Capital Celluloid 2022 — Day 242: Thu Sep 1

An Engineer's Assistant (Tsuchimoto, 1963) & On The Road (Tsuchimoto, 1964):
ICA Cinema, 6.45pm

This is the opening night at the ICA of a retrospective devoted to the great Japanese documentary filmmaker Noriaki Tsuchimoto (full details here). Both films are screened from 35mm.

ICA introduction:
Alongside other documentary filmmakers of his generation, Tsuchimoto started by making public relations and educational films. Working within the conventions of corporate filmmaking, he was nonetheless able to bring his own voice, innovation and politics into the films. In 1962, Japanese National Railways imposed intensified labour schedules as a response to railway congestion due to the transport of materials and deployment of the Shinkansen fast train in preparation for the 1964 Olympic Games. In May of that same year, a train crash killed 160 people. In order to wipe away the bad impression caused by this accident, the JNR commissioned An Engineer’s Assistant. Shot with great craft and skill, this PR exercise depicts the hard work these men were undertaking to keep the trains running on time, thus providing a critical analysis of the poor labour conditions they were subjected to.

On the Road: A Document was originally commissioned by the traffic division of Japan’s police administration, but Tsuchimoto used this opportunity to collaborate with the taxi drivers’ unions. A riveting and original city symphony centred on a taxi driver, this is ultimately a portrait of labor conditions, traffic, and the unhealthy living conditions in Tokyo in a moment of urban renewal. The film was later recognised as one of the great documentaries made about this rapidly shifting society. In its dynamic and inventive attention to detail and sound, the film was not what the sponsors anticipated, and it was never publicly released.

Here (and above) is the On The Road trailer.

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