Archive for the ‘ Cinema ’ Category


Today is the 32nd anniversary of Terayama Shūji’s (寺山 修司) death. Curiously, it coincides with Memorial Day in The Netherlands- the day preceding Liberation Day where the Dutch observe two minutes of silence from 20:00 to 20:02 to commemorate their country men who have died in wars and peacekeeping missions from the onset of World War II onwards.

Teryama Shūji, playwright, director, poet, filmmaker, innovator, died on May 4th 1983, at age 47.

My connection to his work dates back to late 1977, through a notice posted by the Mickery Theater on the bulletin board of the University of Amsterdam’s Institute of Dramatic Arts. Following up on that notice – that asked for help with the elaborate performances of Cloud Cuckooland, a visit – my life would never be the same again.

Tenjō Sajiki (天井桟敷), an avantgarde theater group from Tokyo, had settled that winter in Amsterdam at the Mickery Theater for a three-month residency to convert Terayama’s Nuhikun (奴婢訓, based on Jonathan Swift’s Directions for Servants) to a moving theater experience that took place in the entire building. Literally moving, and that’s where my role comes in. Perched high up in the rafters of the main theater, I was in charge of directing traffic below on the stage floor, where three curtained boxes mounted on hoovers and moved around by several stage hands transported spectators from scene to scene. Sometimes the audience faced a bare wall or closed curtains, with just audible access to what was going on beyond their 20-person box. This was, of course, in the heydey of audience participation- and manipulation. In the smaller theater upstairs, spectators were treated to the Cloud Cuckooland-part, conceived by Ritsaert ten Cate, only to be acquainted with Nuhikun by the end of the evening, when through a glass pane they could observe the grand finale of Terayama’s play.

What remained of the performance after Nuhikun had toured the rest of The Netherlands, London and Paris (without its hoovering boxes), was a maquette constructed by Tenjō Sajiki’s art director Kotake Nobutake (小竹信節), built of balsa wood inside a suitcase-type box measuring 46 x 30 x 10 cm of thin triplex board. On the day of departure, all cast and crew signed it, rendering it a wonderful time capsule.

Fast forward to September 5, 2008 when Ritsaert ten Cate, founder and director of the Mickery Theater and later Touch Time, dies. I inherit the model of Nuhikun. It is in disrepair. I feel it needs to be in a place where it can be enjoyed by more people than just me.

I get in touch with Terayama’s former wife and Tenjō Sajiki producer Kujō Kyōko (九條今日子), who tells me about her involvement in the establishment of a museum to house the archives of Terayama’s work. It is connected to a memorial, close to where he grew up in Aomori prefecture, in a tranquil and wooded section of Misawa city (of American Airforce Base-fame), overlooking Odanai Pond.

It takes some time to get organised – time in which the model is restored and Kujō-san dies, on 30 April 2014 – but last October, I finally made the pilgrimage to Japan’s deep north to return a piece of Terayama history to its rightful place.

The Terayama Memorial Museum is a wonderfully playful building, where Terayama’s literary, dramatic and cinematographic legacy are kept. Visitors can interact with the material by taking place in a darkened room behind desks where materials are kept, in chronological order and under glass in side drawers, and films are projected onto the desk surface through use of mirrors. In the next room, there is a tableau of Nuhikun set pieces and photographs that illustrate the history of Tenjō Sajiki and Terayama’s life. Manuscripts and further archive materials can be consulted in an adjacent library room.

The memorial overlooking the lake can be reached by walking down a meandering path behind the museum. In short, visiting here means immersion into another world, playful and peaceful at once.

I am treated to an overwhelmingly warm welcome by the museum’s director Eimei Sasaki (佐々木英明) and the Vice Mayor of Misawa, Maita Koichiro, who proceeds to read out loud a Letter of Recognition to me and a gathered audience of members of the press as well as a delegation from City Hall and the local Chamber of Commerce. To my surprise, and great joy, this is a big deal for the city of Misawa.

For a few hours, Mickery’s and Tenjō Sajiki’s illustrious histories are rekindled through storytelling and anecdotes, and Terayama Shūji and Ritsaert ten Cate are in the spotlight once more to illuminate their visionary approach to theater.

And the box is back where it belongs.

Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Terayama Shuji Kinenkan/Terayama Shuji Memorial Museum, Misawa City, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

Terayama Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

Terayama Shuji Memorial, Terayama Shuji Kinenkan, Misawa City

The Nuhikun model

The Nuhikun model

Frontpage, Daily Tohoku News, 23 October 2014

Frontpage, Daily Tohoku News, 23 October 2014

Translation DAILY TOHOKU NEWS, Thursday, 23 October 2014

On the 22nd of October, Dutch director Erica Bilder presented to the Terayama Shuji Memorial Hall of Misawa a stage model, dating from the time when the theater company ‘Tenjo-Sajiki’ directed by Terayama Shuji – a poet and a playwright who spent his childhood in Misawa – performed in 1978 in The Netherlands.

This stage model is probably the only one existent for Tenjo-Sajiki, and museum director Eimei Sasaki said with great joy, “It is a most valuable addition to understand the whole of Terayama’s use of performance space.”

In that year, ‘Directions to Servants,’ created and directed by Terayama was presented at the theater in Amsterdam.

Terayama also traveled on tour, and he directed the avant-garde performance [in The Mickery] with many small audiences and stages that move about in the theater .

The actors and staff used this model to understand the arrangement of complex scene changes changes during the performance.

The model was made by Nobutaka Kotake, who was a company member and art director at the time (he is currently a professor at Musashino Art University).

It is a wooden box, and is 1/60 scale of the real thing, length 46cm, width 30cm, and height 10cm. It has parts that simulate the audience and stage, and the model is accompanied by the script that Mrs. Bilder put together, so the original state of each scene in the theater can be recreated.

There are messages of Terayama and members of theater company on the back of its lid.

Mrs.Bilder was assistant of the stage director in the ’78 performance, and she told “I was shocked when I first saw the performance. It gave me a chance to learn about avant-garde theater in Japan. My life was changed by this work.”

She received the model from the producer in 2008, and told with a smile, “I am happy to present this to Terayama Memorial Hall because it belongs here.”

See also:ūji_Terayamaō_Sajiki


The End of Videoheads?

Today, I received an alarming message from Jack Moore, founder and director of Videoheads – since 1966!

“It looks like the end of Videoheads and their collection.
After 45 years of work, play and accumulation, Videoheads is in great danger of disappearing.
Various deals to sell our material or license it for publishing have been delayed and delayed. a sales agent we were hoping to work with had not panned out and we are 4 months behind in our rent. This week the Landlords will demand that we empty the building and vacate. The equipment will be sold and the tape collection will be thrown in garbage bins. We need to find 6000 Euros immediately (within a couple of days) or watch Videoheads go down in flames. If you know of anyone or any organization who could help to save this situation and the collection, please contact me or them or both. The 60s collection, our UNESCO material, the theater dance and performance collection as well as the Art, artists and writers tapes are just used tapes with no value to a bailiff.
Please have a think and be in touch.”

Are we going to do something about it?
Please contact Jack at:

Jack trained as an opera director, with degrees in Music and Theater, but since 1966 he has been intensely active in the area of application of video technology to support artists and performers in their work as well as stilmulating creativity in the fields of videographic and computer art.
Videoheads has an open workshop and video gallery in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Jack worked as a consulting expert for U.N.E.S.C.O. for 20 years, inspecting and developing media strategies and facilities in 61 countries.

Largely retired now, he lives in Amsterdam and keeps himself busy with restoring old video material to digital standards and indexing his 60,000 hours of programming.
He teaches and assists artists who use video in various ways, and gives ample video support for the performing arts.

The Marriage of Malasch and Moore

A new museum? A Lab? An art space, or factory – like Andy Warhol? A think tank? Or a community center?

There’s a new hotspot in town.

The new Serieuze Zaken is Amsterdam Arts Lab. This is the petri dish for creativity in Amsterdam West.
It started as a merger of meneer de wit and Serieuze Zaken and is now a marriage of sorts between gallerist extraordinaire Rob Malasch and moving image magician Jack Moore.
Moore’s vast archive straddles both sides of art and entertainment.
On opening Sunday last week, Jack treated the audience to Norman McLaren’s wistful and fistful Neighbours from 1952; a rare complete (the only in the world) recording of Grace Jones’ debut concert at the Roseland Ballroom in New York on Halloween 1978 and a stream of George Méliès’s wickedly funny shorts shot in 1896 (yes, you got that right, late-19th century film!).
Jack’s running encyclopedic commentary, providing context and piquant details make the marriage between Malasch and Moore a great success.
“Don’t forget to tell them it was a shotgun marriage,” Malasch said to me when I left his gorgeous new gallery space where the paint had barely dried.

I need a man

Norman McLaren

George Méliès

Marvelous Molière

There is a chair in the museum collection of the Comédie-Française in Paris, which is displayed in a corridor right off the theater’s main lobby, encased in a glass cabinet like Sleeping Beauty. It is a simple armchair on casters, upholstered in tattered leather. The chair is old, at least some 350 years. Legend has it, that the playwright-actor Molière practically died in it, on stage, when he had a coughing fit during the fourth performance of Le Malade Imaginaire, playing Argan the Hypondriac (or Imaginary Invalid). He barely made it through the last act and died at home shortly after the performance. (There is a parallel here with the death of the great British actor Edmund Keane, who almost died onstage in the arms of his actor-son Charles who was playing Iago to his Othello).
An untimely death at 51 for the playwright-actor-manager Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, aka Molière, who had spent many years touring France, making people laugh in a period of grime and mud and sky-high infant mortality rates, with Commedia dell’Arte-type plays that unmasked the abyss dividing rich and poor, the uselessness of the medical profession and the hypocrisy of the clergy.
But it was not an entirely unforeseen death, as he suffered from tuberculosis – most likely contracted during a stint in debtor’s prison.
When Molière had returned to Paris he was eventually incorporated in the entertainments at the court of Louis XIV. His breakthrough at the Sun King’s court was greatly engineered by another Jean-Baptiste, the naturalized Italian composer Gianbattista Lully. Alas, after some splendid collaborations, Lully got tired of playing second fiddle to Molière’s words. Lully had ambitions to create his own operas, so the two were estranged by the time Molière staged Le Malade Imaginaire in 1673. The musical interludes were written by another composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This all to the chagrin of Lully, who had claimed a solid monopoly for his operas and had managed to get a royal edict passed to the effect that theatrical performances were only allowed the services of two strings and two voices.
Why am I telling all this?
I never cared much for the staid interpretations of Molière’s biting, satirical plays, until I saw De Ingebeelde Zieke performed last week in a staging by Jos Thie at the municipal theater in Utrecht.
Building on a tradition that was perhaps set in motion by Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1978 film Molière ou la vie d’un honnête homme, Thie renders the play in a way that neither wants to be excruciatingly contemporary, nor wants to forget about all the layers built up around such a classic in terms of its (performance) history and its underlying socio-political context. An extra gift is, that the long-lost music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier has been incorporated in this incredibly funny, superbly acted and beautifully designed performance. Finally we can see Molière the magnificent, who registered all the wrongs of his times, and may have been biting the hand that fed him, yet it didn’t stop him to speak his mind with mastery, insight and an enormous dose of humor.

A Moving Monument

Is it Dance
Is it Theatre
or is it LIFE
the trailer announces PINA (Dance, Dance, otherwise we are lost…), a film by Wim Wenders that just opened in Amsterdam.
The 3D film is a loving monument to choreographer/dancer Pina Bausch, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on June 30 2009. Here space, such an essential part of dance, is a character/actor, as is the camera, not registering the movements and emotions frontally, but amidst the dancers.
The result is a mesmerizing, totally tension-laden feature film. Full, rich fragments of Rite of Spring turn into moments filled with ominous suspense as heavy as any good cliffhangher scene in Hollywood movies.
In the sparse moments that Pina herself appears in person in the film, she speaks with utmost love of her dancers, a motley crew of well-trained, daring and above all extremely imaginative dancers. It becomes clear that Pina Bausch searched and collected shards of the collective unconscious in her dancers, who arrived in Wuppertal from all corners of the world. What they shared with her and us, the spectators, constitutes a gestural idiom from all nations, resulting in the creation of a universal language of longing.
I’m less interested in how people move
than in what moves them
she simply says.
Wim Wenders’ film zooms in on Café Muller and Kontakthof, both dating from 1978 and Vollmond, a newer piece created in 2006.
Thrilling sections tilt the dance out of the theater and rehearsal studio onto the streets, into industrial spaces and woodlands of Wuppertal. Its famous suspended monorail serves as a location and becomes a character in and of itself.
Wim Wenders gave the dancers the opportunity to give Pina a last message, much in the way she herself poked them with questions like: “What does it mean to you, love, joy, pride?” They are short glimpses into their souls and shed light on the process.
One of the dancers says: “For 22 years she watched me from behind that table. That’s more time than my parents ever watched me.” Another dancer relates how the only direction Pina ever gave her was “Keep searching.”
They were willing to go deep, her dancers, for her, for themselves, and for us. It is real, their exploration, never a coquettish play with ideas. At the beginning of the film, Pina Bausch says in voice over: “It is not about the words, it is about what it invokes, that’s where the beginning of dance is.” Signature movements with arms floating up and hands fluidly following each other like fish in a stream, are repeated over and over until something stirs. Not unlike Sanford Meisner instructed his actors to repeat the words UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENED. Pina’s eclectic choice of music is always a joyful surprise. She uses anything, from Dido and Aeneas, Edith Piaf, popular, traditional and folklore music. As long as it enables to evoke feelings and invoke what Germans call Sehnsucht (longing, yearning, desire, nostalgia). She dared, they, the dancers, dared in ongoing commitment and with an intensity that gives the chills, touching a universal chord.
Wim Wenders captured this with a deftness that defies any of the blockbuster movies made in 3D sofar, giving dance and art in motion a depth it has longed to match with the experience of live performance.

Be sure to watch Die Klage der Kaiserin (The Empress’ Laments, Pina Bausch’s personal moving snapshot album (filmed on video in 1990 and blown up to 35mm for distribution) and
Un Jour Pina m’a demandé, Chantal Akerman’s documentary in which she follows the company in rehearsal and on tour in 1983 – both available on You Tube

MakingOf PINA – 3D from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.

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