The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto

[Screenshot]Experimental animation is kind of hit-or-miss for me. I’ve figured out that I like Švankmajer more than Brothers Quay, and that surreal cel or computer animation doesn’t work for me. Kawamoto’s work somewhat falls into the second category, I’m afraid: it’s stop-motion, but largely with flat cutouts, and I found his particular brand of surreal often impenetrable. The first film in this collection, “Breaking of Branches is Forbidden” went on way too long for a story with no sound: there was a narrative, but it was ultimately flat and had trouble carrying the story purely with largely unexpressive puppets. The next several were more successful, in no small part because they were shorter. Both “Anthropocynical Farce” and “The Trip” were rather static in their cinematic composition, but interestingly enough designed to hold my attention. “A Poet’s Life” was an unqualified success, compositionally and plotwise, and “House of Flame” and “Dojiji Temple” were both authentically skillful and intriguingly transcended the limitations of stop-motion.

This is a mixed bag, like any collection of disparite works. I’m afraid I soured on the whole thing to a certain extent because the weakest material was first. That’s surely a function of its chronological ordering. I’d probably give “Breaking of Branches” a miss but the rest are worth the time spent on them.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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