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eli, eli, lema sabachthani?

AD 2015. The world’s major cities are decimated by a terrible plague, a highly contagious virus that fills those it infects first with unbearable dread, then with overwhelming despair. A fatal disease, without cure. The Lemming Syndrome. In an isolated country mansion, two musicians – Mizui and Asuhara – live in seclusion, devoting themselves to the creation of pure sound far from the trappings of fame and success they knew in the corrupt and dangerous city. They are visited by an ageing plutocrat, his desperately sick daughter and a detective, who believes that in the music made by Mizui and Asuhara lies the seed of hope that the old man’s daughter can be saved. In the vast, changeless stillness of nature, the musicians begin to play…

A friend linked me to this video excerpt of it and, if you know my musical tastes, you will instantly understand why I wanted to watch the movie. And I’m honestly quite glad I did, as it’s a beautiful movie.

It’s not for everyone, no: not only is it riddled with large amounts of “annoying” noise/non-music, but it’s also one of those dreaded “art films” and, while it isn’t as bad as some other films (where nothing happens at. all.), it’s not exactly a hugely eventful film either, being slow-paced throughout. There’s not much in the way of a plot (but it’s not devoid of one, either), action or eye-catching performances, and there’s not even that much dialogue.

What it does have, however, is beauty. Lots of it.

The cinematography and camerawork is, simply put, beautiful. The settings and locations used in the film are beautiful enough on their own, but the scenes and the way said scenes are shot and visually constructed take it to another level. This film manages to make the sight of two men cycling down a deserted road in the middle of the day beautiful, and if that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is.

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And then there’s the noise music aspect of it, which is what drew me to the film in the first place. The duo of Mizui and Asuhara are musicians, alright, and one of them plays the guitar, but if you expected them to be a troubadour duo or maybe a rock band, then you’d be sorely mistaken. What they make is noise, and lots of it. Commendably good noise, too, from the harsh racket during the duo’s live performance to that piece in the video I linked to. It’s a joy to listen to, and also a joy to actually see what is being manipulated and the gear that they (ostensibly) use.

But don’t think that the music in this film is all all unlistenable noise. The score, which is comprised of more conventional music is very, very good too, particularly the beautiful piano theme that is played at various points in the film, accentuating said points and scenes brilliantly. Barring the scene in the aforementioned video and the final, extended solo, however, I would perhaps have to say that the non-noise tracks are better than the noise ones.

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If this film was simply pointless, badly-shot shots of two musicians making noise then even I wouldn’t enjoy it, but it’s so much more than that. It’s actually very well made, managing to avoid descending into a fetishistic celebration of noise—and, by extension, some sort of outsider culture within the world of music and sound—and mantaining an aura of true beauty throughout.

It is not, as I—and I’m sure many—have said, a movie for everyone. Most probably only a small cross-section of movie-watchers will enjoy this. Not many will be able to get past the noise aspect of it, and perhaps even fewer of those individuals that can will be able to look past the seeming novelty value of the whole thing, of making a movie about two noise musicians—becoming something of an 80’s punk rock film for the modern-day noise-drone-and-EAI kid in the process—and see the film for what it really is: a thing of beauty.

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