Whether they be underground career-starters like Makoto Shinkai’s brilliant She and Her Cat (1999) or confident masterworks such as Koji Yamamura’s Oscar-nominated Mt. Head (2002), Japan’s experimental animated short films get little publicity in the US. Yet this “genre”–taken in the loosest possible sense–has produced some of the most interesting art house animation of the past decade and a half.
Kunio Kato is among its very best contributors. His work is painterly. He has an eye for detail and composition such that still frames from his films would not look out of place on gallery walls. Often, his output is painterly in a second sense: it quotes directly from surrealist works. Magritte’s influence, for example, permeates The Apple Incident (2001), which opens with a reproduction of The Listening Room.
This brings us to the work named in the header. Kato’s The Diary of Tortov Roddle (2003) is a surrealistic short film made up of brief vignettes, the contents of which are by turns sad, touching, disturbing and awe-inspiring. Visually, Kato takes clear inspiration from Dalí, whose The Temptation of St. Anthony is referenced via Tortov’s pig-like pet. This writer will leave the rest for the reader to discover in the embedded video below.
As hard as you tried to stay focused on the computer screen
in front of you, the tiny bow adorned box that sat just in your peripheral was
enough to distract you from actually getting anything done.
You’d walked in that morning to find it sitting squarely in
the center of your desk, the attached tag making you smile and roll your eyes.
But as instructed, you didn’t open it, instead placing of off to the side where
it demanded your attention every few seconds.
“Got a secret admirer?” The voice made you jump, and you sun
in your chair to see Liv, the head of accounting, leaning against the doorframe.
“You’ve been making eyes at that box for a solid minute.”
“Oh, god.” You laughed. “Sorry I was just very zoned out. No
admirers here I’m afraid.”
“Really? Well, then let’s take a look.” Before you could
protest she was reaching around you for the box, tugging the card open.
“No!” You yelped, snatching it back. “I-I, uh… It’s from my
mom. She always calls me the most embarrassing
nicknames. Plus I’m already wearing it.” You lied, holding out your wrist
to reveal a gold bangle that you’d had for approximately six years but had only
recently found again.
“Pretty.” Liv raised an eyebrow at you, but set the box back
in its place.
“So, what are you doing up here? I thought you were on
lockdown until after New Years.”
She held up a file, rolling her eye. “Donovan wanted the
November expense report. Again. I swear that man-“ The trilling of your phone
interrupted her sentence, and you glanced at the number before picking it up.
“It’s the boss.” You mouthed, shooing her out of your office
with a grin and picking up the receiver. “Hello?”
“I need to see you in my office immediately.” He didn’t
bother with any pleasantries before the line went dead.