A Day After a Hundred Years
dir. Shigeji Ogino, Japan 1932.
Warning From Space
dir. Kôji Shima, Japan 1956.
At last weekend’s panel, the curators of the #FutureImperfect retrospective lamented that they did not have the budget to program and import as many entries from Asia, particularly Japan, as they would have liked. But what they were able to bring are gems of post-WWII nuclear age reconciliation and contemplation so specific to the land of the rising sun.
Wednesday night’s poignant pairing began with Shigeji Ogino’s 1933 short A DAY AFTER A HUNDRED YEARS (HYAKUNEN-GO NO ARUHI). Animating hand drawings, paper cutouts, and physical models, Ogino yields a minimalist aesthetic that is both recognizably crude and sleekly conceived. Devices such as high-speed magnetically levitated trains, interstellar and time travel, and the metropolis of the future are legibly depicted in crisp and efficient frames. Yet refreshingly, the piece is quite spiritually driven, despite its visions of a machine-operated society. The horrors of the war, and the bumps along the ongoing road towards tranquility punctuate the film’s reservations for the future imperfect.
The feature proper that followed, WARNING FROM SPACE, is in some ways an even more ambitious attempt than GODZILLA at exporting Japan’s fears of nuclear proliferation to audiences at all other corners of the world. Much of the film invokes its characters going about their daily lives, in the bar after work, at school, enjoying nightclub performances, or a picnic in the outdoors.
In lush Daieicolor, director Kôji Shima wants his global viewers to relate to his country’s way of life, while cautioning them against the road they embarked upon with the detonations in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Poignant and masterfully edited, with a striking avant-garde design to its depiction of extraterrestrials, the humanism in the movie resonates decades far beyond its initial aims and fears.