The Kon Ichikawa Story (2006)

3 02 2008

Working on a biographical documentary doesn’t seem to cramp Shunji Iwai’s technical ambitions. In an almost remarkable achievement, he, as the title suggests, tells the Kon Ichikawa story but without any voice over. The story is instead told through inter titles, clips, animated still photographs (a misstep on Iwai’s part), and reenacted childhood occurrences. It seems as though Iwai has filtered his usual stylistic excess into something that’s suppose to be “classy” but I like this film quite a bit in any case.

Of course, I should admit up front that I am a fan of Ichikawa’s films but I still think there were many positive factors provided by Iwai, himself. The inter titles, in particular, gain an almost poetic profoundness. I also like Iwai’s decision to reenact some unimportant events in Ichikawa’s early life as well as his decision to not reenact anything that happened to Ichikawa once he became an adult. I suppose the film could be blamed for giving Ichikawa’s life a “tragic” tilt but it’s nowhere near as bad as the characterization in the Cassavetes documentary that appears on the Criterion set. In all honesty, I was almost in tears by the end. This is to Iwai’s credit as he gives the film a very (Chris Marker-esque) memory mood and applies to the relationship between Ichikawa and his screen writing collaborator/wife Natto Wada. The announcement of her death is just as tragic as anything I’ve seen in a fictional film. This does have problems, though, like bad music and the animated stock footage. There’s self-indulgent touches as well, but this is Iwai’s love letter to Ichikawa and little could be done to make it better.

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