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Thoughts of the author


This film, more than any other film so far, made me aware that filming is always a race against time. The time to capture the important images, the time to 'get' the material with the available means, to sift it and then to shape it into a film.

The sudden death of Shizuko added an absolute dimension of time. Although planned quite differently, in the end only the footage shot during my first visit to Japan and the footage of Shizuko's farewell were available to us for the montage. The possibility to travel to Japan again after Shizuko's farewell to continue working on the film was no longer possible due to the strict entry restrictions in Japan. I therefore hired a team in Japan to continue shooting with Toshio and Sabu. This was done, but unfortunately we were practically unable to use the resulting material. The young cameraman had not followed any of the director's instructions..... So we made the film with the little material from my first visit and from Shizuko's farewell (about 8 hrs of raw material including all interviews).

So the material itself forced the form of this film. I experienced the making of this film not in the sense of finishing it, but rather in the sense of having to leave it.


The trigger to get in touch with the two protagonists was my irritation, fascination and curiosity. The first encounter I had was in a video performance at the Sezession in Vienna, presented by an Austrian artist. On the one hand I was fascinated by her self-conception and the wild spontaneity of her music ,on the other hand I felt unable to classify this performance. During my three-week visit to their house in Kawasaki, I experienced two impressive old people - and their son - with their exuberant, boundary-breaking imagination and their great will for freedom, and at the same time I was able to experience their strong rootedness with their culture.

The contact with the improv duo could be established through the help of Roger Walch, a camerman living in Japan. Through him I learned that Toshio and Shizuko were about to give their final concert at a jazz club in Yamagata. That was actually the trigger for my trip. I am very grateful to Roger for all his help in making this film project a reality. Not only did he help establish contact with the protagonists, but he also helped as a translator, cameraman and cultural mediator. Since my protagonists did not speak English and I did not speak Japanese, the help of a translator was of very high importance. In addition, through Roger Walch and a Japanese cameraman, I was also able to gain quick access to the social customs, which were not easy to understand. Roger Walch then also carried out the further shooting in which I could not participate directly because of the Corona restrictions. Unfortunately, the footage supplied by a young cameraman unknown to us was practically unusable for later editing.


The time with Shizuko and Toshio allowed me quite unexpectedly a deep insight behind a curtain into the very intimate life situation of an aged improvising musician couple, but also of a culture that was foreign to me. In the spirit of their open house, I was part of their family after only a short time. Thereby I was interested in their life, but I was also irritated by their handling of their rituals and the seemingly very spontaneous taking up of old cultural forms, which happened again and again in a playful way. In the conversations I was able to have with the help of a translator, it soon became clear that it would not be possible to get answers to all the triggered questions. I followed their advice to just be there and see what it would do to me and decided to accept their hospitality in the way that I simply watched and especially trusted the expression of their faces, which became like open windows. It was not a matter of trying to understand what was happening with my head, but of simply "surrendering" to it to see what it would do to me.


Their expressiveness in the performances and in the music, which reminded me of the woodcuts of the expressionists, contributed to my decision to make the film in black and white when viewing the material. By omitting the colors, everything unimportant falls away. This omission simultaneously led to a strong concentration on the faces. Shizuko's face in particular seemed to become like a window that allowed me a glimpse into her soul. The omission of color also emphasizes the simplicity that characterizes her everyday life.

Over time, and then in the editing process, I realized that this is not just about a portrait of two special people and their artistic activity. This is also about an image of fragility. The fragility of the human body, but also the fragility of a vision. I experienced this fragility in the ambivalence of their radically lived self-understanding of living that life which filled them with their meaning and their realization of not really having achieved the high (political) goals they had set. It is now up to the viewers of the film to ask themselves what they want to focus on. Do they want to see two aging punks in their perhaps somewhat naïve seeming wildness, or discover a way of life that perhaps invites them to ask: Am I really living the life that is important to me? Or why is my life so monotonous? Am I pursuing what is meaningful to me? Or perhaps we all somehow also long to live occasionally also the Un - sense of spun children.


In a first phase, after it became clear to me that the material shot by the young cameraman was hardly usable, Samuel Kellenberger and I started to create a first rough cut. We used almost all usable material. For several weeks we worked with a Japanese translator who sat with us at the editing suite. I gave this rough cut to the editor Franziska Schlienger, who worked on the fine cut for another 12 weeks, again with the help of Japanese translators. Because of my experience with Franziska, but also because of my intention that a foreign view was particularly important for this film, I decided to give Franziska full responsibility for the fine cut. It seems to me that she was very successful in finding a coherent balance between everyday life, poetry, strength and fragility.


Toshio and Shizuko, who had experimented with electronics - in the sense of noise music - until the nuclear catastrophe of Chernobyl, decided because of this catastrophe to renounce any electrical means and to play only acoustically. Quite punks, they had decided - not entirely voluntarily - to say goodbye to consumerist-materialist thinking. By abandoning common conventions, they got something new at the same time. They were materially poor, but had a large circle of friends, in the sense of "caring neighbors". In their art, they let themselves be guided by an inner trust that increasingly allowed them to reconnect with traditional art forms. From their youthful beginnings of rebelling against the existing order, they increasingly developed a life as environmental activists that filled them with meaning.

I had hired a very sympathetic, somewhat taciturn cameraman in Japan. He didn't know the couple at all and was already very confused after the first few days of shooting. He said that they were simply two naive people who were not prepared to think. To him, it was all too superficial. He was disoriented, just as I had been at the beginning. I asked him if it might not be a necessity, especially in Japanese society, to be basically disoriented at times. There is this great phrase, "I think, therefore I am." But shouldn't we also ask ourselves whether the sentence "I don't think, therefore I am" is not occasionally just as justified and SENSE-FUL?


There is this other great sentence, "The I is also another, another." Doesn't this sentence also encourage us to ask ourselves if there is not still that which we, following the conventions, refuse to live. I understand that one can also refuse to share one's I with someone else, and that can probably be just as meaningful.


Our conversation also dealt with the fundamental question of whether you have to love your protagonists and how you deal with it when people open up completely in front of the camera and give you insights that are completely unadorned and honest. I think that as a filmmaker you don't have to share the philosophy of the protagonists, but you have to respect them and respect them for letting you participate in their lives as a guest. What you do with such an experience is up to you.


I increasingly got the impression that their music is not primarily directed to the ear but to the body. Sabu speaks of the sound of his mother and the resonance in the body. Their expression should also manifest itself in the body of the listeners. Toshio actually plays drums on the piano, his playing is very physical. The breath of the shakuhachi flute is the ground for the sound. The cry of Shizuko seemed to me to come from a depth of her body that could hardly be imagined, and seemed increasingly like a requiem. Her music suddenly seemed to me to be far more than an expression of her will to be free. It seemed to me that it contained just as much the pain about the lost earthly paradises, but also about the visions that did not come true.


After saying goodbye to Shizuko, there are these scenes where the friends celebrate with Toshio and Sabu. There is a wild, ecstatic dance by Sabu. But suddenly silence falls. This silence becomes like a sound all its own. Perhaps in preparation for what is to come.

Shizuko's absence is a form of silence, the silence of her speech, of her singing, but that does not necessarily mean a void. This is the question I actually wanted to explore after Shizuko died. How would they be able to live with this silence, with the absence of this so essential element in their balance, respectively create a new balance between father and son.


The experience of Shizuko's sudden absence was like a wave that swept over all of us, making us aware of the finality. Up and down, up and down, coming and going, the tides. It was important for us to put these images of the sea, the waves, its whims, on one side - and looking out - as the other side - our premonitions, our wishes, our imaginations, at the beginning and at the end of the film.


If the possibility had allowed it, the focus of my further visit would have been on what is hidden behind this cry, this "Requiem.

All in all, in this film adventure I was once again reminded of something very fundamental: everything changes, you never really know what is to come, find what fills you with meaning, find it out, maybe you have to let go of something else for it.


Thomas Lüchinger

January 15, 2023

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