2045 Carnival Folklore(Directed by Naoki Kato, Japan, 2015)
Director Naoki Kato follows his 2011 debut feature Abraxas, a story of Japanese Monk once a young rock musician in the past with soundtrack by Yoshihide Otomo, with 2045 Carnival Folklore, a planet wide nuclear disaster science fiction story. It is set in Japan 100 years after the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Much of the world civilizations are decimated, and the planet's food resources are destroyed. The survivors are dying from radioactive mutated diseases and starvation. There is no more food left except scarce ration from ANIKI (a "Big Brother"-like organization) who dictates everything now. You are under constant surveillance, and those who refuse to obey ANIKI start disappearing mysteriously.
2045 Carnival Folklore was screened with a blaring live performance by Sierror!, a Noise Death Match unit of Naoki Kato (director) and Keisuke Masuda (film music/sound composer) with T. Mikawa, a living Noise legend who has played with Hijo Kaidan and Incapacitants. He has led the Japanese Noise scene for over 30 years now. Each member of the unit was equipped with various electronics, modified hand instruments, a plastic chicken!? (it must make some noise), and up to dozen of effects pedals (some appear to be vintage) connected to small mixer connected to vintage guitar amps. Those effects such as distortion, delay, filters, and EQ, enable players to manipulate source sounds that was fed through the microphone or individual output. A relay of effects box create many shades of surreal sounds, strange percussive noise click and distorted voices for example. Fare to say Noise is not for everybody but if you are down with Throbbing Gristle or Sonic Youth then you should be fine. 2045 Carnival Folklore and the unit performance was fantastic. The live Noise soundtrack mixed well with original film. It was never too loud or painful, but skillfully played with right amount of volume (could've been louder for my like). I regret missing the second night screening and performance. Their sounds are instinctively perceived in sonic state of unknown. As the film starts, Kato and Masuda twist the knobs on effects while their eyes on the screen carefully mixing sound in with simple drone faint feedback approaching close in the distance with discipline. A filtered drum loop with scratch sound made of glass and metal. Suddenly, it's quiet and all you hear is a humming noise and static noise from speakers, but before long another wave will return, and I was submerged into the wave of noise. By then I had feeling this is going to be a good one for me.
However, I was having a dilemma of where to keep my eyes focused. It was difficult to follow the screen and musicians simultaneously. Nevertheless, I was really into it and enjoying everything with anticipation of extreme to come. Then I noticed a third figure in the center table that was vacant up 'til that moment (or maybe I noticed the change in the sound first). Suddenly, the sound intensified, not really in turning up the volume, but everything got thick and heavier. Triple feedback and howling (into a mic'ed plastic bucket!) are getting tense with death-scratches of discords. Now Mikawa joins Kato and Masuda, fully ready to take us to the final stage of the night. There is nothing hold back now; they are swaying their bodies (and Kato's waist-long hair!) freely now. It was intense with dense wall of noise, and three of them are flooring the sound to sub-climax repeatedly more than half dozen times as if testing our endurance. It’s loud but it wasn't hurting my ears. I was content with a smile on my face, and a thought came to my mind: That I would love to watch myself/ourselves through a camera pointing at us from the screen side. I wanted to see what kind of expressions we were having on our faces as we watched the film and trio. And I noticed a decay of the Noise that has swallowed us with in it. It is fading into the humming sound of guitar amps for the last time. A moment later, we all applaud.
Q & A with Naoki Kato
Is there anything specific you wanted convey to the people with your films?
3/11 and the trauma of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and Noise. They are my favorite subjects and I somehow managed to made a film out of them.
Are you frustrated with the way the Japanese government is treating the Fukushima aftermath?
What do you think the Japanese government can do compared to what they have done so far?
I'm frustrated with the current state of our government. Both the Prime Minister & Deputy Prime Minister have made questionable comments in the recent year. They are acting like the Fukushima nuclear disaster never happened. Still sporting nuclear power as a safe energy resource. Believing in a safe nuclear power plant is a madness. There is a large gap between people of Japan and our government. The vision of their “beautiful country” makes me feel unsettled and unsafe. I have lost many faith in their ability to guide our people and country to the right direction.
I saw some jellyfish in your film that reminded me of another film I saw during SIFF 2015 titled Racing Extinction. They talked about it could become a major part of our future diet. Aside from cannibals (eating "JINNIKU") in your film, what do you think our alternative food could be in near future?
Radioactive contamination annihilate organism and living environment. I'm afraid there will be nothing left when we reach that critical point.
How do you explain NOISE / ZATSUON music to who doesn’t know what they are?
Pure, Primitive and Extreme Loud. Antennas to Hell or Heaven.
Is there anything particular you pay attention when you accompany the film with live music?
I think it's important to perform together with existing dialogue and sound effects of original film. At the same time, I try to extract the ambiance of live improvisation.
You are working with a Seattle based organization — could you talk about that a little bit?
We collaborated with Kayoko Fujita from EN Pacific Service in Seattle. She has worked with a series of events to help rebuild the Fukushima / Tōhoku region. In March, EN Pacific took a part in the film production of Celebrate Asia 2015「Revive」, a live collaboration between the Seattle Symphony and traditional Japanese instruments, soloists, and a composer.
What is your next project?
I have few projects in mind, but they are just ideas. Like the question you asked me during our Q&A. (I asked the director, "Can NOISE save the world?") It will be great if I can make a fun and exciting movie just like that!