Monday, March 12, 2012

Kyoto Uzumasa Monogatari (Kyoto Story) by Yoji Yamada and Tsutomu Abe

 


The film must have been made very quickly because when because when I was in Japan last November, I learned that Yamada was just in Kyoto shooting this film. Actually the film is a collective project between the Shochiku-company, the Ritsumeikan University, Yoji Yamada and his longtime assistant Tsutomu Abe (who is the co-director of this film). The fact that this film is made quickly and that it is at first a project for promoting procreation is not recognizeable in this film.

The film is a love story like it is written in the titles. The film is shot in the ancient quarter in Kyoto called Uzumasa where "the history of film is still alive". The film is made " in the strong hope and passion for the rebirth of cinema."
The film is both, a documentary about this quarter and the people who are living here. The story which is told in the film is build on this. The fictive and the documentary-aspect are standing equally side by side. Sometimes there is a domination of the documentary-aspect when the actors/protagonists are interviewed. Another time the film unfolds a love story which is nurtured by the ground of reality and which can always be retracked to that.

Kyoko is the daughter of an owner of a small cleaning shop. She works part time in a library. Her boyfriend Kota is the son of a Tofu maker.
This quarter still breathes the legend of the famous Daei-studios which produced famous films like Kurosawa´s Rashomon and Mizoguchi´s Ugetsu Monogatari. As the story of Kyoko and Kota is still imaginable as part of the reality in Uzumasa, the film adds another character, a young and clumsy sinologist. He falls in love with Kyoko when he lends very heavy books on chinese language from her library. Film as a document of the real world but as well as a realm of dreams are permanently interwoven. The films moves in both aspects with somnambulistic virtuosity.

There is the wonderful moment when Kyoko is with the young amorous sinologist in a coffee shop. While he is confessing his feelings to her and while he invites her to go with him to Tokyo and than to Peking the whole scene is filmed from outside and through the window. The fragment of a story  is double framed by the window and by the frame of the film image. This scene seems to me engrossed from the mostly strong presence of the streets, houses and people in this very concrete Quarter Uzumasa. In this tragic and comical moment there is as well an idea of a change. Even though Kyoko doesn´t seem to answer the feelings of the sinologist it awakes in her a longing to leave her always alike every day routine and the always alike quarter Uzumasa. It is like a light fog lays above the reality.

At the end we see Kyoko in a tram The sinologist´s offering to go to Tokyo with him, she has declined. She is sitting in the tram who rolls through the very real urban landscape of the city like after having visited a cinema hall which allowed her to dream for a while. The landscapes she drives through are real and concrete and at the same time like the fleeting echo of a dream which has a long aftermath which still works long after the film has ended.

Like I mentioned - even though the purpose of the film is to promote new talents it seems to me as well as a good access into the rich and not yet completely measured work of Yoji Yamada.
Kyoto Uzumasa  Monogatari is an example that a film can make us happy even when it leased us bah to the real world  after a short dream.
Yoji Yamada´s 81th film Otouto was not even released - and yet he whips this film in a collective project with Tsutomu Abe as a wonderful gift. Just like that. If there is today in cinema something like a home for me than the films by Yoji Yamada.

Rüdiger Tomczak

translation from the german text published in shomingeki No. 22, May/June 2010.


on Yamada´s MUSUKO you find a text here

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