Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A New York Necessity


Tekkon Kinkreet, the first Japanese feature film to be directed by an American, let alone the first anime to do so, has its US premiere tonight at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The film will be screened at MoMA for five days straight.

I first heard about Tekkon during my initial research for Japanamerica, when my dear friend, New York filmmaker Stephen Earnhart, urged me to contact Tekkon director Michael Arias.

The resulting interviews and studio tours with Michael and veteran producer and studio founder Eiko Tanaka gave me the blueprint for the rest of the book, and I remain deeply grateful to them and to Stephen for the gift.

The film currently in production (and at a maddening pace) was Tekkon. Michael showed me some "dailies"--scenes that were more or less polished, but still disjointed--and I was sufficiently impressed.

But as in any narrative medium, a few good scenes in anime do not a good story make.

When I first sat down to watch Tekkon in a Tokyo cinema in January, I felt considerable trepidation: I'd devoted several pages to its makers (and harbored no regrets), but I also spent considerable time on this very title. It suited my trans-cultural, borderless theories to a proverbial T. How couldn't I?

I spent the next two hours mesmerized, sometimes shaken, sometimes shuddering.

I am half Japanese, yes, but I was raised largely in America. And while I prefer excessive ambition to conservative perfectionism in my arts, I have sometimes found the boundless leaps of some Japanese animation narratives sufficiently showy, but insubstantial.

Not so with Tekkon. Like the best of its kind (film, ultimately, which is visual and verbal storytelling), Tekkon takes enormous risks--and remains tethered to the yearnings and flaws of its characters, its humanity.

My first review of it is at the top of this page, from the gracious folks at Animation Magazine in LA.

Earlier this year I had lunch in Soho with Anthony Weintraub, the screenwriter who rendered Taiyo Matsumoto's brilliant manga series in film-able script. Anthony is also a partner in a film production company based in Manhattan, a-line pictures, who produced Capote two years ago.

You'll be hearing more about Tekkon Kinkreet soon, but if you are in New York now, you owe yourself a trek to MoMA.

Am still tethered to Tokyo and time-tested, but new events, projects, happenings are breaking through the soil ... ah, enough of the springtime blather. My glorious week with the New Yorker's Roz Chast, her daughter, and the affable Azuma-san, king of Manga, are introduced in my latest little column at TranNet.

May 6, Tokyo, is a Japanamerica Night. More on that later. Go see Tekkon.

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