, 21 Nov 2009
Hatsu Yumi (1981) is a rather odd, wordless cinematic montage of moving images from Japan, mostly featuring the natural world: oceans, forests, fields, fish, water, and later some modern urban settings.
Im all for original cinema but the truth is that this is just rather boring, Im afraid. If you wake up at 3.30am and have trouble falling back to sleep, just grab your duvet, take it to the sofa and watch a few minutes of this film next thing you know, itll be morning.
Perhaps thats the key, because Hatsu Yumi means first dream and the film certainly has a dream-like quality. Many of the images are shot in slow motion and it is incredibly relaxing to watch. There are a few shots that make you think now here is an artist at work, and I give the film credit for those.
But as a whole, this film is unlikely to appeal to anyone not under the influence of chemicals. Maybe there is some subtle underlying message here about darkness and light, ancient and modern, but the truth is, its just not very interesting or entertaining.
If youre interested in a non-verbal cinematic exploration of the contrasts between natural and man-made environments, such a film was made the following year in 1982. It is called Koyaanisqatsi (Life out of balance), directed by Godfrey Reggio, and its better on every count: cinematography, sound, impact, visual interest and underlying meaning.
What was Bill Viola trying to achieve? Perhaps only he knows. Quite bizarre. 4/10.
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