Monday, August 17, 2009

So, I've been so insanely busy relocating and then assembling my "studio apartment playset" that I haven't been able to start cutting a frame of Conversations with T.F. Mou. But lord knows, as I unpack boxes and spray down around 500 books and 1200 DVDs to get rid of the mold spores that migrated an hour across the state, I've been thinking about it a lot.

The last documentary, though it's biggest problem was shitty audio, was not totally up to my liking either way. It's a little too much like a glorified cinemaphile vlog, like those old vlogs I did about Kinji Fukasaku except with T.F. Mou himself involved. It was too vague and not focused on its goal enough.

This new documentary, which will be around 60-70 minutes long, technically my feature film debut (Alison in Wonderland will now "just" be my dramatic feature debut) will be much clearer in its aims. The whole point is to tell the story of T.F. Mou, not just some piece praising his films to kingdom come.

The attention to detail, facts and authenticity will be absolutely key here and the aesthetic will surpass even the new cuts of my short films. The film will dive into the backstory of making films in Greater China, which in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Mainland was equally tough for different reasons. In Taiwan because the Kuomintang (Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government that was driven from the mainland) was very conservative and communist paranoid; picture 50s-70s Taiwan as being like an Asian equivalent to if Sen. Joe McCarthy had become president of the US. It was tough in Hong Kong because anarcho-capitalism and financial corruption reigned supreme there and the film bosses (especially the Shaws) cared far more about the financial grosses of their movies than the quality and in China because the corrupt, bureaucratic and self serving government called and still calls all the shots in film production. Every environment Mou went to he struggled with getting his vision across. Why was this?

The film will ultimately delve into the real reason, which is not entirely his content, as people have always loved grotesque violence as entertainment since the Gladiatorial Arenas in Rome to reality TV today, but the politics that he serves his content with. T.F. Mou's films are actually fiercely humanist in their aim and point the finger at many a party for their hypocrisy without even a hint of subtlety. We will delve into the political contexts that Mou grew up into (nationalist Taiwan) and show you a lot of historical context of Japan's war crimes in China. The final lap of the film will delve into the modern, post 9/11 "culture of fear" era and how Mou' work and message is still all too relevant today. Take a look at the Abu Ghraib photos and tell me you're not reminded of similar photos of Japanese soldiers posing with their victims at Nanking or sequences from Mou's own Lost Souls?

I will be doing a rough cut of the film first (probably with my own voice doing the narration as a placeholder) and then watching it, seeing how long it, figuring out what works and recutting a bit and adding someone else's (probably Deirdre's) voice. Expect the DVD, as said, by Christmas. The special features are tentative, but I can confirm that it will feature an introduction to the film by me, the first 2008 Conversations with T.F. Mou and probably a thing or two from the archives, most likely the opening of Agony and the Ecstasy of the Puppets to give the disk a bit of levity to keep audiences from going nuts since this documentary is going to be heavy stuff. I may put the Aquatic Observations films, which I'm sort of proud of from the wild days of Kojiro Abe, on the disc as well on in place of those for something more upbeat, though they may have to be touched up a bit since the classical performances are all copywritten and such. What I'll probably do is cut them into one work and then rescore with .midi files. There may also be deleted scenes or portions of scenes since I've written the narration and am not even done and already have 45 minutes of material, plus the interview is six hours of footage but I'm insistent on keeping the runtime under 70 minutes.

I also plan on doing a few more documentaries even though I don't like doing them nearly as much as dramatic works. These will be much more sparsely made than my "dramatic movies" but I am toying with the idea of doing a "films about unique filmmakers" trilogy. I still entertain the concept of making a two hour documentary about Kinji Fukasaku called Kinji Fukasaku: Rebel Filmmaker. I want do it probably after Witch's Castle is done and plan on hunting down and interviewing (my Nihongo will be superior by then) most of his still-living collaborators, like Kenta Fukasaku (his son), Sonny Chiba, Bunta Sugawara, Meiko Kaji, Henry Sanada, etc. If filmmaker fans and friends like Quentin Tarantino and journalists like Patrick Macias want to be interviewed too, they will be. Also want to make a documentary about Joseph Goebbels and the Third Reich's obsessive propaganda film production.

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