TRACKING


A film essay by Becca Voelcker. 
Colour, sound. 48 min.
Harvard University
2015

with thanks to Professor T. Bestor



[This film essay tracks ways in which six directors have filmed Tokyo’s transport system as a cinematic vehicle for exploring socio-economic and political senses of place in the city. The voiceover is a collage of writings drawn from anthropology, urbanism, and visual theory, while the images and soundtrack are taken from the original films.
Transport runs throughout these films by way of shots of (or taken from) Tokyo’s subway, commuter trains, taxis and elevators. Different from American road movies, where wide roads stretch ‘out west’ and evoke notions of freedom, these films are routed and rooted in describing the densely built city and its defined social practices. While on one hand they document journeys that are bound to iron tracks and scheduled for commuting, they also sidetrack into territories of unrest.
Taking as its departure point the year 1960, Tracked also traces the profound influence of Japanese filmmakers (Ozu, Tsuchimoto, Adachi) on their European successors (Wenders, Marker, Grandrieux), and more widely, how Tokyo has so thoroughly captured the imaginations of people in and outside Japan. A seminal decade in Japan’s social history, the 1960s witnessed unprecedented economic growth, continual political and cultural influence from the West (particularly America), and an increasingly prominent role for youth in society. As Japan’s capital city, Tokyo found itself in the thoroughfare of such changes. While the renewal of the US-Japan Security Treaty (1960), the Tokyo Olympics (1964) and the Osaka World Expo (1970) put Japan on the world stage in this decade, many Japanese questioned the benefits of their country’s supposed boom and, with increasing discontent, they took to the streets.
Today, after the economic bubble, after the global financial crisis, and after Fukushima, Tokyo is a very different place. However, certain tracks from the 1960s have left traces. With Prime Minister Abe altering Japan’s military legislation, and nuclear power plants being re-opened, people are once again occupying Tokyo’s streets in protest. In 2020 Tokyo will host the Olympics again and is preparing itself for a demonstration of the nation’s recovery from the Great Eastern Earthquake (as did the 1964 Olympics, in its post-war recovery). The Tokyo-Kanazawa shinkansen line and a proposed mag-lev train are just two examples of the way in which Japan is mapping out this recovery and mobility. Down the line, films that map the corresponding spatial and social effects of such mobility will invite further ‘tracking,’ and couple to the rolling stock of city films presented here.]

FILMS USED

Ozu, Yasujiro. Late Autumn (Akibiyori). Japan, 1960, colour, 127 min.
Wenders, Wim. Tokyo Ga. Germany/ Japan, 1985, colour, 92 min.
Tsuchimoto, Noriaki. On the Road: A Document (Dokyumento rojō). Japan, 1964, black and white, 54 min.
Marker, Chris. The Koumiko Mystery. France/ Japan, 1967, colour, 54 mins.
                            Sans Soleil. France/ Japan, 1983, colour, 103 min.
Adachi, Masao. AKA Serial Killer (Ryakushō renzoku shasatsuma). Japan, 1969, 86 min.
Grandrieux, Philippe. It May Be that Beauty has Reinforced Our Resolve (Il se peut que la beauté ait renforcé notre resolution). France/ Japan, 2011, colour, 74 min.