The Japanese animation prodigy Masaaki Yuasa ventures into a daring ballet, between musical film and historical tale. Rock and crazy, the show relaxes.
Rock opera invites itself into medieval Japan. This musical setting is set in the shared archipelago, in the 14the century, between two shoguns rivals. But a fabulous veil falls on this political competition. A curse lurks in a village. In another, a fisherman draws a magic sword from the seabed. The gun kills him and blinds his son. The toddler no longer sees anything, but he hears. His ear and his tact will make him a seasoned musician and the mouthpiece of a refreshing quarrel between the ancients and the moderns.
The kid, Tomona, becomes a young man and player of the biwa, a kind of ancient Japanese lute, within a troupe of monks. The music, ritualized to the extreme, wants to be of an orthodox purity. He aspires to better. He finds inspiration in an astonishing meeting, that of Inu-Oh, a strange urchin of his age. The musician hears only his shrill voice and his patter, without being able to be frightened by the scaly skin, the deformed arm and the hideous features that his new comrade hides under a mask. Despite its look of Quasimodo, this disowned son of a talentless troupe director knows how to dance. Admittedly, he communicates with the souls of the dead and his steps clash as much as his appearance. But it suits Tomona. Together, they intend to revolutionize music.
Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, table tennis) pretty much knows what he’s doing, despite the somewhat confusing introduction to his latest feature film. The filmmaker is the first to apologize. Presented last year at the Venice Film Festival, the new production of the most unpredictable and energetic guy in Japanese animation multiplies the chin shots. His story fits the dog kingof Hideo Furukawaa novel about the genesis of a founding epic, The saying of the Heike, and the beginnings of Noh theatre. Like the Homeric tales, the gesture was sung by blind bards and peregrines. From this austere subject, Masaaki Yuasa draws a crazy experience, a musical hallucination.
The demiurge is having a field day. He lets himself be carried away by the same pop and rock frenzy that surfaced, in 2017, in Lou and the Mermaid Island . Tomona unties her long hair, changes her name, scratches on her biwa like a guitar hero once upon a time, half Kisshalf Queen. The public, from the peasants to the aristocrats of the archipelago, adores these anachronistic audacities and the new sounds drawn from the instruments. Inu-Oh, he, less and less deformed as his notoriety increases, waddles michael jackson and multiplies stage antics. Ingenuities too. A puppet board to act out the story of an epic battle. Games of braziers on canvas to create Chinese shadows on a giant screen. A touch of ballet here; a hint of drama there. This is not yet called cinema, but, already, the sense of the spectacle.
In October, the day before the film’s French premiere, Masaaki Yuasa politely mentions a few Western bands that have inspired him. He comes alive when encouraged to talk about his true heart artists: “I’m crazy about Unicorn; and RC Succession too, which I had seen in concert. Its star, Kiyoshiro, is well known for his scenic eccentricities! », he confides, his eyes sparkling. How many outside Japan know of these obscure formations? There remains an energy, a devilishly communicative breath of freedom.
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