segunda-feira, 8 de fevereiro de 2016

Interview with Mamoru Oshii on Angel's Egg

If you watched the Mamoru Oshii TIFF interview, you probably were very curious to hear his dry and discouraging comments on Angel's Egg, almost 30 years after directing it: "After I made that, nobody gave me jobs for three years" or "it's kind of like my poor daughter, whereas Ghost in the Shell is another daughter who I was never expecting to get married but she did." Well, now thanks to the great translation work found on (endless thanks) we finally have access to Oshii's view on the film without the irony that characterizes him. Apparently, the translator used a japanese transcription originally published in the #12 of the Animage magazine. The year was 1985, exactly the year Angel's Egg was released, so this is probably the oldest Oshii interview available in the english speaking world. We also learn that before Angel's Egg, Oshii was planning to make a Lupin the Third movie but it got canceled!

AM: I’d think you simply transferred the unused ideas from Lupin to Angel’s Egg but.. 
Oshii: I only used the concept of the ‘angel fossil’.

AM: And the girl?
Oshii: Of course, a girl also had a central role in the Lupin movie. The character backgrounds are different though.

AM: Please tell us more.
Oshii: The girl in Lupin lives in a strange tower which appeared in the middle of 20th century Tokyo. The one who created the tower was an old architect who surpassed Moses and Gaudi and the girl is his granddaughter. The old architect once had 12 disciples and she is served by the remaining four. It seems she spends her life in a wheelchair, without taking one step out of her room. A murder takes place in this tower and photographic evidence shows ‘the white hands of a young girl’. Lupin decides to tackle this mystery and sneaks into the tower. As he advances towards the interior, he discovers white feathers scattered on the ground and the corpses of small animals. According to Fujiko’s investigation, it turns out the girl wasn’t the old architect’s granddaughter. Then who in the world was she? She was actually an ‘angel’, who mocked humans and killed them. In my mind, the tower itself was based on Dante’s Inferno, while the strange girl was Beatrice.

AM: Compared to this, the girl in the ark is a human girl. Why did you want to use a girl though?

Oshii: I’m not really sure myself. I used to like characters like Ataru or Mujaki before (laughs). I simply really wanted to use the image of a young girl this time.

AM: The girl is carrying the ‘egg’. She believes that a bird will come out of the egg, but once she sees it broken, there’s nothing inside. I believe there were a lot of people baffled by this…
Oshii: The girl believes in the inside of the egg, but those contents are something that is not here now. In other words, if you don’t split the egg, you will not know what is inside. Because of that, there was nothing inside when the boy broke the egg. The girl kept on living while believing in the ‘things that do not exist’. I think that the egg might represent ‘dreams’ or ‘hopes’. That is, the things which aren’t here at the moment and only exist in the realm of possibility. However, I believe that in the real world you won’t meet people who have faith in dreams or hopes.

AM: Once the egg is broken, the girl knows her dream has been destroyed. From that moment, she faces reality.

Oshii: Exactly.

AM: The boy is the one who creates the impetus.

Oshii: This type of human relations appears in Tennessee Williams’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’. There’s a girl who is always waiting for something, then a certain man turns up and eventually leaves. It’s a story about meeting others and the world becoming new.

AM: On the other hand, the boy is carrying a cross-shaped gun. What is that?

Oshii: It is a symbol of bearing the burden of reality and shouldering certain hardships. He appears and becomes an overwhelming other in front of the girl.

AM: The boy lives with the memories of having seen the bird but I’m thinking he knows that the bird he wished to find doesn’t exist anymore.
Oshii: You are right. The bird didn’t exist anymore and the angel fossil wasn’t the bird. He lives in a world where the only thing to remain are the feathers approaching the beach.

AM: The bird pursued by the boy?
Oshii: It’s a mythical motif which I thought I’d present as vividly as possible in this work. The bird is a sort of foul thing but I figured we’d draw it even more so.

AM: Do the feathers presented in the end show that there was never a bird to begin with?
Oshii: The bird released from Noah’s Ark is said to have returned. But what if it actually didn’t return? It died on the sea or maybe it is still flying and only its feathers are washed ashore. There is no bird, but the feathers are floating down, this kind of image would evoke certain emotions.

AM: Like the existence of salvation?

Oshii: In the last moments, I wanted to show that there is salvation for the girl. However, without a certain pre-established harmony, it becomes rather difficult to understand.

AM: Why are Christian motifs inserted in this movie?
Oshii: When I make my original works, Christianity always ends up present. Different people have all kinds of ‘backgrounds’ and I believe that in my case it went no further than a Christian world. It is true however that inside me there is something like a spiritual emotion, a strange notion of the end.

AM: I believe there is also the possibility of setting real Japan as the stage in your current work. Why did you make it an abstract setting?
Oshii: First, I thought that Amano [Yoshitaka]’s characters are hard to put in actual Japan. The original plan was to set the story in real Japan but the idea was discarded.

AM: Including Lupin…

Oshii: That’s right. Actually, ‘Angel’s Egg’ also has non-stop stores and their noisiness and for some reason every night at eight o’clock the ark enters the port with a loud ‘bam’. I did have these kind of images in mind, but I also had the feeling that including them would kill the movie project.

AM: So you turned it into an abstract setting?

Oshii: I removed any sign of realistic component, that kind of feeling. I think you can call this work ‘a story made right after the future’. The last of the descendents from Noah’s Ark, that girl, meets something and destroys her world. By breaking her own shell, she undergoes a transformation and puts an end to her original world.

AM: In other words, that world ends with her?
Oshii: Yes. That world in itself was probably something the girl had invented. That world only existed within the girl’s scope. I think that if there’s a spiritual meaning that can surface in this story, it only appears in that part.

AM: The spiritual meaning as in, meeting others, transcending one’s own world, seeing something anew.
Oshii: That is so. A story of meetings, similar to the New Testament, where, for various people, the meeting with Jesus brought about a religious transformation. That is why I believe what I am doing is forging a classic.

AM: Forging a classic?
Oshii: Yeah. I have a feeling that I’m creating a story which, if left alone, is gradually absorbed into classics. The image of the movie was that of something pure coming out of an actually much more suspicious world filled with dubious nothings. Gradually, it was purified into an ‘art film’. I didn’t think it would become a purified world but what had been done so far strangely enough has the ‘face of a classic’. While making this film, I ended up thinking I was forging a classic.

AM: Forging meaning that you created it to be the split image of a classic?
Oshii: Yes. I think film is a genre which has a certain shadiness. Even though everything about movies is made through artificial means, they show an artsy appearance in some respects. When trying to attach something to this particular movie, I think I ended up, as expected, giving it the appearance of a classic work. That is why, besides the girl having all the characteristics of the image of little girls, was also drawn emanating a strange intensity while carrying the egg.


Also here's a four page interview with Mamoru Oshii and Yoshitaka Amano about Angel's Egg. Any kind soul would like to translate this? Another important piece for the Angel's Egg study archive!

domingo, 8 de novembro de 2015

sexta-feira, 18 de setembro de 2015

quinta-feira, 16 de julho de 2015

Conversation between Kiriro Urayama and François Truffaut

Urayama: Mr Truffaut, I would like to thank you for watching and supporting Foundry Town at Cannes.
Truffaut: It's really a pity that your film didn't receive any prize there. I really enjoyed it.

Urayama: (laughs) I appreciate it. But if the film didn't receive any price, there must be reasons for that to happen.
Truffaut: The reason is because both the jury and the public are lazy. Everyone is busy with the receptions and they end up really tired. That's why brave movies rest unseen. Take for example a film like Naked Island by Kaneto Shindo. It's a film that was not considered  as it should be. Films like Foundry Town that deal with multiple subjects with both talent and correctness and do it with a realist touch are not well regarded by inernational festivals.

Urayama: Was seeing these films subtitled in french an obstacle to their understanding?
Truffaut: No, not at all. I still have not seen your latest film Each Day I Cry, but I found the previous one really interesting: Foundry Town. The film addresses many issues. The adolescence of a young girl, and many other thematic lines, all developed in an original way. Having seen the film only once, I was unable to grasp the realities described therein in all their complexity. But what really touched me, is that a very clear sensitivity can be felt in the film. Should I have one criticism about it, I would say the sequences with young people are wonderfully constructed, but, by contrast, those dedicated to adults appear as less intense. On the other hand, I think I need to recognize the great interpretation of  the actress in the lead role.

Urayama: That's Sayuri Yoshinaga. I will pass your remark to her. I would like to ask you a question, Mr. Truffaut. Us filmmakers, we can say that what we portray is deeply rooted in what we have experienced during our childhood. In my personal case, this period of life corresponds to the last years of the war and the time of the atomic bombing. I was just 15 years old and it's impossible for me to ignore what I felt at that time. I think that  young japanese filmmakers today all share this same type of haunting memory anchored in their childhood. What about in France?
Truffaut: I have practically the same age as you, and I, too, in my first film, The 400 Blows, appealed to a past reality that is still alive in me. I tried to render, in a modern way, my memories of the time of the Occupation and the Liberation in France.

 (Hiko Shojo, 1963)

Urayama: Do you happen to watch Japanese movies?
Truffaut: I watch the ones that come out in theaters in Paris, and then all the ones that are screened in the festival circuit.

Urayama: What films do you know by Akira Kurosawa?
Truffaut: Ikiru is the one that I like the most. But then I also watched Stray Dog and Seven Samurai. What surprises me the most in Kurosawa is that his films are completely different from one another. He also directed a considerable amount of them, but I have only seen those three.

Urayama: What differences do you find in the films of Kurosawa and mine, we who are both japanese filmmakers?
Truffaut: Your movies and those of Kurosawa are very different. On the other hand, I think that there are many commonalities between your films and mine, and personally I am very interested by what you do. I watched with great interest another japanese film, Crazed Fruit directed by Ko Nakahira. This film also addressed the issue of young generations and its screening in France was a real success.

Urayama: What similarities do you see between your films and mine?
Truffaut: I think there are many. For example, the question of wandering. It is something very present in my first film, The 400 Blows. I find it very interesting that young filmmakers from different countries end up dealing with the same subjects in a completely independent manner, and without even realizing it.

Urayama: Being a french filmmaker, what kind of films do you expect from japanese cinema?
Truffaut: Before being french or japanese, I think we all share the fact that we are men of cinema. That is why I do not expect anything of Japanese cinema as such. For example, when I'm speaking to you, I feel the same thing if I was talking with a french filmmaker. We belong to the same family. Then of course cinema, be it japanese, american or english, is unique to its country of origin. But what I expect from cinema are simply good films.

 (Hiko Shojo, 1963)

quinta-feira, 26 de junho de 2014