Documentary on photographer Nobuyoshi Araki
Studio: Troopers Films/Tartan Video
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, DD Stereo, Japanese
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Filmmaker’s commentary, Additional Footage, Original theatrical trailer, Photo Gallery by Araki
Length: 75 minutes
Warning: Some photographs rated XXX!
Araki lays claim to being the most published serious photographer in
the world, with over 350 different photo books of his work. That work
spans a wild variety of subjects and is of high quality in all of them,
but what has made his name and iconoclastic reputation are his erotic
photographs, often of Japanese-style sexual bondage. He has become the
symbol of sexual liberation in prudish Japan and now that this aspect
of his work is being seen in the U.S. he will probably soon be on the
black list of many different conservative groups.
The man is shown to be an amazing dynamo of energy and good humor with
many quirky personality traits and abilities. In fact, he seems to me
to be nothing so much as a Japanese anime character brought to life.
Among his quotes is “I wish I was a god with a thousand arms, each one
with a camera” – easy to picture as an anime character, right? The
exploration of Araki’s personality and life by filmmaker Travis Klose
is rounded out by statements from some of his models, publishers,
fellow envious photographers and friends, including Björk, Richard Kern
and Takeshi Kitano. One comes away with the feeling that although he
doesn’t act much like a genius (or even his age) he probably is.
The photos of his late wife are especially touching when he continues
shooting even on her deathbed. He has cultivated a reputation since
that difficult time of sleeping with all his female models but the ones
interviewed reveal that is not true. He just seems to have a light and
jocular approach that puts them at ease and gets them to pose any way
he desires – and he desires some most unusual ways to be sure. On the
other hand, one of his most fascinating projects was just photographing
thousands of faces head on without any sort of special posing or
lighting. He possesses quite an ego but is so upfront about it that one
can’t be very judgmental. The whole thing can be wrapped up with the
observation, “What a character!” The soundtrack is provided by
turntablist DJ Crush, and while I generally can’t stand that sort of
thing, with Araki’s life it seems to fit very well.