Obayashi Nobuhiko Retrospective at the Japan Society

Our Yale event with the great director Obayashi Nobuhiko ended with considerable success. We can’t get the crowds of New York or Boston, but we had some deep discussions about such topics ad Ozu’s editing, 3.11, and experimental film. Obayashi-kantoku is very much the 1960s gentleman, his wife and producer Kyoko the kindest of ladies, and their daughter Chigumi a pillar of support.

We had Obayashi and his family over to our house for dinner while they were here. There were lots of entertaining stories (including one about Kadokawa Haruki) and a bit of wisdom, but I could also see how he could be a great teacher or mentor. My son showed him the film he made in class in the spring. Not just focusing on how good the film was or not, Obayashi told him that amateur films are as equally cinema as professional films. The crucial thing is to know--and positively use--one's limitations and to have control over the film, giving it unity. Thus if my son had to play 5 or 6 parts out of necessity, the important thing is for the film to be conscious of that and use it to its benefit. If an amateur film does that, it is just as much cinema as any professional film is. Obayashi then used my son’s film as example in the talk session the next day.

There were so many interesting discussions, it’s hard to remember them all, but one after I Am You, You Are Me (Tenkōsei) centered on Ozu Yasujiro. Beyond talking about how both he and Ozu attempted to present the “wrinkles” of Onomichi in a way the local tourist board did not like, he located his own editing in a trajectory that includes Ozu. While Obayashi does not necessarily replicate the eyeline mismatches that Ozu is famous for (what David Bordwell calls Ozu’s 360-degree space), he says he approximates that mismatching by deliberately editing together shots that don’t necessarily fit. So not only may he shoot a conversation by having the shots of one character filmed on one day and the other another day, but he doesn’t mind if the weather is different in each.

Obayashi will finish up his mini-tour of the East Coast of the USA by introducing a retrospective of his works being put on at the Japan Society (and curated by yours truly). The 11-film series will start Friday, November 20, 2015, with a screening of his outrageous 1977 commercial feature debut House (preceded by the delightful 1964 experimental short Complexe) that will be followed by a Q&A session with me. Saturday will feature an afternoon talk session between Obayashi and me, and screenings of Bound for the Fields, the Mountains and the Seacoast (1986) and I Are You, You Am Me (1983). Click here for more of the schedule. 

Introductions to the series have already been written up in places like Indiewire and Twitch Film

The Japan Society made up a nice video of Obayashi introducing his retrospective:

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