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Originally published Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 3:01 PM

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‘We Don’t Care About Music Anyway ...’: Tokyo’s noise-art scene

A movie review of “We Don’t Care About Music Anyway ...” This largely successful documentary is a look at Tokyo’s avant-garde music scene and some of the noise artists in the city’s vanguard.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 3 stars

“We Don’t Care About Music Anyway ...,” with Yamakawa Fuyuki, Otomo Yoshihide, Tomoko Shimazaki, Sakamoto Hiromichi. Directed by Cédric Dupire and Gaspard Kuentz, from a screenplay by Dupire, Kuentz and Noa Garcia-Kisanuki. 80 minutes. Not rated. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion.

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Can one deny modernity while living in it? The principle of appropriating the modern for personal expression is behind Tokyo’s renowned noise scene, part of the city’s musical avant-garde as captured in the sporadically inspired documentary “We Don’t Care About Music Anyway ...”

Several artists working at different ends of a merger between technology and musical tradition are at the center of this ambitious film by Cédric Dupire (whose previous work examines the relationship between music and environment) and first-time feature director Gaspard Kuentz.

“We Don’t Care” deftly compensates for the missing element in a film about performance art: immediacy. Watching a prerecorded Yamakawa Fuyuki work with the sounds of his heartbeat and breathing, or radical turntablist Otomo Yoshihide make noises with expensive gear it wasn’t built to produce, is fascinating. But it can’t convey the disposable reality of a live happening.

Dupire and Kuentz instead reflect the noise aesthetic — sonic revelations pulled from conventional instruments, machines or environmental sources via manipulation — cinematically. Through images of lines and movement in Tokyo’s streets, subways and junkyards; through shimmering views of the cityscape or recurring shots of detritus, the filmmakers hijack urban rhythms and conformism into a type of visual performance.

Not everything works, but there are moments in which “We Don’t Care” becomes as much a plastic event as an engaging movie. Watching Tomoko Shimazaki strip down to a bikini while creating a hurricane of white noise with a guitar is a fun echo of mid-20th-century pop art.

Scenes from a round-table conversation between these artists are a mixed success, and not every performance is a winner. But some concerts are, including Fuyuki singing over chant-like moans from an electric guitar, and the wonders of Sakamoto Hiromichi’s collisions of his cello with sanders, pellet guns and wooden floors.

Hiromichi says his work is about a confrontation between human memories. Certainly his music speaks to us in surprisingly exciting ways.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com

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