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Ikebana (1957) HD online

Ikebana (1957) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Documentary / Short
Original Title: Ikebana
Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Released: 1957
Duration: 32min
Video type: Movie
Traces the history of ikebana, flower arranging: its origins, its formalization 500 years ago, the emergence of the rikka or standing flower style with its heaven-earth-man trinity, and the influence of Rikyu's simplicity. Enter the modern era, embodied at the Sogetsu School, where flower arranging is taught alongside modern sculpture and pottery. We visit a weekend class of flower arranging with novice and experienced students evaluated by a master, Sofu Teshigahara, the director's father. Then we watch the master prepare for his annual one-man show. If life is an unceasing spiritual journey, says the narrator, then art gives us the courage to go on.
Credited cast:
Tomoko Naraoka Tomoko Naraoka - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sofu Teshigahara Sofu Teshigahara - Himself

Reviews: [2]

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    Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara ('Woman in the Dunes', 'The Face of Another', 'Rikyu') was the son of Sofu Teshigahara, the founder of the Sōgetsu School of Ikebana flower arranging. Sofu, who learned flower arranging from his father, regarded Ikebana as an art (as opposed to mere decoration) and his Sogetsu School taught "that once all the rules are learned and the techniques mastered, there is an unbounded field for freer personal expression using varied materials, not just flowers." (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

    The film focuses on the way Sofu incorporates the sculptures he makes with his flower arrangements. It never occurred to me that these two art forms would be applied by the same person, but it only makes sense. In his case, the resulting combination has a powerful, very graphic and masculine, 50s-style aesthetic. It's an interesting mix of traditional Japanese and Modernist (one could say Western, I suppose) flavors. He's an eclectic sculptor, as he uses many different materials, including wood, metal and glass. It's quite impressive. Sofu comes across as an intense man. He wears funky clothes and much of his work is charged with a particularly expressive, even neurotic energy. It's not hard to imagine that he must have had a big influence on his filmmaker son.

    The documentary itself feels conventional in comparison to the director's more experimental, slightly psychedelic works from the 60s, or even his 1985 documentary about Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. This actually reminds me a bit of some Disney films from the 40s and 50s. At only 32 minutes, it doesn't go into depth on specific Ikebana techniques or anything of the sort, but it offers a nice taste of the possibilities and points to the passion with which Sofu approached art.
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    Buddhist practice has produced the most refined art integrated with a worldview that I know of, a work in form that strives to embody the practice of seeing the world as it unveils itself truly. There is no clutter, the baggage of self and thought. The result is not consciously cultivated with beauty like we strive to do here, where things are meant to stand the test of time, rather a space for unmediated soul to pour.

    (only the masters of Soviet montage have come close for me, even if just a little, with their experiments – rooted in Chinese calligraphy no less – to discover an eye unfettered by narrative that constructs the world by seeing, but they lasted for barely 10 years before Stalin and the censors scattered them to the four winds).

    At any rate it is not art such as we know here, but a practice of meditation.

    So the effort is for a work that resonates with images and a world from them as they arise and disappear; for creation that mirrors asymmetry, imperfection, vital emptiness. Every step taken on the Noh stage is a step taken to purge ego with movement, not merely to represent but to actually embody transience. A calligrapher's imperfect brushstroke draws, reveals from the perfect-centeredness of what in Zen is understood as the 'heart-mind', a heart that minds.

    Ikebana is the most self-referential of these practices, a way of actually cultivating abstract beauty. But of course the effort is to cultivate inside, and trust the hand to arrange a reflection outwards. It is a practice carried out in silence, and what better way to embody transience than to chose raw materials for perishability?

    So a beauty cultivated fully in the knowledge that it will come to pass, itself a visual space for contemplation. These are the beauties of Buddhist art.

    I'm writing all these by way of introduction because there's little background or insight into the actual practice in the film we have here. It is mostly a tour around the school of Sofu Teshigahara, Hiroshi's father, with snippets of both students and the sensei at work.

    Inadvertently the essence of ikebana has been perverted many times over. Aristocrats in feudal Japan used it as an ornamental pastime for reflecting status and opulence, constructing in lavish scale. The great tea-master Rikyu restored it back to Buddhist grassroots and moved it to the tea-room - this is called chabana, I have briefly tried my hand in it with workmanlike results. But the tea-room is another story, a wonderful story.

    What Sofu pioneered in his Sogetsu school, which continues to this day under his daughter's tutelage, was traditional ikebana welded together with modern ideas about sculpted space. Misshapen branches are structured together with beams of wrought iron, or blocks of solid rock are made to stand in awe-inspiring balance.

    There are many arrangements presented here, some great, some not so great. It's worth seeing for these alone, especially if you have a vested interest in the above.

    But as a film? It is short and no doubt an opportunity for the son to get valuable film practice while promoting his father's work, but as film it is ordinary. You'll understand more about ikebana by identifying it in Hiroshi's films, asymmetric arrangements of visual space from emptiness and misshapen elements.

    Eventually he gave up film to take up his father's school, and only sporadically returned thereafter to make films about Gaudi and Rikyu himself. I suggest you pick up the thread there.