As the festival started for some reason I took note that there were a number of great musical pieces in most of the films presented, but I suppose Live Tape is a different ballgame altogether, with music almost end to end of its 74 minute duration, following the musician Kenta Maeno as we walk in and around Kichijoji, Tokyo in what would be one continuous take involving 15 different songs being performed live on the streets.
Opening with following a cute looking girl (Tsugumi Nagasawa) in a demure pink kimono at the Musashino Hachimangu Shrine, we soon meet up with Kenta Maeno for that extraordinary journey that will keep you guessing whether it was improvised, or staged. It's a musical-documentary film of sorts that defies convention, but you won't have time to dwell on the many questions as your attention will soon be arrested by the more than interesting background happenings. With people obviously conscious that a film is being made and they stand around to stare, it is in the audience's looking back at what's captured, and the little human background interactions at times, that makes this film a delight to sit through.
Director Matsue was a director-in-attendance guest at the Japanese Film Festival before, and local audiences will be no stranger to him and his films. Here we do hear and then see him appear in front of the camera to perform a quick chat with his subject, the musician Kenta Maeno, and through this moment that a lot more was revealed as to why and how the film was made. It is through interruptions such as these that allow Maeno to interact with the public, and even take a breather and drink, since this was shot under cold weather conditions.
There's a good mix of slow and fast numbers, all of which were excellent to sit through even though I had to rely on subtitles to understand what was being sung, some of it really being hilarious lyrics to read off the subtitles. In any case, music cuts through language barriers, and even without reading what it means, feeling the rhythm as Kenta Maeno moves through the streets of Tokyo, already makes this musical-documentary a winner. It's no wonder why it was awarded the Best Picture Award under the Japanese Eyes section of the Tokyo International Film Festival last year.
For those interested to know the full set list of what's being performed, here it is: Summer at 18, Tofu, Fat on My Heart, 100 Years From Now, The Living Me, Fat on My Heart, Mansion, This Body, Romance Car (with Er Hu), Can't Be Just Friends, The Message, Dance (with Saxophone), Sad Song, The Blue Room, Weather Forecast (with The David Bowies band) and Tokyo Story.
There was a short video clip screened at the end of Live Tape which had director Tetsuaki Matsue recount his days when he was in Singapore, and the message to all fans here was to explain some of the technicalities such as being filmed on a small miniDV camera on 1 Jan 2009 around the area of Kichijoji where he was brought up. He also hoped that the film will be able to resonate with the audience here, since there would be some similarities with Singapore that the local audience can hopefully take away.
I had missed the gala premiere of Live Tape when at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) last year, and festival director Gavin Liu, who was there, shared in a post screening discussion that he had met director Tetsuaki Matsue and Kenta Maeno as well. He also revealed *spoilers* "... even though the route was rehearsed, this film captured a 74 min moment in which anything that happened would have been shown as it is, which is itself is a beauty as it captured the spontaneous decisions to react to the policemen and at the park", the former because permits had to be obtained to shoot where they wanted/had to, and the latter with getting away for performing at the venue by saying that they were rehearsing, as the venue only has 12 scheduled performances per year.
Here are the interview clips conducted with the TIFF winners, where Tetsuaki Matsue was sharing the stage / panel with Ounie Lecomte, who directed A Brand New Life.