In order to find some fresh air in this season of Pop Cultural Malaise, I’ve recently being reading about the Japanese student movement of the 1960s. So much to my delight, I discovered that a documentary film about the Japanese New Left called Left Alone was showing in Shibuya. We hurried to Eurospace last night to see the late show, paid our $13 — and were then subjected to the worse hour-and-a-half of cinema ever.
Shot on video, with audio courtesy of the camera’s built-in mic, the film tells the entire history of the decade’s riots and tribulations through poorly-shot long interview segments with four or five of the ex-student leaders. The standard “talking heads” style would have been a delightful departure from this inexplicably bad, rambling, pointless mess of a film. I wanted to say it was probably edited on iMovie, but I think iMovie lets you do more than 25 cuts in 90 mins.
Although I often revel in critical bashing, I was honestly disappointed with what could have been a very interesting documentary. I could have ignored the technical and narrative problems had they shown lots of archival footage, but we got 5-10 book covers and the occasional photo. Maybe, however, there just isn’t much film stock of the student riots. Celluloid was expensive in ’60s Japan, and the powers that be didn’t want to give it any more attention than it was getting. TV stations probably have some reels in a back closet, but I don’t get the sense that there’s actually that much footage of the events.
Left Alone 2 coming to theaters next week!