On Tuesday Amber took me to see Madame Butterfly at the ENO. It was the Anthony Minghella adaptation. The sets were really brilliant they used bunraku puppets. There were plenty of references to Kabuki; the Kurogo stage-assistants operating lanterns birds and puppets. One of the stage sets included the hanging blossoms borrowed from Fuji Musume. It was visually really engaging and definitely helped my project. The opera was imbued with the cinematic, as you would expect form a film director’s vision.
Although some of the costumes didn’t appeal to my eye it was a very imaginative and visually enthralling experience. It is such a moving story, it made me look again at Pjotr Sapegin’s Aria that Shelley showed us when she set the brief. I really love his interpretation of the story. It’s so painful at the end when Pinkerton goes of with Barbie in the Jeep and leaves Cio-Cio to her tragic fate…
One other indispensable discovery was in the Madame Butterfly program. I saw a picture of Sadayakko, and so I’ll tell you all about her in the next blog post….
Next I began sewing the Kimonos. This is Ariel’s first kimono. What I really enjoyed about this part was how the subtle prints on the fabric became really bold when made in to miniature clothes. The great thing about making puppets on a budget is how the certain material limitations produce interesting results, sometimes not being able to have fabric exactly as I drew improved the design as I was making them. This is one of the reasons I wanted to make puppets and spend a good amount of time on their fabrication. My backstitch has improved tremendously, just don’t look too closely!
I’ve been working on the puppets all week and also going to the theatre, so there’s lots to catch up on! I’ll begin in order, with the puppet maquettes I made last week. I tried to make the bodies from wire mesh and that wasn’t really strong enough. But this is what the first one looked like. It was useful for testing the size and shape for the kneeling Prospero puppet, the the knees broke after a few movements and the wire I used for the arms was far too stiff.
At the animatic crit I got some really useful feedback. Everyone seems to be saying that the whole animation needs to be more dramatic, more explicit. Especially at the point of Ariel’s transformation. This is great because I completely agree, I felt the same way when I played back the finished animatic. The more recent Medea inspired character designs will also fit with this, showing a more obvious shift in costume than I managed to express in my first animatic. In fact there were quite a few things I really didn’t convey in the story boards, for example the sets, the shift in costume and the double exposures that were really important. I think I just needed a lot more detail and more panels, so the idea was clearer. Good practice though! I’m going to work on the improved one today.
I want to add lighting effects and stronger camera angles, and possibly even limit the back drops to plain black, and have a single sliding one when the moon appears at the end. Looking at Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome [above] is really helpful for inspiring visual drama; the ornate style of opera combined with the makeshift aesthetic of renegade filmmaking, the extreme coloured lighting with the context suggested by a few props.
Prospero prototype head in plasticine. I put on some curly goat horns, but the finished puppet will have twigs for longer antlers. I’m not happy with the eyes, they’re too big. I prefer the designs I did for him with beady black eyes. And of course his hair and beard are missing!
I’ve been sculpting a prototype head and hands for Ariel. It looks a bit like a disembodied monster at the moment, but I’m going to put paint some make up on and add a headdress and see how “pretty” I can make it. (Actually in the Dark Phoenix saga of X-men in the 80’s the character called Caliban looked a bit like this!)
A couple more pics from Ninagawa’s Medea. Such a phenomenal piece of theatre! I love the melodrama and the tragedy. The costumes and stage effect are all breathtaking too. If you know the story, then you know the fate of her two children above…
This film is just unbelievable! One of those films that you appreciate more and more after you’ve finished watching, if a little challenging to watch at the time. Things of great complexity often are like that, they take longer to interpret but are so rewarding in the end.