21 April 2008

Kawamoto: The Puppet Master Film Season

If you live in the U.K. be sure to check out the Kihachiro Kawamoto season as it passes through Sheffield and London. Jasper Sharp of Midnight Eye will be in Sheffield on the 25th April at 6pm to personally introduce the first of the three programmes, Demons, Poets, and Priests at the Sheffield Showroom.

The following week, the programme moves to the Barbican. The final screening of The Book of the Dead at the Barbican on the 3rd of May will be preceded by Jasper Sharp in conversation with animation expert Helen McCarthy. I had the opportunity to see these films for the first time on film (instead of DVD) at Nippon Connection earlier this month and they are truly amazing. I don't want to go off on a purist diatribe about the difference between watching movies on film or watching them on a flatscreen, but it really was like watching the films for the first time all over again. I was particularly taken by Kawamoto's attention to detail in his use of colour and puppet movement.

Not all of us have access to such rare films in the cinema, however, and distributor Kino is planning on releasing The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto on DVD this week. They are also the distributor for The Book of the Dead. The Exquisite Short Films DVD is currently available for pre-order here. Although Kino's website claims it will not be immediately available for customers outside of the U.S. and Canada, you can sign up for notification of it's availability at amazon.co.uk, where they claim it will be released April 22nd. The DVD will include:
  • The Breaking of Branches Is Forbidden (14 min / 1968 / Color)
    A monk orders a young acolyte, who happens to have a fondness for sake, to guard a beautiful cherry blossom tree.
  • The Demon (8 min / 1972 / Color)
    A pair of hunters encounter a ghastly demon in the woods. Escaping by severing the apparition’s arm, they make an even more grisly discovery on the journey home. Based on the 12th-century Japanese medieval legend Konjaku-monogatari.
  • An Anthropo-Cynical Farce (8 min / 1970 / B&W / In French with optional English subtitles)
    A dog race is interrupted by a ringmaster who attaches fish to the animals’ collars and makes them run in circles. The crowd becomes incensed and the ringmaster finds himself in a race for his life.
  • The Trip (12 min / 1973 / Color / No dialogue)
    A young girl sets off on a surreal metaphysical voyage through which she will learn all the pain and joy of life.
  • A Poet’s Life (19 min / 1974 / Color)
    A mysterious meditation on the power of poetic imagination. A worker fired from a factory for demanding higher wages is plagued by ghastly nightmares. Based on a story by novelist Kobo Abe.
  • Dojoji Temple (19 min / 1976 / Color)
    Two pilgrims, an elderly monk and his young disciple, out on a spiritual journey, encounter a mysterious woman whose frenzied passions transform her into a huge white serpent.
  • House of Flames (19 min / 1979 / Color)
    A Japanese “Drama of the Absurd.” A young village woman is torn between two suitors. Out of anguish, she decides to destroy herself. Although her intentions are pure, her death reverberates with shocking consequences.