Junk Head (2014) Takahide Hori – Japan
From Japan’s Oita prefecture, stop-motion artist Takahide Hori recently completed his four-year-long film project Junk Head 1, it having screened in November at Shibuya Uplink. Mixing together elements of macabre, gristled horror found in monster movies, think on Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolf Man (1941), and classical science fiction, a Metropolis (1927) sort, this first piece of a planned several is short but wholly absorbing. Its ability to resource in clever cinematography and visual storytelling captivates, and whether you stay for the story or just to soak in all of the gorgeous detail, its thirty or so minutes of run time fly right by. If you’re interested, the introduction preface is a drawing one to keep you guessing:
“In the distant future, mankind attains longevity through gene manipulation. However, in exchange, the ability to reproduce is lost. Clones were built to maintain the dwindling workforce, but 1200 years ago they rebelled.”
In the beginning, it may be difficult for viewers to draw defining lines for the various character divides, some human and others of an alien type, but while you make reference points, the action is easy enough to follow, it being linear and fairly clear cut. We find an armored android character, one in white, gunned down by what appear to be bandaged vigilantes, their efforts all for marauding. His parts are scattered across a grand gutter system of halls, shaft entrances & exits, and corridors, places we will later explore. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil comes to mind, the size a behemoth’s cluster of grungy skyscrapers and rusted sheet metal. The android’s head is collected by a short group of rubber coated henchmen, grunts really, and they argue over what should be done. It is brought to their doctor, a scientist sort who puts him back together, and we learn more of who resides inside its armor head. It cannot remember what has happened, but it follows the authorial command of the grunts, and a story unfolds.
It’s a blend of the steam-punk vintage aesthetic found in Alex Proyas’s Dark City (1998) and a kind of global dread for infertility from other works like Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (2006). The engagement though is booming, truly a development all its own. Hori shows care to build crafty barriers for his characters and audience members to abide by, and viewers will like the quirky coolness of the environment there in that future. It’s cool and grotesque, browns and reds melting into fluorescent overexposed greens a la Matrix. The setting is futuristic and primitive, all of it found in tight proximity, cradled over puppet shoulders or hunched at low places beside characters’ feet; it makes for a much larger world from a tiny one. It’s an admirable endeavor that hits its stride midway through. If you’re there, you will watch until the end.
It does begin to teeter off in its last run toward the finish, but Hori is able to bring us emotional connections with his characters, and I would find it difficult if others think it a waste. It qualifies both as art and as story.
Hori proves his skill in creating depth and motion with his photography too, the running scenes fluid and crisp. I think with time his narrative chops will develop, as the story is perhaps too structured, but on big picture, he is grounded in the way conflict conditions for his characters, those to either seek or avoid, are shown . Choreography too is a work that will take time to pace, but viewers will understand the gist, its music playing suitably to create needed footing.
Production for Junk Head 2 is underway, and, if you enjoy this piece, help Hori, Emily Balistrieri, responsible for English/Japanese translations, and Norikatu Seo, computer graphics, with funding at their Indiegogo page: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/junk-head-2–2
Let me know what aspects of the project you liked best. Perhaps there are things Hori can improve on. This is beneficial time to send advice over his way. I think it’s a wonderful step in the right kind of stop-motion direction I’ve missed for some time, me being a huge fan of Jiri Trnka, see his The Hand as a starter’s point. I’ll put it below too. This makes for an exciting moment in animation, our technology in a consumer\’s capacity to require lesser a budget than before. Great stories can be told like this one. Hori, hopefully your exhausted efforts will not go unnoticed. Thank you for part one.