The work of a life
Junkhead is the filmed proof that cinema can change a life, or at least that cinephilia forges creativity. Takahide Hori worked in interior design before devoting himself to stop-motion animation, the only technique allowing him to go behind the camera without sacrificing his solitude. An artistic turn that he justifies with a “real addiction to cinema”. And it took passion to work for 4 years alone on a short filmentitled Junkhead 1and posted by the self-taught filmmaker on YouTube.
A few passages in festivals and a lot of praise later, he undertook in 2015 to transform the essay into a feature film, under the aegis of producers impressed by his talent. The genesis of Junkhead in fact automatically a singular work. In addition to being an auteur film in the strict sense of the term, since it emanates from a personal approach, it is the derivative of a compulsive cinephilia, escaping most of the imperatives of the industry. The show is amateur and therefore strewn with irregularities, which prove above all its craftsmanship.
Hori’s artistic candor sets him apart from anything in the genre, if only technically. The most blatant example: a novice in stop-motion animation standards, the director decided to shoot at the rate of a live-action film, at 24 frames per second. However, the technique allows the necessary reductions in speed at a reasonable production rate (the human eye is able to perceive movement from about 12 frames per second). The work involved in such a choice becomes colossal: Junkhead required the trifle of 140,000 shots and 7 years of workcounting the 4 in complete autonomy, in parallel with a professional activity!
The result is an impression of disarming fluidity which largely compensates for a necessarily uneven staging, an adventure in movement whose animation corresponds very well to this universe of robots and mutants, evolving in decrepit decorations. A delirious emanation of unparalleled artistic enthusiasm, the feature film owes its strangeness to its production process and the absolute and broke independence of its author. Hori himself is convinced of this: it was in destitution that he was able to acquire his paw, even if it means refusing the Hollywood proposals received after the critical success of the short film. This is called having principles!
The message is clear
Instinctively, we tend to make it the Japanese counterpart of mad god, presented at festivals and still unpublished in France. the mad god by Phil Tippett is itself the culmination of decades of hard work and tells more or less the same thing, namely the long descent of a character into the lower depths of the unrecognizable remnants of humanity. However, when he makes his vertical epic a sensory dive into the degeneration of modern societies, Hori’s film is a simple aesthetic experimentationin fact of a refreshing freedom.
The original pitch, stated in the opening according to usage (humans have achieved immortality, but can no longer procreate, so they seek a solution among the synthetic beings from which they had to separate), serves as a pretext. Once the anonymous hero has been dropped into this ocher labyrinth, the only things that count are his encounters and his adventures, linked together by a vague red narrative thread. Moreover, from the first minutes, he is dispossessed of his identity, breaks with his mission to be reborn in his new environment.
And a little tenderness as a bonus
Thought only around the decor and the characters, without a script except for a few dialogues, Junkhead strives above all to explore a “alternate reality” cyberpunk influenced by both Oshii and Tsukamoto. By mixing his references to create his own underground world, the filmmaker skilfully handles the breaks in tone. These hostile corridors are populated by as many voracious creatures (the brilliant idea of worms) as dystopian teddy bears with a big heart, welcome as well pretty science fiction fables (the old man and his lever) as pure visions of body-horror (the mushrooms”).
The cosmogonic ambitions of this spontaneous artist come to reaffirm the evocative power of stop motion, one of the techniques best able to generate quirky universes, which draw their strangeness from their roughness or from the imagination of their creator. The brilliant anomaly that is Junkhead, despite its inevitable dross, is now one of the most obvious proofs. Takahide Hori is currently working on expanding his microcosm through a sequel and a prequel. On our side, we can’t wait to go back.