I’m sure there have been no end of articles and blog posts about ゼンタイ zentai: skin tight, faceless body suits. Originally they’re from Japan, of course, like many other cross-cultural mutations. The term is an abbreviation of 全身タイツ zenshin taitsu, “full body tights”. It’s also a safe bet that most of these articles fall into the categories of a) LOL weirdos b) LOL perverts or c) both of the aforementioned. Frankly, I would advise against uncontrolled internet searching on the subject unless you’re broad-minded because some of the people who are into it are absolute FREAKS and you might well see some obscure corners of the porn world that you’d really rather not. Also beware of YouTube’s “up next” autoplay…
Being an absolute freak is fine by me, actually (just wash your hands and probably have a shower too, before you do anything else) but perhaps especially for those who are creeped out by the whole thing, it’s worth watching the completely non-pervy and un-LOLZ-seeking Singaporean short film embedded here– Zentai Walk Documentation. Its participants, zentai-wearers all, have some very intelligent and insightful things to say about the suit’s erasure of racial and national signifiers, their reasons for enjoying zentai, the political and social implications of masks, and the paradoxical, simultaneous attention-seeking narcissism and humility or lack of ego that are required to step out in public wearing a peculiar costume. I have some experience of these issues as a performer, although fortunately for the public’s poor, blameless eyes I’ve never yet done any zentai.
The video relates to a zentai festival taking place in Singapore this April and May. This year’s public zentai walk takes place on the 23rd May. Check out the site for some more relatively wholesome information about zentai.
I was left with one burning question after watching the film, however. We see several of the people buying food, drink, or other items. So apart from the lady in the black suit and pink wig, who very sensibly has a backpack, where are all the others keeping their wallets and money?
On reflection it’s probably best not to think about it too much, unless you’re into that kind of thing.
Even more from the series of Japanese short films about crafts and manufacturing, which was featured yesterday: this time the videos feature the making of clockwork and tin toys, daruma (達磨, the hollow good luck dolls supposedly modelled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism), oil pastel crayons, oil paint for artists, and mosquito coils.
The film about daruma shows equally fascinating traditional hand-made techniques, and slightly more industrial manufacturing of them. Even so, they’re all still finished individually just like the other items shown in these videos, the paint and the mosquito coils included. The pastel one is a bit tedious at the start, but if you’re an artist like me or otherwise just get excited about colours, stick with it and the one about paint for some huge, lush blobs of intense, glossy pigment erotica. The film about mosquito coils is initially rather alarming because despite them working with insecticide all day, not a single person is wearing a mask or gloves. A little research, however, showed that pyrethrum and pyrethrins derive from chrysanthemum flowers (as shown in the film) and are so safe to humans and other mammals that a person would have to ingest many grams of the substance to even get ill. The film also does a little introduction to anti-mosquito incense, which was in fact invented by a Japanese gentleman in the 1890s, although it was his wife who came up with the improved coiling version still in use today. Guess who usually gets the credit, though?
And since we’re on the subject of mosquito coils– how often does that happen?– what a great excuse for a link to two of my favourite posts on the site, though they’re among the least favourite with readers: MUSHUDA and Mushuda II: Miscegenation!
(See also Fascinating Repairmen )
Along the same lines as the aforementioned Fascinating Repairmen, more short documentaries from Japan about crafting, which is apparently a genre. There seem to be dozens if not hundreds of these that have been uploaded to YouTube by the Japan Science and Technology Agency. Apart from a few captions– in Japanese, obviously– the videos are all wordless and self-explanatory. The seven embedded here are the ones I’ve found most interesting so far (listed in ascending order of Japanese-ness, possibly): manufacturing marbles from recycled glass, sculpting and moulding shop mannequins, kendo (Japanese bamboo stick-fighting) armour, paper lanterns, dolls for the annual 雛祭りHinamatsuri (Doll Festival), realistic fishing lures, and creating food samples out of PVC and wax.
修理、魅せます – Fascinating Repairmen– is, I’m sure, a nice skill to have but in this case it’s not an unusual talent or the first scene of an erotic film. Instead it’s the title of a Japanese series celebrating craftsmen and craftswomen who give new life to various old objects. This one is about a Tokyo bookbinder called Nobuo Okano and his process of restoring a much loved and therefore fairly well trashed English-to-Japanese dictionary. Its owner’s daughter is starting university and he wants to pass it on to her, so Okano does what he can to rescue and regenerate the book.
It’s a fascinating process, and you don’t really need to speak Japanese to appreciate what’s going on. The incidental music’s a bit overpowering, but it goes with the Japanese territory. About the only relevant information you can’t get just from watching is the client actually being quite pleased that the restoration will obliterate the embarrassment of his high school girlfriend’s initials still being written on the side (though you probably won’t miss the narrator triumphantly saying “sayonara” as the ex is amputated), and that it took Okano about four hours to re-flatten all 1000 dog-eared pages with tweezers and a small iron.
PS: Don’t try ironing or guillotining the edges off your Kindle if it stops working correctly.
PPS: Here’s a link to a playlist of another 13 episodes. Repairs to jeans, soft toys, ceramic statues, and old photographs, among others.
Alejandro Jodorowsky and the glory of not getting what you want
Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune is a confusing phrase, but the documentary itself does absolutely everything right in terms of a compelling story, an incredibly charismatic protagonist, and a genuinely inspiring and uplifting message. Alejandro Jodorowsky is the bonkers auteur who made surrealist cult films like El Topo and The Holy Mountain with a mentality more akin to a prophet or a cult leader than a film technician, so it’s no surprise that he was drawn to Frank Herbert’s zeitgeisty eco-messianic novel. If Jodorowsky is any kind of prophet then he’s the Anti-Hack. For him it’s all about the passion, the politics and the image. Making perfectly constructed emotion-manipulating and money-making machines is not interesting to him at all. For a while in the 70s there were so many serendipities raining down onto him that it seemed the universe wanted Jodorowsky to make Dune, and it would brook no contradiction. It’s also depressingly inevitable that a dementedly overambitious project by an idiosyncratic and unapologetic genius like Jodorowsky would fail to thrive in Hollywood’s sterile earth.
This film about the abortion of another film reveals what a magnificent thing Dune could have been. Seventies sci-fi painter Chris Foss designed space ships and buildings. French comic artist Moebius designed the characters and costumes. The villainous, genocidal Harkonnens were styled by H.R. Giger, later famous after he was poached by Ridley Scott for production design on Alien. The grossly obese and megalomaniacal Baron Harkonnen would have been played by– who else?– the grossly obese and megalomaniacal Orson Welles. It’s both hilarious, typical and tragic that Jodorowsky failed to tempt Welles with money, but immediately secured a “yes” when he promised food. Salvador Dalí was to be the Emperor of the Galaxy (for about two or three minutes, because he wanted to be paid $100,000 a minute). Mick Jagger was on board, playing an androgynously beautiful version of the role that eventually went to Sting in David Lynch’s version. Imagine that as a casting session: who’s the best actor, Jagger or Sting? It’s like, do you want to eat the rotten wormy apple or the rotten maggoty orange? Continue Reading
Werner Herzog has a new documentary about the Palaeolithic cave paintings at Chauvet. When anybody asks me who my favourite artists are or which artists I most identify with, I occasionally answer that my favourite artists are the ones who painted Chauvet, Altamira, and the other European cave sites that we know of. Sometimes I’m even serious about it, so I look forward to seeing Caves of Forgotten Dreams. Jean Clotte’s Return to Chauvet Cave is a thorough, big and beautiful book about the place, if you’re at all interested. I’m not wild about Herzog as a narrative film director, but I love him as a documentarian and I recently watched his film about human presence and intervention in Antarctica, Encounters at the End of the World. Both of these things inspired me to write a little something about this magnificently miserable old bastard.