a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for December 2013

Horses of Fukushima/ Matsuri no Uma / 祭の馬

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163466_1Yojyu Matsubayashi returns to the scene of the 3.11 tragedy to document the fate of several equine survivors in Horses of Fukushima. Matsubayashi, arguably, already made the best doc on the disaster, Fuukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape. His followup is beautiful and devastating. The rescued horses that he follows suffer from several maladies – radiation poisoning, broken and infected limbs, the effects of malnutrition and starvation. They are matter-of-factly doctored, fed and “rescued” by their keepers, basically to show them off at the Soma-Nomaoi, a traditional Shinto horse festival. However, unlike the usual rah rah docs that celebrate the recovery and resuscitation of normal life in Tohoku, Matsubayashi continually lets the images undercut any sense of what is happening to these horses as a good thing. The offhand cruelty of their keepers, the miserable conditions that the horses are kept in, the absurdity of the Soma-Nomaoi – now a meaningless tradition that’s all about the show, rather than being connected to a real past – are shown without comment, but with a weathering critique of the “recovery.”

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2013.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 10, 2013 at 5:51 am

No Beginning, No End / Hajimari mo owari mo nai / 始まりも終わりもない

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T0014687qShunya Ito’s long career has ranged from exploitation classics (Female Convict 701: Scorpion) to award-winning mainstream entertainments (Gray Sunset). He’s kept his followers on their toes and now in his late career, he’s still keeping true to his muse with another left turn. No Beginning, No End features Min Tanaka, butoh-esque dancer, going through 95 minutes of an extended dance-on-film performance. There’s no dialogue, just Min and a small cast of characters going through an expressionistic/surrealistic ritual of life and death, leavened with a bit of social critique. The images are strong and elemental, even if the set pieces can be a bit corny. There’s mud, fire and water abounding. Despite the facile workings of BIG themes, what makes the film a pleasure is the pure intensity of Tanaka’s performance. As a sort of everyman he rules the screen, mostly unclothed, as he moves through mud, ruins, rivers, city streets on his relentless trajectory. His movement and rhythm trump any meaning. Extra props for a sequence of him dragging himself naked down Omotesando Dori.

Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2013.

Written by Nicholas Vroman

December 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm