Folding Paper Into Shape (In This Corner of the World review)

Paper is such a beautiful substance. Capable of so much expression, but entirely dependant upon communication and engagement support from whoever it interacts with. This film is like paper in all of it’s glory.

 

In This Corner of the World (2016)

Cast: Yoshimasa Hosoya, Laura Post, Jason Palmer, Todd Haberkorn, Rena Nounen
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
released on blu-ray November 14, 2017
********* 9/10

IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Audience Score 95%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Sunao Katabuchi is a Japanese director, writer and voice actor of anime film, with over 30 years of experience in both film and television production. Having been active since the mid 1980s, Katabuchi is best known for his work on Kiki’s Delivery Service, Black Lagoon, Mai Mai Miracle, and most recently In This Corner of the World. He is married to fellow director of anime Chie Uratani, and keeps a fairly modest life outside of the lime light.

In This Corner of the World was co-written by Katabuchi and his wife, but he did take upon full directorial duties for this film. It is set in between 1930s-1940s Japan, focusing on areas of Kure and Hiroshima. It is a brilliantly executed film that depicts how war changes the traditional culture of Japan through the eyes of house-wife Suzu. While it might seem quite mundane in it’s depiction of life in a generational home, the emotional weight of what takes place during those years demands a complete cross-section.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

A young woman named Suzu, who is innocent and loves drawing, lives in a seaside town called Eba in Hiroshima City. In 1944, 18-year-old Suzu, working for her grandmother’s small family business of cultivating Nori (edible sea weed), is told by her parents that an unknown young man has come to propose marriage to her. The man, whose name is Shūsaku, lives in Kure City, a large naval port city 15 miles away from Hiroshima City, as a navy civilian. Suzu decides to marry him and moves to join Shūsaku’s family in Kure. As Suzu adjusts to her new life in Kure, the threat of the Pacific War slowly begins to encroach on the daily lives of the townspeople.

Suzu, as a young housewife in a Tonarigumi,[c] takes turns overseeing food distribution and attends training against air raids. Like other Japanese housewives, she makes women’s trousers fit for emergency evacuation by cutting traditionally designed clothing, such as kimonos, into parts. As officially allocated food becomes scarce, Suzu looks for any way to feed her family, picking edible plants and trying recommended recipes. The family build the air-raid shelter in the garden. Her daily lives are full of humorous and lovely episodes.

The family house of Suzu & Shūsaku is located on a hillside in the suburbs of Kure, with a view of the Japanese Naval Fleet in the harbor, including the largest battleships, Yamato and Musashi. One day, as Suzu draws pictures of floating warships, the military police accost her and come close to accusing her of espionage. In December 1944, a navy sailor named Tetsu comes to visit Suzu: he was a childhood friend of hers, and he has been assigned to the Japanese cruiser Aoba, which is stationed in Kure. Understanding it might be Suzu’s last chance to see Tetsu alive, Shūsaku leaves them alone to talk without a chaperone. The next spring, Shūsaku is drafted by the Navy and temporarily quartered with troops in Otake City, 40 miles away from Kure.

In July, urban areas of Kure are firebombed, and most of the city burns. Suzu is nearly killed by a U.S. low-level strafing run, but saved by Shūsaku. Like many other Japanese, Suzu is unable to avoid tragedy; in addition to the death of her brother Yōichi, Suzu loses her niece, Harumi, and her right hand, which she describes as an “irreplaceable” part of her body due to its dominance. As she suffers from depression, Suzu debates returning to the relative safety of her hometown (Eba) in Hiroshima City in time for the local summer festival on August 6; when she is unable to see a doctor, however, she decides to stay an extra week in Kure.

Soon, Suzu learns what has occurred in Hiroshima City; a new, devastating bomb has fallen on the town, destroying countless citizens and buildings in Hiroshima City. For a while, Suzu is unable to enter or get information about her hometown.

A few days later, in a radio address, the Emperor of Japan announces the end of the War. Soon, the times begin to change rapidly: US occupation forces, no longer the enemy, come to Kure and provide food for its citizens. Suzu visits her grandmother Ito’s family house in Kusatsu,[d] a rural town to the west of Hiroshima and out of the affected area, to see her sister Sumi, who took refuge from deserted Hiroshima and is the only survivor of Suzu’s family. Sumi informs Suzu of the fate of their parents; Sumi herself has fallen seriously ill from the radiation left behind by the atomic‐bomb radiation. Shūsaku, who returns from his naval service, meets with Suzu by chance in a deserted area of Hiroshima and tells her that he has found a new job. They come across a little girl, a war (atomic bomb) orphan struggling to survive in the ruins after losing her mother, and adopt her into their home in Kure. Suzu regains her passion for life slowly, with the courage and affection of her friends and family. As the credits roll, their adopted daughter is shown growing up in Suzu & Shūsaku’s family home, sewing clothes with her own hands, aided by Suzu in peaceful post-war Japan.

It is an affecting and carefully constructed story which does an excellent job of showcasing Suzu’s life before and during the second World War. I’ll admit that it is challenging to watch the story and not immediately predict how it will impact Suzu, knowing she is from Hiroshima, but that doesn’t make the events any less significant, or emotional.

Pros: Beautifully animated, with deliberate detail drawn upon from historical photographs and documentation, including those families that live on the hills above the city. The daily routines of the family are entertaining and painful to observe with the change.

Cons: As much as I hate to say this, the film does seem to drag on, it might be because the plot is so plain in construction without much detail of goings on a national or international scale. But it intriguing to see how the surrender of Japan feels through Suzu’s eyes – one of anger rather then relief.

Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes

Points of Interest: The movie was inspired by a graphic novel, and there is an extended cut of the film in the works which hopes to expand upon the details of supporting characters and Suzu’s own feelings about her unique circumstances in time.

What I also enjoyed about this film so much was the relationship established between realistic animation and more expressive surreal moments. This is intentional as Suzu is herself an artist and a daydreamer. It might seem trivial, but when a film can capture the essence of a character through other tools then dialogue, it’s a huge win in my books.

theories Summarized

Movies don’t always have to be full of astounding visual effects, violence or ambient sound to produce a result. For a film to be gentle and unfocused like it’s protagonist Suzu is as much of a conscious decision with consequence as giving an unfeeling assassin or a zany pirate the microphone. I didn’t know I wanted to hear this story, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. Otherwise I would have missed a historical drama that happens to be animated.

That said and speaking of paper, we need to do an about-face and get back into the realm of comedy ASAP because Andre and I have an amazing review to make on the cult classic Office Space. Seriously such a funny movie. It’s so funny that both of us cracked up at several moments as we fumbled our way through it. Watch it!

Tim!

Creative Parenting (Amanda Wall interview)

Last Sunday I shared a preview of an interview with an illustrator and graphic designer who I’ve known for a quite a few years. She is one of my personal inspirations and she regularly sets a high standard for commitment to her craft.

When I become a parent one day, I can only hope to be as gracious and dedicated to parenting, married life, and art making as this lady does. And she’s a few years my junior to boot.

That’s right, with an exclusive shoot, I’m ready to share the full length and well documented official interview with Amanda Wall.

In case you missed it last week, I wrote about a specific example of Amanda’s skill, which benefits greatly her ability to delegate regularly. No matter what she’s in the midst of this lady is committed – Amanda is a full-time freelance designer, who also stays at home with her son. She is passionate about life. That might seem super vague, but let me explain in greater detail; Amanda loves to produce work related to health and wellness, life events, social issues and the eclectic. She services clients from home, whether a business or an individual.

A graduate of Grant MacEwan University with certification in design and a diploma in illustration, she has been working in the industry for almost decade. And if you were to ask small Wall Riley, there are a set of credentials there that justify the title of Mom too.

Also, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to try out on location interviewing for the first time ever with Amanda, so don’t be surprised at the different environment, embrace it. Her kitchen and dining room are really nice, and well lit. Don’t believe me? Hit the picture below to check it out for yourself.

Told you that was going to be a good one. Aesthetically pleasing, mentally inspiring, and otherwise entertaining, I couldn’t have asked for a better hostess my first time off campus. And Riley was very accommodating too, can’t forget to thank him for his patience.

But what did you think? Did you enjoy the theme this time around? Are you a creative professional with something to say? Hit me up for a chance to do your own interview and get your voice heard, because timotheories isn’t just about me, it’s about you too.

And special thanks for Amanda for being amazing, appropriate, and available to meet!

Tim!

Stop To Smell The Flowers (Amanda Wall, preview interview)

Outsourcing has become a major way to do business in the age of communication.

And as Ferris Bueller once said,

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.

What that means for artists, is that it’s actually in our best interest to embrace the idea of outsourcing. Finding ways to trade off certain tasks for the sake of other ones, like making our art, for instance.

But what if you’re a parent AND an artist? Well, you have to figure out optimal ways to live for both of your passions.

Amanda Wall is a full-time freelance designer, who also stays at home with her son. She manages her business and keeps her son Riley engaged with all sorts of different activities, while her husbands works a day job. She is the kind of artist that finds double duty is the best way to accomplish her goals. And she is more than happy to delegate duties out when needed. Whether its meeting a deadline for a client in the service industry or finding time to go to the park and play with the kid, Amanda has a vice grip on life and she won’t let go of either of her two loves.

She’s figured out how to get the most out of her work, family time, and other responsibilities without sacrificing one for the other. It might help that she sometimes likes to think of Riley as a desk-mate, one she works with rather than against.

It’s an inspiring conversation, and this is just a small sample of life as an artist with a small Wall. So take a peek and learn what Amanda has to say when I ask her about outsourcing aspects of her business versus her household responsibilities.

She really does make things optimal, without having to stick to a rigid structure. Like so many of the moms I’ve met in my life, Amanda is an expert juggler with a great sense of empathy, and she’s happy to bring out the flowers when opportunity strikes.

Another week knocked out of the park my friends, and stay with me this week while we explore the city, get some inspiration from figures associated with Space, take a safety dance, review an album by Wilsen, and then dig into the real meat of this Amanda Wall interview, it’s gonna be a fantastic leg into the finish of May. What a week for theories!

Tim!

Show Me Yours (Art Gallery of Alberta)

The last time I went to the art gallery, I made the mistake of enjoying myself.

This led me to the belief that I didn’t need to visit a gallery for a while, I mean, I’d done my part and contributed to the bigger picture of supporting the arts. I even posted some photos from my visit for social proof. But if I’m being really self-reflective, I should probably visit a local gallery at least once a week. Not because I want to support the institutionalization of art, God that would tragic. No, because it’s important to be inspired by artists and to be informed of what’s going on in that art world of ours. Also, doughnuts.

Metaphorical doughnuts of course. You see dear readers, the history of doughnuts is storied much like the story of art, all perspective and no objectivity. We accept the gallery system, much like we accept the donut, but no one person is capable of upending the mythos or claiming it’s birthright.

By the by, I’ve never liked the term art world, it’s a catch-all for everyone involved in producing, commissioning, presenting, preserving, promoting, chronicling, criticizing, and selling fine art, but what about the people consuming the art, eh? Eh, Pacha?

It’s important to acknowledge the people who spend the most time with the art, the audience. Fuck, they’re the ones that are going to spend the money to support the continued existence of the building(s).

For instance, I went down to the Art Gallery of Alberta last Sunday, January the 15th with my belle and took in a good mix of exhibitions. This is what we saw –

  • Hannah Doerksen: A Story We Tell Ourselves About Ourselves Part mythology, part conspiracy, part vanity project… Doerksen ripped a page straight out of the 80’s and it’s eerie to view this alien display of ancient artifacts
  • Season to Season, Coast to Coast: A Celebration of the Canadian Landscape showcasing paintings from the 19th century to today, this exhibition features works across Canada and in all seasons. It’s a clever nod to the 150th anniversary of Canada and there are some great paintings there
  • David Altmejd: The Vessel essentially a piece on movement, featuring references to the act of creation, my favourite part about this piece was the accompanying gallery of works by other artists that drew connections between the themes in his work
  • The Edge: The Abstract and the Avant-Garde in Canada yet another exhibit focusing on Canadian paintings, this time the draw was the Avant-Garde and how it unfolded at home

But the gallery at large wasn’t exactly brimming with visitors.

There were maybe fifty people in the whole 85,000 sq ft space. I have this theory that part of the problem is parking, another is that ZINC, the on-site restaurant is over-priced and open at weird times, but mostly I think the largest problem is the $10 price tag for each entrance. If the art gallery were free to the public, like the EPL, then attendance would jump from 100 people a day to 300 people or more – and when the EPL was struggling with attendance people were hesitant to pay an annual $12 for a library card.

Overall I enjoyed my recent experience, and it reminded me to keep making art, because I can make better stuff than what it being touted there. And thus I set the stakes for competition.

But you might not be interested in viewing the gallery for the same reasons. Instead, you should set your own expectations and head over at your discretion. Located in the heart of downtown (2 Sir Winston Churchill Square), the AGA is open Tuesdays 11-5, Wednesday & Thursday 11-8, Friday 11-5, and Saturday & Sunday 10-5. The gallery is closed on Mondays and some holidays, but well worth the visit.

Tim!

 

Chick Chickadee, Chick Chickadee, Chick Chick Cheree (The Family Tree series)

Sharing is caring.

At least that’s what the old adage says.

It’s an indication that you are choosing to share something, whether physical or otherwise. But recognizing that you care about the person enough to volunteer something to them, to willingly give without hoping of receiving anything back in return, but knowing that when that feeling is reciprocated, it is all the sweeter of a bond.

That’s probably why my mom pushes us so hard to participate in the family Secret Santa gift exchange we hold each Christmas eve. The intention of the exchange is to draw a name and then make something for another family member on a limited budget. I think the reason she enjoys it so much is that it’s important to her that we do something special for each other, its how she shows love and also the way she feels the most love from others.

It took me a lot of years to realize that fact about her.

Commercial VS Personal

Which is why today I’m going to share one of my most dearly held theories with you.

The theory that there are only really two kinds of art to be made out in the wilderness.

Art that is primarily focused on it’s message or which comes direct from the author, and sometimes  is known as fine art.

The alternative, and this is not a bad thing… is art that is primarily focused on realizing another’s vision and which is paid for by another party upfront, also known as a commission or commercial art.

You see dear readers, you can either make art with the intention of getting paid first or about making a statement first, but you cannot do both. And it is possible for both components to be satisfied, but whatever path you choose will determine the pace of which each component is nurtured first and most. In other words, you can be a successful artist which path you choose, but it takes time to grow that tree.

Kickstart My He(art)

Which is why I made the choice long, long ago, that all of my art would have intention first and be about making a sale second. That was my decision to make, and mine alone, but every creative thing I have made since that decision has been far more rewarding for me and has led to some fantastic opportunities in other areas of my life.

It’s where I came up with the phrase “start with heart, then you’ll make art”

And now the tie-in.

I started this post writing about our family Secret Santa tradition because in 2016 I finally got an opportunity to fulfill a wish for my mom. To build a tree which would support her chickadee drawings that I made for her over six years ago. My mom loves chickadees and the last time I drew her name for Secret Santa, I made a group of them to represent our family.

So over the course of a few weeks this past December, and with a little luck, I was able to sneak into my parents house, borrow her chickadee drawings and determine how best to construct a tree for them.20161213_194924

20161213_19555020161213_195616

After I measured everything, I quickly determined that this project wasn’t going to be done in time no matter what I did. You see dear readers, by deciding what to do with the tree, I had effectively created a theme and an artist statement to go along with it, which made the project incomplete no matter how I resolved it.

The Family Tree

As I later wrote down in a handwritten card to my mother, this tree now represents her and the chickadees on it are her immediate family.

My dad, my two brothers, my sister, myself, and now my brother’s fiancee. So the project may be complete, and yet, it isn’t. As each of the children grow and potentially come into relationships, we’ll add more chickadees to the tree for her to support and love. And as grandchildren show up, there will be even more chickadees to fill that tree. A testament to her strong roots and protective branches, nurturing us with the leaves and berries that grow up and outward.

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So as you can clearly see, and as I have already mentioned, this is a project that while now completed, really has no end in sight, but the intention makes it all the more meaningful. And on top of that, as you are beginning to see, all of my artwork is related to conceptions of identity self-imposed, self-reflective, self-directed, etc.

I hope that this post has inspired you for yet another week out there in the wilderness, creative cuties. I’m out of theories for now. I’ll see you on Sunday with an interview preview, featuring a friend of mine named Byron.

Tim!