22 October 2013

Two Grilled Fish (二匹のサンマ, 1960)

Yōji Kuri (久里洋二, b. 1928) made Two Grilled Fish (二匹のサンマ/Nihiki no Sanma) in 1960, which was a seminal year in Japanese animation history. The first ever domestic anime, Three Tales (新しい動画 3つのはなし, 1960) was broadcast on the NHK in January and in November, the first experimental animation festival of the Animation Group of Three (Animation Sannin no Kai) – Yōji Kuri, Hiroshi Manabe, and Ryōhei Yanagihara – was held at Sōgetsu Hall.  The hall was at the heart of Tokyo’s dynamic avant-garde movement which embraced a variety of arts from music to the theatre, from sculpture to the cinema. 

With films like Clap Vocalism (人間動物園, 1962), which won prizes at Annecy and the Venice Biennale in 1963, and Two Grilled Fish, Kuri was to inspire a new wave of experimental animation both in Japan and internationally.  Two Grilled Fish screened at the second Animation Group of Three festival at Sōgetsu Hall on January 19th, 1962.  Alternate English titles for this black and white cutout animation include “Two Fishes” and “Two Pikes”.  I have gone with the title that best matches the French of the official international title of Kuri’s 1967 colour remake of the film: Deux poissons grillés.  In the original Japanese title, “nihiki” is the counter for two small animals and “sanma” is a slender fish known variously in English as Pacific saury or mackerel pike.  It is a popular dish in Japan that is associated with the autumn months.  The most common way to prepare sanma is salted and grilled whole and served with daikon oroshi (finely grated daikon radish) and side dishes of rice and miso soup. 

Two Grilled Fish is adapted from Kuri’s self-published manga of the same name.   The soundtrack was designed by the avant-garde composer and poet Kuniharu Akiyama (秋山邦晴, 1929-96).  The soundtrack is a fascinating mixture of experimental sounds and funky jazz music.  Kuri then showed an early version of the animation to his friend, the renowned poet Shuntarō Tanikawa (谷川俊太郎, b.1931), who wrote a text inspired by it.  This text is narrated by the actor Harukazu Kitami (北見治一, 1920-95).

Many of Yōji Kuri’s films avoid a narrative, but Two Grilled Fish is a kind of modern parable.  It tells the story of a man and a woman who go by raft to a remote desert island with chickens and a dog.  At first, it is a kind of paradise for them.  They farm and fish following the same routine every day, feasting on grilled sanma that they roast out in the open.  One day, their harmony gets interrupted by a mustachioed scientist on a raft powered by an abused pig.  This unwanted visitor constructs a robot which begins the process of industrialization on the island.  The couple are disgruntled but decide to put up with the man and his technology. 

Things take a turn for the worse when a crowded raft of men and women come to the island and violently take it over.  The couple move their home to their fishing dock and barricade themselves using barbed wire.  The newcomers multiply and take over the island at a rapid pace.  Soon, the island is overwhelmed with houses, which then transform into skyscrapers with cars spewing pollution.  The next phase of industrialization is warfare, with the island transforming into a fort to protect itself against missiles.  In the end, the island is destroyed, with the couple left of the tiny edge that remains. 

The film expresses the angst felt by the Japanese public in 1960.  1955-61 was a period of rapid economic growth for Japan in the run up to so-called the “Golden Sixties” and with the announcement in 1959 that Tokyo would host the 1964 Summer Olympics, plans to build the Tōkaidō Shinkansen – Japan’s first bullet train – and other infrastructure projects were fast tracked.  The faces of major cities in Japan, particularly Tokyo, were changing at a rapid rate.  While for some this economic prosperity may have been a positive thing, politically there was a lot of friction.  Just one year before Two Grilled Fish was made, protests broke out against Jana’s security treaty with the United States leading to the unseating of the Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.  There was much angst concerning the possibility of the Americans stockpiling nuclear weapons on the military installations in Japan.  Two Grilled Fish encapsulates both the sense of the growing environmental cost of industrialism and the Cold War fears of a nuclear war using minimalist animation armed with humour and a deep sense of irony.  The "two grilled fish" are a metaphor for the idealistic couple who desire a peaceful existence, yet the fruits of their hard work are constantly under threat from destructive forces beyond their control.
The film appears on the Universal Geneon DVD:

Yoji Kuri Sakuhin shu / Animation

Read more about Kuri:

Love (1963)
Musings on Yoji Kuri and Chair (1964)

 Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013

17 October 2013

The Sparrows’ Lodge (雀のお宿, 1936)

The surviving copy of the 1936 animated short The Sparrows’ Lodge (雀のお宿/Suzume no O-yado) that appears in Digital Meme’s box set the Japanese Anime Classic Collection is on the whole in remarkably good shape apart from missing its original opening credits.  Credits have been digitally added, crediting the film as being directed by Kenzō Masaoka (政岡 憲三, 1898-1988) with drawings by Masao Kumagawa (熊川正雄, 1916-2008) – both men are considered important pioneers of anime and worked together on a number of projects together including Masaoka’s classics Benkei vs. Ushiwaka (1939) and The Spider and the Tulip (1943).

The Story

 The film starts rather abruptly with the rather startling text telling us that the little girl Chunko has had her tongue cut out by her greedy grandmother and has been sent to the Sparrows’ Lodge.  Chunko’s kindly grandfather is concerned about her well-being and travels to the Sparrow’s Lodge to see how she is doing.  A Japanese audience would automatically recognize the tale as an adaptation of the well-known fable The Tongue-Cut Sparrow (舌切りShita-kiri Suzume) which has been translated many times into English.

In Masaoka’s version, the sparrow has been transformed into a little girl who has been sent to some kind of a school or orphanage where the girls and their teacher dress in kimono with a sparrow hood.  Her tongue has not been fully cut out because she can speak.  She and the lodge offer the grandfather hospitality which he receives politely and he watches and enjoys the girls’ dance performance.  When it is time for him to leave, they offer him two trunks as a departing gift.  The grandfather is reluctant to take either one of the trunks, but fearful of being rude he agrees to take the lighter of the two trunks home with him.

When he arrives at home, the man is chastised by his wife for not taking the heavier trunk.  Her irritation grows upon opening the trunk and discovering that it is full of treasure.  She decides to go to the Sparrow’s Lodge herself in order to get the heavier trunk.  Upon arriving at the lodge, the grandmother receives the same hospitality as her husband but her reaction is different.  She rudely scarfs down all the food and drink offered to her, and ignores the dancing.  When it is time to go, she avariciously wants to take both trunks but as she cannot carry them both, takes only the heavy one.  She is so overwhelmed with greedy curiosity that she stops partway home to open the trunk and is given a nasty surprise. 

The Art

As with all of Masaoka and Kumagawa’s early work, The Sparrows Lodge has been impeccably drawn.  Apart from the nasty grandmother the characters all have round and friendly faces.  Unlike the full face of the kindly grandfather, the grandmother’s face is lean and scrunched as is fitting her character.  The depiction of interior spaces and landscapes follow a typical Japanese aesthetic.   From an animation perspective, I find the transitions particularly interesting.  In order to collapse time on the walks to and from the Sparrows Lodge, Masaoka uses a series of irises.  Dissolves are much more commonly used for this effect, but I suspect the production team went with iris wipes because it creates a similar effect using more paper than expensive celluloid.  The iris wipes drew my attention to the changing scenery – not only is it aesthetically pleasing but it emphasizes the effort involved in walking all the way to the Sparrows Lodge.

Another lovely touch is the little sparrow face in the border of the inter-titles.  One of my favourite things about silent movies is the variety of cleverly designed title cards.  The Digital Meme version of this film features the excellent benshi narrator Midori Sawato (澤登翠), whose performance, as  always, enhances this silent movie. There is also musical orchestration.  The film was produced by Oku Shōkai (奥商会) and distributed by Towa Shōji (東和商事映画部).  It’s a delightful little tale with a satisfying conclusion (a positive twist on the gory usual ending) – an excellent example of early anime.

For more films by Masaoka, check out the Anido DVD of his selected works.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013

Read more reviews of Masaoka’s works:
Sakura (1946)

16 October 2013

The Kindly Lion (やさしいライオン, 1969)

Early Sunday morning, the legendary artist Takashi Yanase (やなせたかし, 1919-2013) passed away at the age of 94.  A man of diverse talents from poetry to illustration, Yanase is best known as the creator of the wildly popular animation and character franchise Anpanman.  As a tribute to Yanase I wanted to write about a lovely film he made in 1969 that has been little seen in the west: The Kindly Lion (やさしいライオン / Yasashii Raion).  

See also:  Yanase's Top 15 Animated Films from the Laputa 2003 poll.


The Kindly Lion is a “musical animation” adapted from a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Yanase.  According to the official Tezuka website, Osamu Tezuka initially planned to create an entire animated series from The Kindly Lion story for Mushi Pro, but in the end only one 27-minute film was ever completed.  The website gives the theatrical release date for the film as March 21, 1970; however, the film won the 8th Noburo Ofuji Award for 1969 at the 24th Mainich Film Concours, which suggests to me that the film may have screened at festivals in 1969 before getting a theatrical release in 1970.  The Concours is usually held in February (ie.1970) honouring films that were released the previous year (ie.1969).

The Story

Yanase tells a moving story of an orphaned baby lion called Buru-buru (ブルブル) – derived from the sound word for shaking or trembling.  He gets his name from the fact that he is racked with tears at the beginning of the story because he misses his parents and feels so terribly alone.  A friendly rabbit brings Buru-buru together with a friendly dog called Muku-muku (ムクムク) who is grieving the loss of her puppy.  Although it seems an unlikely pairing, the two quickly bond with Muku-muku even nursing the needy lion cub.  Buru-buru is so convinced when he grows up that Muku-muku is his mother that he is shocked one day when he sees his reflection in a puddle and realizes that he is not a dog.

Even when Buru-buru grows into a large lion whose size dwarfs Muku-muku, the two maintain a close mother-child bond until one day when Buru-buru is taken from the zoo where they live to perform in a circus.  Although he is not treated cruelly by the circus, he misses Muku-muku dreadfully.  One night, he is overcome with a desire to see her again and bursts free from his cage.  He reunites with his dog mother, only to be shot by soldiers because of fears for public safety.  The film does not end with tragedy however, for the spirit of Buru-buru continues running up into the heavens like a shooting star.

The Art

Buru-buru’s tale is carefully crafted with a motif of him running repeating throughout the film.  The story is told not only visually, but also with a voice-over dialogue between a mother and a child in the style of a bedtime story.  There is also a chorus throughout the film that acts as both a narrator and a way of increasing the drama.  The lyrics are all written by Yanase himself with the music composed by Toshi Ishobe and arranged and performed by Naohiko Terajima and his orchestra Rhythm Chansonette + Strings.   The chorus is performed by the Bonny Jacks (ボニージャックス), a quartet who formed in 1958 and are still performing today.  The actress and singer Chiharu Kuri performs the female solos including the “Lullaby of Buru-buru”. 

In my introduction I called the film a “musical animation” because the music is an inextricable element of the film, working in harmony from beginning to end with the animation.  Unlike the TV series Anpanman, which aims to entertain and has a definite production line quality about it, The Kindly Lion feels more like a labour of love.  Not only does the film demonstrate how one can love an adopted child/parent just as much as a biological one, but it also shows a love of craft by the animation artists involved in the project.  There are some truly beautiful sequences in The Kindly Lion.  Some of my favourites are the warmly coloured nursing sequence, the dynamic running through the sky over the rooftops sequence, the more roughly drawn circus sequences, and the elegiac winter scenes towards the end.  Even the end credits – a series of still pastel crayon images – are absolutely charming in their execution. 

Like many early classics of Japanese anime, I am really scratching my head about the fact that this film has never to my knowledge been officially released on DVD or for download for Western audiences.  Even in Japan the only DVDs I know of that include the film are long out of print.  With not only Yanase but Tezuka being affiliated with it, there would certainly be an audience for it online if the current copyright holders Tezuka Productions were to release it with subtitles.    

The Production Team

Executive Producer: Osamu Tezuka
Original story, direction, and art: Takashi Yanase
Production Chief: Atsushi Tomioka
Assistant: Jun Shimozaki
Planning Cooperation: Seihoku Production
Original picture and motion: Kanji Akabori, Kazuko Nakamura, Teruto Ueguchi, Akihiro Kanayama, Maya Matsuyama, Yoshiko Watanabe, Takeo Uchiumi, Hiroaki Yamamori
Background: Nobuko Ato, Kuniko Nishimura, Megumi Tanabe
Tracing: Masako Shimano
Coloring: Mariko Abe
Brushing: Tomoii Hashizume
Shooting: Akihiko Mori
Editing: Noriyoshi Matsuura
Film Developing: Toyo Developing Studio
Music: Toshi Ishobe
Lyrics: Takashi Yanase
Arranged by: Naohiko Terajima
Performed by: Naohiko Terajima and Rhythm Chansonette + Strings
Vocals: Bonny Jacks, Chiharu Kuri
Sound: Atsumi Tashiro (TAC)
Effects: Ishida Sound Group
Recording: Tokyo Studio Center

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013

This review belongs to my series on the Noburo Ofuji Award:

15 October 2013

Tough Guy! (2005)

In 2005, the animator Shintarō Kishimoto (岸本真太郎, b. 1966) wowed the Japanese animation community with his innovative comic short Tough Guy! (2005). The 7-minute 3DCG animation stars a praying mantis who seems to think that he is the insect version of Jackie Chan – pratfalls and all. 

The short consists of three vignettes.  In the first vignette, the praying mantis practises his butt-kicking martial art skills on a tin can with great finesse. In the next vignette, “Green Bullet” the mantis has a tussle with a butterfly and chases it down the street curb, up a lamp post and into the sky like a rocket.  On his descent he crashes into a man’s digital camera in a humorous sequence…. The butterfly, of course, flutters on its way unharmed by the ludicrous antics of the mantis.  The third vignette, “The Predator” has some impressive – and amusing – rooftop sequences which see the praying mantis’s antics causing people in the house to lose their TV reception.  He also has a tussle with a beetle that ends in another comic pratfall.

The most impressive sequences in the film are those in which the praying mantis interacts with real world objects (the digital camera) and people.  Kishimoto achieves a unique look for his film because of his blending of 3DCG with still images and live action footage.  It’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously as it tries to imagine a cityscape through the eyes of an insect.

Tom Sito, who was on the judging panel that awarded Kishimoto the Grand Prize at the Japan Digital Animation Festival (JDAF 2005), said that his fellow judge Mamoru Oshii “was impressed with how [Kishimoto] mixed digital animation with live action and photo stills to let us experience the world from the Mantis’ point of view.” Sito himself praised the film for its comic timing (Source: AWN).  The film also won the Noburo Ofuji Award.

According to his website, Kishimoto – who is a native of Yokohama – has worked for a range of clients from Kodansha publishers to Production I.G.  In addition to 3DCG, Kishimoto works as an illustrator (pen + ink, 3DCG, 2DCG), character designer, and manga artist.   You can follow him on Facebook

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013

A low res version of the film is available on niconico.  You can also support this independent animator by ordering the film on DVD:

tough guys! / Animation

This film is part of my Noburo Ofuji Award series:

13 October 2013

Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Temple (證城寺の狸囃子, c.1933)

In mid-October every year, local children gather at Shojoji Temple in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture to dance and drum on their bellies like the legendary tanuki (racoon dogs).  The legend is of uncertain origin.  It is one of many legends found throughout Japan about the tanuki drumming on their bellies.  The locals say that this particular story of tanuki standing on their hind legs and drumming on their bellies developed from local villagers speculating about the unusual Buddhist music they could here coming from the temple.  The story became widely known in Japan because of the popular children’s song “Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Temple” (證城寺の狸囃子/Shōjōji no Tanuki-bayashi, 1925). The song began as a poem written by Ujō Noguchi (野口雨情, 1882-1945) in 1919 based upon materials he gathered during a visit that year to Kisarazu.  The composer Shinpei Nakayama (中山晋平, 1887-1952) set the poem to music in 1925.  (Source: Shōjōji Temple History)

In the early 1930s, animation pioneer Ikuo Ōishi (大石郁雄, 1901-1944) adapted Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Temple (c.1933) into a “record talkie” for the studio Banno Shōten (伴野商店).  Anyone who is a scholar of early cinema will tell you that the term “silent cinema” is actually a misnomer.  Silent films were never screened silently.  They always had some kind of sound accompaniment such as a piano, an orchestra, a narrator (benshi) and sometimes even recorded sound as in the sound-on-disc technologies such as Gaumont’s Chronomégaphone.  Some of the most delightful films of Japan’s “silent era” are the record talkies (レコードトーキー) that were made in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  The short animated films were a maximum of 3 - 6 minutes long – Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Temple has a running time of only 1’11” – and were designed to be played synchronously with gramophone records.  They often involve read-along text (The Village Festival and Song of Spring) and dancing characters.  The record talkies are an early example of the now ubiquitous “film tie-in” because people who enjoyed the film could also buy the SP record.


Sho-Sho-Shojoji, in the garden of Shojoji!
The moon, the moon is out!  Everyone, come out!
We’re all friends!  Friends, drum your belly!
Pom poko pon no pon!

Never! Never! Don’t let the monk beat you!
Come, come! Gather around!
Everyone, come out!

Sho-Sho-Shojoji, the bush clovers of Shojoji!
Look!  Look at the flowers in the moonlight!
We’re so excited!  Friends, drum your belly!
Pom poko pon no pon!

(Source:  Digital Meme DVD)

The sound recording was produced by Victor Records (ビクターレコード), a subsidiary of the American company whose Japanese branch (known today as JVC) formed in Yokohama in 1927 but severed ties with its parent company during the Second World War.  The recording features the voice of child star Hideko Hirai (平井英子, b.1918) – a popular singer who also sang Black Cat and Chameko’s Day.  The title screen introduces the animation as a “baby talkie” (ベビートーキー).   A “baby talkie” was actually a kind of gramophone crossed with a Zoetrope that appeared in Japan in the late 1920s as a kind of “home talking picture experience” (source: FIAF Symposium 2007).  You could watch an animation loop as your phonograph record plays.  I am not sure what the connection is to Oishi’s animation, but it is definitely something I plan to look into the next time I’m at the NFC.

Like the song itself, the animation is simple and repetitive.  In addition to the sweet, cheerful voice of Hideko Hirai, the song is orchestrated with a piano and other percussion instruments.  First a lone tanuki dances and drums on his belly.  He is then joined by more tanuki who join in the dancing and drumming.  As the song progresses, the tanuki continue to multiply and make patterns with each other as they dance.  There is a brief cutaway to the silhouette of a Buddhist monk drumming in the window of the temple – an allusion to the legend that the tanuki were inspired by the music of the monks of Shojoji Temple.  The short short ends with an iris out to an "owari" (the end) title card.

The song is short and sweet, but very catchy.  Here is some sheet music if you would like to sing along or play it yourself.  Fans of anime will recognize the “Pom poko pon no pon!” refrain from the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko (Isao Takahata, 1994) about tanuki in the Tama Hills fighting urban sprawl.  The “pom poko” in the title is a direct reference to the song “Belly Drum Dance at Shojoji Temple” and the song is sung, with new lyrics, at times of celebration in the film.  Just a cursory web search turns up many more shorts inspired by the song.  This simply executed animation even uses very similar imagery to Oishi’s film including an almost identical silhouette of a monk beating a drum.

Note 1:  there is some confusion over the exact date this film was released.  Digital Meme lists it as 1933, the National Film Centre as in the early 1930s, the imdb has it at 1935 and Wikipedia as 1931.  

 Note 2:  Hideko Hirai's name is credited as "Eiko Hirai" on the Digital Meme DVDs.  Although this is a logical error to make, her given name is actually read "Hideko".  Remarkably, she still seems to be alive at the ripe old age of 95.  Trivia:  Hirai retired from singing after her marriage to the composer Seiichi Suzuki (1901-80), who composed the soundtracks to many films including Akira Kurosawa's Sanshiro Sugata (1943)  

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013

Read about other record talkies:
Black Cat (黒ニャゴ, Noburo Ofuji, 1929)
The Village Festival (村祭, Noburo Ofuji, 1930)
Song of Spring (春の唄, Noburo Ofuji, 1931)
The National Anthem: Kimigayo (国歌 君か代, Noburo Ofuji, 1931)
Chameko’s Day (茶目子の一日, Kiyoshi Nishikura, 1931)

11 October 2013

Watakushiritori (わたくしりとり, 2013)

Kazuhiko Okushita (奥下和彦, b. 1985) first came to my attention in 2010 when his animated short The Red Thread (2009) was featured on the NHK’s Digista program.  My review of the film has actually become one of my most read posts of all time.  At first I thought this was due to people researching the East Asian belief in the “red thread of fate” aka the “red string of fate”, but then I found out that it is also the title of a bestselling novel by Ann Hood – also inspired by the same East Asian concept – which means I was likely benefitting from her popularity.  Someone also told me that “the red thread” idiom is used in Christianity to describe the belief that the Jesus Chris appears in every book of the bible either directly or indirectly. 

In his graduate film made at Geidai, Okushita continues to use his “thread” animation technique – drawing images as if they are made from one single piece of thread – but this time he uses many colours , not just red.  Watakushiritori (わたくしりとり, 2013) translates as “My Shiritori” with Shiritori (しりとり) being a word game similar to a word chain in English.  In the Japanese version of a word chain, one player says a word and the next player has to make a word using the final “kana” (syllable) of the previous word.  Koji Yamamura also used this concept in one of his early experimental shorts Japanese English Pictionary (ひゃっかずかん, 1989) – an influence which Okushita acknowledges an interview on the Geidai Animation 04Sail website. 

As I mentioned in my review of The Red Thread, Okushita’s thread concept reminds me of Osvaldo Cavandoli’s La Linea (1971-86) animations, which I loved to watch on TV as a child.  Watching Watakushiritori it occurred to me that although Okushita is employing a similar concept of a single line animation, the film has a very modern look to it.  Part of the reason for this is the thinness of the lines – which would not have been possible without computer animation technology because when shooting animation on film thin lines get washed out.  Think of the bold lines of Warner Brothers animation during its Golden Era.  I remember talking to Atsushi Wada about this at Nippon Connection 2012 when I asked him about his experience of making Concerning the Rotation of a Child (子供の廻転の事, 2004) on 8mm for his Image Forum Animation School project. This was a real challenge for Wada because he prefers to use very thin lines with drawn with a mechanical pencil (what they call a “sharp pencil” in Japan) which he then scans into the computer.  This was completely ineffective with 8mm so he had to make his lines bolder for this film.

Okushita’s work benefits from being designed on computer because he is able to achieve precise, elegantly drawn thin lines set in sharp relief against a white background. The complexity of his thread drawings – particularly in this film where he has to incorporate hiragana (Japanese cursive script) into the drawing – is really quite remarkable.  In the Geidai interview, Okushita said that trying to achieve single thread effect throughout the film was one of the three main challenges of the film.  He also had the challenge of finding words that would allow him to develop a storyline with Shiritori linked words.  This meant keeping a dictionary close at hand when writing the script. The third challenge fell to the composer Yuri Habuka and sound designer Masumi Takino, whom he asked to create a soundtrack which also incorporates a Shiritori motif.

In explaining the concept behind Watakushiritori, Okushita describes how he recalls the past in a series of connected “fragments of memory” and he wanted to recreate that reality in his animation.  The film begins as a typical day in the life, but it transforms into the tale of a relationship between a man and a woman and the rocky, unpredictable way in which it develops. The impact of the interwoven visual and thematic concepts in Okushita’s film is brilliant in its simplicity.  His animation appears uncomplicated and minimalistic, but behind the scenes it is evident that a lot of careful planning and design went into its execution.  Definitely a young animator to keep an eye on.

Watakushiritori appears on the Geidai Animation 4th Graduate Works 2013 DVDThe Red Thread is on Youtube.  Check out Okushita’s official website to see more examples of his art:  http://okushitakazuhiko.com/   

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013

10 October 2013

Direct Animation for the Tablet Generation

The immediacy of tablet touchscreen technology has revolutionised how we interact creatively with computers.  In the realm of animation, The NFB (National Film Board of Canada) has been at the forefront of harnessing this new technology not only by making much their back catalogue of films available to view online via smart phone and tablet apps, but by creating tablet apps that make it easier than ever before for amateurs to try their hand at animating their own films.  They first did this through the development of their PixStop Stop Motion Animation App for iPad and this past summer they released a new free app: McLaren’s Workshop.

Named after the pioneering experimental animation Norman McLaren, this app allows users to create their own short animation and post it exclusively on Vimeo.  In addition to inspiring users with the biography and films of Norman McLaren, the App features three workshops: Paper Cut-Out, Etching on Film, and Synthetic Sound.   Norman McLaren is one of the very few early animators to experiment extensively with direct animation – also known as drawn-on-film animation or cameraless animation – in which artists draw or etch directly onto a filmstrip. 

The McLaren’s Workshop app, allows users to make their own direct animation or cut-out animation on the surface of the iPad.  The resulting films that I have seen on video definitely have a McLaren feel to them – not just because of their look but but because the soundtracks clearly come from McLaren films.  Koji Yamamura’s Five Fire Fish, is clearly an homage to the direct animation of McLaren with recognizable visual motifs from Blinkity Blank (1955).  The cut-outs and soundtrack in Regina Pessoa’s film are from Le merle (1958).

As part of the online promotional campaign, several  top directors were given free reign to make 30-60 second animations using the app:

Five Fire Fish (Koji Yamamura, 2013)
Cyclop(e)  (Patrick Doyon, 2013)

Barcode Transmission (Renaud Hallée, 2013)

I Am Alone and My Head is On Fire (David O'Reilly, 2013)

Bon App (Regina Pessoa,2013)

Bon App by Regina Pessoa - McLaren's Workshop App from National Film Board of Canada on Vimeo.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2013

The 4th Annual Tokyo Food Lovers Film Festival (第4回東京ごはん映画祭)

A festival that brings together “delicious films” and “delicious food”.

Dates:  October 12th – 18th, 2013
Locations: Omotesando Hills and the Image Forum Theatre
【場所】1214:表参道ヒルズ スペース オー1218:シアター・イメージフォーラ

The Tokyo Food Lovers Film Festival is back for its fourth year with a mixture of festival favourites, classic foodie films, and some new films with a food theme.  What makes this film festival unique is that they partner with local chefs and restaurants to pair dishes with the films, making the film screenings a delight not only for the eyes and ears but also for the audience's senses of taste, smell, and touch.

Films that have shown at the festival before include the documentaries eatrip and El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, as well as the much loved indie fare Amélie and Bagdad Café.  This year sees a number of recent documentaries including heartfelt films Ten no Shizuku, Reviving Recipes, and Iranian Cookbook, not to mention the internationally acclaimed Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  There are also recent feature films such as the high school girl comedy-drama Otome no Recipe, Amole Gupte’s award-winning Stanley’s Tiffin Box (aka Stanley’s Lunch Box), and Ken Loach’s Cannes Jury Prize winner The Angel’s Share.  Other films I highly recommend are Louis Malle’s beautifully shot anarchic comedy Zazie dans le métro and Wong Kai-Wai’s dynamic Chungking Express.

This years films and their accompanying dishes:

Girl’s Recipes / Otome no recipe『乙女のレシピ』
Mitsuhiro Mihara, JAPAN, feature, 2012
Starring: Miho Kanazawa, Airi Kido, Mika Akizuki, Erena Watanabe and Mio Yuki
Dish:  Chef Okuda Original Dish
Special Guests: Chef Okuda, members of the cast

eatrip eatrip
Yuri Nomura, JAPAN, documentary, 2009
Dish: Roast Chicken in a Green and Lemon Sauce

Amélie 『アメリ,
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, FRANCE, feature, 2001)
Starring: Audrey Tautou, André Dussollier, Mattieu Kassovitz, Rufus
Dish:  crème brûlée

Chungking Express 恋する惑星
 Wong Karwai, HONG KONG, feature, 1994)
Starring: Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu-Wair, Faye Wong, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valerie Chow
Dish:  Hong Kong Street Food

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress 『エル・ブリの秘密 世界一予約のとれないレストラン』
Gereon Wetzel, GERMANY, documentary, 2011)
Dish: presented by Food Creation  

Stanley’s Tiffin Box 『スタンリーのお弁当箱』
Amole Gupte, INDIA, feature, 2011
Starring: Partho A. Gupte, Numaan Sheikh, Abhishek Reddy
Dish:  Indian curry

Bagdad Café 『バグダッド・カフェ』
Percy Adlon, GERMANY/USA, feature, 1987
Starring: Marianne Sägebrecht, C.C.H. Pounder, Jack Palance
Dish: coffee and bread

Coffee and Cigarettes 『コーヒー&シガレッツ』
Jim Jarmusch, USA, feature (11 linked vignettes), 2003
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Bteve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits
Dish: coffee and hamburgers

Jiro Dreams of Sushi 二郎は鮨の夢を見る
David Gelb, USA, documentary, 2011
Featuring: Jiro Yoshino
Dish: sushi

Iranian Cookbook イラン式料理本
Mohammad Shirvani, IRAN, docu-fiction, 2010
Dish: Iranian home cooking

The Angel’s Share 『天使の分け前』
Ken Loach, UK/FRANCE/BELGIUM/ITALY, feature, 2012
Starring: Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, William Ruane, Gary Maitland
Dish: Scotch Whisky

Zazie dans le métro『地下鉄のザジ』
Louis Malle, FRANCE, feature, 1960
Starring: Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret
Dish: blue mussels steamed in wine

Dinner Rush 『ディナーラッシュ』
Bob Giraldi, USA, feature, 2000
Starring: Danny Aiello, John Rothman, Frank Bongiorno
Dish: lobster pasta

Ten no Shizuku: Tatsumi Yoshiko “Inochi no Soup”
『天のしずく 辰巳芳子“いのちのスープ”』
Atsunori Kawamura, JAPAN, documentary, 2012
Featuring: Mitsuko Kusabue
Dish: potage bonne femme (leek, potato and carrot soup)

Reviving Recipes 『よみがえりのレシピ』
Satoshi Watanabe, JAPAN, documentary, 2011
Dish: Yamagata produce

Screening times and locations on the official website: http://tokyogohan.com/


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