Beyond~en~Scène

be·yond
first and foremost a filmmaker. often a photographer. usually a writer. always a music enthusiast.

damn, that was one very #dark #read. showed me a side of #Japan that I’ll probably never get to see. I liked it. #ryumurakami #inthemispsoup #japanese #book

Just heard the sad news that my idol Ryuichi Sakamoto has been diagnosed with cancer. Please recover soon, maestro! The world needs your music!

This is a short video promoting his special concert in collaboration with Aoyama suits, celebrating 50 years of quality menswear.

Countdown to Fuji Rock continues with Travis! One of the first bands that I started listening to when I strayed away from teeny popper tunes after primary school. In fact I remember the exact moment I saw Turn on Top of the Pops and was mesmerized by it. 15 years on, they still sound just as good. I love this new single and the music video.

Moving by Travis

Countdown to Fuji Rock continues with Foster The People. Some may think they’re one hit wonders that struck fame with the ubiquitous Pumped Up Kicks, but in fact, the entire debut album is a solid collection of crazy happy tunes and danceable beats. Just got my hands on the sophomore album, hope it lives up to its wicked predecessor.

Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) by Foster the People

Countdown to Fuji Rock begins with Abe Fuyumi. There are artists that grow on you, and then there are ones that you fall for instantly. There is something that really distinguishes her from the average J-contemporary female singer, and it’s not just her voice. I quickly got my hands on everything I can find from her, and I love it all. I haven’t even seen her live yet, but I already feel like her 40 minute set at Fuji probably won’t be quite enough to satisfy my thirst. This is her catchiest song.

清い正しい美しい (Kiyoi Tadashii Utsukushii) by Abe Fuyumi 阿部芙蓉美

After much deliberation, I present the artists we will be seeing at the 2014 Fuji Rock! 
The LumineersAbe FuyumiBig Willie’s BurlesqueBarbarella’s Bang BangFirst Aid KitFoster The PeopleBombay Bicycle ClubEri Konishi Piano TrioFranz FerdinandDarksideKato TokikoThe Inspector CluzoThe HeavyHuun Huur TuUlfulsKataomoiThe WaterboysTravisThe Cro-MagnonsJake ShimabukuroArcade FireNarasiratoThe Bloody Beetroots LiveJungle By NightOwen PallettJohn Butler TrioOgre You AssholePreservation Hall Jazz BandCayo KuwadaThe RoostersThe Flaming LipsKelisJack JohnsonOutkastChet Fakerand maybe a few more if we have the energy.
34+ artists over 3 days! The countdown begins!
I’ve seen so many patience-testing films in the last month or so, but this one really takes the cake. If this was my first Naomi Kawase film, I would give up on her immediately and avoid all films from her in the future. However, I remember being largely impressed by The Mourning Forest (made after this film) when I watched it a few years ago, so I guess all is not lost.
After reading a few positive reviews, I’m convinced that the film must be more interesting if one is reeeeally unfamiliar with all things Japanese, therefore finding alleviation from the tediousness in the foreign setting. I personally think a film should speak equally to its home audience and to its foreign viewers. Shara, the film in question here, really should have been done as a short film. There was nothing in the movie that could not have been expressed in 15 minutes. To me, this film felt like it was made up as an excuse to use up some left over filmstock, and then passed up as some pretentious art. The scene depicted in the photo where the 2 young protagonists ride through the small town was the only moment that I liked in the entire film. Utter disappointment.

I’ve seen so many patience-testing films in the last month or so, but this one really takes the cake. If this was my first Naomi Kawase film, I would give up on her immediately and avoid all films from her in the future. However, I remember being largely impressed by The Mourning Forest (made after this film) when I watched it a few years ago, so I guess all is not lost.

After reading a few positive reviews, I’m convinced that the film must be more interesting if one is reeeeally unfamiliar with all things Japanese, therefore finding alleviation from the tediousness in the foreign setting. I personally think a film should speak equally to its home audience and to its foreign viewers. Shara, the film in question here, really should have been done as a short film. There was nothing in the movie that could not have been expressed in 15 minutes. To me, this film felt like it was made up as an excuse to use up some left over filmstock, and then passed up as some pretentious art. The scene depicted in the photo where the 2 young protagonists ride through the small town was the only moment that I liked in the entire film. Utter disappointment.

With Naked, Mike Leigh has created one of the most original characters in cinema. Armed with his sharp philosophical sarcasm and witty charms, Johnny played by David Thewlis drifts his way through the seedy London underbelly. For what purpose? I’m not entirely sure. He goes between acting like a mad prophetic genius to being a psychopath. He’s not very pleasant, but he’s entirely fascinating. Much like Homer's The Odyssey, which actually appears in the film, our protagonist encounters many characters along the way, all of them created with Leigh's trademark realism.  The scottish couple and the security guard were my favourites.  They remind of the grime side of Auckland. Except London is probably one hundred times worse. To quote Johnny: “you know wherever you are in London, you're only 30 feet away from a rat.” This is why I have absolutely no desire to visit there. I'm fine just seeing it on the screen. I think I'll need to visit this film again in the near future. It is really quite something.

With Naked, Mike Leigh has created one of the most original characters in cinema. Armed with his sharp philosophical sarcasm and witty charms, Johnny played by David Thewlis drifts his way through the seedy London underbelly. For what purpose? I’m not entirely sure. He goes between acting like a mad prophetic genius to being a psychopath. He’s not very pleasant, but he’s entirely fascinating. Much like Homer's The Odyssey, which actually appears in the film, our protagonist encounters many characters along the way, all of them created with Leigh's trademark realism.  The scottish couple and the security guard were my favourites.  They remind of the grime side of Auckland. Except London is probably one hundred times worse. To quote Johnny: “you know wherever you are in London, you're only 30 feet away from a rat.” This is why I have absolutely no desire to visit there. I'm fine just seeing it on the screen. I think I'll need to visit this film again in the near future. It is really quite something.

I popped my Japanese drama cherry with Going My Home, and I loved it. From the mind of my favourite contemporary Japanese filmmaker, Koreeda Hirokazu, comes a 10 part genius mixture of drama and comedy. Part family drama, part existential philosophy. Not a whole lot happens here in the traditional sense, but the little that does happen is just so fascinating. Every single character, whether big or small, feels realistic and incredibly interesting. I want to befriend and get to know every one of them. As per his films, the kids here act like adults, and the adults act like children. The little girl who plays Moe is especially amazing. 
Most Japanese dramas move at a lightning pace, which is not a bad things at all. But the way Koreeda’s works unfold is pure beauty. It’s so….comfortable. So watchable. In fact, merely days after I finished the series, I watched the first episode again, and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. And the playful guitar soundtrack by Gontiti is just icing on the cake. Something tells me that this will be a hard series to beat.

incredibly cute kids, not very nice to each other...

y:

s-chan, you don't want to go overseas, right?

s:

who said I don't? I want to go to New Zealand one day.

me:

yay!

y:

but you can't speak English.

s:

maybe when I'm a 6th grader, I'll be able to.

me:

that's right!

y:

don't go to New Zealand. I'm going to New Zealand. you can go to Canada.

s:

why can't I go to New Zealand? why do I have to go to Canada?

y:

because I'm going! a-chan, you go somewhere else too, okay?

a:

no, I want to go to New Zealand too! y-chan, you go somewhere else.

y:

why do I have to go somewhere else?

teacher:

y-chan, isn't that what you said to a-chan and s-chan too? why do you have the right to tell them to go somewhere else?

y:

.........................because I'm better at English! I'm going to travel the world! I'm going to go to every country that speaks English!

*the whole school, and by that I mean all 7 children plus 5 teachers stares at y-chan*

me:

why don't we all go to New Zealand, okay? yay!

y:

s-chan, do you know how to say gyunyu in English?

s:

milk.

y:

nope.

me:

?

a:

I know! milkmilk.

y:

nope.

a:

I know! mirumiru.

y:

nope.

teacher:

what is the answer then?

y:

.....um, I forgot.

Ming Ming, 2 years later.

Today, with the help of an amazing teacher, Asako Kato, I had the precious opportunity to screen my film for the students of one of the junior high schools that I teach at.

I introduced the film by telling them about my year long struggle to get the film off the ground. From when I was about to give up on the project and my Masters degree, to ultimately finishing the film in flying colours and winning the coveted university prize.

All my students know that Beyondo-sensei makes movies, but this was the first time that any of them saw the real product. I expected little of their responses. I mean they’re great kids, but like most 12-15 year olds in Japan, they’re always tired, sleepy and unmotivated to do anything. I wasn’t sure if they would even “get it”, let alone have a reaction of any sort.

To my great surprised, there were many smiles during the comedic moments of the film, and as soon as the credits started rolling, a wave of murmurs was heard amongst the kids as they discussed the film amongst themselves. I have to thank Asako for making Japanese subtitles for the film. I wish I had those when I did the public screening for the city. 

I’ve always thought that I had a pretty good relationship with the kids of this school. They think I’m an interesting guy. But after the film, many of the kids looked at me like they’ve never done before. It was a look of real admiration. They were given comment cards to fill out after the film. Instead of a simple “It was nice”, so many of the cards were filled to the edge with genuine responses. Many of them sympathised with my struggle and were impressed by the final product. Some said they really understood the movie and were moved by it. Some said it made them think about their own lives and they eagerly anticipate my next film. Surprisingly, many of the most heartfelt responses came from students that always seemed to have little interest in my English classes.

I can’t speak for the students, but I felt a special new connection with them. I make films for people to see, the more people the merrier. But in fact, everything I make, doesn’t matter how fictitious they are, all come from a very personal spot in my heart. Anybody in any part of the world who watches one of my films will get to see a part of me that those have not may never know. This is the new connection I now have with these students.

The most surprising turn of events of all was that for the first time since I finished editing the movie, I myself was genuinely moved by it. I’ve seen it countless times, usually playing it for people while I stand in the corner and pick out all the mistakes I made. But for whatever reason, today, it really made me think about what I was trying to convey with this film and why I made it in the first place. A mixture of all these feelings hung in my heart and amongst the school corridors. I want to remember this feeling forever.

I also want to take this opportunity to once again thank the amazing actors, crew members, families and friends that supported me in one way or another. The valuable things I learnt along the way of making this film still affects me every single day in all aspects of my life. The film may not have received the wide distribution that I had hoped for. But the response from everyone and the university gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself. To believe that wherever The Education of Ming Ming came from, there will be much more works of superior quality to come. 

Thank you.

One cannot mention the writer Guillermo Arriaga without making connections to his incredible death trilogy (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel) directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Nor could you really see Tommy Lee Jones in a cowboy hat without thinking of No Country For Old Men, even though this film came first. Unfortunately, after referring to those master works, Tommy Lee Jones's directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, feels clumsy, unfocused and very amateur in comparison. I’ve been disappointed by a string of acclaimed films recently. I hope the next one will be a new start for the better, after all, I will be another year older when I watch it.
I was so excited when the trailer for Cosmopolis came out a little over 2 years ago. It looked dark, violent, energetic and mysterious, the kind of David Cronenberg film I’d like to see. I got fucked by the trailer. 
On paper, the idea seemed really interesting. A multi-billionaire, despite being warned about the mad traffic caused by a presidential visit, the funeral procession of a famed rapper, and a chaotic anarchist riot, he insist on traveling across Manhattan in his futuristic white limousine, to get a haircut. Along the way he meets various associates and converses with them, each conversation adding a piece of puzzle to the overall message of the story. Sounds really fascinating, and maybe the original novel lived up to it’s potential. Unfortunately, the film was utterly boring.
Some stories are not meant to be adapted into films. 

I was so excited when the trailer for Cosmopolis came out a little over 2 years ago. It looked dark, violent, energetic and mysterious, the kind of David Cronenberg film I’d like to see. I got fucked by the trailer. 

On paper, the idea seemed really interesting. A multi-billionaire, despite being warned about the mad traffic caused by a presidential visit, the funeral procession of a famed rapper, and a chaotic anarchist riot, he insist on traveling across Manhattan in his futuristic white limousine, to get a haircut. Along the way he meets various associates and converses with them, each conversation adding a piece of puzzle to the overall message of the story. Sounds really fascinating, and maybe the original novel lived up to it’s potential. Unfortunately, the film was utterly boring.

Some stories are not meant to be adapted into films. 

I liked what Atom Egoyan was trying to do here. The transformation of grieve into greed after a tragic event, the mirroring of The Pied Piper of Hamelin in the story, the analogy about the lawyer’s daughter when she was a baby, and that beautiful last shot. In fact, all of the second hour of the film was pretty great. But I have a big problem with the first hour. The exposition is just too slow, too tedious, and frankly, quite immature. A little tightening and a more clear execution could have made this movie a real winner for me. On the bright side, a good lesson in filmmaking. 
P.S. Who knew Sarah Polley could sing too?

I liked what Atom Egoyan was trying to do here. The transformation of grieve into greed after a tragic event, the mirroring of The Pied Piper of Hamelin in the story, the analogy about the lawyer’s daughter when she was a baby, and that beautiful last shot. In fact, all of the second hour of the film was pretty great. But I have a big problem with the first hour. The exposition is just too slow, too tedious, and frankly, quite immature. A little tightening and a more clear execution could have made this movie a real winner for me. On the bright side, a good lesson in filmmaking. 

P.S. Who knew Sarah Polley could sing too?