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Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 05:54 am
Creator Loves Tokyo

Today I want to talk -- no, I want to listen to others talk -- about two Western creators who have special links with the Japanese capital: Mike Mills and Cyril Duval.



Mike Mills made a big impact on the Tokyo I experienced in the 1990s. He formed part of an extended family of Californians (Sofia Coppola, Mark Borthwick, Geoff McFetteridge, Susan Ciancolo) who had strong connections with the musicians of the Shibuya-kei scene. This Californian family (who bonded via a shared interest in design, skate boarding, film-making, Grand Royal magazine, Alleged Gallery) featured often in Japanese magazines like Relax, Studio Voice and +81.

I'll interview Mills on Saturday for 032c magazine, and I suppose I want to ask your impressions of Mills and his work. He made Air videos, he made the sleeve for AIr's Moon Safari and Cibo Matto's first album and the Virgin Suicides soundtrack, then later he made the Thumbsucker movie. Yes, that Mike Mills! Has he impacted your life? What kind of things do you think I should ask him about (apart from his art show at Pool Gallery, The Only Way Out Is Through)? If you need to know more, here's a video interview with Mills. And of course we discussed his documentary on depression in Japan -- Does Your Soul Have A Cold? -- last month.



032c will also host a party tonight (I don't know if I can make it) featuring an "altar bar" by Item Idem, aka Cyril Duval, a Frenchman who's made the kind of impact (or perhaps I should say striven to make the kind of impact) on Tokyo this decade that Mike Mills made during the last. Duval -- one of the snappiest dressers I've seen in a long time -- was the editor of the re-launched Tokion magazine, and is therefore part of that intrepid little group of mukokuseki diasporans -- global creative brahmins based in Japan -- responsible for OK Fred magazine, the Tokyo101 Art Fair, JeanSnow.net, Mekas, and so on.

As Item Idem, Duval moves as freely in the art world as in fashion -- but, you know, I'm not writing a press release. I think he makes a serious and good impression in the video above, but he's mostly appeared (obliquely) in Click Opera as "the man who failed to make the relaunched Tokion fly". I don't think it's his fault -- the reason, I think, is one Marxy raised when the magazine relaunched in September 2006: are enough people in Tokyo interested enough in what a small group of expatriate creatives are thinking, saying and doing to sustain a whole magazine about them, in the current climate? The answer seems to have been no.

I'm interested in all sorts of links between Mills and Duval -- the Tokyo connection they both have, the "Creator Loves Tokyo" angle and whether there's, more recently, been a cooling of that love on either side, the way they both began as commercial creatives focused on the quirky upper end of the mass market, but have more recently been re-inventing themselves in the context of the art world. Were art-like things possible in the commercial world in the 90s that are no longer possible now?

I'm interested in the difference between the decades Mills and Duval made their biggest impact in Tokyo, and whether the city is a steeper and more slippery mountain to climb now if you're not Japanese. If 1990s Relax magazine featured Mills frequently, relaunched 2000s Tokion (the Japanese edition, not the American one) was Duval's baby. Those magazines have both now gone, luxury culture teeters on the brink of recession's humdrum abyss, a new sobriety quells the giggles of cliques, and Japan looks outward... less. Mills may have picked a timely way to rebond with Tokyo when he made his documentary about depression, and blamed it on foreigners.

32CommentReplyFlag

flying_squid
flying_squid
flying_squid
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
Mills

Don't forget about his documentary about American paperboys, Paperboys. I used to be a paperboy myself actually, but I found nothing in common with the boys in Mills' short (by the time I watched it, I was a sophomore in high school and had quit my paper route - the boys are all between 10 and 13, if memory serves me).

Mike Mills also has a Gas book of his own, but I've never read. I find it hilarious that you have to buy it used on Amazon for over $100 when it's still available from Shift, who even have their online store in English!

As for this family of Californians... I still like enjoy Lost In Translation (because of Bill Murray mostly), but I don't care about Mills. I don't even listen to Air anymore.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 10:35 am (UTC)
Re: Mills

I was a paperboy, too. Some subscribers would be very nasty about having the paper set neatly on their porch, which was awful in the dead of winter, having to get off my bike and walk up. Usually these people were inclined to expect the moment of my arrival, seemingly gaining sexual pleasure from the idea of my genuflecting to their precise instruction. After thus 'servicing' them with a personal delivery, it was back to the cold bike and icy roads, my hands and feet ingravescently turning to ice. I see that you are from Ohio -- did this happen to you as well?


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boof_boy
boof_boy
boof_boy
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)
Stipend

Ask him if he's fed up with being asked about REM.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 08:44 am (UTC)

Woah, I never knew this stuff about Mike Mills! But now I do, I think R.E.M's decline from the mid-nineties on makes a lot more sense. I'd always put that down to Bill Berry leaving the band, but Mike's involvement in the Tokyo scene puts a different spin on things. Obviously if he was spending a lot of time in Tokyo with his own projects, that would leave a lot less time for his work on R.E.M., which in turn meant it became more of a Stipe vanity project. Anyway, thanks for the info.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 09:00 am (UTC)

Mills' harmonies are so underappreciated. I like "Texarkana" a lot.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 09:49 am (UTC)

"Accelerate" was truly crap. Ask him why he still bothers with R.E.M. when he's got all these other interesting projects on the go.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)

I dunno, Accelerate wasn't too bad. Actually, I wish Mills focused a whole lot more on the music and less on all the extracurricular movie-making and Tokyo scenester-ing and what-have-you.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 10:39 am (UTC)
mills

Maybe it's worth to ask Mills about his distanced aproach and mise en scene to subjects and individuals in documentaries (oposed to the usual cinema vertité, realism and all that documentary preacher crap). During an interview he told me he used this method even in Thumbsucker. But we never had enough time to chat about the real motivations.

More questions/thoughts:

Aestetical connections between filmmakers of his generation and the 70's scene, specially Hal Ashby or Warren Beatty.

I don't know much about design but the Humans stuff is a universe as powerful as anyone of his audiovisual pieces.

Low cost and the Blonde Redhead videos.

Objects, books, chairs as a reflection of the owner...

NOTE: Mike Mills is not same person who plays bass in REM


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
Interesting article, but...

... I am not quite sure if you really can write that Cyril Duval could be made "responsible" for anything that has to do with the failure of Tokion. As far as I could see - and I'm living in Tokyo and working directly together with a lot of people (among them Cyril in his Tokion-times) that you're mentioning in your articles about Tokyo - Cyril made his best efforts to create a magazine that goes beyond the rather limited approach of the publisher infas but ended up "fighting against windmills".

But anyway, what do I know...


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
Re: Interesting article, but...

Bob Hoskins, I thought... no?


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 01:55 pm (UTC)

Ask him if there's any chance of Bill Berry working on an R.E.M. album again.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)

Come on, enough lame-oid REM jokes, please. You guys are bigger than this.


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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC)
The binaries don't have to work in the same field or have any logical relationship with each other.

i don't really see the point of this comparison


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Re: The binaries don't have to work in the same field or have any logical relationship with each oth

Well, this is something I do. I take two points that have some things in common and some things not-in-common, and I see how they relate to each other. I find it very telling, actually. It creates a narrative that combines existing narratives, but sets up new resonances that neither or those existing narratives could produce. It's a bit like certain resonances that suddenly happen between two notes -- there's a moment when the resonant frequency of the whole room starts to be heard. "The whole room" here being Japan over the last 15 years or so.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)

Blamed it on foreigners? Barfo. Sometimes you pro-Japan guys treat the Japanese like they're "noble savages" that are being tainted by decadent Western attitudes. I hate Said, but maybe he had a point.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 30th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)

What's your point, caller?

I'm certainly generally "pro-Japan", but in my piece on this issue I disagreed with the idea that depression (utsu) and anti-depressants weren't widely-known in Japan until foreign pharmaceutical companies moved in during the late 1990s.

By the way, if you are suffering from Barfo, could I recommend Contrabarfophenomytoxene, imported from Russia?


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sat, Jan. 31st, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)


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