A dog race is interrupted by a ringmaster, who attaches fish to the dog’s collars and makes them run in circles. The crowd is incensed, but the ringmaster insists that the audience is no better off than the dogs. In the end the ringmaster is assassinated and the race continues, but a single red rose sprouts from the ringmaster’s blood; a symbol of truth in a crazy world? An absurd circus is brought to life in one of Kawamoto’s few hand-drawn films.
Born in 1925, from an early age Kihachiro Kawamoto was captivated by the art of doll and puppet making. After seeing the works of maestro Czech animator Jiri Trnka, he first became interested in stop motion puppet animation and during the 50s began working alongside Japan’s first stop motion animator, the legendary Tadahito Mochinaga. In 1958, he co-founded Shiba Productions to make commercial animation for television, but it was not until 1963, when he traveled to Prague to study puppet animation under Jiri Trnka for a year, that his puppets truly began to take on a life of their own. Trnka encouraged Kawamoto to draw on his own country’s rich cultural heritage in his work, and so Kawamoto returned from Czechoslovakia to make a series of highly individual, independently-produced artistic short works, beginning with Breaking of Branches is Forbidden (Hana-Ori) in 1968. Heavily influenced by the traditional aesthetics of Noh, Bunraku doll theatre and Kabuki, since the 70s his haunting… read more