Satoshi Kon – Editing Space & Time


Hi my name is Tony and
this is Every Frame a Painting. Today I’m going to talk about one of
the greats of the last twenty years the Japanese filmmaker Satoshi Kon. Even if you don’t know his work you have
certainly seen some of his images. He is an acknowledged influence on both
Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan And he has a fan base that includes just
about everyone who loves animation. In one decade, he made
four feature films and one TV series all of them amazingly consistent,
all of them about how modern people cope
with living multiple lives. Private, public. Offscreen, onscreen.
Waking, dreaming. If you’ve seen his work you’ll recognize
this blurring of reality and fantasy. Today, I’m only going to focus on
one thing: his excellent editing. So as an editor, I’m always looking
for new ways to cut especially from outside
the realm of live-action. Kon was one of the most fascinating.
His most noticeable habit was matching scene transitions. I’ve mentioned before that Edgar Wright
does this for visual comedy–Scott!
–What? It’s part of a tradition that includes
The Simpsons and Buster Keaton. Kon was different. His inspiration
was the movie version of Slaughterhouse-Five
directed by George Roy Hill.–I can always tell, you know,
when you’ve been time-tripping This is more of a sci-fi tradition
that includes Philip K Dick and Terry Gilliam But even among peers,
Kon pushed this idea pretty far. Slaughterhouse-Five has basically
three types of scene transitions: a general match cut an exact graphic match and intercutting two different time
periods, which mirror each other. Kon did all of these things,
but he would also rewind the film,
cross the line into a new scene, zoom out from a TV,
use black frames to jump cut, use objects to wipe frame, and
I don’t even know what to call this. To show you how dense this gets,
the opening four minutes of Paprika has five dream sequences and every
single one is connected by a match cut. Number six is not connected
by a match cut, but there is a
graphic match within the scene. Just for comparison, the opening
fifteen minutes of Inception has four interconnected dreams.
Number of match cuts: one.–What is the most resilient parasite? Cuts like this aren’t uncommon,
but they’re definitely not something most filmmakers build a style out of. Usually you see them as one-off effects.
Two of the most famous examples: Oh and this one because it’s amazing Kon’s work was about the interaction
between dreams, memories, nightmares, movies, and life. The matching images were how
he linked the different worlds. Sometimes he would stack transitions
back to back, so you’d be getting used to one scene
before you got thrown into the next. All of this made him really
surprising to watch. You could blink and miss that
you’re in a different scene. Even when he wasn’t dealing with dreams,
Kon was an unusual editor. He loved ellipses and would often
just jump past part of the scene. So you’d see a character look at a key. You expect to see her take it,
but that doesn’t happen. The scene just moves on.
Later on, in a different scene: Or you’d see a man jumping
out of a window and fade out. We’d then cut to a scene we didn’t
understand, reveal that this is a dream, back out, and then show the
conclusion of the previous scene. Even things like murder, he would
do the build-up and cut away. But he would show us the gory result. I particularly love the way
he handled character death. Here, an old man dies and
the windmills of his hut stop. Then it turns out he’s alive,
so they start up again. When we finish the scene,
the windmill shot doesn’t repeat, but you’ll notice they aren’t moving,
implying he is dead. Kon also had a habit of starting scenes
in close-up and you’d figure out where you were as the scene went on. Every once in a while,
he’d use an establishing shot. And then reveal that it was actually a
point-of-view. So without you noticing, he brought you
into the character’s world. He was constantly showing one image and
then revealing that it wasn’t what you thought it was. Your experience of space and time
became subjective. He could also edit in ways that a
lot of live-action filmmakers could not. During an interview, Kon said that
he didn’t want to direct live action because his editing was too fast. For example: This shot of the bag is only 6 frames.
For a comparable moment in live action that was 10 frames.
Or how about this insert of a note? 10 frames. But in live-action… 49 frames. Kon felt that as an animator,
he could draw less information in the shot, so your
eye could read it faster. You can actually see someone like Wes
Anderson doing this in live-action removing visual information
so his inserts “read” faster. It’s worth noting: you can actually cut
much faster than this, but the images pretty much become subliminal.
Some of these shots are 1 frame. None of this was for cheap effect.
Kon felt that we each experience space, time, reality and fantasy
at the same time as individuals and also collectively as a society.
His style was an attempt to depict this in images and sound. In the course of
ten years, he pushed animation in ways that aren’t really
possible in live action. Not just elastic images, but elastic
editing — a unique way of moving from image to image, scene to scene. And he
was helped in this crusade by the studio Madhouse, who did
some of their finest work on his films. If you want to see a perfect summation
of his work, I present his final film: a one-minute short about how we feel
when we get up in the morning This is Ohayou–Ohayou Farewell, Satoshi Kon.

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