Resfest 2003

Just spent the day at Resfest, which took place at Laforet in Harajuku. Here’s my roundup.

Johnny Hardstaff
Things started off with a segment where Johnny Hardstaff, creator of this year’s festival identity, explained how the project was conceived. It was an interesting talk, if a bit short (40 minutes doesn’t seem so long when he has to stop every few sentences to be translated in Japanese). He was quite frank about how this project was him going back to basics (creating everything himself in a tiny room), and he felt that his last few big-budget projects were mistakes and that he sort of let things get out of control. It’s also worth noting that the indentity had no CG in it, and is created with a mechanical doll. I mention this because all of the past things I’ve seen by him (including his Radiohead video) were CG/motion graphics, and he said that the new thing he’s working on now is again with animatronics.

Resfest Shorts #3
This year’s selection was excellent, with no stinkers in the bunch. My favorites were the hilarious yet cool ROOM SERVICE by Junji Kojima (of Teevee Graphics), the intensive THE PERPETUAL LIFE OF JIM ALBERS by Matt Goldman, and a really wacky and witty Finnish animation called TREEVIL. Rocky Morton’s THE M WORD was also quite good. It’s just too bad I don’t get to see the two other shorts programs.

By Design
This is my favorite program every year, and it’s how I decide which day I’ll get a day pass for. There were some really nice shorts, as usual, but the genre is definitely developing cliches. I’ve pretty much had my fill of items separating and being tagged, as well as high-pitched metallic noises. Of note were a couple of music videos, one for a song called “In This City” by Enon, and Four Tet’s “She Moves She” (I’m biased regarding this last as I absolutely love the song). MK12 made another great appearance with ULTRALOVENINJA, and the David Ellis directed LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT was mesmerizing.

Resmix Electronica
This is like the Cinema Electronica program shown in North America, except that it’s all Japanese artists. I was really impressed by a lot of videos in this section, a lot of things I’d never seen (I don’t watch the music video channels that much because I have no patience for all the crappy stuff that you have to endure until you get to a good video). I was shocked though when I saw the video for the song “The Attack of Ninja” by DJ Uppercut, which starts off as a direct ripoff of MK12’s ULTRALOVENINJA short. It eventually turns into something a bit different, but the color palette stays very similar, and the whole idea of movement remains the same. It’s a real shame that a video that has a lot of cool original ideas would copy something else so blatantly. As for the good stuff, I’d take note of “III” by Cubejuice and “Devil’s Organ” by Great 3 (I’d never heard of these two bands, and I really liked the tracks), The Orb’s “From a Distance” (brilliant use of Japanese cartoon character Doraemon), Sketch Show’s “Turn Turn” (this is a video I’d already seen many times, and still enjoyed it), and Suneohair’s video (I loved this for the fact that it basically plays out as an anime episode, with the track barely being heard in the background, behind all of the dialogue, like it would in a TV show or movie).

Michel Gondry Retrospective
I’m already a fan of his videos, and this was a chance to see a bunch of things I’d never seen, like his earliest videos for French artists, which are every bit as good if not better than all his more famous ones. You need to see Jean-Francois Coen’s “La tour de pise” which has every word in the lyrics being illustrated by an image of a neon shop or advertising sign, or even IAM’s “Le mia” with its fast advancing camera movement. They also showed quite a few of his commercial work, which share the same ingenuity as his video work. I was also suprised to see that he had done the video for the Kylie Minogue single “Come Into My World.” I’d never seen the whole thing, flipping to another channel as soon as it came on, and that’s a shame because it’s an absolute brilliant video.

So all in all, I had a great time, except for maybe a sore ass (the seats weren’t very comfortable). I also picked up the lastest issue of RES, which I haven’t picked up in a year or two. I used to be a subscriber, but I felt like the magazine got lame and gave up on it. I’ve been thinking of subscribing again though because each issue now comes with a DVD full of videos and shorts, which I wouldn’t mind having.