Although I have enjoyed working with items of pre-existing significance the reality is I can’t afford to carry it on. Furthermore I recently attended the opening of ‘The Gallerist’ at the Sunday Painter which made me realise I need to re-think my practice. Rob Chevasse’s video was, simply put, a bravely presented collection of teenage home videos outlining the life-long friendship between himself and Sunday Painter’s Will Jarvis. It was a tastefully and extremely artistically edited collection of sound bytes and footage of their youth put together in a way only the artist could. Although I was by no means blown away by the film I was impressed by the lengths the artist had gone to to produce something truly unique.
I previously had the belief that what made my work unique was the visual language I was building through a personal combination of references – however now I’m not so sure. I need to stop relying on the connotations of existing imagery in order to take 100% ownership of my work. I need to engage in longer projects that I can build on over time (without having to spend hundreds of pounds on sourcing things) and endeavour to enforce a truly individual stamp on. The best way to do this I believe is within moving image, the things I film and the way in which I film or edit them offer way more possibilities to my creativity.
(Sylvester Stallone directed Staying Alive – the sequel to Saturday Night Fever)
On continuing my research into film I wanted to concentrate on what was plausible for me to create with the tools at hand. The monochrome nature of Alphaville from my previous research made me think of Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto’s black and white cyber punk classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man spurring me to look further into his work. I began by watching 1998’s Bullet Ballet another cleverly ageless black and white movie in which the director stars. The plot is centred around a morbidly miserable and bumbling main character warring with a local gang in order to make sense of his girlfriend’s recent suicide. Whats immediately striking about the movie is it’s mime like over-acting of the majority of the characters. The playfulness this creates allows you take the somewhat basic plot with a pinch of salt. It’s also admirable how pathetic Tsukamoto has painted his character, so often there is an abuse of power with actor directors. Similarly the refreshingly regular beatings he receives from the female leads in both this and Tokyo Fist secure the women of his film’s in real positions of strength. Stylistically the film is far slicker and less disturbing than Tetsuo but still full of DIY charm. It is full of Tsukamoto’s trademark hand held, extremely energetic and almost tiring to watch chase scenes. The film, like Tetsuo and Tokyo Fist is shot cleverly across various real life, Tokyo locations. This careful use of the futuristic nature of the cities architecture perfectly aids the director in confusing the viewer about when the movie was created. The styling of the crazed and heroin addicted gang is also very cleverly stereotypical. By giving them slick hair and sideburns and that bad guy staple of the leather biker jacket they are placed within trends that although historic never actually went away. By styling them in such a way that clashes with a futuristic Tokyo backdrop the director outlines the never ending story of often resurgent trends within fashion. The chosen ‘vintage’ or ‘rockabilly’ look of these baddies reemerges so often throughout street fashion’s history it is perfectly plausible it will continue to do so. In turn by not committing to a prediction of what is to come in fashion but by looking on what will repeat he has successfully avoided ageing the film’s aesthetic.
As I began to mention the second film I watched (today) was Tokyo Fist from 1995 also starring the director and centred around his character’s failings. Again with more melodramatic low budget, stop motion special effects layered with black blood spurting strenuously wherever possible. All 3 movies I’ve mentioned are excellently soundtracked with tasteful ambience where possible and industrial drone to couple any blood curdling screams. Although technically a colour film Tokyo Fist’s monochromatic use of red and blue lighting nods to his other works. With little technology on show nor any tell tale signs in the costume the film again rushes through the city giving minimal indication to when it was set. The director’s use of close up, violently wobbling camera angles gives life to the sweaty fighting scenes overriding any need for special effects or unrealistic choreography. The film is a shining example of the kind of less is more approach I can hope to employ when making my directorial debut (ha!)
There is a strange sub plot in Tokyo Fist where the leading lady begins to pierce her skin and implant metal objects underneath it – making a re-watch of the ultimate metal fetish (thats a thing!), Cyber Punk flick Testuo The Iron Man unavoidable.
This film to me is the nearest anyone has ever got to making a live action illustration of the shocking sexual ambiguity, sadomasochism, extreme gore and cross species transformation that make Japanese Manga so infamous. The endless slimy and bloody onslaught of uncontrollable bio mechanical matter murdering, sexually assaulting and completely consuming the films minimal cast is an absolute horror / joy to watch. The special effects and general aesthetic of the film is the robotic test tube baby of Chris Cunningham, HR Giger, Harry Harryhausen and whatever nerd created Dragon Ball Z.
Storyline is apparently put to one side whilst the director exerts his low-fi breed of cinematic effect to an undeniably impressive art form which questions and pokes fun at the extremities of contemporary Japanese cinema. Musically its industrially aggressive matching the sweeping shots of Tokyo underpasses and junkyards. If you can get over the initial shock the film begins to portray a Chaplin-esque approach to its unpleasantness. Its presented so graphically without a thread of shame it almost seems slapstick after a while – helped along by its minimal dialogue and black and white nature. The way Tsukamoto does all this but still manages to make the film extremely cool is absolutely mind-boggling. I suppose what I take from Tetsuo aside from the obvious aesthetic and technical inspirations is how it is possible to still make something of such biblical scale using minimal technology and a f*ck load of effort.