Behind the intersected fears

Curator's Note

One of the most illuminating marriages between experimental cinema and horror over the last several years was crazy, a Japanese film that attracted many controversies among the public. What is highly significant is the fact that behind the scenes story intermingles mosaic images that characterize the contemporary audiovisual landscape. This study aims to closely analyze the elementary forms of new storytellings which can be seen as dynamic, new analysis of the fearful world of scary movies. To start with, let us note that this project is a prolific low-budget Japanese movie entitled One cut of the dead (Kamera o Tomeru Na!) directed by Shinichirou Ueda (2017) released for the equivalent of twenty-seven thousand dollars. The plot reveals in a brilliant combination the theme of film production by interspersing the genres of comedy, horror, and art-house movie. As a result of the „Cinema Project“ workshop, the film has been created under the auspices of Enbu Seminar, a Tokyo school for aspiring actors and directors. This analysis aims to demonstrate how elementary forms of storytelling rediscover particular aspects of immersive work in-between storylines. Let me stress that this film unfolds the three layers of cinematic reality with glaring joins between some elements. This Ueda’s feature debut, written and edited by him, unveils the scenes of performance beginning from the „making of“ a zombie film shot in the abandoned factory. The plot gains realism as being shot in one cut in consequence of the producer’s idea of making the whole film without a break. In the history of cinema, the narrative carried out in one shot appeared in several significant films using a similar narrative procedure. Many films can be list as the works registered in the one-shot, including the new wave Cleo from 5 to 7 (1960) by Agnès Varda, and the Russian ark (2002) shot by Andrei Sokurov over a decade ago. Most recently, Stephen Schippner directed the film entitled Victoria (2016) that became the revelation of Berlinale 2015 by developing a tragic history in one shot in the local scenery of Berlin streets. In Ueda’s film specifically important is an attempt to unveil the meta-perspective which brings closer the autotelic nature of storytelling that encapsulates three narration paths that tend to uncover the making-of story. The main story shot in one cut of thirty-seven minutes unveils the ways how everyone but one turns out to be a zombie. Besides, we lurk behind the stylized scenes story that involves the actors of the primary story seen on the set and the producers of the low-budget movie. The narrative ends up with the true documentary footage from the real cast members working on the film. On the other hand, the second background of the storyline is the subhistory of the filmmaking. The plot unfolds the zombie-parody undertaking the mask of Blair Witch Project (1998) by Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick, and other self-aware movies reminding the convention of stylized amateur-movie such as Braindead (1987) by Philip Jackson strictly associated with the logic of accidents and splashing with enormous amounts of blood. This film rediscovers its plasticity by taking advantage of stylized low-budget means of presentation. Subsequently, an experimental script and camera shooting offer an insightful glimpse into cliché- zombie horror of living dead. This movie seems to be an important point of departure for Ueda’s horror film reframing past cinematic experiences of American movies. Making explicit reference to the convention of “catch and run” movies, very fast rhythm balances between the idea of killing and reviving. What is striking in the first part of the movie is the so-called auteur’s touch played by director Higurashi (Hamazu Takayuki) who stars an obsessed auteur screaming to the crew. This person strives for perfection in every single shot and pumps up all of a sudden in different moments of the story. Similarly, this film is imbued with the absurd rhythm of slapstick comedy which aims to paraphrase the kill and revive dialectics of escape movie and demonstrates the situation when even the victim turns to be a killer. By unveiling the narrative storyline, the film addresses the conditions of its presentation. Shifting emphasis on revealing the premises of the storytelling one may point out the casting and rehearsal which emerges as an unprofessional, parodic game of accidents of a drunk man. This person awakes to scary the main characters as the zombie chasing the main character seen from the point of view of the lost camera from the ground. By the same token, this fearful film deconstructs an illusion of cinematic storytelling understood as a self-conscious game with convention to reveal the true puzzle-effect of mistakes and improvisation of people deprived of actor skills. One may argue that Japanese horrors are always mysterious and demanding but this one, on the contrary, is very playful and luminous by exploring storytelling in a quite innovative way. This double-bind narrative of main and background story aims to critically re-employ and turn the hidden backside master class film into surprising coincidence. The film fells into the ruins due to the chain of mistakes ending up with the perfect, metaphoric effect of the group of people building a tower out of their own bodies to provide an excellent shot for the final scene. It is registered from the top of Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) in the background of the painted pentagram on the ground. This narrative presents in the first film the inverted idea of the ambiguous person that instead of being a victim became a killer to save her life. As a consequence, she has been presented on pentagram seen in the inverted logic of mass-killing thriller with happy-end with blood on the hands. There are never pure innocent people who bleed their hands with blood being a sign of a touch of evil. In this story, the question remains inexplicable whether the good or bad has won in this die or survive chasing the story. Furthermore, in the scenes behind the closing shots, we observe the ways how this film was shot as a brilliantly illustrated, self-constructed horror genre bringing together blood zombie thriller uncovered in an experimental narrative of storytelling. Consequently, this slapstick comedy of Japanese comedy provides also an insight into the family story having shown a happy end of the daughter reconnecting with father on the set of a zombie movie. One of the possible interpretation of this scene is that every movie has been made as a collective work based on the script yielding positive results from the various unforeseen events during the process of filmmaking. In other words, this formal analysis demands further attention and retracing due to film scholars and cultural researchers having seen almost everything except for this one. In other words, this story can be read as palimpsest whose aim is to construct the history (the histories) of cinema based on exclusively out of pre-existing material.


Let us mention the historical background of Japanese fearful stories in performative arts. More importantly, one may point out that these horror stories are deeply in-rooted in the history of Japan. One of the first collection of supernatural tales published in Japan is the Nihon ryōiki (Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition), written around 823. The themes of the tales tended to convey Buddhist moral values. These traditional beliefs of Shinto lie in the constant relationship between the living and the dead. The root of scary stories can be found also in the three stories in Kabuki theatre and puppet play (bunraku) such as Bancho sarayashiki (The Plate Mashion) and Tokaido yotsuya Kaidan (Along the Tokaido), The Chilling Tale of Yotsuya) leaving a meaningful trace in the area of performative aesthetics to this day. Therefore Ueda film can be seen as an important case of contemporary horror that brings back to light the fragments of traditional stories presented in the new form.

This analysis makes an implicit reference to how this aesthetic universe of film production not only transforms almost each of the characters into zombies but also permits the moviegoers to receive a special discount for repeated viewings whenever they get dressed in the zombie costumes. In brief, this elementary interpretation casts new light on the formal structure to unveil the presupposition lying behind them. In other words, there is a critical point of view that can stimulate the directors to uncover the scenes of film production showing many layers of narration and preparing the ground for insightful dynamics of contemporary culture. In line with the re-employing the strategies of cinephilia, Japanese cultural industry opens an elementary platform for the new interpretation of cinema in the era of modernism of storytelling. One may jump into conclusion that this dynamical, self-ironic movie aims to privilege subversive reading instead of the mechanism of projection-identification and decode an inverted logic of horror film genre transformed to the experimental, quasi-documentary style. Let us hope that in the future one may discover gradually more and more clashes of storytellings to bring out the hidden, meaningful representations of film production to re-establish cinematic experience of moviegoers seen from the inside and the back as it appears in this case.


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