Notes about japan

September 16, 2010 permalink

Kurosawas Dreams

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (,Yume): a mostly quiet, artful film with eight short vignettes (five dreams and three nightmares) reflecting the remembered dreams of the director throughout his lifetime. Despite the segments being separate, discontinuous stories, I enjoyed their shared abstract sense of looking for something, a great dream motif. Unfortunately the quality of the pieces vary, but the ones that are good border on the sublime. In some ways they remind me of animated versions of Jeff Wall’s artifically-constructed photographs (but maybe I’m just conflating this film’s first nightmare with Wall’s Dead Troops Talk).

Like many of his other later movies, Kurosawa had difficulty getting this film financed by the Japanese studios, but a script sent to Steven Spielberg helped secure money from Warner Bros. Interestingly, the visual effects in the movie (including a walking-through-an-oil-painting sequence later echoed in What Dreams May Come) were supervised by Ken Ralston of Industrial Light and Magic (of Star Wars and Back to the Future fame), and there’s a cameo by Martin Scorsese as Vincent van Gogh, so despite the traditional Japanese cultural elements, there’s definitely a Western tinge to this one.

Other good movies about dreams and dreaming:

  • (film and memory as dream)
  • Brazil (dreams as heroic escapism)
  • Waking Life (once you get past the philosophizing, it clicks)
  • The Science of Sleep (not my favorite Gondry film, but fun)
  • Hatsu Yume (Bill Viola’s video art piece, worth mentioning even if it’s not strictly a ‘movie’)
  • Paprika (vividly crazy dream visuals from an anime master)
  • I assume that Inception and Vanilla Sky / Abre los ojos should be in this list, but I haven’t seen them yet…

Any others I should know about?

September 4, 2010 permalink

Sensing Nature

From David Cyranoski’s review of the Sensing Nature exhibition at the Tokyo Mori Art Museum:

The merging of nature and human activity harks back to earlier Japanese tradition, according to art historian Toshio Watanabe of the University of the Arts in London, who is lecturing at the gallery. The famed woodblock landscapes of Japan usually depict human endeavour coexisting with nature — unlike Western art, in which nature is an awesome, sublime force that often excludes or overpowers humans. Even in Hokusai’s famous 1832 painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Watanabe explains, the people don’t look panicked and no boats are overturned: “The picture is as much about the energy of the boatmen as the waves.”

Above video from the show: Snow, an interactive installation of feathers created by Yoshioka Tokujin.

March 18, 2010 permalink

Hirokazu Kore-edas ワンダフルライフ Wandâfuru Raifu (Afterlife)

From Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ワンダフルライフ (Wandâfuru raifu), released in the U.S. in 1998 as Afterlife. This is likely my favorite movie of all time. Dig up a copy at your neighborhood indie video store when you get a chance, it’s good. It’s a simple, quiet parable about life, death, loss, memory, love, and cinema, somewhere between Kurosawa’s Ikiru and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine.

After whining for years about someone borrowing my out-of-print DVD copy without returning it, I finally looked around and discovered the vastly superior Japanese NTSC Region 2 copy of the movie. ¥3,990 later, I’m now able to enjoy it again as I saw it at the theater in anamorphic widescreen, optional subtitles, and none of the horrible digital low-pass smoothing that someone thought would “fix” the grainy 16mm film’s appearance. Time for a movie screening, I think…

September 22, 2009 permalink

Cho Chabudai Gaeshi — Flip the Table

Taito’s new Cho Chabudai Gaeshi, a game based on a literal interpretation of the Japanese idiom “flip the table” (chabudai gaeshi). It gladdens my heart to see new weird games being made for the arcade. At least it’s easier to relate to than Boong-Ga Boong-Ga.

As one commenter on Kotaku notes, “If they localized this in the US it’d have to be called ‘F*ck This’”

(Via Offworld)

June 23, 2009 permalink

The Final Footage from the JAXA KAGUYA / Selene moon probe

The final footage from the Japanese JAXA KAGUYA/Selene moon probe’s telemetry camera before it crashed to the surface (as planned). There’s something poignant about these last bits of video – after the years of engineering, planning, and information-gathering, it’s got to be hard not to personify the things. See also my favorite science/UI video of all time: final telemetry from the NASA Huygens probe.