Tag Archives: Arnolfini

NON-KO, a reflection

I have long given up on building expectations around Japanese movies but I was still surprised by Non-Ko. Opening scene. A woman sits at a bar drinking whiskey from a glass filled with an impressive amount of ice (think –berg). She downs the drink and asks for a refill. She’s been there a while and is waxing lyrical in a way that only drunk people can. She finishes up by stating she has no money to pay for it all and the scene cuts to just her and the bar woman. It is a moment of realisation and we get a lot of those. Nothing is quite as expected. Not in a Ponyo magical way, but just in a ‘reserve judgement’ until the end kind of manner.

Non-Ko is the stage name of the main actress and she is sullen, withdrawn, miserable and has very loud clip-clopping sandals. Not sure what the exaggerated sound added to the story but there it was, ice against glass, sandals against pavement, chewing and eating all magnified to take over most of the sound. Non-ko is back home after an alluded to tv career failure and is living with her parents at 37 years of age. Drunken cycle rides crashing into bins and street lamps on the way home from the bar seem to be a staple in this new life.

At a local temple near her home, Non-Ko is examining other people’s fortunes (dismissing the good ones) when she is tasked to help a young man, Masuma, who wants to set up a stand for a big fete. After discovering he has no plans, apart from relying on hope, she sullenly takes him along and he ends up staying with her and her parents after drunkenly passing out in a bar. The interactions between Masuma and Non-Ko explore different levels of hopelessness and crawling out of the low points of life but without really blending too much. There is a distinctness to the characters that is retained quite well. The father is authoritative; the mother silent, domestic and supportive; the ex-husband sleazy and Non-Ko sullen and miserable. The movie entertains in its own intriguing way and the scenes of Japanese life slip in quite gently without appearing as a tourist expedition.

I found some of the cultural differences interesting and a little brow-wrinkling, such as the near-constant smoking and sitting on the floor. There was the rolled out futon for sleep, the gardens and the temple with the chosen fortunes tied to near-by tree branches. The action in the movie was quite fascinating with some dramatic events taking place at the fete when Masuma’s hope finally runs out.

The film offers some moments of reality with little of the glamour of glossy productions but at the same time it does it well. I finally got to like Non-Ko by the end when she realises that running away isn’t the answer. The theme of the film festival is Girls on Film and this work navigated the jarring world of disappointment and expectations in a dramatic little fashion but not too far from its initial premise. I wouldn’t call it charming but it was a satisfying experience.

Girls on Film is a festival running at the Arnolfini until the 21 March.

Girls on Film at the Arnolfini

A touring festival dedicated to contemporary Japanese films about women is making its way around the UK.

In Bristol, the Arnolfini will screen the following six movies from 13 to 21 March:

  • Non-Ko (2008) 13 March
  • ASYLE (2007) 14 March
  • Kamome Diner (2006) 18 March
  • How to Become Myself (2007) 19 March
  • German plus Rain (2007) 20 March
  • Fourteen (2007) 21 March

All films are shown at 7.30pm.

I will be watching Non-Ko on 13 March and Asyle on 14 March.

Non-Ko (2008)
directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, 105 minutes, Rated 15.
The movie is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Sat 13 March, 7.30pm
£6.00/£4.50 Concs

Nonko, a 36-year-old divorced ex-actress, returns home to her family, where her father is a priest at a local Shinto shrine. Disillusioned and lonely, she takes out her frustration by drinking herself to oblivion at a local bar, until she meets up with a naïve young man who is trying to make his fortune by selling baby chicks.

Asyle (2007)

directed by Izuru Kumasaka, 111 minutes, Rated 15.
Lily, Hikari Kajiwara, Chiharu, Sachi Jinno, Ken Mitsuishi. The movie is in Japanese with English subtitles.

Sun 14 Mar, 7.30pm
£6.00/£4.50 Concs

A haven for clandestine lovers turns out to be more than most passers-by would imagine in this independent drama.

The Parku Ando is a ‘love hotel’ in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, where couples can rent a room for a night or by the hour for romantic assignations. However, few of its regular customers seem to come there for sexual encounters; the hotel has become a hangout for rootless teenagers, senior citizens looking for a place to relax, and kids who play under the watchful eye of manager Tsuyako (Lily). Tsuyako and her friend Tsuki handle the day to day business at the hotel, and while they can be tough when they need to be, they’re also capable of kindness to strangers…

Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA, +44 (0)117 9172300 / 01
boxoffice@arnolfini.org.uk, www.arnolfini.org.uk

Somewhere, softly, someone is speaking with a lilting accent (it's not me)

In a time where global battles with recession are swiftly translated into job cuts and unemployment rates, the government’s news of funding cuts in higher education wasn’t exactly surprising. While science subjects are promoted and at times ring-fenced, the people and institutions involved with the arts and humanities are getting increasingly worried. In Sunday’s Observer, top academics and cultural leaders from these departments, raise concern about the preference for so-called STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and maths. (A general plug for a report on application trends to these subjects)

A piece on the same subject goes on to say that “[t]he study of history, philosophy, languages and literature broadens horizons and animates minds that go on to enrich society in many ways. The advantages that flow from research into the creative output of humanity might not be obviously financial, but they are incalculable.”

The letter says arts and humanities enrich the country’s quality of life and help people to look at the world from different perspectives: “People’s complexity comes from their language, identities, histories, faiths and cultures.”

So what does it mean to ‘look at the world from different perspectives’? I visited an installation at the Arnolfini in January 2009 where the audience were asked to take a small sticky circle and place it somewhere in the room where it didn’t belong, and then take another one and place it on a map of the gallery to indicate where it was placed. ‘It’s making me look at things I’m not supposed to’ joked a fellow art gallery visitor and he was stating the obvious but it applies to all art.

I see art as a fragment of reality plucked out from behind someone else’s eyes or ears or heart (figuratively speaking). For a second you stand in front of someone’s creation and sometimes you fit comfortably in their shoes or you at least step away from your own little reality just for a moment. All of it involves integration, interaction, empathy, some type of understanding and a little willingness to share.

Bristol has art leaking out of most corners, walls and alleyways but there’s something special about the Arnolfini. It’s hard to oversell it because as they say themselves, it is one of Europe’s leading centres for the contemporary arts and is at a fantastic waterside location at the heart of Bristol’s harbourside. The space inside adds a solid silence that can be specific to room after room according to different art displays.

I visited an exhibition about immigration and the diaspora a couple of years previously and a film was shown in a small room that was all shadow apart from one screen that took up a wall. Something so magical about the Mediterranean seen from Algiers. The water so blue, the goodbyes just as painful but a different language entirely.

In the same edition of the Observer, emigration is noted as being sadly engrained in the Irish culture and it is an Irish composer’s work that has caught my eye in the listing of future art installations. As part of the Lingua Franca series,writer French-Norwegian Caroline Bergvall and Irish composer Ciaran Maher are presenting the exhibition ‘Say Parsley’.

This is a sparse sound and language installation organised across a number of spaces, which becomes a place for mishearings, recognition, assumptions, misattribution. You hear what you want to hear. You hear what you think you hear.

The background to Say Parsley is the biblical ‘shibboleth’, a violent event where language itself is gatekeeper, and a pretext to massacre. The pronunciation of a given word exposes the identity of the speaker. To speak becomes a give-away. Are you one of us, not one of us? How you speak will be used against you.
The most recent example of a large scale shibboleth was the massacre of tens of thousands of Creole Haitians on the border of the Dominican Republic in 1937, when the criteria for execution was the failure to pronounce ‘perejil’ (parsley) in the accepted Spanish manner, with a rolling ‘r’.

Installations such as this are not only about seeing the world in a different way but finding a way to experience, visit and understand it as well.

The exhibition takes place between Saturday 8 May to Sunday 4 July 2010 so it’s not for a little while but it’s nice to have something to anticipate.

Girls on film

As mentioned in Saturday’s Guardian, a touring festival dedicated to contemporary Japanese films about women is making its way around the UK. After Sheffield, Belfast, London and Edinburgh it also makes its way to Bristol.

The Japan Foundation’s 2010 touring film programme looks at contemporary Japanese cinema made about and, in some cases, by women. Touring to five venues during February and March, the programme is composed of works from the past few years and showcases how Japanese contemporary filmmakers, from the very established, such as the late Jun Ichikawa, to young and promising filmmakers, like Satoko Yokohama, approach the issues facing women and adolescents. This season also includes works by female directors, reflecting the exciting trend of a marked increase in the number of female directors working in the Japanese film industry. This is a unique collection of films not to be missed!

The Japan Foundation

In Bristol, the Arnolfini will screen the six movies from 13 to 21 March and they are as follows:

  • Kamome Diner (2006)
  • ASYLE (2007)
  • Fourteen (2007)
  • German plus Rain (2007)
  • How to Become Myself (2007)
  • Non-Ko (2008)

The festival still requires some evaluators in Belfast, Edinburgh and Bristol. In exchange for a complimentary ticket, you will need to attend two screenings and answer an extended questionnaire giving your opinions on the season and films you have seen. If you are interested in acting as an evaluator, please email info@jpf.org.uk, telling them your full name and which is your closest venue.

For more details see the Arnolfini closer to the date and The Japan Foundation.