La Di Da Film Festival
By Don Simpson | September 11, 2012
Director: Maiko Endo
Writer: Maiko Endo
Starring: Raizo Ishihara, Eleonore Hendricks, Chizuru Lee, Maiko Endo, Kaateo Toei, Mana Mori, Takeshi Ishihara, Tsukasa Nakama
I have watched Kuichisan three times and I am still completely clueless as to what to write about it. Don’t take that the wrong way, though. I am in total awe of writer-director Maiko Endo’s film, from Sean Price Williams’ amazing 16mm cinematography to the sublimely ambiguous blurring of fiction and non-fiction.
Broken down to its most basic story lines, Kuichisan follows the existential journey of a prepubescent Japanese boy (Raizo Ishihara) who is navigating his budding spiritual beliefs. He wanders around his hometown of Koza, which is located on Okinawa Island, a former U.S. military base that has returned under Japanese control. As the boy searches the streets of Koza for his identity, the town that he inhabits is attempting to define its own identity and distinguish itself from the U.S. soldiers. All the while, an alienated American tourist named Evangeline (Eleonore Hendricks) also wanders around Koza, in a search that closely mirrors that of the boy.
There is very little dialogue and Kuichisan is held together by a very thin narrative thread; instead, Endo’s film is pure visual poetry that exists in its own uniquely cinematic world somewhere between Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (which Endo co-produced) and Tchoupitoulas. Endo lulls the audience into a transcendental meditative state with a hypnotic array of imagery, transferring us into the lost world of Koza and fostering an out-of-body experience in which we observe these parallel existential quests. She seamlessly melds documentary, fiction and experimental film techniques until it is impossible to know what is being captured on the fly and what is constructed. Truth and falsities do not matter in Kuichisan because this film is simply about representing feelings and emotions; there is no coherent message being conveyed within Kuichisan, which is probably what makes it so damn difficult to write about.