My name is Mariko. Kittenette is an account of my life in San Francisco, running a business from my apartment, my interest in film and media, cooking and crafting, and how I got adopted by a stray 5 month old kitten.   Read More

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Nagi Noda: A Tribute

Nagi Noda, (1973-2008) was an artist whose career I used to watch. Unfortunately I didn’t find out about her death until a couple of months ago, as she’s not particularly well known outside of Japan and the music video industry. She was best known for directing music videos for popular J-pop artists like Yuki, Tiga, and Ogiyihagi, as well as doing design work for Laforet, Nike, Hikaru Utada, Suntory, etc.

Her works had a sort of dark humor to them that often referenced their commercial nature by taking it to its extreme. The best example of this is probably a short film she made in 2003 called “Francfranc: a Small Love Story About Alex and Juliet” (Francfranc is a small Japanese chain selling stylish home goods). Rather than a romance between two people, the lovers are the commercial objects themselves: two bug-eyed mugs in a holiday-decorated store wonderland. Even the actors are bizzarely beautifully dressed runway model types. You can see it here:

Another of my Nagi Noda favorites is Yuki’s “Sentimental Journey” video. It’s a physical stop-motion scene involving hundreds of actresses, and shot completely in one take. Coca Cola liked the idea so much that they had her recreate it for them as well. It is somewhat reminiscent of the strange, playful charm of Michel Gondry (think of his video “Sugar Water” for Cibo Matto), with whom she was friends. Here’s the video:

Her other notable works include the well known “Poodle Exercise” video, in which an “ex-fat-girl” speaks motivationally in a fitness video with human sized poodles, the “Horror Cafe” exhibition, with a supporting cast of coffin-clad people, her “hair hats,” hats made of hair shaped into animals and other bizzare shapes, a fashion line she collaborated on with Mark Ryden called “Broken Label,” and the popular Han Panda character.

Sadly she died in September of 2008 from injuries sustained in a car accident. According to the agency through which she worked, she passed away “in her Mark Ryden dress, Chanel boots, perfect make-up with Viktor & Rolf lace black eye lashes.” In a strange coincidence, her Han Panda exhibit takes on a fitting tribute to her death:

See more of Nagi Noda’s work …
Official Website
Poodle Fitness Video,
Monoprix Vegetables, Monoprix Jungle, Monoprix Mascara
Broken Label
Excerpt from Women of Design, Women of Design
Meg’s Precious Video
Giant Han Panda Exhibit
LG The Power of Steam
Interview- starting 7:00

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman

Visual Acoustics (2009) is Eric Bricker’s documentary on the late photographer, Julius Shulman. The film is a congratulatory piece, and chronologically documents Shulman’s ascent as the superstar photographer of Southern California Modernism, ending with Shulman’s archive being sent to rest at The Getty. Shulman’s photographs have become iconic of the period; his deliberate style of framing and lighting architecture matches its optimistic, lifestyle driven aesthetic. One interesting critique that the documentary makes is that Shulman’s presence is clearly felt in each of his photographs. This is also true of the film, which relies heavily on his narration, presence, and the use of his personal archives. Despite the fact that the film is narrated by Dustin Hoffman, it’s clear that it is Shulman himself, not the narration, that molds his persona and image in the film. Another strength of Visual Acoustics is the excellent commentary. Rarely do commentators of biographical documentaries give such nuanced looks at the history and context of the person’s trade. We are treated to a myriad of media which give us insight into the life of Julius Shulman: footage of him as a young man on television, looks into his photographic archives, even his artistic process in photographing architecture such as the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Stars such as Richard Neutra, Frank O. Gehry, John Lautner, Gregory Ain, and Ed Ruscha also appear in the film.

Thankfully, Bricker did not follow the trend of filming a biographical documentary after the death of the subject. Shulman passed away in July of 2009, and it’s hard to imagine this film having the clout that it does without his strong presence. In it, Shulman weaves the mythology of his life, photographs, and the architecture that gave him his claim to fame.

The film is screening in Los Angeles and other select venues. The Official Visual Acoustics Website also has great information, links, photographs, etc. on the film.

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