Takashi Ito b. 1956
Devil's Circuit (1988)
Up jumped the devil, in this case an imposing skyscraper somewhere in Tokyo, Kyoto, or any given Japanese metropolis. Maybe Takashi Ito decided to demonise the building for its brute ugliness, or maybe for deeper symbolic reasons. But the fact is that the filmmaker pays homage to this devil, performing a riveting circumambulation around its concrete body without ever losing sight of it; and, indeed, Ito's original idea was to honour not an anonymous skyscraper, but Mount Fuji itself - a massive physical body with strong religious resonances in Japanese culture. The idea is as simple as its execution is brilliant: having identified the object of worship, Ito elected it as the centre of an imaginary radius of about 500 metres which was then divided in 48 sections; Ito then photographed the building from these 48 spots, on different occasions, and edited the photos, frame by frame, into a hypnotic, accelerated cityscape carrousel. The result is not only a beautiful study on the overarching presence of this building across the city, but also a richly detailed map in which the evil skyscraper is consistently contrasted with and contextualized against different or similar forms of urban landscape. Inagake's soundtrack, with which the stills seem to be synched, is a soothing but somehow bleak embrace of soft electro loops, as if Tom Dokoupil had woken up in a particularly good humour before joining up with the Laughing Hands for a good healthy breakfast. Silly framings aside, Inagake's atmospherics do manage to soften the Devil's experience, for which a more predictable accompaniment would be a noise assault so typical of contemporary reflections on modernity and the city. One of Ito's most impressive works.