(Toshio Matsumoto, Japan, 1961-75, 128 min)
Following the recent passing of Toshio Matsumoto, Japanese avant-garde and experimental film auteur, we are screening eight of his short films. Psychedelia, deconstruction, and the visualization of subjectivity were central themes of Matsumoto’s films; in his neo-documentary work, these are fused with conventional documentary elements to create a unique hybrid.
In remembrance of Matsumoto, we are screening these eight shorts as well as his feature-length masterpiece, Funeral Parade of Roses.
Nishijin, 1961, 35mm, 26 min
This film is a document whose themes are the interworkings between the weaving industry and old traditions, works that can be said to be the practice of avant-garde films. It was made on the basis of the independent screening movement Kiroku-eiga wo miru kai (literally a society for seeing documentary films) which was active in Kyoto. The film was shot by Yoshio Miyajima, who was known for leading the Toho labor disputes. Hideo Kanze performs the Noh “Tsuchigumo” dance within the film.
The Song of Stone, 1963, 24 min
Using a stream of photographs that Ernest Satow, a photographer for LIFE Magazine, took at a Quarry while visiting Japan to interview the sculptor Masayuki Nagare in Aji Kagawa, as material for the film. With photographs of sculptures made by Nagare, it was reconstructed as a television program. It was broadcast on TBS TV on February 28, 1963.
Ecstasis, 1969, 10 min
A work created by Matsumoto during the same period as Funeral Parade of Roses. We see Eddie’s neck sway back and forth, while we also an image of Guevara (Toyosaburo Uchiyama) with his arms wide-open coming towards the audience. Repetitions of these minimal shots, lead the audience to a trancelike state. This sequence is also used in Funeral Parade of Roses.
Metastasis, 1971, 8 min
A work which can be said to be the precursor of video art, influenced by the Dada art movement, where an image of a toilet is electronically processed and transformed by visual imaging equipment meant for medical use. Here, the different shades of gradation is modulated to a different hue depending on the level of density. It was completed by manipulating the device in real time according to a graph board and re-shooting the image displayed on the monitor with film.
Expansion, 1972, 14 min
Following the previous two works, works that can be said to be an evolving series of electronically processed and transformed images by medical imaging equipment. This film was completed by taking sequences of Ecstasis and Space Projection Ako, electronically modulating its hue, and editing it.
Mona Lisa, 1973, 3 min
This work uses an electronically processed and transformed image of Mona Lisa using a Scanimate, which was a video synthesizer that had just been introduced to Toyo Laboratory (now Imagica). A great number of images are from Space Projection Ako. Matsumoto also made several television commercials at the time, which also involved experiments utilizing the Scanimate.
Siki Soku Ze Ku (Everything Visible Is Empty), 1975, 8 min
A work that brought the psychedelic hallucination experience to the movie as it is. Each character of the Heart Sutra is repeated five times, accompanied by flickers of vivid colors. This iteration gradually intensifies to induce the spectator to a trance state, which converges to an image of dazzling light.
Atman, 1975, 11 min
A masterpiece of Japanese experimental film, which gives the audience a strong dizzying feeling by turning the view violently around a doll wearing a Hannya mask sitting on a riverbed. It was made by filming many takes and dividing the surroundings of the doll into a grid. Then changing the image size and exposure parameters to re-shoot one frame at a time.
The version being screened is a new HD file from 2012, that can be said to be a complete version with a new color grade under the directors supervision, and the unique color from the infrared film is faithfully expressed to the intention of the director.