Nippon Year Zero: Japanese Experimental Film from the 1960s-1970s
Tuesday 23 November 2010, 20h
London Bethnal Green Working Men's Club
44-46 Pollard Row, London, E2 6NB
Close-Up and Zipangu have collaborated for the 1st annual Zipangu Fest to put together a programme of Japanese independent and experimental cinema from the 1960s. This special event includes films never before screened in the UK and offers an engaging insight into a decade that was defined by political ferment and avant-garde activity in all sectors of its art world.
The programme invites its audience to an introduction to Japanese experimental filmmaking through the eyes of three landmark figures in the independent art scene. The chosen filmmakers, Donald Richie, Motoharu Jonouchi and Masanori Oe, all capture the zeigeist they were intrinsically a part of, yet articulate themselves in ways that range from the poetic to the abrasive, often mixing the two expressions.
- War Games (Donald Richie, 1962, 16mm, 22 mins)
A neatly balanced cine-poem on violence and innocence and a quietly observed soliloquy on freedom. The portrait of children enacting the creation and breakdown of a community captures Richies’ charming persona and endearing view of the world yet unearths some deeply felt loathing for humanity and its history. Tatsumi Hijikata, one of the originator of the (in)famous dance form butoh, assisted Richie in production and the result is a masterpiece in visual poetry that is a treasure to behold.
- Dead Youth (Donald Richie, 1967, 16mm, 13 min)
By 1967, Richie was considered an established independent filmmaker, screening his work at legendary Tokyo venues Sogetsu Art Centre and Theatre Scorpion, as well as receiving a collective award at the first Knokke-Le-Zoute Experimental Film Festival in Belgium with the Film Independents. DEAD YOUTH provides another testament to the elegance of his artistic vision, as sombre emotions and painful memories are transmitted without the use of dialogue.
- Shinjuku Station (Motoharu Jonouchi, 1974, 16mm, 15 min)
The Shinjuku district was the epicentre of Tokyo’s art scene and the political fever pitch where protests took place on a regular basis during the 1960s. Jonouchi’s compilation footage of the area defies documentary imagery and transforms itself into something altogether more poetically subjective, attempting to capture the chaos of the location through his camerawork and editing. In 1974, Jonouchi projected images of the past onto himself whilst reciting Dada-influenced and virtually inaudible poetry generating a cacophony of images and sounds, drawing from and participating in the maelstrom of political and artistic expression during the era.
- Gewaltopia Trailer (Motoharu Jonouchi, 1968, 16mm on DV, 12 min)
The title has a dual meaning in the Japanese language; one meaning for the word yokoku (trailer) could mean a compilation of extracts to promote a film, but it can also mean a prediction, a prophecy for the future as a Gewaltopia. The film accumulates footage from his earlier films and arranges them in different contexts, a characteristic style of Jonouchi’s who often re-edited his films for each screening and provided different soundtracks. The jarring aural atmosphere, exemplary of the emergent noise-music scene, haunts the screen in an oppressive hypnosis and will seduce you into entrancement.
- Great Society (Masanori Oe, 1967, 16mm on DV, 17 min)
If Richie’s films were an American’s insight into Japan, Oe’s six-screen projection piece GREAT SOCIETY takes the intercultural dialogue back full circle onto the U.S., where he accumulated a compilation of American news footage and avant-garde imagery into a hybrid mesh to express distrust in singular point of views. A project commissioned by CBS, the six screens presented interact, mirror and fissure against one another, emanating an aura of vibrancy and confusion that was internationally a characteristic of the decade.
Thanks to Go Hirasawa (Meiji Gakuin University) for his contribution to the programme and arrangement of print distribution. His edited text "Underground Film Archives" meticulously documents the Japanese underground filmmaking scene in the 1960s, and was a valuable reference point for our programme. Our thanks also extend to Image Forum and Donald Richie.