Trailer for On the Road: A Document

This is the second trailer from the Documentaries of Noriaki Tsuchimoto series that my wife just put out from her small company Zakka Films. It is for On the Road: A Document, one of Tsuchimoto's early masterpieces. 

As with the trailer that I introduced last time, for Minamata: The Victims and Their World, this one was put together by yours truly. This was a daunting prospect. On the Road is a brilliantly edited work, arguably one of the best editing jobs in documentary history, so anything I did to the editing would be like colorizing Citizen Kane. All I could do was provide chunks of the film - some of which may remind viewers of Scorsese's Taxi Driver - and again use music (from the original film by Miki Minoru) to cover up my inadequacies. But I did try to create some kind of a narrative trajectory, ending with the accident, which to Tsuchimoto was a metaphor of the accident of modern Japan. 

I tried not to mess up the editing, but I did fool around a bit with the image-sound combination. Again, that was mainly to hide my bad editing, but the constructed nature of my trailer does somewhat match the constructed nature of the film. On the Road was made when Tsuchimoto was still directing PR films, movies commissioned by companies or government agencies to promote their activities. These were thus less fly-on-the-wall documents than scripted and carefully planned propaganda pieces. A number of Japan's great postwar filmmakers, such as Ogawa Shinsuke and Kuroki Kazuo, came out of PR films, and all figured out ways to rebel against the form while working within it. On the Road is definitely scripted - it even uses actors. But Tsuchimoto, instead of following the script of the sponsor, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, who wanted a film foregrounding traffic safety issues and what the Police were doing about it, composed it with the help of a rebellious taxi drivers' union. The resulting film could look so well edited because it was largely pre-planned, but it was a precursor to Tsuchimoto's later work in that he decided to side with the powerless in society, showing their reality, not some "objective" reality as propagated by the mass media. The Police were not pleased and On the Road, despite winning some awards, was largely shelved for over thirty years. 

It is definitely a film to see for anyone interested in 1960s Japanese film, documentary, Tokyo Olympics, and postwar modernization.

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