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The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Kihachiro Kawamoto
  • Directors: Kihachiro Kawamoto
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: KimStim
  • DVD Release Date: October 1, 2014
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0013LPS5C
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,139 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto" on IMDb

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 9, 2008
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These seven short features present an enchanting range of techniques, visual styles, and stories. All of them feature some amount of stop animation. Kawamoto creates an unusual combination, however, by placing his 3D puppets against 2D backgrounds. This gives the feel of a stage play, with live actors amid flat, painted scenery elements. Kawamoto reinforces that sense of theater in the puppets he creates. Some have faces like Noh masks, others resemble elaborate Kabuki makeup. And, many times, the puppets move in stylized ways that draw on Japan's rich tradition of theater.

The two last features, "Dojoji Temple" and "House of Flame" also have the feel of traditional storytelling. I don't know whether they actually retell familiar stories, or create new ones in the old style. No matter, the dragons, temple bells, and ghosts all draw on tales likely to be as familiar to Japanese viewers as they are unfamiliar to Westerners. Other stories, including "Anthropo-cynical Farce," "The Trip," and "The Poet's Life" present decidedly modern themes and stories, enriched by the Kawamoto's traditional elements. That combining of new and old comes to life in "The Trip's" Escher-like landscapes, and in the Poet's haunted sweater in a setting of Atomic-age tragedy.

These gorgeous short animations might baffle a Western eye - I know I had to just let go and follow along with some of the cultural references. These will please, too, as much for their unique stories and storytelling as for the loving craftsmanship shown in every detail. Kids might not have the patience for it, but I recommend this to every grown-up who enjoys animation.

-- wireweird
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By blue on June 8, 2010
These animations are not for kids, but for grown ups who have a capability to understand what the realities of life and the art are. If you are a kind of person who seeks a "normal" moral story in films, you would be just confused by these works.
All of these short animations are wonderful and beautiful, but especially I like "demon""Dojoji Temple" and "House of Flame", which are animations with puppets deeply influenced by Ningyo-Joruri, a traditonal Japanese puppet theater, which preceded Kabuki, and it is a well-known fact that actors of early days of Kabuki theather imitated movements of those puppets.
Though those puppets are beautiful, what I was blown away the most were stories that could betray our expectations.

"Demon" - People who have suffered so much in their lives can turn out to be demons when they grow older.
"Dojoji Temple" - A great passion for a man can turn a woman out to be a horrible monster.
"House of Flame" - No mater how righteous and religious a person can be, he/she still go to hell. And this world we humans are living in now is already a hell for us.

First two are based on Japanese legends, "Dojoji Temple" is also one of Kabuki's very popular pieces, and the last one is from Noh theather.
As protagonists are all females, you may call these are sexist stories. Yes, just like in many of male dominated conservative traditional societies, in ancient Japan, women are considered unclean. But many artists have tried to capture sad, harsh, pathetic and helpless realities of a society and a life through women's existence who had been exploited by men and society, and they also tried to add some beauty to them. Kawamoto is one of them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patricia L. Harrigan on March 31, 2013
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I love these films - beautifully made and moving. The costumes and the music are wonderful, too. I find myself returning to watch them again and again.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Carol Clary on June 14, 2010
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These films are very much of an Asian sensibility. There is an exquisite delicacy about them. Not
for everyone certainly but to be remembered long after a Hollywood special effects extravaganza.
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