and oblivion." (CL)
> Also processed as black and white negative, was SUBMISSION, a nude study
> lasting the length of a roll of film at 18fps. The editing is precise and
> rhythmic and the female figure, projected as negative, floats in white
> space out of reach. Consequently, the audience is forced, like the
> filmmaker, to submit to her unreachable, powerful presence.
> My favourite of Craig's films is EMANANCE . It is clearly one of his
> strongest poetic experimentations with light and the physical properties of
> film. It is hand tinted, sometimes quite subtly, yet at other times the
> screen is drenched with a rush of colour and light. Part of the film is
> quite brutally scratched, and when projected the result is an intense,
> insane play of lines, reminiscent of Pollock's drip paintings in their
> energetic display of movement. Again, there are experiments with water,
> which, when processed, looks like thick, coloured oil. Light turns into
> jewels reflecting off water emerging through the colour tint. It is even
> more abstract than the three black and white films and I watched it without
> any concern for Craig's possible motivations, merely content with seeing
> something beautiful.
> Two other pieces, DEMOLITION MAN and 2114, are less abstract, colour
> portraits of people and places. DEMOLITION MAN is refilmed off 16mm and
> was the only sound film of Craig's shown. It provided a welcome pause
> between the other films (see above) and has a loud, live, musical
> soundtrack consisting of a lot of chants. The images indeed depict 'broken
> men' and by filming off of 16mm, he was able to refilm several shots to
> create cyclical, rhythmical portraits of abandonded men, buildings and an
> entire area. One person thought it exploited the men in the film. I'm not
> particularly inclined to agree, although one might expect a less
> celebratory soundtrack to be played alongside the images of down trodden
> 2114 is a fairly simple, fun film of the filmmaker's suburb. It move from
> the use of single frames to long shots and back again in one roll of Super
> 8 film. The shorter shots tend to be more abstract, urban images (and of
> course, abstracted even more by their brevity) while the longer shots tend
> to be of more leisurely, rural scenes. It was made as part of a project
> with the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group and I imagine it was an admired
> addition to the group's efforts.
> And that brings me to the
> end. Thanks for reading this far!
Mailing address until April 8:
Lindsey Ricker c/o
Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies [KCJS]
52-2 Hoshoji-cho, Okazaki
phone (right): 81-75-752-7074
fax: (81) 75-752-1158
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