Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, March 13:
ART OF THE GAME: UKIYO-E HEROES
Hot Docs 2017
St Louis, Comic-Con
A look at an unusual artistic collaboration melding ancient Japanese craft and pop culture.
Tokikawa’s film focuses on the partnership between Jed Henry, an American illustrator, and David Bull, a Westerner in Japan who has spent decades becoming a master at ukiyo-e, an ancient Japanese craft of woodblock printing. After encountering ukiyo-e, Henry seeks out Bull, proposing a partnership: making a series of prints that integrate characters from old video games into classical ukiyo-e motifs. Though initially hesitant, Bull agrees, and they promote their enterprise via a ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaign. The film recounts this background and then proceeds to spend an interminable amount of time painstakingly detailing the creation of a new print, from Henry’s idea and initial composition to Bull’s translation into the woodblock process and ultimate execution, with cutaways to other Japanese craftsman who function as suppliers of the master’s brushes, paper, and paint. While some of this process is not uninteresting, it does not sustain interest for a general audience. There’s also something odd about this ancient Japanese craft being basically unquestioningly represented by two Westerners. Regardless, the subject matter’s insularity and excessive detail makes this of strictly niche appeal.