a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Nippon no Misemonyasan / ニッポんのみせものやさん

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nipponnomisemonoyasanAmong the best documentarians working in Japan right now is Yoichiro Okutani. He’s finally re-edited and released his paean to the last freak show in Japan, Nippon no Misemonyasan. He spent a couple of years embedding himself with a low-budget sideshow that works the matsuri circuit at shrines throughout Japan. The show highlights a host of low-budget wonders such as a woman who bites heads off of snakes. Listening to the voice gravel-voiced barker who’s honed her routine over decades is almost a show enough on its own. Winning the trust of the hawkers, performers and producers allowed Okutani to wrest tales of tribulations and triumphs over the years – illustrated amply with old posters and publicity pics. The film has some rough moments with its decidedly zero budget look, but the subject matter alone makes for a profound foray into an old institution that will soon disappear. Japan will become lesser for it. Okutani is one of the few brave filmmakers in Japan that gives a shit about tradition and is doing something about it.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2012.

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Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 2, 2012 at 2:03 am

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