Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Chiyoko, a film director is like a painter..."

Anime lost a pioneer and a dreamer this week, as Satoshi Kon passed away due to complications from terminal pancreatic cancer. The artist and director of cinematic masterpieces Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, and Paprika was 46 when he passed away in his home in Tokyo Tuesday. (The New York Times obituary is here.)

While Kon's death has left a notable pall over the industry and a melancholy tone in discussions about the creator, his life is certainly one to be celebrated, even if it was taken from us way too early. What was most touching, however, was the posthumous entry left on Kon's blog by his wife, one that told the shortened story of a man who viewed his upcoming death in a visionary manner, much like the classics he had produced in theaters.

While I was encouraged to try to translate this heart-felt entry from Kon, I felt that I could not be true to his words and be a firm representative of his final thoughts. However, Makoto Itoh has done a wonderful job in translating Kon's goodbye for us, and through her efforts we get the thoughts of a regretful genius who knows his time has come but passes away with great appreciation for the people around him.

What I did find rather interesting were the entries in the company's blog leading up to Kon's passing away. A few weeks before, Kon listed some "favorite things", starting with the music of Susumu Hirasawa and P-Model, the rakugo performances of Shinsho Kokontei, and the works from the movie critic Tomohiro Machiyama, who Kon found so interesting that he read Machiyama's "Book for Understanding How to Watch Movies" with zest over and over again.

Following this entry was one from the staff for Kon's upcoming project Yume Miru Kikai (The Dreaming Machines), who were asked to list their top 100 movies, whether they be favorites or merely influential works (some were also listed that didn't make the cut). It is amazing to see all of the influences listed on Kon's website, stretching from Western directors such as John Ford, Billy Wilder, and Alfred Hitchcock, to Japanese legends Akira Kurasawa and Yasujiro Ozu. There are even visionaries of their own in the likes of Wes Craven, Terry Gilliam, and Quentin Tarantino.

Granted, these may be more from the staff, but with every great directorial staff comes a great director, and there ought to be no doubt that the influences running through every creative vein in the team also ran through those of Kon himself. Just looking at all of those influences makes me understand a little more just what sort of man Kon was. While he was a great director of movies, it appears that he too was a great afficianado of movies as well, and that really makes me wonder just how Kon would have taken all those influences and constructed his next great project.

Right now, I'm having so much trouble keeping myself together. I have never met Kon, but what I saw through his movies Millennium Actress and Paprika, as well as his lone television series Paranoia Agent, truly moved me. He was a man who loved his era, both historically and in the future, and it is a shame that we shall not get to see what full potential he had locked inside him.

"Chiyoko, a film director is like a painter...a painter puts the colors as he wants on the canvas..."

Thank you for all of the work you have done, Kon-san.

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