At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Japan's avant-garde (some random thoughts late on a Saturday night)

I've spent the evening watching experimental early anime from artists such as Keiichi Tanaami and Tadanori Yokoo on Ubu (thank goodness for Ubu if you're into eclectic oddities).  Because that's what I do on Saturday nights, instead of socializing with others.

After watching these, I've realized that the 1960s must have blown everyone away in Japan with its hyper-sexuality.  Both artists interestingly enough juxtapose this sexuality (depicted openly, and almost mockingly, in the films via cartoons of Hollywood images) with images of violence and war.  There is a ton of "the personal is political" going on in these small films. The feeling I get from these movies is a critique on both modern Japanese society as well as American society, yet it seems to also embrace it because it has to.

There's something about the generation of Japanese who survived the War as children or teens.  They straddle the lines between Meiji era Japanese traditions, the imperialist militarization of Japan and the rapid shift towards westernization that the Japanese had to embrace after 1945.  I don't think most people realize how altering that was to Japanese culture.  The 1960s seem to have been such a shift globally for so many cultures due to the ever expanding media.  The way people throughout the world began to imagine freedom, unshackling themselves and shifting their cultures away from the limitations of the prior generations and then facing their own limitations can be seen in the art, films and performances of this era.  There is still an innocence in these things though.  Not exactly jaded yet....but nearly there.  The chaos and excitement of this generation is captured in such films as "Diary of Shinjuku Thief" (which is not on Ubu, but if you're into experimental Japanese films, you should see it).

Speaking of which, I didn't realize that Nagisa Oshima died this year.  Oshima was a prolific avant-garde filmmaker who directed "Diary of a Shinjuku Thief."  That film stirred up controversy, but it also shifted the film industry in Japan.  Still, it was heavily influenced by French culture and not on the traditional side of Japanese art. (An aside: the French connection and influence in the arts was recently discussed in this article on photography.)

By the way, according to the "ever-faithful" all knowing Wikipedia, Oshima spent the last years of his life translating several of John Gray's "Men are from Mars..." dating books into Japanese    That's sort of odd in comparison to everything else he did throughout his life.  I don't know what to think about that.

No comments:

Post a Comment