Close Up

19 July 2011: Motoharu Jonouchi: Avant-Garde Visions of 1960s Protest Movements


"In their meticulous assemblage of individual shots of different spaces imbued with the symbolic significance of political confrontation, [Jonouchi's films] rejected the theatrics of spectacle, instead establishing a radical materialism of spaces in both structure and methodology" – Jonathan M. Hall

Introduced by Julian Ross and followed by a discussion with Shane O'Sullivan  

Nihon University Film Studies Club
1960 | 22 min | 16mm  

Along with Masao Adachi, Jonouchi was a member of the legendary Nihon University Film Studies Club where students collaborated to make films that have been cited as pioneering experimental films. Pupu, their third film as a unit, was led by Jonouchi and evokes an insight into the subject matters and stylistic flavours he will later come to favour. Two young males are rendered immobile by an overwhelming accumulation of sound and images related to various cases of national and international oppression, and eventually a ritual turns one of them into a mannequin. The scene in a room full of human-sized dummies more than matches the famous sequence in Stanley Kubrick's Killer's Kiss.

Document 6.15
Motoharu Jonouchi
1961 | 19 min | 16mm  

A living space and film lab set up by Jonouchi and his collaborators, the VAN Film Research Centre were invited to make Document 6.15 for a demonstration event mourning the death of student protestor Michiko Kanba. Led by Jonouchi, the collaborative film was conceived as part of a performance with slides and live-sounds, and for a screening a year later, Jonouchi re-edited the material and invited Yasunao Tone, Takehisa Kosugi and Toshi Ichiyanagi, all leading noise-musicians, to perform live alongside performance art by Yoko Ono and Shou Kazakura. At one of the screenings, one of the speakers was stolen, causing a riot, but Jonouchi proceeded to continue with the screening amidst the chaos, revelling in the unplanned intervention.  

Motoharu Jonouchi
1965 | 19 min | 16mm  

Wols is the pseudonym for a German artist active in the early 20th century, Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, and Jonouchi meticulously filmed nearly fifty of his paintings to construct a cine-collage. The result is reminiscent of Alain Resnais' rendition of Pablo Picasso's Guernica, as both filmed interpretations refuse to provide the viewer with a full picture of the paintings, instead fragmenting and splintering the frame. The film is an attempt at translating the durational experience of observing a painting, as the camera becomes the eye, focusing on individual marks and shifting back and forth. Jonouchi had abandoned the film at the processing lab, only to pick it up three years later and ask noise musician Takehisa Kosugi from Group Ongaku, Taj Mahal Travellers and Fluxus fame, to layer some improvised sounds over the images.  

Tatsumi Hijikata
Motoharu Jonouchi
1967 | 1 min | 16mm  

The co-founder of Ankoku Butoh dance, Tatsumi Hijikata was an extremely significant figure in the Japanese art scene, his influence reaching beyond the realms of dance into other creative genres. Jonouchi, who at times had participated in butoh performances, offers a homage to his artistic mentor in an uncharacteristic documentation of dance that breaks up the flow of movement into individually fragmented frames.  

Mass Collective Bargaining at Nihon University
Motoharu Jonouchi
1968 | 22 min | 16mm  

The late 1960s saw Japan in a fever pitch of political agitation where student protests were a frequent occurrence. A timely insight into radical protest and mass meetings from almost half a century ago, the film reveals the aftermath of protests and shares extremely rare footage of mass meetings that were held at universities. An active participant of the movement against the U.S-Japan Security Treaty (Anpo) in the late-50s, Jonouchi revisits his university to document the demonstrations against the re-signing of the pact. The empty spaces he discovers in the aftermath of agitation are chaotic yet sombre. Once again, Jonouchi inserts his own personality into the documentation, only capturing what interests him and abstracting the images to near-incomprehension, submerging documentary and subjectivity.

Part of Theatre Scorpio: Japanese Independent and Experimental Cinema of the 1960s programme