‘Japanese cinematic and artistic experiments gained an international recognization during the 1950s. The excitement and attention was noticed in Europe and especially in France through articles and critics published in “les Cahiers du cinema”. The future characters of the “Nouvelle Vague” were already praising the potentials of the content and the form of those Japanese images. As a consequence, the number of films produced, and the cinema audience reached a peak in the 1960s and emerged as long as the Japanese new wave movement, major avant garde filmmakers and fine artist such as Takahiko iimura: and Toshio Matsumoto moving from documentary into fiction film, to experimental videos.
‘Japanese psychedelic film developed out of the drug experiences of the early sixties, exploding the familiar categories of thought and questioning the constants of perception. Emerging in the mid-sixties, structural film stood in the same tradition and treated intensively cinematic perception, the confrontation of object and image, and reproductions of reality. It was predominantly concerned with formal problems rather than with narrative content; in order to focus on the medium of film as such, it was necessary to reduce the narrative element as far as possible. The methods of structural film include cut frequencies of one frame, films consisting of only a single camera movement, 50-fold print-outs of an original image and other formal experiments.
‘In the sixties and seventies a diverse group of artists from Japan formed round the term “Fluxus”, coined by the Lithuanian-born American artist George Macunias. Like the Dadaism of the twenties and Marcel Duchamp, who attacked (and thereby extended) the bourgeois concept of art with ready-mades, mixed media and conceptual art, the Fluxus artists wanted to point to the imbalance in social structures with radically conceived and humorous concerts, happenings, exhibitions and films.
‘While the feature film, within its own specific dramaturgy, follows a psychologically motivated linear plot, the experimental film seeks to tap dimensions beyond the usual narrative structures. It strives to render both social and cinematic conventions visible by changing their rules and patterns – for example, by cutting away, adding, distancing, reversing or re-shuffling. This method of working with foreign, found material is called “found footage film”. Japanese video artists in particular found, and still find, an inexhaustible fund of material in television. By waiving narrative structures, making the medium itself the subject and using techniques of distancing, this method makes the viewer aware of the illusory effect of narrative film. The film material itself becomes the subject of the film, or is used to reveal inner states.’ — collaged
‘Takahiko Iimura is an international artist and experimental filmmaker, who has been working with time-based media since the 1960. Throughout his career his work has investigated the structures of language and the differences and relationships between Eastern and Western ideas about time and space. At the same time he has been fascinated by the semiotics of film and video: their narrative stuctures and the way we ‘read’ both individual still images and moving audio-visual sequences.
‘Iimura came to New York in 1966, and became involved in the of avant garde movement there, which included artists Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik. Much of his work seeks to disrupt the ways we view film and video, often by paring it down to its essential, frame by frame elements in order that the audience become aware of its construction as much as its content. In this way he is also attempting to understand why we view moving images the way we do, whether that is projected on a cinema screen, through a TV monitor, or now on computers.’ — iniva.org
Kuzu (Junks), 1962
‘Iimura films the cadavers of daily objects (junk) and animals without heads, cats, dogs or birds. While boats float calmly in the distance and children run along the beach, all kinds of larvae and insects move from old tatamis to old bottles under a “rain” of scratches caused by the numerous projections that the original film underwent. The object is thus rediscovered thanks to the images. It is not a question of showing “mono” (things), but rather “jibun no karada” (your own body) (Iimura) and the way in which you position yourself in relation to these things. Takehisa Kosugi: Music’ — collaged
Ai (Love), 1963
‘LOVE, an Iimura film, 8mm and 16mm B/W 10minutes, using lenses of extremely short focal length and with magnifying lenses so that pubic hair and genitalia take on new and often unrecognizable aspects. Music is by Yoko Ono. Cast is anonymous. I have seen a number of Japanese avantgarde films at the Brussels international Experimental Film Festival, at Cannes, and at other places. Of all those films, Iimura’s LOVE stands out in its beauty and originality, a film poem, with no usual pseudo-surrealist imagery. Closest comparison would be Brakhage’s LOVING or Jack Smith’s FLAMING CREATURES. LOVE is a poetic and sensuous exploration of the body … fluid, direct, beautiful’. — Jonas Mekas
‘Tetsuji Takechi was a Japanese theatrical and film director, critic and author. First coming to prominence for his theatrical criticism, in the 1940s and 1950s he produced influential and popular experimental kabuki plays. Beginning in the mid-1950s, he continued his innovative theatrical work in noh, kyōgen and modern theater. In late 1956 and early 1957 he hosted a popular TV program, The Tetsuji Takechi Hour, which featured his reinterpretations of Japanese stage classics.
‘In the 1960s, Takechi entered the film industry by producing controversial soft-core theatrical pornography. His 1964 film Daydream was the first big-budget, mainstream pink film released in Japan. After the release of his 1965 film Black Snow, the government arrested him on indecency charges. The trial became a public battle over censorship between Japan’s intellectuals and the government. Takechi won the lawsuit, enabling the wave of softcore pink films which dominated Japan’s domestic cinema during the 1960s and 1970s. In the later 1960s, Takechi produced three more pink films.’ — collaged
Dream of the Red Chamber, 1964
‘A great piece of surrealist and erotic filmmaking, Takechi’s third film, The Dream of the Red Chamber or Crimson Dream (Kokeimu, 1964), was released less than two months after Daydream. The film depicts the lurid and violently erotic dreams of a writer, his wife and his sister, after having spent a night out drinking and visiting sex shows. The Dream of the Red Chamber underwent extensive censorship before the government would allow it to be released. About 20% of the film’s original content was cut by Eirin, rendering the film virtually incoherent, and this footage is now considered lost.’ — collaged
‘Takechi produced his first significant work, Daydream (Hakujitsumu, 1964), an almost structureless succession of sexy set pieces revolving around a series of fantasies in a dentist’s waiting room, loosely based on a short story by Junichiro Tanizaki that had appeared in the September 1926 issue of the magazine Chuo Koron. It was when this independently produced work was picked up for distribution by Shochiku along with a number of similarly salacious titles that nudity began to become a legitimate subject for onscreen portrayal in its own right. A commercial success in Japan, it was released in the US the same year and later reissued there in 1966 with additional footage shot by its distributor Joseph Green, director of the 1962 cult bad film The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.’ — Midnight Eye
‘One of the great pioneers of Sixties counter-cinema, Japanese director, video artist and critic Toshio Matsumoto (b. 1932) rose to prominence as a daring stylist and fearless provocateur whose radically experimental films shattered social and aesthetic taboos with inspired precision and energy. Matsumoto began as a documentary filmmaker, directing a series of abstract and subtly political shorts that applied a mode of poetic anthropology to postwar society and culture. Among Matsumoto’s earliest works were two important collaborations with fellow member of the Jikken-Kobo artist collective, the legendary composer Toru Takemitsu who contributed some of his earliest scores to Matsumoto’s lyrical documentaries Ginrin and Song of the Stone.
‘An influential critic and theorist, Matsumoto increasingly embraced formal experimentation, culminating in his dazzling three projector film, For My Crushed Right Eye and his incendiary feature film debut, Funeral Parade of Roses, one of the most important films produced by the remarkable independent distribution and production company Art Theater Guild. Making prominent use of music and mandala-like formal structures, Matsumoto’s deeply immersive and frequently psychedelic avant-garde films are trance inducing and quietly intense adventures in perception.’ — Harvard Film Archive
Funeral Parade of Roses, 1969
‘Trying to explain the pleasures of such a scrambled impressionistic piece as Funeral Parade of Roses in plot terms is a pretty fruitless exercise, although the disjointed narrative does reach fever pitch in the latter moments, with developments inspired by the ancient legend of Oedipus Rex. The story really remains only a ruse for a work that is best seen as a fascinating reflection of a long-vanished place and time, caught in a cross-current of international pop-cultural styles and influences and not dissimilar to what was going on in similar circles in other far-flung parts of the world. The colourful underground milieu, populated by a rag-tag collection of cross-dressers, bohemians, druggies and drop-outs, bares easy comparisons with the environment fostered by Andy Warhol and his disciples at his Factory studio in New York. Although its focus on experimental filmmaking technique is very much in keeping many of the other films produced by the Art Theatre Guild – typically those of Nagisa Oshima, Shohei Imamura, Masahiro Shinoda, Susumu Hani and Kiju Yoshida – Matsumoto’s film never quite seems like the dry meta-textual exercise in formalism of some of his contemporaries.’ — Midnight Eye
‘Writes Matsumoto, “I used the Erekutoro Karapurosesu (Electro Color Processor), which is mainly used in the field of medicine and engineering, to create moving image textures Metastasis, I was interested in layering images of a simple object and its electronically processed abstraction. The electronic abstract image is manipulated in a certain rhythm, depicting an organic process.”‘ — Electronic Arts Intermix
‘Born in 1939 in Kita Kyushu, Adachi emerged from the Nihon University Film Study Club, better known as Nichidai Eiken, alongside filmmakers like Motoharu Jonouchi and Isao Okishima, to become one of the leading figures in the underground experimental scene of the 60s, with films like Sain (1963) and Galaxy (1967). However, it is for his later associations with Nagisa Oshima, in whose Death by Hanging (1968) he appears in the role of the security officer, and more famously with Koji Wakamatsu, scripting dozens of his most famous titles including The Embryo Hunts in Secret, Go Go Second Time Virgin, Sex Jack, and Ecstasy of Angels, that he is best known.
‘Through Wakamatsu Productions, Adachi also contributed the pink genre’s most energetic and revolutionary titles, films such as Sex Play and High School Guerrilla. He furthermore became known as one of the country’s most progressive film theorists and critics due to his instrumental involvement with the journal Eiga Hihyo during its second phase from 1969 to 1973. And then he disappeared from Japan, apparently disillusioned with the direction along which the country’s commercial cinema was heading, leaving for Beirut where in 1974 he joined the Japanese Red Army in lending its assistance to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and their quest to fight for the liberation of the Israeli-occupied territories.’ — Midnight Eye
A.K.A. Serial Killer, 1969
‘The Japanese director, screenwriter and activist Masao Adachi is one. Active both in Japan’s avant-garde film scene of the 1960s and in the student-led protests against Tokyo’s controversial security treaty with Washington, Mr. Adachi wrote screenplays; directed movies like Female Student Guerrillas (1969), which infused the sexploitation genre with revolutionary politics; and developed a “theory of landscape,” which hypothesized that systems of power could best be revealed through filming not people but places. He put that theory into practice in the collectively directed AKA Serial Killer (1969), which recounts the killing spree of a 19-year-old man through images of the anonymous landscapes he traversed.’ — NYT
Tokyo / Lebanon, 1971
‘Masao Adachi & Kôji Wakamatsu, both having ties to the Japanese Red Army, stopped in Lebanon on their way home from the Cannes festival. There they caught up with notorious JRA ex-pats Fusako Shigenobu and Mieko Toyama in training camps to create a newsreel-style agit-prop film based off of the “landscape theory” (fûkeiron) that Adachi and Wakamatsu had developed. Few artists have shifted from revolutionary imagination to revolutionary action like Masao Adachi.’ — collaged
‘The films of Takashi Ito straddle the genres of animation and experimental film. Most of Ito’s films are animation in its fundamental sense of creating the illusion of movement through the rapid display of a sequence of images. Ito’s best works strip cinema down to its bare bones of being a series of photographs projected on a screen in rapid succession. In an article published in the Holland Animation Film Festival 2002 programme, Takashi Ito explains how his fascination with making his own films began when he was given an 8mm camera at university to shoot with. Watching the images he had shot, over and over again, Ito was struck by the power of cinema to bring inanimate things to life.
‘Ito decided to try to use the medium to create “films like fascinating nightmares” and began experimenting with photographing and manipulating images of clouds. His experimentation with film was bolstered by his coming into contact with Fukuoka’s independent screening organization FMF (Film-Makers’ Field) where a wide range of experimental and personal films are screened. As Ito himself described: “Film is capable of presenting unrealistic world as a vivid reality and creating a strange space peculiar to the media. My major intention is to change the ordinary everyday life scenes and draw the audience (myself) into a vortex of supernatural illusion by exercising the magic of films.”‘ — collaged
‘In Ghost, as in many of his films, Ito explores some of the most basic dimensions of cinematic illusion, such as space depth, lightning and movement, to create a visual feast that seems to touch on the horror genre. But it’s not quite so, for the Ghost we are allowed to see is not designed to frighten but to mesmerize the spectators. Bulb shutters, long exposures and time-lapse are used to dazzle perception and insinuate the presence of floating life-forms in a closed space. Inagaki’s soundtrack kicks off with a steady electronic ambiance but soon descends into a hellish world of rhythmical distortion and mutli-dimensional lo-fi mayhem. I don’t think your children will be scared with this extraordinary piece, but if you do have them, please make them watch this in a closed dark room and report the results.’ — The Sound of Eye
The Moon, 1994
‘A long time ago, I would often dream of the uncanny and mystical landscape that appears in moonlight. Irrational landscapes and spaces filled with unspeakable pleasures like a black object that revolves slowly while flying over the scattered clouds that float in the night sky, their lumps illuminated by the light of the moon.’ — TI
Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House (1977)
‘Delirious, deranged, gonzo or just gone, baby, gone — no single adjective or even a pileup does justice to House, a 1977 Japanese haunted-house freakout. It’s easy to track the plot points in House and rather more difficult to grasp why Mr. Obayashi tells the story the way he does, to gauge the significance of the gaudy colors, the old-fashioned techniques (he periodically irises up and down), the superimpositions and flurries of jump cuts. The exterior backdrops tend to be overtly artificial, the skies so streaked with orange that you half expect to see Scarlett O’Hara shaking her fist at the heavens. A scene with Gorgeous, her father and his new squeeze, meanwhile, is shot through a multipaned window that separates the camera (and us) from the characters, one of several such distancing strategies. There are close-ups, but many are so glossy and stylized that they look like advertisements.’ — NYT
House – Q&A with Director Nobuhiko Obayashi
p.s. Hey. ** Ian, Hi, Ian. Thanks on Joshua’s behalf. And on mine too. Were you able to max out your snow-imposed imprisonment? Sounds pretty. We’re already easing into spring here unfortunately. Ha ha, I’ve learned over the years that there are two things that it’s best not to ask French people about. Even cool French people. Because they get very uncomfortable and humorless and shocked that you would even bring them up. One is the brutality with which people who were perceived to have been Nazi sympathisers were tortured and murdered in the streets of Paris after WWII once the Nazis pulled out. The other is Pepe Le Pew. Seriously. Total bone of contention. ** David Ehrenstein, Morning, sir. ** Zak Ferguson, Hi, Zak. Good to see you. Experience vs. read in the sense of being overtaken vs. killing time? Think if books’ stuffs don’t start exploding in me to some degree, I stop reading them. Well, that new book of yours certainly sounds intriguing and even a little daunting? Re: the ‘welcome to the world’ slot, sometimes people ask, sometimes I decide to do it on my own. If you want to put that book in that slot, I’m game. I generally only do one ‘welcome’ post per author, so I guess be sure that’s the book yours that you want to have walk the blog’s wannabe red carpet. If so, I assume you know what those posts look/are like, how flexible they are, what they generally need to have in them. So go ahead and make said post if you like and send it to me if you want. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Later and happiest day to you, dude. ** Misanthrope, Maybe in the second photo he was trying to show what he/Timothy would look like with prosthetics in case any customers were into that? Oh, boy, about David’s friend. Adios. David needs some nerdy pals stat. ** The Black Prince, The Black Prince! Nice. Hi, Prince! I’ve actually been approached by a few publishers inquiring if I wanted to write a sequel to ‘The Sluts’. Honestly, it would bore me to death. If there’s a sequel it will have to be written by someone else like when movie studios make sequels to ‘hit’ films, which is almost always a very bad idea. I think the escort/slave posts are the sequel, and, in their case, I didn’t write them either. Grr, ugh, about that mysterious sinister thing you’re dealing with. Be careful if you need to be. But hooray about the happy publisher for your next poetry book! Do you know when it’ll be published? That’s exciting! French hugs. ** Bill, No sighting of ‘Sator’ yet, but there are still a few unexplored horizons. ** Dominik, You would think, wouldn’t you. I know someone who used to live at the Cecil Hotel, and, yes, he said it was evil incarnate. Love working as a make-up artist on the goriest, scariest, lowest budget horror movie ever, G. ** Ferdinand, Hi F. I don’t know miserytourism, but I will now. Congratulations to them and you! Everyone, An exciting big up from Ferdinand, i.e. ‘(H)ave you heard of the lit site miserytourism? I have my first hosted short story there and what was so fun about this is that I got to doodle a selfportrait for an author pic and also create a sort of illustration for the story – so much fun. Here. And super ace about the SCAB score. Venues don’t get better than that one. Can’t wait. The 6 pm curfew is still extant, yes, and it’s maddening to say the least, yes. ** Josh Dalton, Hi, Josh! Thank you for using a bit of your precious electricity to come in here. And thank you again endlessly for the post. It was a hit. Big, big traffic. Whoo-hoo! Hope you’re all lit up again by now. ** Jack Skelley, Hi, Jazz-ck! I should do a Adam Schlesinger Day or Gig or something. Hmmm. Remember Linda Albertano? And her Casio? I was just thinking about them for some reason. Smooches! ** Brendan, B-ster! I’m getting the impression that you guys in LA are going to start sort of vaguely reopening to various degrees any second. Lucky dog pound, if so. Making lots of art is all I’ve got too. How have people who don’t make art lasted through this motherfucking mess? Oh, wait, Netflix, politics addiction, porn, … never mind. I will re: Lingua Ignota. It’s imminent, possibly today-level imminent. True about Bronson Cave. You know there was another Bat Cave (sort of). They filmed Wayne Manor at this cliff top mansion in Pasadena, this, and at the base of the cliff, for a short time, there was this decoration/prop thing connected to the cliff to make it look like there was an entrance to the Bat Cave right where the TV show claimed it was, but it was only ever shot at long distance, and it looked massively fake if you were less than half a mile or whatever from it, and my friends and I used to go there and smoke pot cradled by its fakeness. So now you know. And you probably already did. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Yeah? Mm, just the name Eminem tends to ward me off. I like Foltekammer pretty well. Cool about that director being targeted. Things are looking up (?) (!). ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff. I hope out of town was wondrously out of town. I have not seen ‘Wormwood’. I think it and the Steve Bannon doc are the two Morrises I haven’t seen. It might be on one of the illegal sites. That seems up its alley. I’ll check. I was really into early-to-mid Peter Handke at a certain point. I think I’ve read everything by him up to and including ‘Repetition’, which was/is my favorite of his. For whatever reason, I don’t think I’ve read anything of his after that. So, yeah, I do really like that early period of his work. Really good seeming thing to read. I’m happy to hear things settling over there. I’m good. Things are proceeding. Life is what it is. xo. ** Brian O’Connell, Good 10:07 am Paris time, Brian. I’ve always been terrible with money. It confuses me. Wow, 80s horror/ slasher is such a huge area, I’d have to really think to recommend things. In a way, they’re all good or else bad/good. I do think ‘Nightmare on…’ is by far the best of the franchises. Let me dwell and think. Ouch, about the Twitter cancel. Really, it’s a permanent deletion? That seems very extreme. Man, sorry, I totally get how at a time like this one that connective tissue is important. Hope you get to see your friends tonight. I’d love to see mine, but they’re all away. Sad face. Tuesday wasn’t too bad. I did my edit with my editor on ‘I Wished’, and now it’s off to be made into galleys, so that’s exciting. I sent film-related stuff to our producers. Now I have to get the film budgeted. We’ve only roughly guessed how much it will cost, but they need solid estimation by a week from now, so I have to find someone who knows how to budget films because Zac and I are not remotely experts. So I’m on that hunt starting today. And this and that. May Wednesday curtsy before you and ask you what you wish to happen during its tenure. Did it? ** Right. I’ve restored an old post that’s kind of a compendium of some awesome, somewhat like-minded, wild Japanese filmmakers. Fun to be had, if you like. See you tomorrow.