Inspired by fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red-Riding Hood, "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a surreal tale in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.
A young man kills his bride on the day of his marriage and goes insane. He wakes up in an asylum with no memory, left in the hands of two mysterious doctors who relate his condition with his biological identity.
A disturbing kaleidoscope of late 60's turmoil, psychedelia and creative expression
Essentially a short, collage-based film that seems to be a kind of document of late 1960's Japanese youth culture, music and trends, using a wildly creative juxtaposition of various film stock that is presented in the form of a continual split-screen. The film is notable for using footage from director Toshio Matsumoto's subsequent work, the avant-garde masterpiece Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), while the implications of the title, "For the Damaged Right Eye", are closely related to a scene from that particular film. For the Damaged Right Eye
aka For My Crushed Right Eye (1968) - is easily one of Matsumoto's
most experimental works of this era; using a combination of dramatisation, documentary footage, photographs, magazine cut-outs, advertisements, pornography and pop art to capture the essence of the movement and the atmosphere of Tokyo at this particular time, and all without the need for the more recognisable elements of character or narrative.
Again, the actual technique used is reminiscent of the work of filmmakers like Jean Luc Godard and Chris Marker, with the idea of images spliced together - seemingly at random, but actually with intention - that work towards telling a kind of story by way of the emotional (or intellectual) response that the images convey. The presentation suggests elements of stream-of-consciousness almost, with one image suggesting ideas that our mind can associate to scenarios from our own lives as the combination of the image, sound and text trigger an immediate response or reaction. Some of it seems vague at first, with footage of a motorcycle race, business commuters and the scene of an actual happening all combined in that continual split-screen presentation; over which Matsumoto inserts cross dissolves, on-screen text, graphics and some truly disarming examples of obvious 16mm print damage. In the end, the film feels like something that was made to be projected on the walls of some dingy Tokyo nightclub for bands like The Mops, Hadaka no Rallizes (aka Les Rallizes Dénudés) or the Flower Travellin' Band to make beautiful music to, but even then, the film is not without merit.
Shots of pornography - both in terms of art and photography - are contrasted against biology-class diagrams of the reproductive organs, while we watch juxtaposing images of kids dancing to rock music and transvestites getting ready for a night on the town. It doesn't make any kind of immediate sense, but it does goes towards the creation of an atmosphere and tone. Other images document the day to day activities of contemporary Japanese society, from the salary men riding the commuter train, to student protesters (most likely the "anpo hantai"), while Matsumoto occasionally disarms us with shots of childhood deformities, scarred faces and malformed foetus shapes. Whether or not these images are real or faked is unknown to me, although they do seem pretty authentic. Again, they create an atmosphere that works in relation to the use of music, the employment of on-screen inter-titles and Matsumoto's disorientating use of editing.
Although the film is continually enigmatic and formally experimental, For the Damaged Right Eye remains a fine curiosity piece and an interesting component in Matsumoto's rich and varied career. It doesn't particularly add anything to the themes of Funeral Parade of Roses as some might suggest - with that particular film standing as one of the finest and most rewarding films ever made - though it does capture a certain time and place in 20th century Japanese culture and history; attempting to express what that era must have been like to experience via an indulgent cocktail of sounds and images. Ultimately, it won't offer much in the way of entertainment value unless you're an avid viewer of short-form, experimental cinema or the work of avant-garde directors with a background in art. However, the experience of For the Damaged Right Eye is a good one, and demonstrates once again that you don't need character and narrative to produce a (short?) film that is memorable and compelling.
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