In L.A. for his upcoming show at Blum & Poe, the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami started his week with an appearance at LACMA for the "international premiere" of his new movie, "Jellyfish Eyes."
No word yet on distribution plans, but do not expect his usual short-format animated dream-sequence.
Running 100 minutes, this movie mixes live action with computer animation to tell the story of a Japanese boy, Masashi, who finds a lovable Friend (as the species is known) with extraterrestrial powers at a time when he needs it the most, in the wake of his father's death. Looming large are images of earthquakes and tsunamis, and the threat of nuclear disaster as in Fukushima in 2011.
After the screening, part of LACMA's Film Independent series, program organizer Elvis Mitchell did a brief Q&A with the artist-director, his translator on hand. A fair amount was lost in translation. But Murakami did communicate very clearly his desire to make a monster movie -- originally one in which the Friend Kurage-Bo or Jellyfish-Boy was "a strange guy ... dirty -- and almost naked in my original design."
"Movies are a kind of collaboration, and many people were against this idea," Murakami explained. So Kurage-Bo turned out to have a bright-white blob-body, wide green eyes and a shock of pink hair -- adorable in the venerable Japanese tradition of kawaii or super-cuteness. And the biggest monster, not the main character, became the more naturalistic, grungy character.