As the last few weeks in Korea come up, naturally things are a crush of things-to-do: final editing on Japanese film, which found its title finally – The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima. Running 74 minutes, very simple and direct. The product of a quick 2 and a half day shoot, that couldn’t have been done without the help of Moe Tomoeda, a young Japanese woman who acted as my translator and help in simple but necessary ways. It will screen in a kind of private showing in Tokyo on Saturday, March 3. I hope it is finished by then but I suspect some little things will still need to be done. I’m quite happy with it – after a fashion the first film done (aside from a 30 minute short) since I moved to Korea. I’d begun to wonder if the creative batteries were shot, but I think this says “no.”
This film was really a pleasure to make, though I will have to see on this coming Saturday if I am way off the mark or managed to slip into something Japanese. I’ll report back after the screening and let you know what I get as feedback.
[Tokyo Update, March 4th.]
Last night had the first screening (also for me) of The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima, to a 100% Japanese audience. This was after the screening and talk for 90+ minutes of my workshop students’ pieces, done since December. I was very pleased with what they did, really some very nice work. Then my piece screened. Aside from some marginal technical glitches, likely seen only by myself, and a few name titles with the wrong people, on that level it all went fine. As I screened an unsubtitled version, so as not to have the distraction for an audience which didn’t need them, I couldn’t really see the film myself as while I knew more or less what was said, I couldn’t really follow the talking – of which there is a lot. So I looked a bit at the audience members to see if I could glean anything there – bored? falling asleep? twitchy? After the lights went up, I tried to extract as much information as I could – usually difficult with Asian audiences – and bluntly asked if it was boring, if my use of some Japanese poetry seemed pretentious, or other things I imagined might be problematic. I didn’t get any confirmation of that. What I was able to get was that they were over-saturated with things about the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and that in a way this film didn’t “fit in” to their expectations. Instead of being rough and brutal and ugly, as apparently most the films made on the matter so far have been (exception is my friend Toshi Fujiwara’s No Man’s Zone, recently shown at the Berlinale Forum), this one is rather elegant. I’d call it elegaic. And this one let’s ordinary people speak on their own terms, at length. My impression was that this almost confused the audience, and in a way they “liked” it inwardly but felt conflicted, as if they shouldn’t be liking something that didn’t slip into their preconceptions of what earthquake/tsunami films should be like.
After the public discussion, one older woman came up to tell me that she found the Japanese language of these people – a dialect for sure in their isolated situation – was very beautiful, and that the way and manner in which they spoke seemed honest and from the heart. The latter I can agree with – they certainly facially and in their gestures convey a sincerity which is tangibly written on the screen in their personae. If indeed the Japanese is also beautiful to listen to, then lucky me! A few others, individually, said they very much liked and were moved by the film. So I guess, taking everything into consideration, I can conclude that for a Japanese audience it works, and is appreciated. Toshi liked it a lot, and some of my students, now familiar with some of my work, concluded that though it is “different” from my other films, it is, well, a Jost film. A Japanese Jost film.
Bottom-line, I think not self-deluded, is that my personal view, if somewhat language deprived in perspective, that it works and works well, was confirmed with this screening. For which I am very happy. Among other things it likely will help in assuring that I return in 18 or so months to take up a modest job to oversee a Tokyo portrait, circa 2013-14.
Meantime here in Korea, I finished shooting the film on Ahn Eun me’s dance project, which was very interesting for me, if rather marred with a very “film world” experience, of which more in a a future post. I amassed 40+ hours of material, and when the hell I will have time to look at it, much less edit it, in the coming two years, I do not know. Likely I won’t have time to mess with it for a long time. What I had imagined – foolishly – as a simple project that I could edit as I went along, turned out instead to be rather complex in creative terms. And it was all my own error. I had seen a handful of Eun me’s works, which are kitschy, flamboyant, highly theatrical – all rather the opposite of my tendencies. But I liked them very much. They are full of energy, sharp turns, and most of the time – if not always – she has a control over the rambunctious overload. I thought shooting this in an austere manner would be a nice complement. So in my mind, before hand, I mistakenly imagined her studio as a normal dance studio – spare, a mirrored wall, and little else. Instead it was a space like her work, if more modest: rather busy with kitschy decor, anything but spare. And in turn that altered my foolishly preconceived ideas. Here’s some images of what I shot.
Ahn Eun me’s troupe is in Bahrain now, putting on several performances of her fabulous piece, Princess Bari – a real spectacle in every respect. I’ve had the luck to see it 3 times now, and I suppose it is the work that drew me to asking to shoot her process.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to watch her work with her wonderful dancers (who also are superb athletes and acrobats) and I hope sometime in the future I can sit down with the material shot and make a film of it – I think there’s something good hiding in there, but 40+ hours is a lot, and for the next 18 months (at least) I will have almost no time as other things will be on my front burner.
The shooting of this work entailed some extra crap of the “You’ll never work in the town again” kind, a rather absurd and silly story of how tinsel town warps people’s brains. Because it is a nice cautionary film-world tale, I’ll tell it in a later posting, in all its comic detail. Need I say it has to do with a wanna-be producer(ette).
Meantime for updates on the coming travel and screening schedule, see this.
And in passing, Eleanor Callahan, her husband Harry Callahan’s photographic muse, died this week at the age of 95.
Posted from Tokyo.