Artist Sebastian Masuda’s “Point-Rhythm World 2018 – Monet’s Microcosm” At The Pola Museum Of Art In Hakone, Japan

I’m trying to make people happy and enliven the world with Harajuku Kawaii culture and fashion” – Sebastian Masuda

Having escalated the pop culture phenomenon known as “Harajuku Kawaii Culture” to a level that now represents Japanese contemporary art to a global audience, artist/art director & filmmaker Sebastian Masuda has brought his “Point-Rhythm World 2018 – Monet’s Microcosm” to the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan.

Inspired by the French Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s Water Lilly Pond (1899) during a 2017 trip to the Pola Museum Annex in Ginza, Masuda has created an interactive exhibition that is infused with the support of digital technology video, audio and other artists that allows one to be “immersed” in Monet’s painting.

The homage paid to Monet is fitting as he was an early western proponent of the Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) style of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings.  As Don Morrison wrote in Time Magazine in 2007 (Monet’s Love Affair with Japanese Art), “One day in 1871, legend has it, a French artist named Claude Monet walked into a food shop in Amsterdam, where he had gone to escape the Prussian siege of Paris. There he spotted some Japanese prints being used as wrapping paper. He was so taken by the engravings that he bought one on the spot. The purchase changed his life — and the history of Western art.”  Morrison continues, “Monet went on to collect 231 Japanese prints, which greatly influenced his work and that of other practitioners of Impressionism, the movement he helped create. Under the new Meiji Emperor, Japan in the 1870s was just opening to the outside world after centuries of isolation. Japanese handicrafts were flooding into European department stores and art galleries. Japonisme, a fascination with all things Japanese, was soon the rage among French intellectuals and artists, among them Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro and the young Monet. Perhaps for that reason Impressionism caught on early in Japan and remains ferociously popular there.”

Per Masuda, “Kawaii represents one’s one’s own heartfelt personal universe of cherished things that no one else can disturb.  Be it fashion, music, or art, the visions of a million people are revealed in a million different ways.  Kawaii is supported by each and every point of view.”

The term “Point-Rhythm” combines the art technique of Pointillism, or the use of many small colored dots to form an image, with Masuda’s seemingly preferred technique of rhythmically arranging a variety of existing items and materials (plastic toys, food packaging, etc) into a pattern resembling a colorful explosion (in fact, explosive-using artist Cai Guo-Qiang is thought of as a mentor by Masuda).

Located at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Hakone, the Pola Museum of Art appears set to break with past orthodoxy as this is the first time they have made gallery space available to a contemporary artist.  This exhibition, bridging the past and future, caps a whirlwind run for Masuda of the past several years of both solo and group exhibitions spanning several continents.

Along with his retail boutique 6%DokiDoki, Kawaii Monster Cafe  (both located in Harajuku, Tokyo), as well as his Time After Time Capsule project which is likely to conclude its multi-city/country run at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Sebastian Masuda appears set to extend his prior eight-month run as Japan’s Cultural Envoy to the world into a permanent position!

Sebastian Masuda’s “Point-Rhythm World 2018 – Monet’s Microcosm” runs until December 2nd, 2018 at The Pola Museum Of Art In Hakone, Japan (website)

Sebastian Masuda’s Website

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Sebastian Masuda
Point Rhythm World 2018 -Monet’s Microcosm-, 2018
Mixed media
©Sebastian Masuda
Photo Courtesy @dailyflickny

 

Water Lily Pond

Claude Monet Water Lily Pond, 1899
Oil on canvas, 88.6 X 91.9cm
Collection of POLA Museum of Art

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‘One Cut of the Dead’ (Kamera Wo Tomeruna!) カメラを止めるな!

It’s almost impossible to talk about Director Ueda Shinichiro (上田慎一郎)’s film ‘One Cut of the Dead’ without revealing too much of what gives the movie its infectious charm, but what is ostensibly a low-budget zombie film turns into a fun ode to low budget filmmaking, while also including some touching moments of family drama.  And by the time the credits roll alongside the behind-the-behind the scenes footage (you’ll understand once you’ve seen the movie), you’ll want to join in the yells of “Kamera wo tomeruna!” (“Don’t stop the camera!”).

The film has achieved what can only be described as a Rocky Horror Picture Show-like cult status in a very short time, thanks to the non-stop efforts of the staff and cast to promote the film on social media (see Twitter/Facebook hashtags #カメラを止めるな and #カメ止め).

At the screening I was at in Ikebukuro’s Cinema Rosa theater, what started out as a typically staid Japanese audience quickly turned into an excited crowd getting caught up in the action onscreen, and by the time I left, I was already looking forward to seeing it again.

The films’s cast were all students from the Tokyo film school, Enbu Seminar (ENBUゼミナール), and it seems like this was a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of ultra-low budget independent filmmaking.

カメラを止めるな Official Website:

カメラを止めるな Twitter:

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DFNY Focus On: Filmmaker / Film Historian Jim Hemphill!

Jim Hemphill is a filmmaker and film historian whose award-winning movie THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH is currently available on DVD and streaming on Amazon Prime. When he’s not directing movies he writes about them for publications including American Cinematographer and Filmmaker Magazine, and he has recorded numerous DVD commentary tracks for titles including INHERIT THE WIND, VALDEZ IS COMING, and the upcoming 50th-anniversary edition of HANG ‘EM HIGH. Jim is a programming consultant at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles and his movies have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Alamo Drafthouse, American Cinematheque and many other international festivals and art houses.

Q: Which film do you love that might surprise people?

A: I don’t know that anything I love would surprise people who know me well – and thus know that I can have some pretty eccentric tastes – but even my closest friends might be surprised by the depth of my love for the 2002 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle COLLATERAL DAMAGE, which I think is a stone cold masterpiece. A fairly sophisticated morality play and sociopolitical commentary masquerading as a potboiler revenge film, it’s exquisitely directed by Andrew Davis and chock full of great supporting turns by people like Elias Koteas and John Leguizamo – and Arnold gives a legitimately terrific, tortured performance at the film’s center. Not just one of my favorite Arnold movies, not just one of my favorite action movies or Andy Davis movies – one of my all-time favorite movies, period.

Q: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, which two would it be & what kind of film?

A: That’s a great question…my ultimate fantasy is to adapt Bret Easton Ellis’ novel IMPERIAL BEDROOMS and reunite the cast from LESS THAN ZERO: Robert Downey Jr., Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, and James Spader.

Q: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?

A: There are so many, but I’d probably have to go with THE SHINING because it was the movie that really taught me what a director does…how he/she filters material through his/her point of view and makes it something different through his/her choices in terms of performance, camera movement, lenses, music, and everything else. I was very conscious as a kid that Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING was a different animal from Stephen King’s THE SHINING, and I become obsessed with figuring out how and why the movie worked on me the way that it did. I’m still obsessed.

Q: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?

A: The painting of William H. Macy hanging in Burt Reynolds’ house at the end of BOOGIE NIGHTS. Or the one Dirk Diggler commissions of himself. Or Don Cheadle’s blood-spattered white suit from the donut shop scene. Or Mark Wahlberg’s prosthetic penis. Basically, anything from BOOGIE NIGHTS, which is my favorite movie of all time.

Q: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?

A: I’ll watch a film about virtually anything and everything…as a filmmaker I guess I’m a little more selective in that I have to be pretty interested in a subject to spend years of my life working on it, but I can’t think of anything I would actively be opposed to exploring…my attitude is that anything that happens in life is fair game for examination on film.

Jim Hemphill Films (Website)

Director Jim Hemphill, John Shea, and Lea Thompson

(Director Jim Hemphill with John Shea and Lea Thompson making THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH)

Japanese B-Movie King Kawasaki Minoru’s 60th Birthday Celebration!

(Translation of below flyer):

60th Birthday Celebration!

B-Movie King Kawasaki Minoru Exhibition

June 28th (Thursday) – July 17th (Tuesday) 2018

Tokyu Hands, Shibuya (Floor B2C)

(“Hi!”)

Director Kawasaki Minoru, known as Japan’s “B-Movie King”, with a worldwide fan base, several times invited to many film festivals such as the Venice International Film Festival, is about to celebrate his 60th birthday!

Showing Director Kawasaki’s unbridled love for Kaiju Monsters, Special Effects, Figurines, and Japanese Comedy, this exhibition of “Kawasaki’s World” will be appearing right in the middle of Shibuya at Tokyu Hands!

Also, in addition to an amazing collection of movie posters and costumes on display, the event will offer guests an unprecedented opportunity to get a “real feel” by wearing an authentic Kaiju monster suit!

The exhibition will also include exclusive items such as:

– Items from Japanese comedian Nabeyakan’s treasured private collection
– “Pleasure Water” from Director Kawasaki’s series “Den-Ace”
– Diamond-crusted Den-Ace jewelry

Many more crazy things like that are being planned for special display at the exhibition!

There are also special event sessions planned where director Kawasaki will attend!

Director Kawasaki’s Homepage (In Japanese):

Director Kawasaki Minoru’s Facebook Profile:

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#DFNYFocus On: Annmarie Bailey, President Akatsuki Entertainment USA

#DFNYFocus is our five-question survey of filmmakers and film lovers to learn more about the films they love and have been inspired by.  Our latest Focus is on Akatsuki Entertainment USA President and Board Member Annmarie Sairrino Bailey (please see Annmarie’s bio below):

 

DFNY:   Which film do you love that might surprise people?
ASB:     Thor: Ragnarok.
DFNY:   If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, which two would it be & what kind of film?
ASB: Natalie Wood and Keanu Reeves in an action film like Speed.

DFNY:  Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
ASB:    Pretty in Pink.  I watched it thousands of times as a kid when my friends were watching Goonies and The NeverEnding Story kind of movies.  It was the first movie that I felt I was studying, figuring out every nuance of the performances and paying attention to the dialogue.  It gave me a sense that somehow I wanted to do that too, but I didn’t know at the the time what “that” was.  Being from a small town in upstate NY, no one really talked about Hollywood.  That was “weird”, so I kept it relatively to myself as a kid.  I love all those kinds of films from the 80s, but that’s my ultimate favorite.

DFNY: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?
ASB: Easy.  Stallone’s boxing gloves from Rocky IV.

DFNY: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
ASB: I usually have to stop when I see animals getting harmed.  I remove any hint of that from development when I have the power to do so.

 Annmarie S. Bailey’s Bio:
Annmarie shapes a unique environment for the identification of Japanese creative properties that have high potential to be adapted into global English-language entertainment. With the necessary understanding of Chain of Title for Japanese properties, which presents a critical but very difficult aspect of the process of bringing a Japanese creative property to market, she is able to oversee a team in both LA and Tokyo to specifically clear and make available many sought-after titles. Recently, she has been active in procuring and developing prominent and iconic Japanese properties for production in the English language for global consumption and has active relationships throughout the entertainment industry which include major producing companies, studios and prominent producers. Previously, having worked with entertainment industry veteran Sandy Climan for over 14 years, Ms. Bailey served as Vice President, Creative Affairs, at Entertainment Media Ventures (EMV), a Los Angeles-based company focused on media investment, strategy advisory work, and the development of creative properties.

 

#DFNYPlus: Lost Horizon (1973) – Charles Jarrott, Director

“How do I know this is part of my real life? If there’s no pain, can I be sure I feel life?  And would I go back – if I knew how to go back?”

I was recently asked to try to single out a film that had had a memorable impact on me as a child.  This question brings up a flood of my earliest film memories — Santa Claus fighting the devil (still no idea what that was!), Disney animations, the Incredible Shrinking Man, etc. — but the one movie that I remember seeing most vividly at a very early age has to be the 1973 remake of Lost Horizon.  It is actually a musical remake of the 1937 classic film from Frank Capra, which was itself an adaptation of the 1933  best-selling novel by James Hilton.

Despite being included in the book “The Fifty Worst Films of All Time” (co-written by film critic Michael Medved), it holds a special place in my heart as one of my earliest film-going memories, which was at a movie birthday party for my sister and her friends around winter 1973.  Although it wasn’t available on VHS or DVD until 2011, I feel like I’ve seen it hundreds of times.  This is most likely due to the fact that my family had the soundtrack, and I’ve listened to it so many times that I have most of the lyrics memorized.  In fact, the song “If I Could Go Back” (lyrics above) made such an impression on me that as a college student I recorded the album onto tape to bring with me on my first trip outside of the country to Shanghai, China.  I suppose my anticipation of going to such a foreign location (at least it FELT very foreign in 1992!) brought back memories of this film with travelers going to distant lands and wondering where they would be happiest.

That brings me to the plot of the 1973 musical – which is pretty close to the 1937 Capra film, with the exception of the additional musical and dance sequences.

A group of disparate travelers are fleeing a revolution in an unknown country.  Their plane just manages to escape but then crashes in the Himalayas.  The group is eventually rescued and brought to “Shangri-La”, a paradise hidden in snow-covered mountains, where the weather is always perfect and none of the residents age (except for the High Lama, for reasons that are never explained).  It turns out that the group was brought to Shangri-La so that Richard, their unofficial leader and a well-known diplomat/peace activist, could take over for the High Lama after his death.  Once Richard learns this fact, he begins to debate with himself the benefits of eternal peace and happiness vs. living in the reality of the outside world as indicated in the above song.

And speaking of Lost Horizon’s songs, I have an unusually high level of tolerance for them due to my childhood nostalgia for the film, but songwriter Burt Bacharach states in his 2013 autobiography that Lost Horizon almost ended his career and DID end his working relationship with lyricist Hal David.  Apparently they were unable to take the advice of one of the film’s songs, “Living Together, Growing Together”!  As far as the dance sequences are concerned, aside from dancer Bobby Van’s scenes, the less said about them, the better (The title of “The Things I Will Not Miss” is a perfect description of my feelings about that song’s dance routine).

I realize that this is a film with many flaws (my sister’s opinion notwithstanding), but it’s still one that I can enjoy anytime – particularly for the soundtrack when I’m considering escaping to some exotic land – “…and this all can be mine, why can’t I make myself believe it?”.

Lost Horizon (1973) at IMDB

#DFNYPlus: Seven Samurai (1954) – Akira Kurosawa, Director

I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw “Seven Samurai” – it feels like an old friend (or seven!) that has been in my life for as long as I can remember.  As someone who had started studying judo at 11 and then karate at 15, I can’t remember a  time when I wasn’t thinking of castles with stone walls being scaled by ninjas being fought off by sword-wielding samurai.  Something about this film from a country I knew almost nothing about just spoke to me, and even after 20-plus viewings, if I see it on television, it could be 2am, and I still can’t turn it off – despite its 3 ½ hour length!

The premise of Seven Samurai is pretty simple – a small farming village is tired of constantly being raided by bandits for their crops, so they decide to try and hire samurai to defend themselves.  But they have almost nothing to provide as payment besides small quantities of rice (while they eat millet in the meantime).

The first samurai they encounter is the noble Kanbei, who will eventually become the group’s leader.  He is first seen rescuing a child from a madman, and his unique strategy and skill is witnessed by the privileged youth Katsuhiro, which leads him to want to become Kanbei’s disciple and gain real-world experience.

Along with the village’s two representatives who have been sent to enlist samurai, the group eventually picks up three more of them – an archer, an old friend of Kanbei, and a good natured fighter who would definitely be the “Happy” of this other famous group of seven characters who would never be mistaken for dwarves.  But the outstanding figure as far as swordsmanship is concerned, has to be the stoic Kyuzo. From the first moment we see him, we know he’s someone to be feared, and it shouldn’t be surprising when he nonchalantly runs out alone to take on several bandits who have infiltrated their camp.

Rounding out the group is the legendary Toshiro Mifune as Kikucho, the samurai of questionable lineage who has some of the most comic as well as tragic scenes in the film.

The swordfights are breathtaking and the battle scenes are epic, as you would expect from a Kurosawa samurai film – but it is also comprised of several small moments.  Katsuhiro getting a surprise about a suspected intruder he chases through the woods, the villagers consulting with the “old man” of the village about how they should proceed, as well as many emotional moments from the villagers and the samurai themselves.

I didn’t know much about Japan when I first saw Seven Samurai, but now, after having lived there for a year studying aikido and also having studied the Japanese language for over 15 years, I wish I could see it again through the eyes of that young kid going to the dojo for the first time.  This is definitely a movie that must be seen, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  5*

Seven Samurai at IMDB