DVD region 0. African Noise Foundation.
mark his 47th birthday, filmmaker, artist and provocateur Aryan
Kaganof is releasing 47 DVDs (AK 47 ), of which this is number
37– originally shot in 1999 and formerly known as Shabondama
Elegy, the film marks the end of Kaganof’s career
in the Netherlands as Ian Kerkhof; shortly after this film was
made, he returned to his birth country of South Africa and reinvented
This film is the seemingly unlikely (but, if you knew him, entirely
logical) product of a collaboration with Japanese porn producers
Stance, who were impressed with Kaganof’s commercial hit
Wasted, and who gave him free reign to make a
project in Tokyo. The resulting film is a dazzling, chaotic, fascinating
and confrontational tale of love and death that won Jury Prize
at the Netherlands Film Festival and a rave review on
As a character inspired by the writing of Jack Henry Abbott, Thom
Hoffman plays Jack, a westerner who we first see shooting his
way out of police custody. On the run from the police and the
Yakuza, he begins a passionate affair with Keiko (Mai Hoshino),
a porn model who is working through memories of childhood abuse.
This intense relationship is doomed to be a short-lived one.
Elegy mixes the sort of digital video experimentation
that Kaganof had used so brilliantly in Wasted
alongside the less straight-forwardly narrative, more underground
approach found in some of his earlier works, to great effect.
The film is visually dazzling, sometimes bewilderingly so. It’s
also entirely uncompromising when it comes to sex. Real life porn
star Hoshino is frequently naked, Hoffman – very much a
mainstream actor - has sex onscreen, the film has several hardcore
scenes that are the match of any porno movie (most of them actually
appearin the context of Keiko's job). But none of this is gratuitous,
or even particularly erotic – in fact, at times it’s
quite disturbing, as Kaganof pushes towards the limits of what
audiences can comfortably take.
With a score mixing Japanese jazz noir with US country rock (that
really shouldn’t work but oddly does) and a tragic air that
permeates the whole movie, Tokyo Elegy is, like
all Kaganof’s work, highly recommended to those who can
take it – which isn’t everyone. I’d love
to see his whole back catalogue available on DVD with all the
trimmings (Kaganof’s breathless enthusiasm for film culture
both high and low would be great to capture on commentary tracks)
– that his films remain relatively unknown outside Holland
and South Africa, while lesser ‘edgy’ filmmakers are
feted remains a tragedy. Until then, these limited editions from
the man himself will have to do.
If you want to know how to get some Kaganof goodness in your life,
email him for details.