Monday, 10 May 2010

Camera Obtrusa

Camera Obtrusa published recently by Kaya Press, continues their innovative translations of titles from Japan, I'm looking forward to seeing forthcoming titles from them. The book's introduction written by Abe Mark Nornes, the author of the book,  Forest of Pressure, looks back on his own meetings with Hara Kazuo and Ogawa Shinsuke, and notes the differences between the two directors work. Abe Mark Nornes goes on to mention the work of another great documentarist, that of Michael Moore, who whilst working on his own film Roger and Me, happened by chance to see Hara's The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On, and afterwards felt inspired and exhilarated, seeing in it something similar to his own film-making. The two directors met up and talked about their different approaches to documentary film making. The subtitle to this book is The Action Documentaries of Hara Kazuo, as Pat Noonan,who translated the book, describes in his foreword that documentary making for Hara is 'an act of communication between himself and his subjects'. The book actually comprises two books by Hara, the first being Camera Obtrusa/Fumikoeru Kamera, published in Japan in 1987, which is largely autobiographical, starting from reflections on his childhood experiences, his relationship with his mother in particular is returned to later in the book, leading onto his first encounters with film and photography, and working with directors Shohei Imamura and Kei Kumai. Also here Hara starts to bring into question notions of what we think of when we think of what constitutes the private and the public, and looks into his own method of film making,'while capturing my subject on film-I'm inevitably forced into situations from which there's no turning back' and also 'Whatever happens keep the camera rolling', many of his films are a cathartic experience not only for the viewer, but for those involved in the making. We learn that at many points whilst filming when it looked like things might come to a premature end,that he would be faced with paying back the loans he took out to fund the making of his films. The second book comprises the production notes he made whilst filming The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On.

Hara gives full backgrounds on his films, Extreme Private Eros:Love Song 1974, Goodbye CP, A Dedicated Life and probably the most well known The Emperors Naked Army Marches On, (1987), although there's a great deal written about Japanese cinema, translations of books by directors are few and far between, I can only think of two, there's Akira Kurosawa's 'Something Like An Autobiography', and also Kiju Yoshida's book; Ozu's Anti-Cinema, so this book is a great addition for anyone interested in Japanese Film. He describes meeting his wife Takeda Miyuki whilst working at a school for the handicapped, and through these experiences he made the film Goodbye CP (1972), a film following people who suffer from cerebral palsy. Hara explains the background to how he came upon the idea for the film being that at that time Shuji Teryama's book; Throw Away Your Books,Rally Into the Streets! was very popular, and whilst taking his students to the shops, he'd say let's throw our wheel chairs away and rally in the streets!, as a kind of a joking parody, when he started contemplating issues surrounding the disabled, Hara reminds us that this was before public access for the disabled was as common place as it is now. He goes onto explain that previous films he had seen about the disabled had always presented the film looking at them, so what he wanted to do was 'reverse the gaze', to see things from the disabled perspective. He talks also of his frustration that when the film was first screened many people misinterpreted it.

Kaya Press

A conversation with Hara Kazuo

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