Thursday, July 1, 2010

Live Tape (New York Asian Film Festival)

Kenta Maeno, the singer/songwriter in Tetsuaki Matsue's "concert film" (as it was referred to by the NYAFF program) "Live Tape," has lyrics that drift between the completely ridiculous (from "a big phallic apartment" to "I met a cat on the way home from work") and the sincere, most of them breaking down into romance before the close of the song. His music is good, but it suffers without his lyrics (I know this firsthand from the non-subtitled songs that he played after the end of the screening).The film is a chronicle of his New Year's Day in Tokyo (Matsue himself and the program I believe noted it as "a day of some significance in Japan"), as he stumbles along, at one point seeming to lose his self-confidence, playing his music in "an unbroken take of 74 minutes" (as the program said) that mirrors many music videos and that helpfully brings on the feeling that comes with one of these "long shots" (as they've been referred to). The film, while being interesting, isn't exceptional, as the direction by Matsue isn't all great, in how he interjects commands ("Kenta, sing 'Sad Song' here!") to Maeno in certain parts (although, as my friend and others at the screening said, this was a hard enough task that Matsue should be given slack). Despite that, I did admire some of the interesting setpieces here, like how Maeno sings a song called "Mansion" (which mentions Coke) near a vending machine as the lights undulate in the background.

The beginning and the ending are also very well done. It starts with an audience entry point technique that I've seen before: we see at the very beginning a woman (played by the "adult film actress" Tsugami Nagasawa), apparently placed there to have at least one female figure, who prays for the director (who apparently can't on New Year's Day as he's lost someone) that the film's making will succeed, and then threading through the crowd to where Maeno is. This prevents the film from starting as in-your-face and also really is a nice touch to start the film, if you understand it. The ending I enjoyed as it ends with a better song than that you would have thought it would have (the much sentimentalized and well-performed "Weather Forecast" is bettered by the beautiful "Tokyo Sky"), with good final camerawork to match.

The film's exposition of Maeno's past comes with the description of "Weather Forecast," and perhaps that's not done exactly perfectly by Matsue, but you get to sort of see into Maeno's personal situation there (though, as Michael Sullivan said of Joan Rivers in "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," his regular songs aren't necessarily seen into through this, although Maeno might just be weird and "goofy," as my friend et al. said of him, as a songwriter). But, as the program says, the film is somewhat of a "tiny lo-fi miracle" in that the songs start to become familiar and are so absurd (and sometimes just good enough) to be memorable. This is probably what they were for Matsue, who made this documentary (among other reasons, such as the fact that Maeno would do it) to show how profound an impact that Maeno's music had on him through the (as others said) "hard times" he went through. B

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

I am completely intrigued by the film festivals you've attended. Occasionally I wish I lived closer to the NYC area. ;-)