Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Satoshi Kon Day

'Satoshi Kon, who has died of pancreatic cancer aged 46, was one of the boldest and most distinctive film-makers to specialise in animation. His main body of work – four completed feature films and an acclaimed television mini-series – was playful, sophisticated and adult. Tired of the cliches of mass-produced Japanese animation – "robots and beautiful little girls," as he once put it – Kon sought to make animation that used ambitious and often disorientating editing, intercutting and scene-shifting.

'"In animation, only what is intended to be communicated is there," he once said. "If I had a chance to edit live-action, it would be too fast for audiences to follow." Kon made only sparing use of CGI in his mostly drawn films, relying on such superb animators as Shinji Otsuka and Toshiyuki Inoue.

'Much of Kon's animation combines realistic drama (usually set in present-day Tokyo) with dreams and fantasy. This approach culminated in his dazzling 2006 film Paprika, which received a standing ovation at the Venice film festival. Four years before Christopher Nolan's Inception, Paprika portrayed a puckish "dream detective" shimmying through the subconscious fantasies of other people. Nolan has acknowledged Paprika as an influence, but Kon's film has far more fun with its dream worlds. Its titular heroine dashes through paintings and signboards while transforming into everything from a fairy to a mermaid to Pinocchio.

'Kon thought that people lived in multiple realities, such as those of television, the internet and the realm of memory. "The human brain is mysterious; we can't share the time axis in our memory with other people," he said. "I'm interested in trying to visualise those nonlinear ways of thinking." The first feature he directed was a Hitchcockian psycho-thriller, Perfect Blue (1997), about the mental disintegration of a young actor after she takes part in a lurid rape scene.

'Perhaps the only effective horror film in animation, Perfect Blue was graphically explicit and psychologically disturbing. Asked about its 18-rated gore, Kon said he was not particularly interested in the violence. "However," he said, "if the story or the character or the expression of a mental state requires a violent expression, then I wouldn't hesitate to use it." In contrast, Kon's next film, Millennium Actress (2001), was a lyrical magic-realist romance. In it, another starlet – who resembles the reclusive Setsuko Hara, star of Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) – obsessively searches for her lost wartime love, racing through movies and memories as if they were the same thing.

'Tokyo Godfathers (2003) proved to be another change of direction, a Frank Capraesque Christmas comedy about three homeless people trying to return an abandoned baby girl to her family. The film also had the same basic plot as 3 Godfathers, John Ford's 1948 western. Despite its humour, Tokyo Godfathers was upfront in showing its characters' harsh situation. This social commentary was also overt in Kon's Paranoia Agent (2004), a 13-part late-night miniseries, in which Tokyo is terrorised by a homicidal little boy with a baseball bat. Coming after a wave of much-publicised youth crimes in Japan, this was a near-the-knuckle subject for television animation. The darkly funny show soon turned fantastical, with shades of Twin Peaks and The X-Files, and macabre subplots about suicide clubs and repressed housewives.

'After Paprika, Kon began The Dreaming Machine, which promised to be his biggest departure – a film suitable for both adults and children, set in a fanciful future with an all-robot cast. It seems likely that the film will be completed by Kon's artists and released by the Madhouse studio, which has handled all of his work since Perfect Blue.' -- Andrew Osmond



Satoshi Kon Personal Website
English translation of SK's last words
SK interviewed
Satoshi Kon Wiki Community
Fuck Yeah Satoshi Kon
Satoshi Kon Facebook page
Official 'Paprika' Website
'Dark Horse to publish Satoshi Kon's Opus, Seraphim'
'Satoshi Kon's Posthumous Work Machine That Dreams May End As Dream'
SK's manga 'Tropic of the Sea'
Book: 'Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist'
Satoshi Kon's List of 100 Films
A tribute by French artists to Satoshi Kon
'"He's the Internet": A Conversation on Satoshi Kon'
'Satoshi Kon Explores the Insanity of Japan'
'Satoshi Kon’s Unfinished Symphony'
'Satoshi Kon's Theory of Animation'
'The Dreams of Satoshi Kon: Chapter I - Prehistory'


Satoshi Kon - Editing Space & Time

Perfect Blue: Interview with Director Satoshi Kon

Greatest Film Directors: Satoshi Kon

Rest In Peace Satoshi Kon

from Midnight Eye

I'd like to talk about the genesis of Paprika. I know that you met Yasutaka Tsutsui, the author of the original novel, in 2003 and that he wanted you to make his book into a film.

Satoshi Kon: That was the first time we met each other and I thought perhaps as a gesture of goodwill or business manners that he would say something like that, but perhaps in the back of his mind he was considering it. I was already a fan of his work, so I was glad to meet him.

Once he did give his blessing to make the film, did pre-production start soon after that or did it start the wheels in motion for production of the film?

SK: At the time of our meeting, the Paranoia Agent TV series was still in production. Completing that series was the first commitment for Madhouse. We were thinking of a project that we could realistically begin developing soon after Paranoia Agent, so it happened quite naturally. We started developing Paprika while we were still in production on Paranoia Agent.

If you had not got his blessing, would you not have made the film?

SK: I don't think I would have. As a film based on someone else's story, without that meeting and blessing from the master, I probably wouldn't have made the film.

Fate, perhaps?

SK: Of course there is an element of fate, but in order for a film to come into existence it has to go beyond that. When fate happened to bring us together, I started to think about what the meaning was for me to make Paprika at that moment. All of the films I had made up until that point - Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers - were made through a very realistic method of representation, and the themes and subject matter were also quite realistic. I thought Paprika was a chance to tap a new part of creativity within me by using realistic methods of representation to deal with something more fantastic.

Before I ask about the themes and imagery in the film, I'd like to ask about some practical things like the budget of the film and production time. Is this the largest budget to date you've worked with and the longest production period? How does it compare to your other work?

SK: It's on par budget-wise and time-wise with Tokyo Godfathers.

But was there more use of CG or newer technologies with Paprika than with previous films?

SK: Yes, there was. We considered how far we could expand the possibilities using computer graphics, so the role that CG played in this film was bigger than in my previous work. The biggest challenge was that in all kinds of 3D and 2D animation, there's a big divide between hand-drawn analog animation and digital animation. In all the projects I've seen, it's been difficult to blend them harmoniously. I prefer hand-drawn imagery myself, so my biggest challenge was how to blend them so the textures worked together.

Everything blended very well. Perhaps in a similar way, Howl's Moving Castle used CG as a means to an end to achieve an overall vision, not to stand out.

SK: It's true that the attitude of directors towards how to employ CG differs from person to person. In fact I don't think that type of blending has become a natural part of our everyday lives. Our wish is for analog animation to swallow digital animation.

Going into the themes and visual style of the film, as you mentioned, Paprika has more surreal content than any of your previous films. I do recall some surreal imagery in Paranoia Agent and Millennium Actress, but with this film it's a full-blown display of surrealism. What challenges were entailed in achieving all the fantastical and hyper-detailed imagery?

SK: It's not as if I had a goal in mind when I chose this type of hyper-real technique. Rather, I was hoping to create something that went beyond my imagination. I thought, "What would happen if we did this?" I wanted to surprise myself. It wasn't a plan I set up, but it resulted in something very strange and it gave me a lot of confidence in what I could achieve. As you say, the hyper-real method of creating reality is an "excessive reality." This is different from live-action filmmaking. It's a different kind of reality that challenges us what to emphasize or not emphasize. Each step will create a world beyond what is truly real. Instead of trying to create reality as it is around us, I felt that the surreal world would come out.

Regarding some of the specific imagery like the Japanese doll that destroys the buildings and the parade of characters that includes inanimate objects such as furniture and appliances. Were those elements in the original novel or did you come up with them with your Madhouse team?

SK: The parade itself is something I came up with. It's one of the most important motifs for me, and wasn't in the original story. I didn't feel a strong desire that I had to change the original story, but the novel was very text-based and psychological. Trying to visualize all that text couldn't compete with the novel as it is, so I had to find a way in one visual step to represent the mindset of the novel and that became the parade of inanimate objects. Where that parade goes is also interesting - it overflows into reality. It starts in the desert, which is the furthest point from civilization, through the jungle, over a bridge, and finally intrudes into reality.

One line that I found fascinating was when Paprika's character says that dreams and the internet are the same thing in a way. Do you believe that?

SK: What I wrote was that the internet and dreams share the same quality of giving rise to the repressed subconscious. I think in countries like Japan and America and other countries where internet is prevalent, people can anonymously seek or release things they can't speak of offline, as if there's a part of the subconscious that's uncontrollable and comes out on the internet. That is very much like dreams. This may be a very visualistic analogy, but I've always thought we drop down into dreams, and when you're sitting in front of your computer and connect to the internet, you're also going down into some kind of underworld. I've always thought those two images had something in common. I'm not trying to say that dreams and the internet are good or bad, I'm trying to saying that there's good and bad that cannot be judged in both worlds. Some people say that in the virtual world, different rules exist or try to say that a lot of vicious things happen there, but I don't think there's a reason to differentiate the virtual world from reality because reality includes that virtual world.

The internet is a kind of mirror that reflects everything good and bad in society.

SK: Exactly.

Satoshi Kon's films & TV work

Ohayo (Good Morning) (2008)
'Ohayu is a super-brief one minute piece directed as part of the Ani*Kuri 15 project, a multimedia scheme where one minute short animations played on TV and the web. In the film a girl waking up discovers exhibits a literal disconnect in the process of waking up. This was Satoshi Kon's final work before his early death at the age of 46. Until his death, Satoshi was in the middle of work on a new film project, MADHOUSE’s Yume-Miru Kikai. The status of that film is unclear at this time, but hopefully we’ll be treated to one last major work from this unique film voice.' -- collaged

the entire film

Paprika (2006)
'Paprika is a highly sophisticated work of the imagination, a journey into a labyrinth of dreams and an exploration of the line between dreams and reality. It's not a film for children, and it's not even something children would like. It's challenging and disturbing and uncanny in the ways it captures the nature of dreams -- their odd logic, mutability and capacity to hint at deepest terrors.
The story surrounds the invention of a device meant to be used therapeutically. A dreamer is hooked up to a machine, making it possible for doctors to see a dream on a screen, record it and understand its unconscious meaning. As the film begins, the device -- known as the DC Mini -- has not yet been approved, but young Dr. Chiba is using it already to help her patients. Moreover, she is entering her patient's dreams, in the guise of an alter ego known as Paprika. This is easily one of the most insightful and enjoyable films about the unconscious that you're likely to find, full of images that echo through the mind in eerie ways.' -- San Francisco Chronicle

American Trailer

the entire film (in English w/Spanish subtitles)

Paranoia Agent (2004)
'Paranoia Agent (妄想代理人) is a Japanese anime television series created by director Satoshi Kon and produced by Madhouse about a social phenomenon in Musashino, Tokyo caused by a juvenile serial assailant named Lil' Slugger (the English equivalent to Shōnen Batto, which translates to "Bat Boy"). The plot relays between a large cast of people affected in some way by the phenomenon; usually Lil' Slugger's victims or the detectives assigned to apprehend him. As each character becomes the focus of the story, details are revealed about their secret lives and the truth about Lil' Slugger.' -- collaged




Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
'Japanese animator Satoshi Kon has a striking sense of composition, but I'm more impressed by his storytelling skills; his previous feature, Millennium Actress, was a highly ambitious tale with a sweeping sense of contemporary Japanese history. The three main characters of this 2003 feature are homeless—one a decadent gambler, another a transvestite, the third a young woman who's fled her abusive father. When they find an abandoned infant in a pile of garbage, the transvestite refuses to part with it, which forces all three to deal with their pasts. Except for a bathetic ending, Kon transcends his corny premise, leavening its sentiment with irony and a mercilessly downbeat vision of metropolitan Japan.' -- Chicago Reader

American trailer


The Making of 'Tokyo Godfathers'

Millennium Actress (2001)
'Millennium Actress is fabulous for many reasons. Most important, this movie is Chiyoko's story, not an anime adventure. It's animated, but it's human and will touch the soul of anyone who has loved deeply. We wonder, alongside Chiyoko, if she will ever see her love again. But it's the quest that rips our hearts out in this classic and, yes, manipulative tearjerker. Too often, anime - between the explosions and cataclysms reflected in opaque eyes - is a visual show, like IMAX films. Millennium Actress is a movie first, catching us up in its sweeps and turns. As with their Perfect Blue, Kon and Murai craft a nonlinear story, interweaving the tale's fact and fiction, treating time as just another element subservient to Chiyoko's yarn. She traipses through Japanese history, backed by dazzling sets that look as they might if Peter Max had turned his psychedelic eye to traditional Japanese art. Some might cavil that Millennium Actress is confusing, as it blurs the line between Chiyoko's real and cinematic lives, but that's the point: Love is all-consuming - it never dies, even as life goes on.' -- Chicago Tribune

American trailer


The Making of 'Millennium Actress' (1/3)

Perfect Blue (1997)
'The pressures of career choices and the threat of a murderously obsessive fan loosen former pop star Mima’s grasp on reality, in a story that explores the dehumanizing effects of the entertainment industry. Perfect Blue also shows how that same industry makes vulnerable women complicit in their own sexual exploitation. This startling first feature reminds us of the immense talent the anime universe lost when director Satoshi Kon succumbed to cancer at 46. No one else would even have thought of doing this intense psychodrama as an animated feature—the source material’s not dissimilar to Black Swan—and surely only Kon had the visual skills to transfer the disturbingly fragmented mise en scène of a Polanski or an Argento into animated form. The outcome is dark, mesmerizing, but also controlled and coherent in a way the hyperimaginative Kon never quite managed again.' -- Trevor Johnston


The entire film (in Japanese w/ Spanish subtitles)

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (1994)
'JoJo's Bizarre Adventure showed off Kon's abilities in 1993, as he scripted and co-produced the fifth episode of the OVA series based on Hirohiko Araki's flamboyant fighting manga. It's a strange match, as Kon admitted in interviews that, as a kid, he was never fond of the overblown shonen fisticuffs that JoJo's Bizarre Adventure frequently embodies. He also stuck to the story established in Araki's manga, and the only really Kon-like scene comes when series villain Dio torments an underling by chasing him into the same car over and over. Perhaps Kon and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure weren't so different.' -- Anime News Network


Katsuhiro Otomo World Apartment Horror (1991)
'World Apartment Horror (ワールド・アパートメント・ホラー) is a 1991 live-action feature film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, with a screenplay by Otomo and Keiko Nobumoto from a story by Satoshi Kon. The film stars Sabu (later a film director) as a yakuza henchmen who encounters language problems and evil spirits in his attempts to evict a Tokyo apartment full of foreigners, a role for which he received the Best New Actor Award at the Yokohama Film Festival in 1992. A manga adaptation created by Kon was published by Kodansha, under the same title, on August 1, 1991.' -- collaged


the entire film


p.s. Hey. I keep forgetting to mention that this weekend the blog will be hosting its first writers workshop post in a while. A piece of a work-in-progress by one of the fine writers and d.l.s of this place will be in the spotlight and on the hot seat, and he and the blog and I will ask you to please read the work and think about it and give feedback of whatever sort you like to the writer. I bring that up now so you'll consider reserving a bit of time at the weekend to spend quality local reading time and help out one of the great, talented folks from around here. Thanks! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. You mean you get fixations on the subject matter of certain songs, or, I mean, the subject matter is what will trigger the fixation on the song(s)? ** JANEY SMITH, Janey! Superb to have you here and see you, maestro. I just read a cool profile thing about you somewhere not even a minute and a half ago. Sweet, ticklish list. Midnight Oil is I guess the surprise. I only know their 80s hit or hits. I shall try that title. You good? ** Thomas Moronic, I got a copy of your book from Kiddiepunk the other day, and, whoa, it is one very beautiful thing, man! Your list is, of course, riveting. Really cool choices. I came 'this close' to putting 'Feel the Pain' on mine, for instance. Thank you! As with all the lists, I think I'm going to be switching around music-hosting sites listening and re-listening to others' faved songs for a lot of the day. 'DEYT' is the only Ladytron song I really like. It just drives me mad for some reason. ** MyNeighbourJohnTurtorro, Whoa, nice. It is, as somebody said, maybe even you (?), fascinatingly revealing to learn what track/song people choose by certain bands or artists one knows well. Yeah, and interesting how the choice only reveals a more complex mystery or something. Fave song list as self-portrait. I guess that's obvious, but I wasn't thinking about it that way when I made mine for some reason. Interesting to see The Icarus Line mentioned multiply. That was unexpected and cool. An IL Day? Hell, yeah. You mean you want me to make one or do you? Either way. Anyway, awesome list, and I actually know almost all of your choices, which is pretty trippy and probably revealing of something. Thanks, pal. ** Other Drawlings, Hey, welcome, nice to meet you, thanks! Your short-lived blog was pretty cool, props. Your list is awesome. Wow, yeah, and a bunch of tracks I don't know. Like I said to someone, I'm going to be searching this stuff out all day, and your list is going to be a dominant suggester. Thanks again. Come back in here anytime, please. ** Keaton, Hi. Yeah, it's weird. Now I'm on this fave songs list as personal reveal idea, and it's interesting how it, like, focuses people and then creates this tighter obscurity or something. Anyway, your list seems really you for some reason. I like when a list seems to sneak around, or that's how it feels or something, even though it isn't really sneaking. I don't know what I'm saying. Like Prong and Blues Explosion. I don't know. Cool! I like animals a bunch but have absolutely no interest in owning one of any kind. Paris in the Fall? Ace. xoxo back. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, D. That's interesting because 'Expecting to Fly' has an intense personal resonance around one person for me too. A high school friend who was killed in a motorcycle accident. I must have to listened to it with him. I think I might have told this story here before, but I hadn't heard the song in years, and I hadn't associated it with that friend at all, but then I saw that movie 'Coming Home' in the theater when it was released, and when 'EtF' came on the soundtrack, memories of him overwhelmed me, and I spontaneously burst into tears and had to leave the theater. Strange how songs can become the housings of people's resonance. I'll go listen to your songs. I don't really like Van Dyke Parks's reimagining of 'The All Golden'. I miss the crazy density. ** Bacteriaburger, Whoa, hey, Natty! It has been a while. How great to see you! I think what you're doing sounds all positive. And being one's own promoter is so de-stigmatized these days. It's just become logical. I will definitely keep my eyes out for 'My Sister's Boyfriend Joey'. And the vampire one. Very cool! You sound great, man! ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. Exactly, who knows. He's a smart cookie. Wow, your list was alphabetical. You are the man! Great stuff. Stuff I don't know and will find. Interesting Sparks choices. Biggest surprise ... hm, Cliff Richard. Thank you! ** Hyrule Dungeon, Hi, J! Really good to see you. I noticed the lack of Metal while I was making my list. I think trad. Metal is an album and texture thing for me. My memory couldn't call up an individual Metal song that slayed me. Pretty weird. Well, if you have Khanate on your list, then don't Sunn0))) and maybe Melvins count? Anyway, there are some tunes on your list I don't know, and I obviously need to do something about my not prioritizing the Metal song, so I'll start there. You good? What's the latest on your projects? ** Nicki, Hi, N. Huh, that's interesting. The Erasure song. Love is so of its own accord. There's one Erasure song I really like. What is it? Hm. Oh, 'Oh L'amour'. Walter Benjamin as hottie. That's refreshing. Cool. Well, yeah, the Gaza thing is unspeakable, but I'm the opposite of you. I avoid discussing it in social media's hot house like the plague. That would be the opposite of a catharsis for me. I find FB useful for the links people are posting to important articles and stuff on the horror, but, from the outside, or I mean to me, the commentary/arguments only seem to harden and erode serious thinking about it. But, yeah, I get how having that outlet can be really helpful. ** Sypha, Argh. Are you just not interested in trying any of those dozens of really interesting indie, 'alt lit'-oriented presses out there? I mean, it isn't a giant sidestep from Rebel Satori to them. ** Kier, Hi! Ha ha, yeah, I like that my list included that too. What can I say? Shit is catchy. Mm, such a great list. Oh, man, there are a bunch of songs on there I'm jonesing to listen to now, and a bunch that I don't know and must, clearly. Thank you, thank you! "Mushroom Art': such a good GbV choice! Yay, print is framed and bubble wrap has been rendered a shell of itself. 'Under the Skin' was so good, right? I thought so too. My day? Uh, oh, Zac gets back from his vacation today, and his birthday was while he was gone, and I was wrapping his b'day presents for much of the day. I'm really, really bad at wrapping. And I did some film stuff, mostly email. And I scooted around Paris a bit just to get out. And not much else. Kind of a quiet, busy hands kind of day, I guess. How was Wednesday for you? When do you leave for northern Norway? ** ASH, Ash! Hey, buddy! No way, that's crazy and amazing1 You did a Spotify thing with my list? That's wild. I need to hear that. I'm going to join Spotify, which I weirdly haven't done, today. Man, that's so cool of you! Thank you! Everyone, if you want to hear my fave songs list, and if you have Spotify, the amazing ASH has made a playlist of my chosen tunes, and you can hear it here, if you feel like that. Unbelievable. I'm really good. The film is going very well so far. The casting call thing didn't end up helping hardly at all, unfortunately, but we're on it elsewhere. Your list! Incredible, of course. It gives me a bunch of 'oh, fuck I forgot ... ' thoughts. Like 'Mistress', totally. And I think I would have put Mercury Rev's 'You're My Queen' on my list if I'd thought of it. And 'Catapult' probably is my fave REM song. I forgot them too. Etc. Great list. 'Game of Pricks', interesting. It's always super interesting to see what GbV song gets picked. Mine changes by the minute. Really good to see you! You good? What are you up to? ** Steve, Hi, Steve. I'm with you on the FB vis-a-vis Gaza thing. Man, yeah, definitely gonna skip the Tagore doc. What a wasted opportunity. Your take on 'Gerontophila' matches exactly what I have imagined it to be. ** Chilly Jay Chill, Hi, Jeff. Cool, I would love to hear your report. The only thing I've read about the Merge fest was a thing by some guy going down hard on Neutral Milk Hotel for their no photos policy. Pretty stellar list for a sleep-deprived brain. I went back and forth between 'Grounded' and 'Starlings in the Slipstream'. I kind of flipped a coin. Huggy Bear, nice. 'She's Got Everything', wow, that's a really good Kinks choice. Etc. I could go on. Awesome, thank you, Jeff, and I hope whatever was being hammered is hammered. ** Aaron Mirkin, So, writing the film doesn't work in terms out of outputting in the way that novels and music do? I guess that makes sense somehow? The form is too predetermined and immediately self-censoring in a way because of that? Super great about the Julian Richings thing! That's very exciting! Yeah, I forced myself to stick to songs: music, vocals, lyrics of some sort. Awesome list. Interesting that everyone picked the same Sunn0))) song. All kinds of songs on your list that have me wanting to amend mine. I'm taking notes. Thank you a lot, Aaron! ** Bill. Hi. Yeah, the list thing gets people excited. Maybe I'll do a fave films one soon. You handful was a sweety. 'The fat lady of Limburg': absolutely. For instance. Didn't get to do my pastry search yet. I think this weekend is the game plan. Yum. Enjoy London, duh! ** Rewritedept, Hi.Yummy list, obviously. Flecked and imbedded with all kinds of crown-worthy tunes. Thank you! I'm ok. Paris is lovely as of this moment, yes. Not hot, no. Just right, like that one bowl of porridge in The Three Bears. I think M&B had a nice, low-key time in Italy. Cool, I'll paste that intro at the top of the workshop post, Thanks! ** Misanthrope, No offense to you and no reflection on your powers of description, but I started nodding out two sentences into your American football talk. That's how incredibly little my interest in AF is. But even in my dazed state, I could tell it was as sharp as a tack. ** Okay. We're doing the great, late Satoshi Kon today. Enjoy. See you tomorrow.