14 September 2011

Pieces (おまけ, 2003)

Like his predecessor Tadanari Okamoto, Kōji Yamamura (山村浩二, b. 1964) is an animator who constantly experiments with new methods and ideas. Pieces (おまけ/Omake, 2003) is one of Yamamura’s lesser known films but one of his most fun. This animated short really expresses Yamamura’s love of exploring the possibilities that animation has to offer an artist interested in pushing the boundaries of his medium as a form of expression.

Pieces is not a story but a playful series of nine vignettes that incorporates visual gags, 19th century animation technology, and surrealist humour. Yamamura’s clever use of repetition and variation makes the film as a whole very dynamic.

Vignettes #1, #5, and #9 feature a typical Yamamura character with a comically oversized head and a carrot nose accompanied by his tiny dog. These three vignettes have the same kind of humour and absurdity as the great French master Jacques Tati. Each vignette becomes more and more absurd. The first employs toilet humour, the fifth sees it raining under rather than on the man’s umbrella, and the final one plays with perspective and has a surprising ending which sees the man almost consuming his dog.

Vignettes #1-9, in order of left to right, up to down
Vignette #3 plays with shapes with a sequence of images in which a bird dives into the sea to catch fish is inverted into the surprising shape of a man in a bowler hat. #7 is a delightfully surreal vignette in which a headless man screws what appears to me an empty bowl onto his head, but it turns out to be a light bulb.

Vignette’s #2, #4, #6 and #8 are interpretations of the phenakistoscope – an early animation device that used the principle of the persistence of vision to create an illusion of motion. The phenakistoscope uses a spinning disc attached to a handle. I give a more detailed explanation of the device in my review of Taku Furukawa’s Phenakistoscope (驚き盤/Odorokiban, 1975) – a brilliant animated tribute to the device which won Furukawa the Special Jury Prize at Annecy in 1975. Although briefer than Furukawa’s film, Yamamura’s short phenakistoscope sequences are dazzling in their attention to detail. He used an image from vignette #6 as the front cover of his book Welcome to the World of Animation (アニメーションの世界へようこそ, 2006).  All in all, Pieces is a short and sweet visual treat fans of indie animation shouldn't miss out on. 

If you are in the Tokyo area, be sure to check out Yamamura's latest work in the Muybridge's Strings Road Show (until October 7th at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography)

To see Pieces for yourself and to support this indie artist order: 

Atamayama - Koji yamamura Sakuhinshu / Animation
from Japan (JP/EN) or from the States: