30 September 2009

TV Asahi & TBS on Youtube

It has been all over the news today that TV Asahi and TBS have struck a deal with Google to stream news programs on Youtube. Most of the articles, however, don't have links. I found it pretty tricky to find TBS's channel because someone else was already using their acronym. I hope they find a way to make it financially viable to stream more than just the news in the near future, but for the time being, check out tvasahi (who have celebrated the new deal with a cute little cartoon - which unfortunately they won't let me embed) and tbsnewsi. Of course, if you love alternative Japanese animation as much as I do, you should also be subscribed to NHKonline, because they post the latest Digista shorts regularly. For example, check out Mirai Mizue's latest animation below:

Tokyo Loop (2005)

Tokyo’s centre for experimental and art cinema, Image Forum, under the guidance of program director Takashi Sawa and coordinator Koyo Yamashita, has a knack for putting together some clever screening packages together for the Image Forum Festival every year. Many of these packages, such as Thinking and Drawing, make their way into international festivals, and in some cases even onto DVD. Such is the case with the 2006 omnibus Tokyo Loop featuring the work of both established artists like Yoji Kuri, Taku Furukawa, Keiichi Tanaami, Nobuhiro Aihara, as well as exciting younger artists such as Kei Oyama, Mika Seike, Tabaimo, and Tomoyasu Murata.

Tokyo Loop came out of Image Forum’s desire to do something to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Stuart Blackton’s animation “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces” (1906), considered by many the first publicly screened animated film. Sawa and Yamashita commandeered the help of Furukawa who contributed to the project with a film of his own and helped recruit other independent animation and experimental artists.

The 16 artists were asked to contribute a short film inspired by the city of Tokyo. The films would also be linked by the participation of Seiichi Yamamoto, a well-known musician from Osaka’s underground music scene who composed the score. Yamamoto corresponded with the artists during the production process. He composed the music in advance based upon the sketches and storyboards provided by each animator, then revised them to fit the final edit of the film. During a discussion that I attended following a screening of the film at Image Forum on the 12th January 2007, Yamamoto spoke of the difficulties posed by trying to compose the music in advance of seeing the films. In the end, he was very successful at using his music to complement the wide variety of styles and imagery that each artist brings to this collaborative process.

Masahiko Sato, renowned director of animated TV commercials, and his partner Mio Ueta kick off the omnibus with “Tokyo Strut,” an homage to the original line drawings of Blackton and also recalls the 2D experiments with line, shape, and motion done by Norman McLaren at the NFB. Sato and Ueta’s playful depiction of people and dogs out for a stroll reminds us of the advancement in technology since those early days of animation by shifting the image from 2D to 3D using CG animation at one point during the film.

“Tokyo Trip” takes us on a psychedelic ride through the colourful, trippy imagery that has made Keiichi Tanaami famous. While the nightmarish, often sexualized characters with exaggerated features are a trademark of Tanaami, he does weave in the theme of Tokyo subtly through his use of metaphors such as rain and train travel.

Tanaami’s work is followed by Mika Seike’s feminist parable “Fishing Vine” which depicts a woman as the object of male desire and voyeurism. Like her earlier films, two of which featured on the earlier Image Forum DVD Thinking and Drawing, “Fishing Vine” has been constructed through the scanning and laying of drawings, photographs, and real objects like leaves. Seike’s films are instantly identifiable by the black and white newspaper-like quality to the human figures.

Another artist also featured on Thinking and Drawing, Kei Oyama offers yet another disturbing but mesmerizing short film “Yuki-chan” about the death of a young girl. Yamamoto’s layered soundtrack complements the textured visual style of the animation and also conveys the somber tone.

The melancholy of Oyama’s work is countered by Kotobuki Shiriagari’s comical first foray into animation “Dog & Bone,” which keeps it simple with pencil drawings and cut-outs. The visual style is in keeping with the child-like scrawls he uses in his deeply subversive manga. A human line-drawing form with a cut-out dog head chases a spinning bone through various scenes from both contemporary Tokyo (Tokyo Tower, train crossing, movie theatre) as well as Tokyo’s past (rural scenes, fire bombings). The cheerful melody contrasts with the often violent imagery.

Tabaimo’s “Public Convenience”, which she also presented as a video installation at the Hara Gallery in 2006, takes place in a women’s public toilet. The setting is typical of the grungy public facilities generally found in JR stations. The colour palette and style is typical of Tabaimo’s work and is heavily influenced by ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). A scene in which a turtle tries to crawl out of the Japanese-style toilet recalls Hokusai’s famous work The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa Oki Nami Ura, 1832) in the way she draws the wave of water flushing the turtle back down. A fascinating piece that depicts the grim every day realities of public lavatories in the style of a moving painting.

Atsuko Uda won the newcomers prize at the Image Forum Festival in 1999 for her digital video film “Fukuda-san.” Her Tokyo Loop title "-blink-TOKYO-blink-" is creative nod to html script (the title is actually written with html brackets, but they were messing with with script on this page & had to be nixed). She was inspired by the city lights she remembers from her childhood growing up in the late Showa era. Her use of lights reminded me of the Lite-Brite toy that was all the rage in North America when I was growing up. Uda’s film captures all the motifs associated with the seasons with nods to traditional Japanese cloth and paper design.

At first Nobuhiro Aihara’s “Black Fish” gives the impression that it is an abstract interpretation of the music like Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart’s Begone Dull Care (1949) or Oskar Fischinger’s Motion Paintings and early abstractions. However, as the piece progresses, the camera moves back to reveal that the black swathes of ink are not random, but animations of strange faces that metamorphosize into the moving images of black fish.

Renowned experimental filmmaker Takahashi Ito’s work is not traditional animation. Rather, it is animation in the sense of ‘manipulation of moving images’. “Unbalance” depicts a dark vision of Tokyo as a place where people suffer under intense emotional states. An intense film with nightmarish imagery.

Maho Shimao’s “Tokyo Girl” starkly contrasts Ito’s deeply anguished film with a more light-hearted vision of Tokyo as a place of female sexual freedom. Shimao is perhaps most famous for her manga “Goriko, High School Girl” which she wrote as a teenager and has a popular teenage girl fan following. She comes from an artistic family, with both her parents working as freelance photographers. Her father, Shinzo Shimao is also a novelist, and her grandfather Toshio Shimao (1917-1986) was a renowned writer.

With “Nuance”, Tomoyasu Murata captures the rhythms and imagery of the city using a variety of different animation techniques, many of which were reminiscent of Norman McLaren. Taku Furukawa and Yoji Kuri both demonstrated the minimalistic pen & ink styles for which they are renowned to capture typical Tokyo scenes with black humour. Furukawa’s “Hashimoto” features a group of smokers on Hashimoto JR platform who transform into crows to peck to pieces a ‘rat’ smoker who does not conform to the ways of the group. His sin? Talking on his keitai! Kuri’s “Funkogarashi” also takes on socially unacceptable, yet commonplace behaviour: people who walk their dogs and don’t scoop the poop.

Many of the contributions to Tokyo Loop are abstract in nature. Atsushi Wada’s “Manipulated Man”, for example, presents a poetic dissection of the highly pressured salaryman using metaphors of manual manipulation, repetition, regurgitation and sheep. Koji Yamamura’s highly allusive, dream-like contribution “Fig” features a block-headed man with Tokyo Tower for a nose, while interactive media and installation artist Toshio Iwai plays with the concept of time flying by in the city by animating a clock with a series of images resembling a kaleidoscope in “12 O’Clock”.

The extras section of the DVD features ‘Making of’ profiles for ten of the artists. This gives a behind-the-scenes look at the wide range of techniques employed by the artists, from Aihara and Tanaami hand-drawing on paper and filming frame-by-frame on 16mm to Mika Seike scanning found objects into her computer for animation. The DVD comes with a book containing stills from each short film, bios for the artists as well as a short explanation of their inspiration for each piece. A CD of the soundtrack is also available.

For an interview with the producers, read this article from PingMag (an online bilingual art mag that I miss terribly since it succumbed to funding shortages at the New Year). Many of the artists featured here have their own homepages, so look for them in the sidebar.

Tokyo Loop / Animation


Thinking and Drawing / Animation

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009

27 September 2009

Tomoyasu Murata's Tomorrow (2007)

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

Tomorrow is a very upbeat little puppet animation by Tomoyasu Murata. It would not be out of place in the NHK’s Minna no Uta series. Animated to the song ‘Tomorrow’ (uncredited, sung by a girl), which children of the 1980s will remember from the Orphan Annie musical, the three-minute short features a young girl with a red kerchief on her head. She has set up a picnic blanket in a European-esque town and prepares to throw a party. The town has that slightly bleak, worn-out feel to it that is very typical of Murata (ie Indigo Road), but it has been cheered up a bit by pastel touches to doors and shutters.

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

Using crayons and paper, the doll-like girl draws all of the food necessary for the party. She then opens her bag and some magical CGI stars fly out to decorate the invitations. She delivers the invitations to all the doors in town, but as night falls she grows sad as no guests have joined her yet. As she embraces her doll and closes her eyes with sadness, a 2D animated character tugs on her dress. Suddenly the sky is filled with 2D translucent characters that float down to join the party.

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

Most of Tomoyasu Murata’s films are for an adult audience, but this one appeals to all ages. My four year old daughter simply adores it. The song is very catchy and she is enraptured by the colourful array of dolls that join the girl’s party. There is an interesting mixture in this short film of the kawaii (cute) and the creepy (canted angles, the ghostliness of the towns and the 2D characters), but all great children’s work seems to balance a bit of both. It’s a beautiful, very memorable little piece. I have been particularly enjoying Murata’s mixing of media (puppet, cel, computer animation) in his recent films. Like the late, great Tadanari Okamoto, he doesn’t like to do exactly the same thing twice.

Tomoyasu Murata Sakuhinshu - Ore no Michi / Animation

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009

26 September 2009

Kinuyo Tanaka Centenary

This year marks the centenary of the birth of Japan’s first woman film director Kinuyo Tanaka (田中絹代, 1909-1977). As an actress, she was indisputably at the top of her profession starring in (according to imdb) 24 Gosho films, 15 Mizoguchi films, 10 Ozu films, 8 Shimazu films, 6 Naruse films, and even a Kurosawa film (Red Beard, 1965) . Her career spans both the silent and sound eras. She has the distinction of having starred in the first Japanese talkie: Madamu to nyobo (The Neighour’s Wife and Mine, Heinosuke Gosho, 1931) as well as starring in the only film directed by Hollywood legend Sessue Hayakawa (Taiyo wa higashi yori, 1932). Tanaka won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale for her portrayal of a woman forced into prostitution during World War II in Kei Kumai’s Sandakan No. 8 (1974). Her final appearance on screen was in another Kei Kumai film Kita No Misaki (1976) in the year before her death.

In honour of Kinuyo Tanaka’s outstanding career, the National Film Center in Tokyo is holding extensive screenings of her films from October 8th until December 27th. The screenings will be accompanied by an exhibition about her life and career. The exhibition opened earlier this month and will run until December 20th. The materials come both from the NFC collection as well as from personal belongings from the collection in her hometown of Shimonoseki.

Screenings will include 9 silent films and 44 talkies. This may sound like a lot, but as the Japanese Movie Database suggests that Tanaka was involved in the production of over 200 films, the screenings are really just a taste of Tanaka’s illustrious career. The screening series’ official title is ‘Film Actress Kinuyo Tanaka at her Centenary (Part 1)’ (生誕百年 映画女優 田中絹代(1), which suggests that a second screening series is planned for the near future, which I presume will feature her work as a director.

16 September 2009

Lemon Road (檸檬の路, 2008)

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

Lemon Road (檸檬の路, 2008) is the latest installment in Tomoyasu Murata’s contemplative My Road series. Previous films featuring the pianist as a central character include Scarlet Road (朱の路, 2002), White Road (白の路, 2003), and Indigo Road (藍の路, 2006). Last month, I reviewed the film Sky Colour Flower Colour (空色花色, 2006) which also ties into the series of puppet animations. Like my other reviews of Murata’s work, this is really more of a ‘reading’ of the film than a proper ‘review’. Although I do call this blog a ‘review’, I do really see it more as a journal of my viewing habits and reactions to Japanese film, art, and literature.

Tomoyasu Murata creates a wide variety of animation and other art, and his Road series is among the most personal and introspective of his work. The films are also, perhaps the most iconic images of Murata’s for the average Japanese because footage from White Road was re-edited into a music video for the song ‘Hero’ by the popular J-Pop band Mr. Children. The films require several screenings because they don’t give up their secrets very easily. There is no dialogue or narration, but a great deal of emotion is imbued into the films by music. Most of the Road films have loss as a central theme: the death of a child (Scarlet Road), the death of a pet and lost friendship (White Road), and the loss of a partner (Indigo Road). Lemon Road, by contrast, is a film about recovery and starting anew.

The first indication that something different from his previous puppet animations is afoot comes with the startling open sequence which subverts our expectations both aurally and visually. Instead of the romantic music of the other films, Lemon Road (aka Lemon’s Road) opens with an avant-garde soundtrack that draws attention to the film as a film. The sound of a 16mm film projector whirs while a cacophony of sounds weave in and out mimicking the editing of the avant-garde style opening. Pastels on paper create, scribble out and recreate what we later learn to be images from the main narrative of the film. Sounds include a harmonica, a piano, and radio or TV feedback (from the days of turn-dial tuning). As Murata cuts to a wider shot we see that the images are actually appearing on an old-fashioned TV screen. The final images are done with cut-outs. We see a lemon being sliced, then a coffee and a tea appear on the screen with a lemon slice falling into the later. The scene then shifts to a rural scene with a gaping hole in the middle of it. As a ringing phone joins the cacophony of noise on the soundtrack, the cutout figures of a human and some animals get sucked up into the hole.

The TV turns off and we are introduced to a stark motel-like room as the soundtrack quiets down to just the sound of the phone ringing. The pianist character sits contemplatively on the sofa looking towards the sunlight coming in the window. On the whole the room is quite dull in its colours – greys, browns, blacks – but on the wall are two colourful paintings that add a glimmer of cheerfulness to an otherwise melancholy scene.

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

This seems to be general theme of the film: a gradual lifting of the melancholy that pervaded the previous films. After several viewings of the film, I have come to interpret it as a kind of literal and spiritual road trip that the pianist is going on. Whereas Scarlet Road had an Asian setting, and Indigo Road seemed influenced by the architecture of Eastern Europe, this film is set in the countryside of Arizona. From his lodgings, the pianist takes his scooter to and from a library across a typical North American roadside landscape with a wide open sky. The passing of time is indicated by the changing of the weather and it seems that the pianist has come to this location to do some kind of research.

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

Thematically, the library is a great location because it is a place where people often go alone, as shown in the film and it emphasizes the theme of solitude. The solitude that the pianist experiences in all of the Road films is a part of the spiritual journey of the character. The melancholy nature of this quest is emphasized by the theme music, which is composed by Tatsuhide Tado, who also did the music for Indigo Road. The music starts when the pianist opens his journal. The music recalls the theme music of Indigo Road but it features a guitar rather than the usual piano. The piano (joined by a bass and an electric guitar) does return in key sequences such as an extended dream sequence which occurs when the pianist falls asleep while watching TV. It begins with the ringing phone being dragged by the cord out of the window and into a gaping hole in the earth, then goes on to reprise many of the images from the opening sequence. In particular, the image of everything and everyone being swallowed up into the hole.

The dream sequence ends back in the pianist’s room but with a giant lemon filling the space. The lemon spits out a piece of paper like a ticket vending machine, which we later learn has a telephone number on it. The lemon fits with the theme of starting anew for the pianist because of its cleansing properties and its association with freshness. After he wakes up, the pianist takes the piece of paper to the phone booth on the side of the highway and tries dialing it. Although there is no answer and he leaves the paper behind, the film ends on an optimistic note with the pianist sitting in the sunshine outside his room drinking coffee.

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

Murata leaves the Road films deliberately ambiguous, so the film’s meaning is really open to numerous interpretations which would be influenced by whether or not one has seen the other films in the series. My own view, when considering this film together with Indigo Road and Sky Colour Flower Colour, is that the woman in Indigo Road did not die like the child in Scarlet Road or the dog in White Road. Rather the pianist and the woman have separated. The ending suggests to me the possibility of a reconciliation between the two. This idea is implied by the sound of the bird that one hears singing when the pianist makes the phone call. It is the hiyodori (brown-eared bulbul), whose call was also a key theme in Sky Colour Flower Colour. Now the hiyodori would not be found in Arizona, so I am reading it as an aural reminder of the woman. This may sound like I am reading too much into it, but I feel that this interpretation is supported by the fact that a butterfly (which a theme in Sky Colour Flower Colour) flies out of the phone booth as the guitar theme song returns. Even though the phone call does not seem to be answered, perhaps the pianist has made peace with whatever problems there were between them. Another image that points to this are the red flowers that are growing up out of the cracks of the concrete outside the door of the pianist’s room. The red flowers are another image that thread through the Road films.

© Tomoyasu Murata Company

I really enjoyed the dream sequences in Lemon Road – not only are dreams are an important metaphor in Murata’s work they are also a recurring theme in films of many great filmmaking artists from Hitchcock to Cocteau. The dream sequences in Lemon Road give us many clues into the psychology of the mysterious pianist whose silence and sad eyes are so beguiling. The optimistic ending – the first time full sunshine has been used in the series – increases my desire to see what will happen to this fascinating character in the next installment. I do hope that his journey continues.

Lemon Road can be ordered online at tomoyasu.net (within Japan only). Customers outside of Japan should send requests to Murata's company by e-mail.

Tomoyasu Murata Sakuhinshu - Ore no Michi / Animation

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009

09 September 2009

Repast (めし, 1951)

Women form the central concern of the films of Miko Naruse (成瀬 巳喜男, 1905-1969). Women play the main protagonists, the thematic concerns usually revolve around issues concerning women, his audiences were mainly women, and the narratives are often based on stories by women writers. Naruse’s 1951 hit film Meshi (めし/ Repast) is adapted from the final, unfinished novel by popular writer Fumiko Hayashi (林 芙美子, 1903-1951). He would later to go on to make five other films based on her literary output including Hourou-ki (A Wanderer’s Notebook, 1962) which was based on her autobiography.

If I were a teacher of Japanese, I could imagine using Naruse’s Meshi to teach students about one radical difference between men and women in Japan: the use of language. The different usages of language between men and women in Japanese is apparent in all family dramas, but in Meshi it is foregrounded by film’s title, which is also a key motif throughout the film. The difference between men’s and women’s Japanese rarely comes across in the subtitles because it is difficult to translate. The translators of Meshi had a real problem translating the title in particular and I’m not sure that they were successful. ‘Repast’ is a rather formal-sounding French loan word and it's in my estimation, a bit of an archaic word for a meal in English. In contrast, the Japanese word ‘meshi’, as I will elaborate in a moment, is very informal. I can’t really criticize whoever came up with the title ‘Repast’ though, because there would also be the complication of the different usages of words for meals among different regions of English speakers (supper and tea have very different meanings depending on what side of the Atlantic you are one for example). The noun ‘meal’ itself also has multiple meanings just to add to the translation difficulties.

Focusing on the Japanese meanings of ‘meshi’ though, the first dilemma when translating the title of the film is that it can mean both a meal and rice. As rice is the staple of all traditional Japanese meals ‘gohan’, the synonym for ‘meshi’, also means both a meal and rice. ‘Gohan’ is the word that most students of Japanese will learn and it is what women will use with each other and when talking to men. It is more polite than ‘meshi’, which men will use with each other and when talking to their wives.

In Naruse’s subtle depiction of a marriage, the husband Hastsunosuke ‘Hatsu’ Okamoto (Ken Uehara) often uses very blunt expression ‘Meshi ja nai ka’ to ask his wife Michiyo (Setsuko Hara) if supper is ready yet. It would be similar in English to a husband asking his wife ‘Isn’t supper ready yet?’ in a tone that implies that the meal should already be on the table. After five years of marriage, the shine has worn off. Their relationship is strained due to troubles making ends meet and Hatsu, worn out from his job, doesn’t see how the long, lonely days working as a housewife are affecting Michiyo. Her one solace is in the scraggly, tail-less cat who seeks her affection.

Michiyo’s feelings about living in Osaka are emphasized through the theme of ‘meshi.’ She finds that the imported , overpriced rice sold by a local woman tastes funny and longs for rice from back home. Without family in Osaka, Michiyo has grown tired of the endless chores of cooking and cleaning and wonders if she should return to Tokyo and find work for herself. Her husband works long hours and has become distant from her, leading her to lavish all her love on a mangy, tail-less cat.

The catalyst for change comes in the guise of a niece, Satoko, who drops in unexpectedly from Tokyo. Satoko has come to escape her parents and their marital expectations of her and seems to have a little crush on her uncle. Flirty, young, and naïve, Satoko’s presence reminds Michiyo of the woman she used to be, as does a reunion with her Tokyo friends. These women are important because they show the limited chances women had in the 1950s. Each suffers from their own situation (single vs. married) and thinks that the others have it better. After this interlude with her friends, Michiyo comes home to find that Satoko and her husband have done very little to contribute to the day’s chores and she decides that the time has come to make a change in her life.

From a modern perspective, Hatsu seems like a real jerk of a husband and in a lot of reviews of this film, Hatsu is described as being a stereotypical patriarchal husband. Thinking about him in the context of 1950s Japan, I actually found him quite a sympathetic character – especially when contrasted with the husband in Yama no Oto (Sound of the Mountain, 1954), another Naruse film starring Ken Uehara and Setsuko Hara as a couple with marital problems. Hatsu shows early signs of being a good guy – although he is curt in the usual way with his wife, he shows great patience when she’s angry with him and never responds with anger himself. Apart from his lack of contribution to household chores (which is sadly even today typical behaviour for men in many Japanese families), he also shows good judgment for the most part throughout. For example, he is always honest with his wife, telling her where he goes and with whom. He does not spend money overly rashly and avoids bad business decisions (ie the Marugaki scheme) despite heavy peer pressure. He also seems completely oblivious to the women who throw themselves at him during Michiyo’s absence.

While Naruse does give the husband’s perspective lots of screen time, our thoughts are never far from Michiyo. Unlike Fumiko Hayashi’s unfinished novel, which was written in the first person, Michiyo’s motivations throughout the film seem deliberately ambiguous. In doing so, Naruse allows his audience to use their own experience to interpret Michiyo’s actions and thoughts. This is only broken in the final scene on the train (no spoilers follow), where Michiyo is given a voiceover narration that explains her ultimate choice. This final scene was reportedly tacked on by the studio producers, much to the dismay of many critics. I think that it could have been left ambiguous with no voiceover dialogue. For me, the scene in the restaurant with Michiyo and her husband made the ending satisfying – especially when Michiyo laughs through tears as only Setsuko Hara can. This is a film that can be really appreciated by people, especially women, who have been married for a long time because it asks its audience to consider what happiness in marriage really means to them.

Setsuko Hara ¤ Michiyo Okamoto
Ken Uehara ¤ Hatsunosuke ‘Hatsu’ Okamoto
Yukiko Shimazaki ¤ Satoko Okamoto (niece)
Yōko Sugi ¤ Mistuko Murata (Michiyo’s sister-in-law)
Akiko Kazami ¤ Seiko Tomiyasu
Haruko Sugimura ¤ Matsu Murata (Michiyo’s mother)
Ranko Hanai ¤ Koyoshi Dohya
Hiroshi Nihon’yanagi ¤ Kazuo Takenaka (cousin)
Keiju Kobayashi ¤ Shinzo Murata (Michiyo’s brother)
Akira Ōizumi ¤ Yoshitaro Taniguchi

Mikio Naruse The Masterworks I / Japanese Movie

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2009

02 September 2009

Akira Kurosawa: a Century of Cinema

The Venice Film Festival will be celebrating the centenary of the birth of Akira Kurosawa a few months early with a panel on Monday. The discussion will feature a number of prominent guests including Peter Cowie, Donald Richie, Teruyo Nogami, Michel Ciment, Richard Corliss, and Italian critic Aldo Tassone. Here is the blurb from their website:

To mark the imminent 100th anniversary of his birth, the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa will be the subject of the international panel that will be held at the Venice Lido on Sunday September 6, 2009 at 3 pm in Sala Pasinetti (Palazzo del Cinema), organized by the 66th Venice International Film Festival (2-12 September) and moderated by Peter Cowie, film historian, author and founder of The International Film Guide.

On 23 March 2010 Akira Kurosawa would have been 100 years old. Given that his discovery in the West came as a result of the Golden Lion he won at the 1951 Venice Film Festival with Rashomon, and that the festival awarded him a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 1982, it is significant that his profile and his achievements as a filmmaker should be discussed in Venice this year.

The participants in the meeting chaired by Peter Cowie (Great Britain) will include some of the world’s best-known experts on Kurosawa’s work, such as Teruyo Nogami (Japan, writer and for many years Kurosawa’s chief assistant), Donald Richie (United States, writer, director and critic, authority on the culture of Japan – where he has been living since 1947 – and author of the ‘definitive’ study of Kurosawa, as well as firsthand witness to a half-century of his activity), Michel Ciment (France, writer and critic, editor of the magazine Positif), Richard CorlissTime) and Aldo Tassone (Italy, critic, director of the France Cinéma festival and author of several books on Kurosawa).
(United States, critic for the weekly

The panellists will address the multiple aspects of Kurosawa’s figure and work, including: his vision of society and politics; the comparison between Kurosawa and the other great Japanese filmmakers; his relations with Eastern and Western culture (Shakespeare, Gorky, Dostoevsky, van Gogh); the enthusiastic reception given to Kurosawa by American culture and cinema; comparisons with other great Japanese auteurs such as Ozu and Mizoguchi; their numerous remakes; his sources of inspiration in Japanese culture; Kurosawa’s work on the set; his talent as a painter; his use of colour and music; the difficulty he often had in getting funding for his films in Japan; his love of history and the lessons that he has offered to each new generation.

For more information, go to the offical website.


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