The Blinding Cinema of Takahiko Iimura
Words that describe the work of Japanese experimental-media artist Takahiko Iimura: formalist, structuralist, poetic, hilarious, conceptual, meditative, sexual, astute, absurd, hypnotic ... The list could easily continue because the prolific artist’s varied 40-year career has touched on so many different genres and strategies. Iimura, the subject of a 10-day multivenue retrospective organized by Los Angeles Filmforum programmer Adam Hyman, began making short films in the 1960s, with a series of rigorous works exploring the possibilities of the medium. Ai (Love), from 1962, probes two naked, frolicking bodies in close-up — from nipples and nostrils to earlobes and toenails — no part goes unnoticed, but the result is less erotic than sculptural, a curious study of fleshy forms in motion. For On Eye Rape (1962), Iimura literally punched holes through segments of found footage demonstrating zebras giving birth and bees pollinating, such that the lurid center of the frame remains a jumpy, blinding white light that assaults the eye while censoring the sexual nature of the original images. Iimura also explores temporality, as in the demanding One Frame Duration (1977), which considers the length of a single frame that appears as a white flash between lengths of black leader, and as a brief black flash between lengths of white leader. Here, Iimura brilliantly highlights the most basic structuring element of cinema, asking us to note its explosive possibilities even in a radically reduced exercise. The CD-ROM AIUEONN Six Features (1993) plays on the alignment of image, letter and voice, as a face, mouthing the titular vowels, is distorted to visually mimic the sound. At once humorous and intriguing, the video performs a philosophical exercise that can only occur through the conjuncture of image, sound and text. In the video I’m (Not) Seen, from 2003, Iimura cycles through images of his own face, eyes, ears and nose, with bits of text that repeat phrases such as “I see you.” The sound reiterates what we see onscreen, repeating scratchy fragments that contribute to a sense of ontological doubt. With eight shows in 10 days, this retrospective offers a great chance to see the work of one of our era’s most creative and significant filmmakers; Iimura will attend all screenings. (Billy Wilder Theater at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Fri., Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Los Angeles Filmforum at the Egyptian Theatre, Sun., March 1, 7 p.m. and Sun., March 8, 7 p.m.; CalArts Bijour Theater, Tues., March 3, 7 p.m.; UC Irvine Humanities Instructional Building 135, Wed., March 4, noon and 8 p.m.; USC, Lucas 108, Thurs., March 5, 7 p.m.)
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