Kashima Paradise: To Yann Le Masson
[sans titre, dossier de presse, 1975, p. , réédité dans le livret du coffret dvd, 2011, p. 15-17]
Translation: Dirk Kuhlmann
Kashima Paradise is a complete movie in the sense that we can say of a man that he is complete, that is to say, when he has torn down, within himself, a certain number of the watertight bulkheads [orig: “cloisons étanches”] encouraged by all the powers wanting to remain the sole masters of communication between domains said to be irreconcilable. Examples? A sociologist showing up in Japan in order to develop a doctoral thesis on the topic of “Rural Society and rapid industrialization in an advanced capitalist country”: here we have an enterprise that is well defined, classified, and framed within its own limits. A cinema operator travelling to Japan for making a film on the metamorphosis of industrial landscapes: here we have another enterprise that is equally well defined and classified. The slow professional, psychological, and social mutation of a Japanese farmer living through the mildly hallucinating transformation of his environment: this is an adventure of a different order, different from being, at best, of interest for the scientific and cool observation of the sociologist, for the consumption of scientific and cool readers, escaping, as a matter of principle, the regard of film-makers, rushed and poorly equipped for in-depth studies as they are. A region moving, within a single year, from almost medieval agriculture into industrial surreality by the construction of a huge petrochemical complex, the largest artificial harbour in the world, the largest industrial combine in Japan: this is again something else, a topic for economists and epic poets, should these still exist. And a couple leaving Paris and its pretentious elite to live, as closely as possible, the daily life of a real, even rural society is yet another thing: a personal adventure at the limits of the incommunicable. Or where everything communicates: the sociologist has come to Japan with the film-maker, a piece of good advice installs them in a village that is changed, at all levels, by the development of the industrial combine, the peasant experiencing the repercussions of this change maintains a relationship of trust with the couple, and better still, in the train of the communication established, actions are turned around, relationships are reversed: the interrogators are questioned themselves, the research feeds the film, the film questions the research to the point where, once finished, its subject will have become a different one, centring on a theme born of the film, the very life of the couple transformed by the enterprise, no-one will remain neutral, life, having made its entry, will have irrigated everything, sociology, film, the village survey, the factory, the movie … A key to this carination is what most of us, and in particular the film-makers, lack most: Time. The time for working, and also, and above all, for not working. The time for talking, for listening, and above all, for keeping silent. The time for filming and not filming, for understanding and not understanding, for wondering, and for waiting for the beyond of the wonder, the time for living. Time for getting accustomed, too, on both sides, and that’s no small feat. The reduced size of the film crew, just two persons, already softens the Martian trauma caused by a real shooting, but time continues to tame, to familiarize. We just get used to this camera, carried by Yann in front of his eyes like a myopic person wearing glasses for getting a better look at you, my child. We get used to the microphone that Bénie [Deswarte] puts before the speaker like the ear trumpet of our grandmothers (pleasant grandmother). We get used to the presence of the myopic man and the hearing-impaired woman, amnesic as well, with their noting down of everything, recording of everything, in order to recount it at home. We will quiz them about this distant country of theirs, this archetype of the technical civilization that is knocking at our door. There again: different communities, different inversions. It is the woman who speaks Japanese in this country of men. The man is silent and gazes, but his gaze is strong. You get used to the talking presence, the mediation of the former, and the silent presence, the registration of the latter. At the end of the adventure, Kashima Paradise, the film of bulkheads torn down, where the exceptional beauty of the image, the rigour of the method, the knowledge of the economic and political forces at play, the genuine intimacy with men all support each other, where the sensibility of the image prevents the intelligence from being cool, where sharp analysis protects the spectacle from its own enchantment – the visual glare of certain moments, the funeral of a militant with its Fellinian helicopters, the battle of Narita with these Teutonic control forces, immersing everything in the only beauty that is genuine, granted as accretion when, for a human endeavour that started out as a quest for truth, it comes to signify the approval of the gods. As we know, the symbol of cinema’s magical privileges is often the “flower blooming in time lapse”, this intrusion of another time into the familiar one. This may be the first film where the story / history is filmed like a flower.
Ed.: Thanks to DK
Some ‘bulkhead’ notes from imdb.com, Kashima Paradise entry: Directed by Bénie Deswarte & Yann Le Masson; Writing Credits: Chris Marker; Cast: Chris Marker (narration); Music by Yann Le Masson; Film Editing by: Isabellle Rathery, Sarah Taousse-Matton (as Sarah Matton); Sound Department: Bénie Deswarte, sound. Release dates: France 1973; USA 20 Sept. 1974 (New York City, New York); Hungary 3 July 1975; Netherlands 9 Dec. 1995 (IDFA Festival). Company Credits: Production Companies: Les Films Grain de Sable. Distributors: Tricontinential Film Center (1974) (USA) (theatrical) (subtitled). Filming Locations: Kashima, Japan. Technical Specifications: 1 hr 50 min (110 min); 1 hr 45 min (105 min) (Germany). Sound Mix: Mono. Color: Black and White. Negative Format: 35 mm. Printed Film Format: 35 mm.