Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gewaltopia Trailer (1968)

WHO: Motoharu Jonouchi is the credited director.

WHAT: This is a collage film that adroitly splices together (often using overlap techniques, presumably via an optical printer) footage from black-and-white movies -- I recognized Lon Chaney from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Paul Wegener from The Golem, and various Willis O'Brien creations from The Lost World and other films -- with images shot by the filmmaker himself, and apparently used in films he'd previously completed. We see an extreme close-up of a tattooed eyelid opening and shutting, chaotic handheld footage of a group of children laughing and playing, and a varied collage of student protest imagery, some of it shot through a fish-eye lens. Clearly this is a work about seeing, or perhaps re-seeing, if the footage (and not just the 1920s-era clips) is truly all recycled from existing works. Yet entitling the film a "trailer," which from the way I read this description might better be re-translated as a "coming attraction" makes the 1968 film seem like a prophecy of a future in which no new images are made and we spend our lives watching images from the past. Or is that already the present and not the future for some of us? At any rate I feel justified in linking this film to Peter Tscherkassky's 2010 film Coming Atrractions.

WHERE/WHEN: This short film screens as part of a 7:30 program of works (mostly) by Jonouchi at Yerba Buena Center For the Arts.

WHY: Valentine's Day is bringing a little heartbreak to a lot of local fans of avant-garde Japanese film. Tonight there are two conflicting rare screenings of such work happening on opposite sides of the Bay. Shuji Terayama's Pastoral: Hide and Seek screens tonight at the the Pacific Film Archive as part of the Art Theatre Guild series I wrote about last week and that Dennis Harvey published a piece about yesterday.   But as rare as that film is, it can't be less likely to make a repeat appearance at a local theatre or on DVD than the Jonouchi films showing tonight, can it? Similarly, this Saturday's YBCA screening of work by the great structuralist filmmaker, Takahiko Iimura, by Nobuhiko Obayashi (who later brought his experimental sensibility to the horror film Hausu) and by Yoichi Takebayashi features work far more difficult to see than Nagisa Oshima's The Ceremony, which plays the PFA that night. 

I'm glad the  final two YBCA screenings and the other remaining PFA shows in this series don't conflict, but it's a shame nobody can see everything in both series, as the resonances between programs are pretty clear. Terayama films screen at both venues, so though I plan to miss Pastoral: Hide and Seek I'll at least be able to catch his notorious Emperor Tomato Ketchup next Thursday at YBCA. After seeing the amazing Ecstasy of the Angels at the PFA last Friday I'm fascinated to see anything its director Koji Wakamatsu was involved in making, especially collectively (you understand if you were at the screening). And according to the book Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against The Sky, Wakamatsu was, along with Jonouchi, Kanbara Hirano, and Ecstasy of Angels screenwriter Masao Adachi, the founders of the Nichidai Group of artist/filmmakers that is collectively credited for one of tonight's YBCA films, PuPu from 1960.

HOW: Some of tonight's shorts will be shown on 16mm prints, and others via digital copies. I don't know which will be which.


  1. tonight, i went with the screening of pastoral: hide and seek, at the pfa. unfortunately, there is another conflict for me with next thursday's fragments of japanese underground cinema screening. a lecture by shoichi hirai, curator of the national museum of modern art in kyoto at the san francisco art institute, in conjunction with their gutai historical survey and contemporary response. i'm very disapointed, because it could have been a great couple of weeks for exploring concurrent movements of japanese art and film if not for the conflicting scheduling.

  2. Sorry it's taken so long to reply to your comment, Mark. It's been one of those weeks! I haven't had a chance to see the Gutai show yet, but it and its related events add another level of conflict to what would have been a truly rich exploration if there had been better coordination in advance.

    Since I type this after learning of the recent death of Donald Richie, I wonder if you've seen any of the experimental films he made while in Japan?