BRUCE & NORMAN YONEMOTO screened at Tate Modern.


20.01.17 to 22.01.17, STARR CINEMA, TATE MODERN, LONDON
REVIEW: A weekend of films by the Japanese-American Yonemoto brothers, including a lecture and assorted Q&As with Bruce Yonemoto.

Bedding down for a weekend in the luxury of the STARR CINEMA is a joy, even though TATE has a way with such affairs that can make them both erratic (will anything ever start on time?) and overwrought (all those long words!). Whilst we think they peddle the academic analysis too vigorously – when most of us are there for the thrill of a new ride – you cannot fault their choice of filmmakers. What pleasure, therefore, Bruce himself, introducing his films with a lightness that hints at the showman. And what films.

Over the course of a long weekend it was hard to pick highlights, but here are some.

GARAGE SALE (1976) kicked off the brothers’ collaboration – and our weekend – with a beguiling mix of soap opera, drag show, porno and kaiju. Tantalisingly, Bruce hinted at an off-screen relationship between co-stars Goldie Glitters and Tom White, but offered few details. GARAGE SALE II (1980) turned up the eye-watering explicitness with vignettes of sexual desire, whilst JAPAN IN PARIS IN L.A. (1996), told the story of Saeki Yuzo, a Japanese artist whose Paris pilgrimage showed how fish can leave their water. KAPPA (1986) – perhaps our favourite? – mixed mythology with Freudian psychobabble to deliciously Oedipal effect. Mary Woronov – a superstar for both Warhol and Corman – was sensational as the cougar, Ed Ruscha’s son Eddie, her striking companion.

These are films that blend mainstream media with artistic intent: often campy, always stimulating, never dull, each borrowed and bastardised ingredient doing its bit. This is a really good thing.

Conversation was good too. Bruce spoke generously about how his fine art background came to be combined with his brother’s experience of making movies and gay porn in ’70s and ’80s Los Angeles. Their first collaboration (“it’s complicated”) was funded by their parents, big fans of drag and enthusiastic supporters at GARAGE SALE’s L.A. premiere (“It’s not like that in all Japanese-American families”). In a fascinating lecture, Bruce revealed how he continues to mine popular sources for his solo installations, including time-lapse special effects used in George Pal’s THE TIME MACHINE (1960) and the Icelandic launch pad for Jules Verne’s JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1959).

Given TATE’s weekend coincided with Trump’s inauguration, it’s hard to ignore the Yonemoto family’s history of incarceration during WWII. As similar intolerances that led to such injustices are being given fresh air, Bruce spoke about the need for adventurous art funding at the dawn of the Trump era. As a board member of ART MATTERS, Bruce is getting his hands dirty, citing FRANK CHI (one half of CHI/DONAHOE) as one to watch*.

Sometimes a new love can be at first sight. This was one of those moments.

Find out more about BRUCE YONEMOTO on his website and Vimeo.

TATE’s film series continues. We’ll be back for more.

*CHI’s short films “are about bringing different cultures, viewpoints and moments in history together. Because it’s only when we can bring different perspectives together when we can see just how connected we are” (Frank Chi, Artist’s Statement, Art Matters).