Thursday, November 19, 2009

French director makes documentary about "screaming philosopher" Kazuki Tomokawa

by Chris MaGee

There are a lot of folks out there who just hate Takashi Miike's film "Izo". I can understand why the film, which charts the destructive path of the spirit of 19th-century samurai assassin Izo Okada through time and space and to the very doorstep of heaven, leaves many Miike fans cold. Although the film drips blood and gore it has a razor thin narrative and even tops MIike's "Big Bang Love: Juvenile A" as his most obscure, art house offering. There's no big surprise that it's one of my favorite Miike films, but it's not just for the time and space shifting violence. In "Izo" Miike is commenting on the nature of violence and he makers the brilliant choice of featuring the music and performances of veteran folk and protest singer-songwriter Kazuki Tomokawa throughout the film. As a cultural shorthand think of an impressionistic film about the Vietnam War that used the songs and performances of Bob Dylan as a visual counterpoint. That's what Miike was going for in Izo, and that's why the inclusion of Kazuki Tomokawa was such a bold move.

Suffice to say that although the work of Kazuki Tomokawa is a bit difficult to get your hands on here in North America In the years since seeing "Izo" I've been in very intrigued by the "screaming philosopher", as he's become known in Japan, whose singing style is like a series of sputters, croons, coughs, and yes, screams. Even if you don't understand all the lyrics the emotional meaning comes across loud and clear. Now a French music video director is giving Westerners the chance to get to know this ambiguous singer with his new documentary "La Faute des Fleurs (Flowers’ Fault)".

Moon, whose previously directed videos for such acts as R.E.M. and Arcade Fire, spent two weeks with Tomokawa discussing his career through the 70's, 80's, 90's and today, his artistic philosophy, his work for Takashi Miike and Koji Wakamatsu, and of course capturing some beautiful and blistering live performances. "La Faute des Fleurs" has already won the Sound and Vision Award at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival that took place earlier this month, and here's hoping that it makes the rounds of other film festivals in the coming months.

Wildgrounds broke this story and has links to clips from "La Faute des Fleurs" as well as huge gallery of stills from the film, so make sure to follow the link above to take a look see. For now check out this life performance by Tomokawa from 2004 performing his song "Pistol". Amazing stuff!

1 comment:

Katie Muffett said...

"it has a razor thin narrative and even tops MIike's "Big Bang Love: Juvenile A" as his most obscure, art house offering. There's no big surprise that it's one of my favorite Miike films"

With you on that completely. I knew there was a special reason I love this blog so much.

Very excited about the Kazuki Tomokawa documentary. Without him, that razor thin narrative would have devolved into more violent farce than commentary. Hell of a challenging way to make a movie, but if it were done any more simply then the flashes of war footage and layers of spiritual/carnal metaphor would have come off as just preachy. As it is, most gore fans accuse Miike of that with IZO anyway. Their loss.