The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto

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Kimstim and Kino are proud to present this collection of short films from one of the world s greatest stop-motion animators: Kihachiro Kawamoto. Famous for his beautiful, expressive puppets, Kawamoto began his career in the 1950s. Honing his skills at the legendary Kratky Studios in Prague (under the mentorship of celebrated Czech animator Jiri Trnka), Kawamoto harnessed Japan s unique aesthetic traditions to create visually stunning stories. Drawing on ancient legends, contemporary short novels, as well as Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraku doll theater, Kawamoto s haunting, poetic films speak of passion and loss in worlds populated by ghosts and demons. ALL FILMS ARE IN JAPANESE WITH OPTIONAL ENGLISH SUBTITLES, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

THE BREAKING OF BRANCHES IS FORBIDDEN (14 min / 1968 / Color) A monk orders a young acolyte, who happens to have a fondness for sake, to guard a beautiful cherry blossom tree. 

AN ANTHROPO-CYNICAL FARCE (8 min / 1970 / B&W / IN FRENCH WITH OPTIONAL ENGLISH SUBTITLES) A dog race is interrupted by a ringmaster who attaches fish to the animals collars and makes them run in circles. The crowd becomes incensed and the ringmaster finds himself in a race for his life.

THE DEMON (8 min / 1972 / Color) A pair of hunters encounter a ghastly demon in the woods. Escaping by severing the apparition s arm, they make an even more grisly discovery on the journey home. Based on the 12th-century Japanese medieval legend Konjaku-monogatari.

THE TRIP (12 min / 1973 / Color / NO DIALOGUE) A young girl sets off on a surreal metaphysical voyage through which she will learn all the pain and joy of life.

A POET S LIFE (19 min / 1974 / Color) A mysterious meditation on the power of poetic imagination. A worker fired from a factory for demanding higher wages is plagued by ghastly nightmares. Based on a story by novelist Kobo Abe. 

DOJOJI TEMPLE (19 min / 1976 / Color) Two pilgrims, an elderly monk and his young disciple, out on a spiritual journey, encounter a mysterious woman whose frenzied passions transform her into a huge white serpent.

HOUSE OF FLAMES (19 min / 1979 / Color) A Japanese Drama of the Absurd. A young village woman is torn between two suitors. Out of anguish, she decides to destroy herself. Although her intentions are pure, her death reverberates with shocking consequences.

The short films of Kihachiro Kawamoto represent a fusion of Eastern European stop-motion animation and traditional Japanese Bunraku puppetry. Kawamoto studied under the great Czech animator Jiri Trnka (The Puppet Films of Jiri Trnka), and his cut-out/puppet combination films--"An Anthropo-Cynical Farce," "The Trip," and "A Poet's Life"--share the dark visions of the old Soviet Bloc artists. "The Breaking of Branches is Forbidden," in which a drunken novice violates the orders of a severe old monk, echoes the farcical Kyogen comedies that break up programs of Noh plays. "Dojoji Temple" is a strikingly beautiful retelling of a popular Kabuki play: overcome by lust, a woman transforms into a demon-serpent to take revenge on the monk who rejects her. Kawamoto has said that "Dojoji" allowed him to experiment with the combination of two- and three-dimensional elements needed for "House of Flames," his masterpiece to date. Reminiscent of a Noh tragedy, the film recounts the story of three star-crossed lovers whose suffering transcends the phenomenal world. The title of the collection is not hyperbole: Kawamoto's films truly are exquisite. His most recent film, The Book of the Dead is also available on DVD. (Unrated: suitable for ages 12 and older: violence, alcohol use) --Charles Solomon

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