Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Includes short films:
Jour de Reve
Running time: 50 min.
Reviewed by Chris MaGee
Like the much more well known Takagi Masakatsu Hokkaido born and Paris based film and video artist Yuki Kawamura exists in that place where fine art and commercial art merge… what has now been dubbed “design”, a term I’m not much of a fan, but I’ll use it in this review for ease of reference. While Masakatsu’s “design” work is characterized by heavy manipulation of images and lyrical, and some may say almost new age-y use of piano music Kawamura, who no doubt owes a debt to Masakatsu’s short films, has approached his work in a much more stripped down aesthetic.
In 2005 Kawamura’s short films were released on DVD in a collection simply titled “Slide” which was subsequently featured at the 2005 DOTMOV digital film festival that is organized by the online design magazine Shift. Comprised of nine short films Kawamura fixes his digital camera on very simple subject matter. In the first films “Balloon” 12 red balls are dropped in a warehouse space and are not only left to bounce, but to slowly fade from our vision in an exercise that the artist describes as a way to highlight the beauty of gravity. In “Slide” blurry footage of pedestrians walking is overlaid with brilliant flashes of light. “Scene H”, one of my two favorites on the disk, features quick, choppy footage of bare branches in a winter landscape that intersect and ultimately fracture the viewing space, setting up ever changing rhythms. “Jour de Reve” might be one of the weakest of the bunch with footage of children in an amusement park nearly obliterated by layers and layers of coloured pixels. As a way to celebrate the beauty of fragility Kawamura shows us constantly floating and breaking glass shards in “VE”. My second favorite on the disk is “Port” which is simplicity personified. Kawamura places his camera on a tripod and films the shadows of people walking through a pair of frosted glass revolving doors at an airport. That’s it, but it’s one of the most visually arresting films I’ve seen in a long time. From that point on the disk drops in quality quite a bit with “Voisin” featuring the reflection of branches on water, “Play at Dusk” showing us shots of the sky at dusk and “Lethe” seeming to be a direct rip off of Masaktsu’s short film “Aqua” in which two lovers swim in a pond.
Unlike Masakatsu’s work Kawamura does not work alone. Electronic composer Yoshihiro Hanno provides the soundscapes that support these short visions, and the droning, blipping ambient score fits perfectly with Kawamura minimal films. I was very much reminded of the sound experiments of Oval and of course the pioneering work of Brian Eno.
“Slide” is not any easy disk to track down. I got my copy through Zip.ca, but if you get a chance to see it do so. Amongst all the Kitanos and Miikes and Koreedas it’s a great opportunity to see some truly experimental contemporary film coming out of Japan.