Wunderkammer: Cabinets of Curiosity.

stacked-cabinet

A wunderkammer, otherwise known as a cabinet of curiosity. This is an animated GIF testing out the opening motion of the doors to the cabinet in my film.

 

Hello, my darklings. Sorry for the prolonged absence from this blog, as I’ve begun working on my new animation project entitled Wunderkammer. This project sees the return of Madelaine, the mysterious Victorian lady from my previous short films La Petite Mort (2013) and An Unfortunate Incident Involving Her Hat (2012). As always, curious happenings befall Madelaine. In the latter film, Madelaine became the victim of a very bizarre wardrobe malfunction, and in the former, she engaged in a romantic — but ultimately tragic — tryst with an octopus. Similarly, in Wunderkammer her uncanny adventures continue.

For those not familiar with the term, a wunderkammer was a Renaissance-era predecessor of the modern museum collection. Below is a definition copied from the Tate Modern web site:

Wunderkammer or curiosity cabinets were collections of rare, valuable, historically important or unusual objects, which generally were compiled by a single person, normally a scholar or nobleman, for study and/or entertainment. […]Exotic natural objects, art, treasures and diverse items of clothing or tools from distant lands and cultures were all sought for the wunderkammer. Particularly highly prized were unusual and rare items which crossed or blurred the lines between animal, vegetable and mineral. Examples of these were corals and fossils and above all else objects such as narwhal tusks which were thought to be the horns of unicorns and were considered to be magical.

— excerpt from “History of the wunderkammern (cabinet of curiosities).”

I include here some pencil sketches of the various items and curios found inside the wunderkammer of my film (subject to change as the project evolves, of course).

octopus

Three wet specimen jars containing (left to right) a jellyfish, octopus, and a snake. The octopus is a small nod to my previous film La Petite Mort. 

conjoined-twins

Conjoined twins preserved within a glass specimen container (container not drawn yet).

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Pair of tsantsa, or shrunken human heads. Sure, this might be culturally insensitive, but tsantsa were wildly popular in the 19th century as items of “curiosity” in European cabinets.

monkey

Taxidermy monkey with martini glass. Taxidermy of all kind was popular inside wunderkammer. Not entirely happy with this sketch, and I may revisit at a later date.

eye-cloud

What it looks like: a cloud with a single eye. This never existed inside any wunderkammer, but it does inside mine.

box

The mysterious box. Believe it or not, the contents of this box will prove to be the most strange and curious item inside my wunderkammer. Stay tuned. 

Interview at Oberhausen

Whilst attending the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in Germany this month (May 2016), I had the pleasure of being interviewed by three young German journalism students. We had a brief conversation about my film in the festival Toronto Alice. They recently sent me a link to the interview, and I used Camtasia to capture it in order to share it with you, my readers. There is no video, only audio.

At one point in the recording, you’ll hear my voice mutter the word “ambiguous” over top of the interview. This was in response to — and a correction of — my previous misuse of the word “ambivalent” during the interview.

Festival updates & random musings.

Hello, my darklings. Hope you’re enjoying the warmer-than-usual weather in February (at least in Toronto). Just wanted to post an update on the various film festivals that are screening my work over the next few weeks.

Firstly, I’m truly honoured to have my short animated film La Petite Mort included in the “Independent (Canadian) Scene” program at Tricky Women 2016 in Vienna. Many heartfelt thanks to Madi Piller, executive director of Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS), who curated this program. She is a tireless supporter of independent animators.

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lapetitemort_TRICKY

Then, this tentacled darling of an animated short slithers her way to Lausanne, Switzerland for La Fête du Slip, an international porn festival. Needless to say, the preceding link is very NFSW unless you happen to work in a porn shop, or perhaps VICE Magazine. Oddly enough, I don’t consider this film as porn per se, but as a self-professed “sex-positive feminist”, I’m fine with that categorization, too. Evidently, the porn world has been craving more scenes of sexual exchange between a woman and an octopus. This could be a very niche market.

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My other cinematic child, Toronto Alice, travels to Los Angeles for the L.A. International Women’s Film Festival in March. Many thanks to Leslie -Ann Coles for curating the Canadian Shorts program that includes this film.

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I’m also excited to share that I’m currently developing a new script for another of my independent animations. This new project will be closer to La Petite Mort in look and feel, and has the working title of Wunderkammer. Stay tuned.

Deviant Desires: Erotic Grotesque Nonsense, Part IV: “Midori — The Girl in the Freak Show”

This is Part IV of my series of posts relating to the Japanese cultural phenomenon called “ero-guro-nansensu”, or erotic-grotesque-nonsense. Part III, which discussed Teruo Ishii’s “pinky violent” contribution to the ero-guro landscape entitled Horrors of Malformed Men, is found here.

midori_banned 2

Midori — The Girl in the Freak Show
(a.k.a. Shôjo tsubaki: Chika gentô gekiga).
1992, directed and animated by Hiroshi Harada

Much like Teruo Ishii’s Horrors of Malformed Men, a great deal has been made about the banned status of Hiroshi Harada’s 1992 anime Midori — The Girl in the Freak Show, and similarly, the details concerning its banned notoriety are rather murky. This film has screened at a small number of festivals, but is unavailable on DVD in both the 
Japanese and North American markets. It is only available through a small DVD distributor in France called CinéMalta. To a large extent, the film has been buried due to ongoing issues with the Japanese censors, and Harada has simply chosen not to screen it in his native country. In a videotaped interview that was included as an extra on the Midori DVD, Harada stated candidly:

“The situation in Japan makes it very difficult for films like mine to enter the mainstream. Hayao Miyazaki is well-known in Japan, and his films are seen abroad. If his stories represent the official story of Japan, then “Midori” is a counter-story of Japan, one the Japanese State and powers that be have suppressed and tried to hide away.”

Due to the controversial nature of the content, Harada was unable to secure investors for the project. Thus, he financed and worked on the 52-minute film alone, creating all of the artwork over a 5-year period using the technique of cel animation. This explains, in part, the somewhat limited nature of the animation – i.e. some scenes being just a succession of still images with camera holds, pans and zooms.

Suehiro Maruo's 1984 manga

Suehiro Maruo’s 1984 manga “Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show” (now out of print).

Midori is a very faithful adaption of artist Suehiro Maruo’s underground manga entitled Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show (published in 1984, now out-of-print) that tells the story of an abused flower girl in 1920’s Japan. When Midori, a poor girl about the age of 12, is suddenly and tragically orphaned, she seeks the help of one of her former customers, the mysterious Bowler Hat Man, who had previously extended an offer of assistance. Unfortunately, it is soon revealed that the The Bowler Hat Man has tricked the naïve Midori into becoming a virtual slave for a travelling circus show, where he inhabits the role of impresario. Thus begins the bleak tale of Midori’s cruel mistreatment and repeated rape by the grotesque monsters that work the carny sideshow.

Both Maruo’s manga and Harada’s film adaptation are populated by a now familiar set of erotic-grotesque stock characters —  the carny sideshow impresario and his collection of “freaks” including the magician dwarf, the hermaphrodite, and a limbless performer similar to the “human caterpillar” (which reminds us of Rampo’s short story). Several forms of sexual fetishism are on display, and in particular the fetish of eyeball-licking (called oculolinctus, by the way), which is a favourite motif for Maruo.

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Midori opens with a succession of images that flash quickly across the screen, accompanied by different voices that seem to call out a disconnected, nonsensical stream of words. According to Harada, these strangely poetic phrases are the sort you’d hear from carnival barkers back in the 1920’s.

If you’re a fan of Anime, and particularly the more underground and darker examples of the genre, then Midori is definitely worth tracking down. It’s not an easy viewing – and it does have a relentlessly bleak ending—but it is a very faithful adaptation of Maruo’s “ero guro” classic and effectively conveys the very limited options available to a young girl without the benefit (or protection) of a family or husband in 1920’s Japan. WARNING: some animated puppies are squashed.

You can view the entire film here, at least for now.

My next post in this ongoing series on ero-guro-nansensu discusses one of the most notorious Japanese films ever made,  In the Realm of the Senses (1976), directed by Nagisa Oshima.