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April 18, 2007

Who's Camus Anyway

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Kamyu Nante Shiranai
Mitsuo Yanagimachi - 2005
Film Movement Region 1 DVD

The first shot in Who's Camus Anyway is a single traveling shot that is six and a half minutes long. During this time, characters who are film students discuss similar shots in Touch of Evil, The Player and Shonben Rider. The discussion continues on to Mizoguchi's preference for long takes with minimal cutting, while the talk of a film teacher being nicknamed after a Thomas Mann character sparks students to name their favorite film by Luchino Visconti. Unlike the name-dropping in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, Yanagimachi's dialogue is smarter in its references, more interesting to listen to, and organic to the narrative. There are moments that convey the sense of exhilaration felt in watching certain films or in making films as a student.

One could name the influences of several filmmakers in Who's Camus Anyway. The film most frequently refered to is Truffaut's Story of Adele H.. The young director of the student film, Matsukawa, is pursued single-mindedly by his former girlfriend, Yukari. The students' professor, Nakajo, a former director now teaching film at the university, acts out his own version of Death in Venice, obsessed with a female student. The film the students are making is the recreation of the murder of an old woman by a high school student. The students debate the young murderer's motivation, with the actor studying Albert Camus' The Stranger, perhaps not so coincidentally filmed by Visconti.

What Yanamagimichi seems to be interested in how people feel connected, or disconnected with other people, and how either of those feelings can be channelled into artistic creation or killing someone else. In one scene, a student is reading from a non-fiction book that describes the mind of a murderer, only to have one student think the details fit him, while another student continually, and unconsciously, displays one of the supposed symptoms by talking to himself. At one point in this same scene, the non-fiction book is read aloud at the same time as the actor is reading from The Stranger, a way of expressing that the conflicting ideas may be equally true, or false.

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The intertwining of film and reality is explored in the final scene. Shots of the student film alternate with shots of the students in the process of making the film, setting up each take. The shifts between the film within the film, and the students with their actors are so subtle that at the final shot in the film is both ambiguous and disquieting. Who's Camus Anyway begins as a cheerful celebration of films and filmmaking, but concludes as an inquiry into how art and reality collide, affecting our selves and each other.

Posted by peter at April 18, 2007 03:29 PM