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Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008


Boredoms film unleashes the sound of seven

Special to The Japan Times

Rules, as we all know, are made to be broken. And if it weren't for some rule-breaking Boredoms fans, the first concert film featuring the band might not have seen the light of day.

News photo
Drum dramatics: Eye Yamataka of Boredoms clutches a colored stick for conducting his rhythm orchestra. The Sevena can be seen in the background. © BORETRONIX

Director Jun Kawaguchi has been filming performances by the Osaka-based musicians (aka V 026 redoms) for a decade, but he didn't see fit to share any of his footage until the group played an outdoor gig titled 77Boadrum on July 7, 2007 in Brooklyn, New York. The free concert featured Boredoms frontman Eye Yamataka leading his three bandmates and 74 other drummers through a single piece of music that exceeded the expected 77-minute mark.

Due to the nature of the event, Boredoms issued a statement asking concertgoers not to film or photograph the proceedings, adding that "we want people to remember in their mind, not in their camera." As it turned out, more than a few attendees couldn't resist the urge to record what was touted as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Footage from the show began appearing on video-sharing Web sites such as YouTube almost immediately.

"The reaction was phenomenal," Kawaguchi tells The Japan Times in New York, where "77Boadrum" had its international premiere during October's New York-Tokyo Film Grand Prix Festival. "A lot of people obviously didn't heed the request. Ironically, it was the rush to share images from the concert that convinced me and the band that a film might be a good idea."

The concert, staged at Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, in the shadow of New York City's iconic Brooklyn Bridge, brought Boredoms together with 74 drummers assembled by Hisham Akira Bharoocha, a New York-based musician who was born and raised in Japan. Most were recruited from the U.S. indie-rock scene, the most well-known being slapstick-metal fiend Andrew W. K.

The drummers were divided into groups of seven, each with a leader assigned to take cues from Yamataka, who conducted the piece with differently colored sticks from a small stage at the center of the park. Arranged in a spiral on the grass around him and bandmates Yoshimi, Senju and Yo2ro, the participants followed the lead of the drummer to their right as the minimally rehearsed work unfolded. When not conducting, Eye banged away on Sevena, a contraption with seven guitar necks.

"77Boadrum," which had a summer run in Tokyo's Shibuya district, will return to cinemas in Japan later this month. The film opens at Baus Theater in the Tokyo suburb of Kichijoji on Nov. 22, with most dialogue in English and with Japanese subtitles. It will also be shown in other cities in Japan in conjunction with a Nov. 26 release on Avex of "77Boadrum," a CD of the concert that's accompanied by a DVD of outtakes from the film.

"77Boadrum" is the 35-year-old Kawaguchi's first theatrical feature. He directed music programs for the Space Shower television network before striking out on his own in 2000 and has shot video clips for such artists as Eastern Youth, Chara, Envy and Tha Blue Herb. Despite having filmed every Boredoms gig that he could possibly attend over the past 10 years, Kawaguchi says he never gave thought to making a film about the band.

"It's always been more of a hobby, something I do for myself," he says. "But this time was different. Seeing all those video clips on the Web gave me the idea to create a collage of images from the concert."

Mixing his footage with material he found online, Kawaguchi made a rough version of what would become "77Boadrum" and showed it to Boredoms. Describing the band members as "shy" people who shun the trappings of celebrityhood, he says he wasn't sure how they'd react to the idea of seeing themselves on the big screen.

"They'd seen footage I'd shot at past shows, but this was the first time they said, 'Hmm, this might be interesting,' " he says. "I think their decision was influenced by the participation of so many other musicians. They knew the film wouldn't just be about them."

Having secured Boredoms' blessing, Kawaguchi began piecing together the mosaic that is "77Boadrum." In its final version, the film incorporates footage shot by Chris Habib for U.S.-based VBS.TV, an online broadcast network that covers pop culture, and from Viva Radio, an online broadcaster.

News photo
If you can't beat 'em: The 77 drummers at "77Boadrum" bash out septuple sounds. ©BORETRONIX

Given the unusual nature of the composition being played, which is also titled "77Boadrum," the film's structure was difficult to pin down. The piece is split into three parts, but the music never stops. Playing conventional drum kits, the musicians pound out thunderous beats — fast and furious at one moment, slow and measured at the next. For the most part, they rein in their individuality to achieve a unity that prevails even when the "free" section of the composition arrives and all hell threatens to break loose.

Though it's tempting to say "77Boadrum" is partly a rockumentary, viewers who have only a passing acquaintance with Boredoms will come away no wiser about them or the evolution of their sound from the punk-inspired "noise rock" of their early years to the percussion-based, rhythm-oriented music they make today.

"I tried to give the audience enough information to understand what's going on," Kawaguchi says. "At the same time, Boredoms wanted me to eliminate unnecessary explanations and let the experience speak for itself."

Bharoocha says Kawaguchi's film hits the nail on the head. As an organizer of and a participant in an event that drew up to three times more punters than could possibly fit in the 4,000-person-capacity venue, he says that the film accurately conveys the tension and excitement.

"It was really nostalgic for all the drummers to see the footage," he says. "Certain parts of the performance gave us all chills again when we saw it in the film."

"77Boadrum" opens Nov. 22 at Baus Theater in Kichijoji, Tokyo (www.baustheater.com); Nov. 29 at Cinematheque in Nagoya (cineaste.jp) and the Seventh Art Theater in Osaka (www.nanagei.com); and Dec. 24 at At Hall in Oita (www.athall.com). Screenings are also scheduled at Kyoto Minami Kaikan (www.rcsmovie.co.jp/minami) and Kobe Art Village Center (kavc.or.jp). A CD and DVD set of the same name is released Nov. 26.

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