Thursday, 15 November 2007

Koji Yamamura "Mt.Head"

Mt. Head is a comic tale of a man so mean that when he eats some freshly picked cherries he is unable to resist devouring the stones. He promptly begins to grow a cherry tree on the top of his head. No matter the number of times he clips them off they continue to grow. So he lets one do just that. To his consternation this attracts a host of people to picnic and generally loiter under the shade of the tree, the Mt.Head of the title. He resorts to desperate tactics, with equally disheartening results. It is a retelling of the Japanese Rakugo story "Atama-yama", a comic monologue, traditionally delivered by a single speaker recounting a comic tale for the amusement of his attentive audience. In the hands of Koji Yamamura the form has humour, wonder and a quite marvellous technique. I understood not one word of Takeharu Kunimoto’s narration but was untroubled by the lack of subtitles and I guess I understood what was happening better than many English language movies I deign to write about. Koji imbues the movie with depth and subtlety. Clearly he is making a point about human nature - that people are quite willing to despoil the potential oasis on his head, to jump around and give him a headache, to dive into the waterhole he creates in the second half of the movie. It is also a salutory lesson on greed. Visually the movie is a treat with the huge almost gargoyle-like face that fills the screen, the red cherries themselves, the disappearing cherries from the plate and our dawning realisation that the stones have gone too, the crowd of people holidaying at the man's expense, the anguish on the owner's face as his head is mistreated. You may buy the DVD here, though the link at the beginning of the post is to the Japanese Media Arts Festival of 2002. Koji Yamamura is assuredly one of the world's foremost animation talents.

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