A word on Masaru Hashimoto, whose work is sadly unknown in the West. A film critic, political commentator and illustrator who encouraged the independent film movement, contributing essays and illustrations to the Art Theater Guild of Japan. The ATG ran several theaters around the Tokyo area, and whenever possible, they sold pamphlets for each film. These pamphlets had interviews with the director, essays by other directors, criticism, pictures, illustrations, AND the entire script of the film. Hashimoto’s illustrations always preceding the script, beautiful, intricate, simple and profound.
The Crazy Family
The Family Game
The Assassination of Ryoma
Ecstasy of the Angels
Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets
Evil Spirits of Japan
For some reason I feel the need to talk about the movie theater I grew up with. This picture of Clayton Post Theater was taken in 1933 but it hasn’t aged a day. This is where I hung around, checking out posters, watching all the crap they put out in the 80s. The staff was lazy so it was very easy to sneak in, or hide in the bathroom for a second showing of Rumble in the Bronx. There were always massive crowds since it was the only theater around. Son, I remember when the line for Teen Wolf went halfway down the block. The screams of preteen rapture as Michael J Fox lifts his head into that first frame. I saw Roger Rabbit seven times in this place. The projectionist had to walk up that exterior staircase to run the films. When I was young I used to idolize him, wondering what sort of magic went on up there (I should mention that I was an only child with an insatiable imagination). As I grew older, whenever I saw the projectionist , that was my cue to hop over the staircase and into the theater. I saw damn near every film they screened.
We usually got the films long after they had their run in the US, and at that point I had no idea what was coming. Before the internet could tell me everything, I had to rely on the posters to see what was coming the following week. Single screen theater that alternated 2 films a week, 2 to 3 screenings a day, and a matinee on the weekends. We had very little exposure to current affairs outside Panama, let alone movie magazines. To describe the general atmosphere of Panama in the late 70s, I can only compare it to America in the 1950s. A little settlement of Americana, nestled in a jungle of poverty and corruption. The Canal Zone, the end result of a century of silent occupation. The Zonians, generations old, had made it their own Norman Rockwell tropical paradise. Jimmy Carter had secured the country back to its people in 1979, ending the Canal Zone Treaty, gradually decreasing occupational forces and redistributing the land back to Panama. That process took over 20 years, long after I had left the country to go the Uni. But I digress.
My earliest memory of the Post theater is possibly Return of the Jedi. But I can clearly remember every Freddy Kruger flick, Alien sequel, Coens’ Raising Arizona (which my father took me to thinking it was about the raising of a ship). There was a ritual at the theater to talk back to the dated intro they ran before every film. Like a mild-mannered Rocky Horror. Just as the neon font would flash “Shhhhhh,” they whole theater would exhale in unison. I later discovered that yelling out an appropriately timed “it” would have humorous effects. Whenever there was film that name-dropped “Panama” the entire theater would explode in approval, regardless that it came from the villain in his final monologue. I remember Witness being my first R rated movie, and that it bored the hell out of me. Usually after I saw a film I would go home and immediately try to build whatever I saw from the flick. Living next to a jungle was the perfect place to play after seeing Goonies and Indiana Jones for the first time. Once more theaters were built it was easy to see a film multiple times as it went around the circuit. I managed to see Pulp Fiction a dozen times the month it came out. It’s been 15 years since I left Panama and the few times I’ve visited it was unrecognizable. Now there are malls and multiplexes, and internet streaming just like everywhere else in the world. But the theater remains. There’s just more crap around it.
It’s been exactly one year since I started this silly blog. In that time I’ve said very little, just farting out covers to amuse myself. I don’t know if I should be proud of that mess o’ covers up there, or take it as a sign that I should stay away from the computer for a while. There are a few that I really like, the rest are garbage. Early in the year someone had told me that all my blog does is provide covers for pirates. I realize that is very likely, but honestly I would be thrilled to see my covers up on a shelf of a Chinese HMV. Maintaining this blog as a portfolio has brought in a few jobs this year, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people because of it. I thought about listing stats, linking to all the stuff I did for PressPlay and CriterionCast, making some grand show of it all, but instead it started me thinking about my original intent for this blog. I still don’t know what that may be, but I think I’m going to lay off the fanboy tomfoolery for a bit and focus on the gallery and real life. I can’t even afford to buy real Criterion DVDs at the moment. I will continue to contribute to CCast and PressPlay, as long as they’ll have me. If it weren’t for PressPlay I would never be able to spend my abstract internet money on Criterion. I’m just waitin’ for the next B&N sale!
I suppose I thought that by doing this Criterion would take notice, and they did to a certain extent, but they never directly contacted me and I never directly asked them for a job. Then again, I’m not a designer. I know nothing about design beyond what comes naturally. I’m sure I will still make covers once in a while but from now I plan to refocus the site, start making my prints and pottery available here and elsewhere on the net. For some reason I have never promoted my “real” stuff on this blog, or anything substantial about myself. So what I plan to do is make the gratuitous Store page so everyone can see what I do…. semi-professionally. The “semi” means that I am still poor, so naturally you should buy my stuff, whatever the cost. I also plan to post more pics of my daughter, Maria, but this will only be a tactic to bring in more customers.
I’m training her to beg for change in the street.
Kaneto Shindô’s Human (Shinkon Version)
Although Kaneto Shindô had been moderately successful working as a writer and director for Daiei (and later Nikkatsu) throughout the 1950’s, by 1960 Shindô was starting to find his true voice as a director. He founded his own production company, Kindai Eiga Kaikyo, to help finance what would be his first masterpiece, The Naked Island. He followed that with Human, an equally awsome little “love story” set on a boat lost at sea. Naturally, without the help of the major studios to back him, Shindô had trouble exhibiting the film. At that same time the fledgling independent cinema group, The Art Theatre Guild was gaining influence with their single art-house cinema in Shinjuku. At that point the ATG was primarily showing foreign films that the majors couldn’t care less about (Fellini, Godard, Bergman, and other no-name hacks), but Shindô’s Human was to be the first domestic title for ATG exhibition (along with Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Pitfall). It was the beginning of the most significant period in Japanese film history, and helped kick start a movement that would completely change Japanese cinema. Coincidentally, when the ATG finally dissolved in 1992, it was Shindô’s latest film, The Strange Tale of Oyuki that closed the curtain. I have quite a bit to say about the ATG. More to come.