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Hiroshi Takahashi's The Carol of the Old Ones: Seeing "Something"

Jinshi Fujii
Associate Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University (School of Humanities and Social Sciences)

The Carol of the Old Ones is a new film by Hiroshi Takahashi that will be released as one of the "Collaboration Monsters!" at the Auditorium Shibuya from May 12. Takahashi is best known as the scriptwriter of horror movies such as Ring. This has been announced as the first human drama directed by Takahashi, but this film is filled with overwhelming tension such that the announcement becomes unimportant.

The stage of this piece is a film school. In this setting, there is a heroine aspiring to be a director who has invited a major actress to perform in a film that will become her art project graduation piece. This actress is a lecturer and the heroine feels reverence for her. However, before one knows, the setting falls into complete disorder and the performers are forced to tackle a formidable force that is beyond the control of individuals. Although an apparition itself does not appear, the film creates figures of people who have to directly face "something" that is mysterious which abruptly cuts them off from their everyday lives, so it is not necessarily essentially different from the films that Takahashi has been involved with previously. Nevertheless, if we take it that this film greatly surpasses the pieces directed by Takahashi in the past, this is surely no doubt because this mysterious "something" is actually shown on screen.

Although I reference this "something" that cuts off the characters from their everyday lives, as long as it is a film, there is a necessity to specifically show this. However, this is a Herculean task. In fact, in Kyofu, the previous film by Takahashi, there is this fascinating idea introduced of light from the outside of the world that humans believe in, but when this is displayed on screen it is merely white light. As long as the audience doesn't see this mere white light as "something" that humans must not see, the film Kyofu doesn't give the viewers a feeling of true fear.

However, The Carol of the Old Ones is different. The members of the production that have been left dissatisfied with the director who is shown to be lacking leadership in this setting filled with filming extravagance completely change and learn that they have been pulled into something unbelievable. This was shown in the preview scene of the film. In a piece which has been shot in digital, only the movie inside this film emphasizes a rough film-like texture, but the quality of the unusual scenes in this preview film in which the major actress who is tied to a chair is gasping while slowly opening her legs is this "something" that has already taken the audience as well as all the characters to a point which cannot be returned from.

If we think about it, in Ring, there was a "something" like this with a video-like screen texture which is low-resolution and flat with a curse, so the relationship of film and video has been completely reversed over the course of the past ten years. I wonder if this is informing us that it is no longer the image quality of video but that of film that brings us a feeling of strangeness in our everyday live.

Jinshi Fujii
Associate Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University (School of Humanities and Social Sciences)

Jinshi Fujii is in his present position after acquiring credits for a doctoral program at the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies in Kyoto University, and working as an assistant at the College of Arts in Rikkyo University. He specializes in film studies, especially Japanese film and contemporary American film. He is also active as a film critic.
His publications as an author and editor include Contemporary Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction (Jimbun Shoin) and Shinji Somai: A Film Director in the Japanese Post-Studio Era (joint authorship; Inscript). He has also carried out the joint translation of I Was Interrupted: Nicholas Ray on Making Movies (Misuzu Shobo).