Naomi Kawase / 2001 nen eiga no tabi

M Arnold ma_iku
Mon Apr 22 09:36:39 EDT 2002

Regarding Kawase Naomi...

Allow me to add my own questions to the others' reservations about Kawase
Naomi's work.  I've only been able to see about 5 of her films, but I have
very mixed reactions so far.  Perhaps part of my problem is that I'm trying
too hard to find whatever it is that everyone is so excited about.  On one
hand, visually and photographically they can be very interesting and
engaging, but while the films are quite pretty, sometimes they become a
little bit too "cute" for me, for the lack of a better word.  I've read
several comments from Kawase where she tries to describe her work with
cliches about Japanese this and that while ignoring politics, gender or
identity in a more specific sense.  I started to wonder, aside from the
excitement that might come with "finally" finding a woman Japanese
filmmaker, maybe part of Kawase's attraction to foreign viewers is that she
helps them Discover Japan?  I'd like to be able to see something more
significant in her work though.  The issue of her films trying to deal with
identity without coming to terms with the "social" is also a question that
comes up in the interview in Documentary Box #16.  I'm still very curious
about her work and am trying to put this all into context, so I'd be very
curious to read any other details list members are able to share about what
she said in her presentation.

This is a little late but I'd like to mention one more thing.  About a month
and a half ago I visited Athenee Francais again to see "2001 nen: eiga no
tabi," a new compilation of three short digital videos made by Kurosawa
Kiyoshi, Sakamoto Junji and Aoyama Shinji.  It was an interesting
experience.  Kurosawa's 15-minute short, "2001 eiga to tabi" was made up
mostly of footage of airplanes, buildings, people walking and slightly
strange images of everyday life that Kurosawa apparently took while touring
with his films last year.  Part of the film was also acted, with the few
"characters" (at Eiga bigakko?) smashing each other's faces into boxes,
standing in front of moving images of mountains, fighting, dancing, or
slithering and limping around on the pavement outside like zombies.  (I hope
the other people on the street weren't too scared!)  Mail and packages were
a theme in his Ooinaru genei a couple of years ago as well, but with recent
happenings in America I immediately started to think about anthrax.  I'd say
the scenery parts were more interesting though--vague references to symbols
and scenes that nearly remind us of what we're used to seeing in horror
films (including zombies, shadows, and images that I thought could be
misread as graveyards, crucifixes, etc.) combined with the contemporary
horror images of jets and planes flying near buildings.

Sakamoto's episode, "Shinsekai," featured Harada Yoshio walking around with
a guitar, talking to the gay owner of an okonomiyaki (?) restaurant, meeting
various people, looking for a place in the city for Afghan refugees to stay.
I haven't seen Biriken but this seems to tie into the previous film.  This
was easily the most entertaining of the three videos.

Aoyama's film was last and at 51 minutes more than twice as long as either
of the other shorts.  Longest title too:  "Sude ni oita kanojo no subete ni
tsuite wa kataranu tame ni."  The film was narrated with quotes from Natsume
Soseki and other author(s), salted with political references and historical
details, and although I really tried to pay attention to what was being
said, or at least as much as I could understand, when the monotonous
chatting was packaged with dreary images of gliders floating in the sky,
boats drifting in the waves and shots of the road from the inside of a
moving car, the effect was nearly hypnotic.  Despite all the information
being given it was as if Aoyama was trying to get his mind off of something,
maybe the mysterious "her" of the title... and it certainly put me in a
trance.  There was a thin pamphlet being sold for Aoyama's video in the
lobby, for 100 yen. It was basically a collection of details and dates from
Nakano Shigeharu's life and quotes from various authors, artists, musicians
and legal documents.  The video's English title as listed in the back of the
pamphlet is, "Not to talk all about HER who already got old."  Underneath
that there's a short note (in Japanese):  "'Her' = ... Japanese film?  The
Emperor System?  Communism?  Conversion?  Blasphemy? ... Revolution?"  Hmm.

Anyway, if Tampen was a series of shorts made by cameramen and lighting men
without a director, this collection was like the opposite; films made more
or less by the director alone.  I didn't think Tampen was bad, but given a
choice between the two I'd probably pick the directors.

Michael Arnold

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