10 Jun 2020

Shell and Joint (Isamu Hirabayashi, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


If Roy Andersson had been Japanese with a strong, almost perverse fixation on insects and arthropods, his feature debut would have probably been fairly similar to that of Isamu Hirabayashi. Entirely composed of static, minimalist and often geometrically precise tableaux vivants, Shell and Joint presents a successful (if a tad overlong) blend of wry, absurd humor and quirky ruminations on life, sex, bugs, suicide, relationships and (after)death. Its high levels of eccentricity are elicited from the quotidian simplicity, with the boundaries between reality and surreality / existence and non-existence blurred or completely erased. What makes it compelling are unforeseen flourishes of weirdness, both verbal and visual, such as the guerrilla butoh performance that may bring Matthew Barney to one’s mind, or the marionette interludes that evoke the memory of reading Victor Pelevin’s The Life of Insects.

Available as a part of the Nippon Connection Film Festival selection @ Vimeo on Demand, until Sunday, June 14, 2020.

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