NANA,Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani?-"image" and reverberations

I was disappointed that many japanese cinefil bloggers couldn't predicted Liberal Democratic Party's victory in lower house elections in 2005.9.11, and that they were so angry and depressed with it. At least only LDP was interested in image operation,while other japanese parties and intelligent people against LDP had no ability to analyze and to criticize it(that's a true problem). Even if LDP's image operation was at a basic level like "cool-bis",at the moment that voters didn't want to see politicians shouting with suit like other parties in summer,LDP succeeded in letting them believe "They're changing". Although 15years passed since Gulf War's images of a girl giving testimony and an oil-slicked bird(no japanese intellect criticized the operation then), generally japanese have made no progress in study of "image".

Megahit of Kenjiro Otani 's "NANA" could be also predicted easily because of the "image" of the film,for example cast of two NANAs(Mika Nakashima,Aoi Miyazaki) and its theme song Nakashima sings,composed by megahit maker Hyde (L'Arc-en-ciel).
An adaptation from a very popular comic by Ai Yazawa,"NANA"'s hit isn't related to the film itself at all.Teenagers go to see "Image"which two NANAs and the song created.As for the film"NANA",the story is told by Aoi Miyazaki's narration. Miyazaki's acting and her smile are charming,so if all scenes were told from her point of view,that would be better and would hide all other actor's charmless. Without Miyazaki, scenes of Shoji(boyfriend of NANA)falling in love with Sachiko(his colleague)is too long.Scenes of NANA (Nakashima) and her former lover(but she can't leave him in her heart of heart ) Len(Ryuhei Matsuda) is boring. Miyazaki's costume and NANAs' apartment on 7th floor (because707,in japanese"nana-maru-nana"),are like Boris Barnet's silent comedy,"The girl with hat box" and "House on the Torubunaya",but of course is not used cinematographically at all.The original comic illustrates modern japanese rocker's conservativeness and caricature,but this film version lacks it.

A film about music,but Shinji Aoyama's "Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani?" isn't similar to NANA at all.Although cinemascope and gorgeous cast-Tadanobu Asano, Masaya Nakahara( he is known as a musician 'Violent Onsen Geisha' in western,and also as Mishima prize novelist),Yasutaka Tsutsui(he is a representative of japanese sci-fi/surreal novelist,and Tanizaki prize novelist),Mariko Okada(from Ozu,Naruse to Yoshida)and of course Aoi Miyazaki, the look is more closer to B-movie like Allan Dwan's film(the first scene cites his last film or Wenders'"State of Things").

In 2015,"Lemming Syndrome" Virus goes around the world. It's a "suicide Virus". Miyagi(Tsutsui)asked two musicians Mizui(Asano) and Asuhara(Nakahara) to play for his daughter (Miyazaki) who is suffered with this virus because Miyagi believe their music's power may prevent her daughter's suicide...
This film's atmosphere is closer to Marco Ferreri(now completely neglected in Japan,but in "I love you" he had illustrated japanese OTAKU desire before a book like Hiroki Azuma's "Animalizing postmodernity".Ferreri was a former Veterinarian.)'s future-survival fables, like "Il seme del Uomo"or"Ciao Maschio" than american sci-fi-B-movie, but without Ferreri's sex, grotesque, female domination.And of course "Eli Eli"is closer to Kiyoshi Kurosawa's sci-fi-masterpiece "Barren Illusion"than "Fukkatsu no hi;Virus"(Fukasaku),but without Kurosawa's obsession to invisibility(images are clearer than other Krosawa's films but always including shadowed part in frame,use of anonyms eeriness of one's back shots...he said to me "Shinji Soumai's shot has much more invisible parts than mine" around 1983or84,but in "Shonben Rider" and "Love Hotel"they're warm and not eerie.).

Instead,there is loud guitar sound in "Eli Eli". In first scene two musicians collect various sounds,mix them and create music.The exciting fix shot which captures musician's hands operating, is a first climax shot in this film. Of course we remember scenes of Les Rita Mitsuko from Godard's "Soigne ta drote"and Stones from"One plus One".But they're different because Godard resolve a song into parts (voice,guitar,percussion...)while Aoyama operates the distortion sound louder and louder as if it covers in the movie theater.At night of premiere I saw Aoyama asked a screening engineer to enlarge volume as much as possible.
The second climax is a circular shot.After Asuhara's suicide Mizui decided to play the guitar for Miyagi's daughter because he remembered his girlfriend's suicide.Mizui displays amplifiers in a field,blindfolds the daughter,and begins to play.The sound becomes louder and louder,the camera movement keeps turning around the daughter.This circular movement looks closer to MTV than Godard's "Nouvelle Vague",but probably it's intentional. That's a provocative scene.

As for music,from Eisenstein to Straub=Huillet, counterpoint between sound and space is always the strongest in history of cinema. But after Antonioni drifted Jerry Garcia's "Dark Star"solo in "Zabriskie Point", and after Wenders-Knieper, a lot of cineasts tried to fit electric amplified sound to a moving landscape shot. As for image of live performance,in "Year of the Horse" Jim Jarmusch's approach is aesthetics of american-underground cinema(over exposure,hand-held camera,mixture of different formats).In "A Carta" the way of Manoel de Oliveira(in Aoyama's "Song of Ajima",the scene of which vocalist Tomoko Uehara make herself up,makes me associate with Oliveira's "Je rentre a la maison") is like F.W. Murnau's(expressionistic stage light,and comical performance of skin-headed Pedro Abrunhosa who shuttles from right to left, and a silhouetted long shot of the last scene). Unfortunately Pedro Costa's "Ne change rien,"featuring Rodolphe Burger, who has ever collaborated with James Blood Ulmer,hasn't been shown in Japan yet,so I don't know how Costa's fix shot is related to el-guitar sound.

Visually Aoyama's circular shot looks associated with a new-age effect shot which intends sense of continuity through all eternity,for example like Gus Van Sant's "Gerry"(probably its origine is Pelechian-early Sokurov's "battle against time" ). But Aoyama's intentional mediocre shot makes the amplified distortion sound stand out. The sense of reverberations is the most important when this film is over,just like live concert(1). In the last shot it is snowing at night.So as not to disturb the reverberations, it keeps quiet. However superficially noisy, this is the most sensitive experiment of sound in japanese cinema by rock generation.

(1)The sound of "Eli Eli"is parallel to interesting "Bakuon"(exploded sound),which is experiment series of film projection with sound device of live concert in Kichijoji Baus Theater in Tokyo,produced by a film critic&editor Yasuhito Higuchi.


©Akasaka Daisuke