a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

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Tetsuaki Matsue’s one take journey into the sentimental heart of rock ‘n’ roll is a bit of a “Japanese Ark.” Matsue’s object, unlike Sakurov’s, is a bit more personal. Less an look at the arc of big history, but of something a bit more intimate. Seventy four minutes and one take follows singer/songwriter Kenta Maeno on a journey from the Kichijoji Hachiman Shrine to the band shell in Inokashira park on a cold New Year’s Day – January 1, 2009. He walks down the main shoutengai north of Kichijoji station, though Harmonica Yokocho and down to the park, with acoustic guitar in hand, singing all along the way. Maeno, with his Dylanesque demeanor and mop of curly hair, sings off-kilter, stream-of-consciousness songs. Along the way, on the sparsely populated streets he meets up with a collaborator or two for a couple of little set pieces. Disarmingly, the film begins as a bit of a one-off, until you realize that the choreography and geography are quite well planned, even as many impromptu moments catch a sort of improvisational energy. There’s a very sweet scene where Maeno gives his sunglasses to a child. He manages to produce another pair before the film ends. About 60 or so minutes into the walk, the director appears, perhaps to kill a bit of time before the penultimate scene. It’s during this moment that Maeno’s rambling reflections get focused into a conversation about dead and absent fathers and unfulfilled lives. When Maeno finally reaches the band shell with band awaiting, he dons an electric guitar and delivers a truly moving – and rocking – tribute to his recently passed away father. Imagine an album as a movie. Matsue may have found a nearly perfect expression of the musical arc of a handful of songs without the sturm and drang of MTV excess – merely the presentation of heartfelt songs building to the big number and fading on a coda as the camera pans to the wintery parkscape and the final credits.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

January 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm

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