Aaron Gerow’s office door in the Whitney Humanities Center is cluttered with posters from film events he’s organized in his four years at Yale. Gerow, DUS of the Film Studies Department, has put on screening and discussions ranging from the visit of legendary Japanese director Takahiko iimura to a screening of “The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai,” a Japanese “pink” film (think artistic soft-core porn) about a psychic prostitute running from international spies.
Now Gerow has brought a choice selection of contemporary Japanese films back from his visit to the Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany. According to the Nippon Connection Web site, it is the largest festival of Japanese film outside of Japan, and Gerow’s selections look promising. Still, the screenings are at risk of falling off the campus film radar.
The screenings began this past Thursday in Luce Hall with “Into a Dream” (“Yume no naka e”). Directed by the filmmaker and street poet Sion Sono, “Into a Dream” was shot with a hand-held camera on a very low budget, and it is the camera that dominates the film. It jolts back and forth between the actors as they exchange nonsense, it bounces with the cameraman’s footsteps as he follows a main character’s drunken dash and, when it finally leaves that main character broken and screaming in the middle of an empty street, it does not zoom out, but simply strolls away. The movie ends on that cold walk out. It’s dramatic. It’s horrifying. It was seen by all of thirteen people.
Yale’s Nippon Connection opened on the same day and on the same hour as both the Asian-American Film Festival and the new series of avant-garde film screenings occurring every Thursday night at 212 York Street.
With half of its screenings all the way out in lonely Luce Hall, a scanty (albeit cute) publicity campaign and no cameos from star (or wannabe star) directors, the Nippon Connection may be forgotten in the hubbub of Yale’s suddenly vibrant film culture.
Gerow, who is also a professor in the East Asian Languages and Literature Department, blamed Thursday’s low turn-out on late publicity and competition with other screenings.
“It wasn’t a great start, but it wasn’t bad either,” Gerow said. “This is one of the difficulties of showing films on campus. It’s getting to the point where you can’t schedule a screening without conflicting with another screening.”
There was no communication between the people who organized Thursday’s screenings. Ming-yee Lin ’10 began working on the Asian American Film Festival in October, but didn’t hear about the Nippon Connection until the night before both events kicked off — in an e-mail from her Japanese teacher.
“I saw it and said, ‘Oh, well, we’ll probably have a conflict of interest,’” said Lin, who reported a head count of about 80 people on Thursday night in the WHC. “There was really nothing we could do. It’s very hard to schedule things at Yale.”
The Nippon Connection screenings are not over, however, and will continue on Thursday, Jan. 31 and Sunday, Feb. 2. While the Thursday screenings will overlap with filmmaker Olivier Assayas’ visit and the screenings of his films organized by the Cinema at the Whitney, Sunday’s screening looks to be clear of competition.
And what is it? “Uncle’s Paradise,” a pink film.
Gerow is excited for the screening: He says that pink films provide important insight into contemporary Japanese film culture and that pink film studios have played an important role in the development of many contemporary Japanese directors.
Supporting sort-core porn fetishes isn’t bad either.