by Claudia Siefen
Some identities offered to us in cinema often seem like a new kind of freedom in the realm of our own life, a life which we have defined within certain social determinateness and constraints. Identity is private. Much of this privacy is directed at home, the place of residence. The purely affirmative, which unfolds from any identity seems to lead to some kind of “singularization”. To describe the personal identity as a gateway for the cultural-industrial social disposition appears to be something ambivalent: something like a mobile privatization. But it’s this approach which places poet and filmmaker Suzuki Shirouyasu (born in 1935 in Tokyo) himself at the center of a process from where he lays claim and questions his own identity, as well as his relationships with a certain world and social structures out there. And the world out there starts where the mirror at home ends.
So maybe you are convinced that this expression of individuality and privacy is a way too privileged mode of accessing any vision of this modern world, and maybe you can be convinced also that this private view is able to open a door (or even a window) for you to the mentality of the society it came from. Can be said that this communication of cinema, based on the perception of an individual is a precious form of resistance? I am not sure about that. But I think that each and every single form of well-thought and well-planned expression is a representation of experience, maybe enriching a certain understanding of a particular culture by depicting some of its complexities.
For the works Suzuki made over the past few years, he hasn’t set a particular theme for filming. Usually he carries his camera around on a daily basis filming garden flowers, or goes to a different place and just starts filming. And then when he feels like reaching a certain point of storytelling he adds his thoughts to bring it all together in some way. So his films are captivating on the basis of the emotions and thoughts they provoke. Would it be too literary when I say that his films share the sound of their own inner voices, their encounters and dialogues? These inner and outer journeys are all means of giving an image to reality. What do the individual shots, their centering and length, the editing and the position of the camera (just like a part of the filmmaker’s body) have on the story to be told? Not to forget, what are the director’s social and political preoccupations? This kind of “me-cinema” is among one the most creative strands, not only of contemporary filmmaking, in which “risk-taking” (as trite this may sound) also offers an important advantage of a certain philosophy, risk-taking in the creative fields and arts. Usually it means losing some personal privacy, and it means to expose a certain embarrassment. A structured and well prepared embarrassment…
I think films with an autobiographical trait, ranging from narcissism to sustained interest in others, automatically raise issues such as memory and mourning, flirting with the human body in all the aspects of its cinematic presentations and possibilities. Analyzing all kind of glimpses behind the “impenetrable screen” of what is quintessentially Japanese, the psychoanalyst Takeo Doï distinguishes between omote (outward-facing side) and ura (inward-facing side), which together bear witness to the double structure of Japanese consciousness. According to Doï, omote and ura are sometimes manifested in the form of honne, which expresses individual truths and sentiments held deep inside oneself. About his work Suzuki stated that, the own body disappears on the internet, the outward and inward of expression, but verbs exist as traces of the filmmakers body within his writings. It seems that the body does appear within the internet in a still very unusual way: as a viewer and participant you disappear, but you can only disappear because you exist. So with cinema and with Suzuki’s work you can actually see the person who did the writing that you read, although some people aren’t really aware of this. “Any language always speaks with the entire body”, Bertolt Brecht wrote. When it comes to any kind of writing (poetry, lyrics, dialogues, prose), you can see the identity of the person who did the writing. Hopefully you will find the rhythm of language and melodies of words also in the writer’s body language. As a filmmaker your body is connected to the camera, and the camera is one way to become visible from within your own language.
That concept of “phenomenon” exists inside the work of Susuki. Some things don’t appear as a phenomenon, but they get recognized as such once they unfold in a definite way. Of course Suzuki deals with his own self as a phenomenon. His interest in the “extremely private” originates from the idea that universality can be obtained, depending on the approach he takes in developing himself as that phenomenon. So, you hear a lot about universality when you think about things, or express something, of course. In his earlier works he thought (and communicated) that universality didn’t exist. But as you observe in his later films he does not think like that anymore. You lose authenticity by thinking about universality. Maybe this is certain about the modern times? And somehow authenticity loses some sort of reality. In order to obtain reality, you have to examine yourself closely, and deal with yourself as a phenomenon. And we have come full circle.