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Tribeca Film Festival excited the city of New York again this year. There is a conspicuous film that should be mentioned at the ninth annual film festival. That is a Swedish animated film, “Metropia.”
Swedish film director Tarik Saleh directed the film. Even though his father was a “claymation” animator, Mr. Saleh pursued documentary film making and received great reputation from “Sacrificio: Who betrayed Che Guevara?” and “Gitmo: The New Rules of War.” “Metropia” is his first feature animation film.
In 2024 when oil has run out, a huge network of subways operated by a large corporation connects all the European cities. Because every time Roger, the protagonist who lives in Stockholm, goes into the subway, he hears voices in his head and becomes uncomfortable, he stops taking the train. However, one day, when he unexpectedly enters the subway again, he sees a mysterious model, Nina. And he begins to discover that someone or something is controlling him…
“Because the earth ran out of oil, fear dominates the world.” Mr. Saleh says he arrived at the idea while filming “Gitmo” which takes place at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Beginning with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, dark clouds blanketed the world, and people’s hearts were filled with anxiety and fear. Mr. Saleh reflected his feelings that he experienced at the scandalous Guantanamo into “Metropia.”
“Metropia” explores the universal theme that ‘fear’ controls people with the deployment of standard storytelling. The charm of this film is that it grows on you, swelling gradually over time rather than immediately after watching. Remembering this film, many people may become paranoid that we are caught in some giant corporate conspiracy.
Currently 3D movies are mainstream; however, this film was made in 2D as if fighting against the trend, and the unique visuals draw attention. The characters are fairly realistic, crafted in detail, but there is something so unnatural about them that you end up feeling as if you’ve awakened in an illusion. The world created by Mr.Saleh, who was inspired by Terry Gilliam and Roy Andersson, hypnotizes us. And yet the story itself, rather than a fantastic piece of SciFi, is reminiscent of Hitchcock and Film Noir.
“Metropia” premiered at last year’s Venice International Film festival. After repeated screenings at various locations in New York, the film was finally unveiled at Tribeca Film Festival this spring. To accompany the screenings, press conferences with the director and cast were held; the colors of the festival became even more brilliant. Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Stellan Skarsgård, Alexander Skarsgård, and Udo Kier are a rare collection of voice actors for this film. The reason why the unique and talented actors were needed: “Because I needed real voice acting,” Mr.Saleh says.

For this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, many of the festival’s films were available to watch at home on cable TV. “Metropia” is one of the line-up. It is a luxury to enjoy this film at home since it is unlikely the film will have a wide release in U.S. theaters. It is still possible to watch it on TV now, so please enjoy this special film that leaves you with a lingering strange feeling.
Until recently, when it comes to entertainment movies, it was Hong Kong movies. There were Jackie Chan, Michael Hui (Hui Brothers), Chow Yun-Fat... Each of them kept attracting the audiences in their own genres; Kung-Fu, Comedy, and Hong Kong Noir (“Noir”mainly used for gangland movies) respectively. That was when the studio system, which means big production companies produces large scale and high quality films continuously, was functioning in Hong Kong movie industry, just like the Golden Era of Hollywood in 1930's and 1940's, represented by “Gone with the wind.”

I guess it was around the beginning of the 80's when I started to get into Hong Kong movies. At that time, Hong Kong movie industry had already been missing Bruce Lee and there were neither big political or economic moves in Hong Kong overall. It was also around the time when the reversion of Hong Kong of 1997 was awaiting, after Japanese troops' occupation of Hong Kong came to an end in 1945 and the wave of Great Cultural Revolution of 1967 was gone. That was exactly when above mentioned movie stars came into the scene.

For instance, Jackie Chan swept away the negative image of Kung-Fu movies before his age and pioneered the new genre of “Kung-Fu comedy” by playing a funny character in his movie“Snake in the Eagle's Shadow,”and Hoi Brothers (the "Games Gamblers Play" series) and Chow Yun-Fat (the "A Better Tomorrow" series ) used cars and guns in their action scenes and succeeded in breaking away from old-style Kung-Fu movies. Thereafter, the boom of contemporary action movies, so-called "New wave" trend, in Hong Kong movie industry lasted until the 90’s.

After the 90’s, a further change hit the Hong Kong movie industry. Responding to the big hits of the Hong Kong noir movies by John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat, tons of imitation movies started to be produced. Under that situation, Wong Ka wai and Andy Lau were among those who rode the tide successfully. You can see it easily by watching Wong Ka wai's debut film "As Tears Go By." Besides two of Hong Kong’s Four Heavenly Kings at that moment, Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung, the movie featured Maggie Cheung as a main character and the storyline was full of elements from Hong Kong noir and youth group portrayal. As a matter of fact, before debuting in the movie industry, Wong Ka wai had been writing the scripts for TV dramas, which are highly competitive field for viewer ratings, and working hard to develop his script-writing skill. He might have chosen an entertainment movie as his debut work with taking his future life in the movie industry into consideration. (Without the success of "As Tears Go by," he couldn’t have gone on to make other masterpiece films like "Days of Being Wild" and "Ash of Time.")

Andrew Law, on the other hand, directed“As Tears Go By,” and went on to produce “Young and Dangerous” series, which had more entertaining elements than Wong Ka wai’s productions, and “Infernal Affairs” series, which Hollywood has decided to remake in the U.S. His movies are so-called "Youth Group Portrayal," in which no box-office stars were needed. It's not clear if he was already predicting the no-big-stars-situation nor working against the past Hong Kong movies, or if it could be called as a "sophistication" or "maturity," meaning that great movies could be made without big stars. But it is obvious that his movies were clearly different from those movies prior.

Precisely the same time, Hong Kong movie industry entered the era of no star figures and started to experience hard times. The problem wasn't only about movie industry itself. Since the middle of the 90’s, Hong Kong has been exposed to the significant changes politically and economically; the retrocession of Hong Kong to China and Asian currency crisis in 1997, SARS epidemic and bird flu in 2003... It might not be surprising that people don't have the luxury to watch entertainment movies with no worries under the situation like this...

Currently, due to the globalization of the film industry, those movies which are generally categorized as "Hong Kong movie" are not quite the 'pure' Hong Kong movie as they aren't "actually made in Hong Kong" or "rich in indigeneity" any more. Taking this fact into account, it appears that movie industries around Hong Kong (China, Korea, and Japan) are more vibrant than Hong Kong's. Globalization is fine as long as they continue to produce good movies, but for me personally, it is quite a pity that recent Hong Kong movie industry hasn't been as energetic as it used to be. Therefore I can't help but feeling nostalgic about classic, characteristic, and entertainment-type Hong Kong movies, rather than current artistic Hong Kong movies.

text by Tomoyoshi Izumi
In New York, with Jason Fried (Producer) -----

The controversial documentary “Arakimentari”, about the celebrated and sometimes infamous Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki opened in February of 2005, and exposed America to the life of this complex artist whose work has influenced Japanese Culture. We met with Jason Fried, the producer of “Arakimentari” in a small Williamsburg café to get the scoop on the making of this film, and on his experience with working with Nobuyoshi Araki.

COOL: How did you meet with the director, Travis Klose?

JASON: Travis and I were roommates for seven months before the film started, and then for another year after. So Travis had the idea for the film, and that started the ball rolling.

C: About the making of “Arakimentari”, what was the process like?

J: It was really long. We went there the Summer of 2002. We shot for about a month and then we came back to NY and we edited the movie for almost a year and a half. It was interesting. We really didn’t have a defined story, and when we got there Araki said “Just follow me, watch what I do, and you’ll get it. You’ll understand and it will make sense”…So we did that. He was all over the place so it was really hard to follow him, but we did. Then we came back and we had a lot of footage of Araki, and interviews with all of these people around him, and Dido. We made a trailer, a really quick edit (about 3 minutes) for the website to try to raise money for it. That worked ok. Then we tried to figure out a structure for the film. That went on for a while, for a few months, just trying to figure it all out … and then the editing process…we went through 3 different editors, all Japanese, because the whole film is in Japanese. My Japanese consists of about 4 words. Travis is good at Japanese, but not good enough to edit this film. It went on, and went on…then we’d get it cut and we’d change it and move things around…It just went on for so long. Then we interviewed Bjork in New York and Richard Kern. Then Travis went back to Japan…and then once we had a rough cut, we interviewed DJ Crush who said he’d be interested in doing the soundtrack. So then we went back and forth with [DJ Crush] to do the soundtrack through email…We would email him an idea then he’d post the MP3 on a website and then we’d email him back and forth…So we created the entire track through email. We finished editing 4 days before the festival, and then we continued to edit after the festival. The “done, done” edit was finished on August 1st , 2004.

C: What did you think of Mr. Araki?

J: He treated us like his children in a way. Not over-the-top. When it was down to business, it was business. But he’s so generous in his nature. He would take us out to eat, he would take us to Karaoke. He really does have this Edo personality, where he just wants to like “Alright we’re done, let’s go spend our money, drink and be merry!” He’s very cool. There are very few people that I’ve met in my life that have that sort of mentality.

C: What is the main message of “Arakimentari”?

J: Well I think originally what we wanted to do was share our understanding or our experience of Araki, mainly with westerners. That was the original idea. To a Japanese audience, Araki is already known. Most of the stuff in the film a Japanese audience knows about. Someone who is Japanese would understand his pictures because of the context. Your Japanese, you might look at a bonded picture and think of Shibuya and make that correlation. But too a westerner they just see the picture, and they see a naked girl, and they see the lighting and that’s all they see. So our idea was to take his photographs and put them in context to a western audience so that they wouldn’t just see his pictures with a blind eye, but would actually understand the story and the emotion and everything that goes into these images that make them what they are. And I think it works. There’s a lot about Araki that we found people didn’t know about. When you look at his pictures again after seeing the film they take on a completely different light and it’s like putting life into them again. They are renewed…especially for a younger audience. For a younger audience, if they see the movie and then look at his pictures they are completely different than if you looked at them an hour before. Structurally we wanted to say “Here’s the dirty pornography” and then as the movie unfolds you start learning more about his personality and about why he is doing what he does, and that he actually has a sensitive side, and the story about his wife…All of a sudden he becomes this bigger, real person with emotions and you actually begin to have feeling for him. You get attached to his character. At the end you’ve seen the craziness and happiness, but you get a sense that there’s a part of him, inside of his center, that is sad and lonely.

In Tokyo, with Travis Klose (Director) -----

We met with Travis in Koenji, a district in Tokyo, where he established the base of activity for the production of “Arakimentari”. He showed up with Masa, the associate producer of the film. At first he greeted us with a smile, saying “How do you do?” in Japanese. He had a hangover and told us that he loves Japanese culture. The café they invite me to had an atmosphere like one found in New York’s East Village. Just before the film’s opening to the public on March 5th, they experienced daily interviews from all of the different media. He speaks a little Japanese. As far as he can answer, he had answered in Japanese.

COOL: Could you tell us what got you first interested in filmmaking and made you come up with the idea for making “Arakimentari”.

TRAVIS: I first became interested in film about 7 or 8 years ago. Originally I wanted to make music. After studying music at college, I found that film was more interesting. It combined music, images, story, sound and other elements into a single work of art
I first learned of Araki when I saw the book “Tokyo Lucky Hall”. In it there were black and white photos of the sex world in Kabuki-cho (Tokyo). They were a little dark and seedy. I felt it was very curious. I couldn’t understand why it was considered art.
I hadn’t thought of making a documentary, but I decided I wanted to make a documentary in Japan using this Japanese photographer. I thought Araki’s subject matter would be interesting -- Sex in Tokyo. I wanted to understand for myself what art was, and I got a better understanding of art though making the documentary.
The film is more about who Araki is than a historical documentation of his life and work. I didn’t want to be like “in 19xx Araki made this”, etc…It’s more about Araki as a person and artist and his working method, etc.

C: What was your first impression of Tokyo?

T: Comfortable. I was really comfortable in Japan, not too fast-paced, very relaxing for me. Japan was comfortable, but also very stimulating.

C: Were you able to film whatever you wanted?

T: Yes. Originally Araki was a little nervous about letting us film because he had a bad experience with another foreign film crew. So we were only promised two days in order to film Araki. But finally I ended up having 10 days of time to film him. I got most of what I wanted and needed during those 10 days.
I had to come back though a year and a half after to film. We realized we wanted or needed to have a few things. But they were not of Araki. They were of other stuff in Tokyo.
I was allowed to shoot almost whatever I wanted. Naked models and so on were no problem. But we couldn’t film in Araki’s house. Araki’s private life is always off limits to people filming him.
Araki also wanted to help the crew once he trusted them. He tried to get things set up well before filming, so everything would be ready for them to shoot and things would go smoothly.

C: You made your directorial debut with “Arakimentari”. Making a film as a director, were there some different things from your previous experiences making films?

T: Before everything else, this was my first experience in making a documentary.
When I went to the film school in New York I had done some small film projects before. Making documentary was very different from what I had been used to.
Usually when making a film, you think in terms of narrative and story at first. To create the narrative and then think about how to film it, what you will need… With a documentary, you start with an idea and it expands outward. You film lots of stuff and end up with lots of footage have to take that and edit it together to make it into a story and narrative.

I enjoyed making the film but it was very difficult. I changed as a person and learned a lot from Araki.

C: Did you have trouble making “Arakimentari”?

T: Trouble? A lot. We had almost no money, so it was really hard to do what we wanted to do sometimes. At first I was planning to edit the movie myself.
I thought I had enough knowledge of Japanese to be able to figure out the main idea of what people were saying on film and be able to edit it together. But soon I realized my Japanese wasn’t good enough to edit things together in a way that still made sense, so I would need to find someone else to edit or help edit. But I didn’t have any money to pay someone.
The three main people making the film were all sharing one “Gaijin House” room. Two of them on the bed and one (me) on the futon on the floor. The other two guys liked the room to be cool, so they often had the window open…. I was very cold at night.

C: What did Araki think about “Arakimentari”?

T: He liked it. He said he was very lucky.

C: What will your next project be?

T: “Yakuzamentari”. I’m trying to talk to Shiina Ringo about making a film. It will be similar to “Pink Floyd The Wall” which is filmed about one rock and roll music band. But I’m thinking about making a film about Shiina Ringo and her music, which will be a fictional story about a documentary crew who comes to Japan to make a documentary about Yakuza. It will be fictional, but using documentary techniques, so it will look like it is actually a documentary.

C: Besides filmmaking, what kind of things do you want to try in the future?

T: For me, filmmaking is not really a job. I enjoy having a life where I am making things, making art and like as an artistic process. I really like taking pictures too. But I don’t think I could be a photographer. But I want a life filled with making artistic products film, music, photos, etc.

Travis Klose graduated at New York University Tisch School of The Arts with a major in Film & Television. He has played an active part in the making of the films "Spider-Man" (02/Director: Sam Raimi) and Uma Thurman's “Hysterical Blindness” (02/Director: Mira Nair) as a cameraman and a location assistant.

Jason Fried has been a pioneer in the world of an interactive computer design. He participated as a producer and soundman for “Arakimentari”. Looking to make his debut as a film director, he is planning to make a documentary film called "Mass Incarceration" in the United States now.

text by Sayako MAEDA(Jason), Mieko SAI(Travis)
English / 日本語
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