Tamura's Eureka

Mark Nornes amnornes at umich.edu
Sun May 15 08:16:35 EDT 2005

I dropped by a favorite watering whole in Kabuki-cho last night only to 
find Tamura Masaki sitting there, drunk and lonely. It had been a while 
since we'd spoken, so we chatted about all sorts of things----trying 
our best to avoid the subject of Ogawa Pro, something neither of us 
seems to be able to avoid.

I mentioned to Tamura that KineJapan had some discussion about the 
color scheme of Eureka, but that I don't remember if it was resolved or 
not. He was delighted to set the record straight. It's clearly 
something he's supremely proud of.

When director Aoyama told him he wanted to shoot in black and white, 
yet have the last scene shift to color, Tamura told him it was 
impossible. I pointed out that was hardly true, and cited the examples 
from any number of films---say by Wakamatsu and Adachi.

Tamura scoffed, "They didn't know what they were doing, and didn't 
care. It can't be done." He explained that, first, you'd have to use 
two kinds of film stock, black and white and color, and this would 
necessitate splicing the two sections together. This wouldn't look 
good. Perhaps you could have a unique reel just for the color, but it 
was so short that it wasn't practical.

Then he explained that the main reason had to do with the thickness of 
the film stock, and having a separate reel for the color wouldn't take 
care of the consequences. Black and White and Color are different 
thicknesses, and thus require a focus shift during projection. This 
would have to be done on the fly, and needless to say this shift to 
color was at a crucial moment in the film. Even the best projectionist 
would require distracting fiddling with focus.

So Tamura suggested shooting in black and white, but printing in color. 
He did many tests, and both he and Aoyama loved the results. Tamura 
studied the effects, tweaking lighting and camera until he had a sense 
of control. They shot, printed everything on color, and then found 
something else out. The labs simply didn't have experience with this, 
and so they had little control over the results. Tamura found that 
every print was different. He didn't like the first one. They sent the 
second one to Cannes. He thinks the third print they struck was the 
best, at least that's his memory of it.

It sounds like he hasn't been working much lately. What a waste of one 
of Japan's great cinematographers.

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