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JPEX: Japanese Experimental Film and Video 1955-Now

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The University of Chicago will show two programs of this excellent survey this week and the remaining three next week (Film Studies Center, room 307, 5811 S. Ellis). Many are technically dazzling, and most are very different from Western experimental films, de-emphasizing the idiosyncratic perceptions and emotions of the characters or filmmakers in favor of complex social visions.

The nine films in Exploded States: War, Politics, and National Identity (120 min.) have a theatrical or performance element. In Tadasu Takamine's God Bless America (2002) a giant, ugly Claymation head sings that song, ending on a grotesque note of optimism by spouting flowers. Tatsu Aoki's 3725 (1981) parallels the playful blowing of soap bubbles in an apartment with playful filmmaking that includes a jazzy sound track and rapid pans and cuts. More abstract are Toshio Matsumoto's White Hole (1976), in which the viewer seems to fall into its painted images, and Keiichi Tanaami's Yoshikei (1979), in which the superimposition of dots and lines on human figures suggests a loss of individuality. The longest work, Shuji Terayama's Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1970), is a truly bizarre, sometimes raunchy fantasy about little boys with guns ruling over adults, locking one man in a wardrobe. It's a fascinating reflection of the radical politics of its time in Japan--a near anarchic assault on the existing order. Fri 10/29, 7 PM.

Contemporary Film, Video, and Animation (90 min.) presents works in diverse styles. Among the films available for preview was Sawa Takashi's Mathematica (2000), which offers a poetic montage of images--a pencil making a drawing on paper, split-screen views of water, a tree in a forest. Kentaro Onitsuka's fanciful Blooming Ink Tale (2003) shows a couple eating a meal in ultrafast motion. The most interesting is Ichiro Sueoka's A flick film....It rapidly alternates clips from a Frank Sinatra movie and a Liz Taylor one, copying the rhythms of the alternating black and white frames in Peter Kubelka's flicker film Arnulf Rainer. Flicker films tend to have a purist aesthetic; Sueoka's film mocks that tendency with the messy and funny associations created by the rapid juxtapositions of Liz and Frank. Fri 10/29, 8:30 PM.

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