Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Talking Head

I discovered this film when I bought the Mamouru Oshii Cinema Trilogy Collection boxset, available from Bandai. Like many anime enthusiasts, I was interested in Mamoru Oshii after viewing Ghost in the Shell and its sequel, Innocence. It turns out that these 3 films are not metaphysical, cyborg action dramas, but rather comedies and satires of the whole film world, as well as the anime industry. Talking Head's "storyline" is about an anime feature that must be released in 2 months, but there is no director. A "migrant technical director" is called in to replace the missing director. His skills include being able to perfectly mimic anyone's style while still being able to make innovations to that style. The story takes a turn when the crew members begin to die, one-by-one, Heart of Darkness style. Talking Head is the best of the 3 films in the trilogy, combining the film-within-a-film elements of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 with a deliberate abstraction of film reality by exposing sets and lighting set-ups (Oshii did the same thing in The Red Spectacles). Oshii is a talented creator; he distorts our assumptions of the imposed reality of film while giving us a lesson in film history. He also has his characters giving numerous speeches about the way films must be made, but Oshii himself breaks these self-imposed rules in his own storytelling. The link of the trilogy is Chiba Shigeru. He plays the lead in all 3 films of the trilogy, and speaks with a standard Japanese accent, but the seriousness in his voice adds to the satire that Oshii is trying to convey. Talking Head is a great film for anyone who wants to know what goes on inside a director's head.

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