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On/Off star Carole Brana (Meredith) - Photo Credit: Florie Berger On/Off star Carole Brana (Meredith) - Photo Credit: Florie Berger

Film

Carole Brana talks Sci-Fi film ‘On/Off’ and using vulnerability as inspiration

Photo Credit: Florie Berger

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The Natural Aristocrat spoke with ‘On/Off’ star Carole Brana (Meredith) about vulnerability as a source of acting inspiration in the silent void of space.

At the heart of every human fear is the beating truth of real possibility, just as actress Carole Brana’s Meredith discovers in On/Off. The Sci-Fi French short took film festivals by storm, amassing over 16 awards, and recently seeing its first public debut through DUST. The film’s easy attraction of maximum calamity and catastrophe in the helplessness of space, the new wild west, speaking to genre fans.

Then a timely film twist left them wondering about the future of technological depravity. How advanced civilization is doomed to search for a connection to the humanity they intentionally left behind. Meredith’s imprint of an aged voice message throughout the picture embodying the concept. A subconscious human need to cling desperately to an idea without even remembering its true origins.

Actress Carole Brana told The Natural Aristocrat it was through the power of vulnerability that she found inspiration to play the title’s lead, Meredith… Who watches her very spacecraft disintegrate before her eyes.

Interview with Carole Brana on Sci-Fi film short, On/Off

The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: As Meredith, you portray the ultimate vulnerability of space. Despite being fully shielded in your exterior, even minor objects flying toward you like a screw could spell the end. What do you look to as an actress to connect with this concept? Do you utilize sense memory and emotionally recall a particular point in your life where you felt similar vulnerability?

As an actress I need to use vulnerability as a source of inspiration. Vulnerability is often considered in real life as a weakness unfortunately. To play Meredith, I needed to mute the daily mental brainstorming and let things emerge organically. This is not about memory or recall, but about finding the limits inside myself, the failure to catch the light.

In the film, Meredith asks for the music to be turned off despite her plunging serotonin levels. Was she truly irritated by the music or did she want ‘the headache’ to continue in order to access the voice message memory in your opinion?

Excellent question! This moment is interesting because you have the choice. You, and only you can decide Meredith’s mood! So, I won’t tell you what I think and but I’ll let you choose which decision speaks more to you.

What went through your mind when you visualized the spacecraft disintegrating? The last refuge evaporating before your eyes…

This scene was very intense, I remember the vertigo of the soul. Something broke forever inside Meredith and I needed to make a step and jump in it.

What did it mean to you to be nominated for a Maverick Movie Award for On/Off for Best Actress in a film short in 2014?

I was very proud and very honoured to be nominated for the Best Actress Maverick Movie Award. It means a lot to me. I’m passionate about my job and to receive a nomination is a gift. I’m very proud that On/Off won the VFX Maverick Movie Award on 2014…

I’m very grateful to (Director) Thierry Lorenzi who gave me this opportunity, and very grateful to the technical crew. I hope to see this movie have a long life.

[Spoiler Warning]

Should it someday be possible to live on like Meredith as an android of sorts, would you just choose that for yourself?

I don’t know. Today I believe that life is a continuum of states and we haven’t explored all of the possibilities. But being an android is not really one of my goals!

Were you inspired by the replicas of Blade Runner 2049, HBO’s Westworld, Ex Machina, A.I. Artificial Intelligence or any other Sci-Fi work for the revelation that you’re a robot?

I’ve been interested in the Sci-Fi world since a very young age, so I’ve been watching a lot of movies, I’ve read a lot of books and I think I’m somewhat created by this culture. To play Meredith I decided to act like a computer. I used my body as machine with uploads, updates, bugs etc… So I proposed a machine reload more than a conscious revelation.

[End Spoiler Warning]

On/Off Film Premiere Trailer and Synopsis

Obsessed by a mysterious voice message, astronaut Meredith will face its paradoxical condition in order to stay connected to her humanity.

* For English Speakers: The film has English subtitles with French being the spoken language of the picture.

Be sure to follow actress Carole Brana on Instagram @carole_brana, Vimeo, and on her official website! Check out DUST on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Visit the official DUST website to watch On/Off (no subscription needed) and other intriguing, curated, independent Sci-Fi films. Take a tour of the official On/Off website for more information about the short film by Director Thierry Lorenzi.

Nir Regev is the founder of The Natural Aristocrat. You can directly contact him at nir.regev@thenaturalaristocrat.com for coverage consideration, interview opportunties, or general comments.

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Stanley Kubrick

Watch MoMI ‘Envisioning 2001’ Presentation with Katharina Kubrick

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Katharina Kubrick speaks at 'Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey Exhibit' Press Presentation at New York's Museum of the Moving Image - Photo Credit: Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat
Photo Credit: Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat

Katharina Kubrick was a featured speaker at the Museum of Moving Image’s ‘Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey’ Exhibit Press Presentation.

Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Katharina Kubrick took part in a Q & A with media attendees during a full fledged presentation of the MoMI’s prized exhibit. Kubrick, discussed Stanley’s legacy, the timeless nature of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a desire to open more such exhibitions around the world. Barbara Miller (MoMI Director of Curatorial Affairs), Ellen M. Harrington (Director of Deutsches FilmInstitut Filmmuseum), Tomoko Kawamoto (MoMI Director of Public Information), and Eric Hynes (MoMI Curator of Film) all introduced the esteemed new addition to the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.

Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey will take over MoMI’s Changing Exhibitions Gallery from January 18 – July 19, 2020. A special exhibit Introductory Discussion with Katharina Kubrick takes place tonight (Jan. 17th) to lucky ticket holders at 7 pm sharp.

Katharina Kubrick answers The Natural Aristocrat’s question at 28:50 (timestamp) about Stanley Kubrick’s brave choice to drop composer Alex North’s already completed 2001 soundtrack in favor of classical pieces he’d used as temporary music. Katharina discussed Stanley’s deep connection to music as a whole, and a certain Waltz he listened in the editing room of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“If you think about the film, everything is spinning and whirling and very slow and graceful. So a Waltz worked perfectly.”

Katharina elaborated further on just how vital the use of music is to a film, naming Spartacus‘ soundtrack as one she wasn’t highly fond of.

“Music is terribly important, and very emotional. I think a lot of people use music badly. I watched Spartacus recently and I thought the music was appalling! And completely overwhelming and in the way of the movie. Stanley’s films used music to enhance the scene or to be the scene.”

Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s tribute article to Barry Lyndon’s use of Handel’s ‘Sarabande’ as a prominent piece overlaying the film.

Follow Katharina Kubrick on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about the Museum of Moving Image’s ‘Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey’ Exhibit at this link and book a visit today!

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Film

Japan Society: ‘Tora-san Meets His Lordship’ 4K Restoration Impressions

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Japan Society's 4K Film Restoration of Tora-san Meets His Lordship (1977) - From left to right: Kanjûrô Arashi as Tonosama and Kiyoshi Atsumi as Torajirō Kuruma - Photo Credit: © Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Photo Credit: © Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Japan Society presented a fresh 4K restoration of 1977 film ‘Tora-san Meets His Lordship’ last month, a picture that truly teeters on the tightrope between comedy and tragedy.

While Tora-san Meets His Lordship’s 4K restoration at Japan Society opened to roaring crowd laughter with a quaint parody right off the gate… The film soon descended into the depths of calamity and ego humiliation that could make a Greek tragedy playwright blush. If Tora-san’s Runaway pulled the band aid of Tora’s hope for love right off, Tora-san Meets His Lordship might as well have taken an arm and leg. It’s teased in the movie that Tora will finally be given a real chance at romance and marriage. That the sun gently dances with him instead of upon him for the first time.

It’s all an elaborate ruse to trick both Tora and the audience as the picture soon pulls the rug out from under its plucky hero and its followers… Then kicks them out the door to a desolate, unforgiving cold world. Their only possession? A non-refundable bouquet of roses with no one to give it to. Though Torajiro ‘Tora’ Kuruma played by actor Kiyoshi Atsumi is happy go-lucky in nature, the ‘loss of face’ in this picture is astronomical.

From his family not so secretly naming a stray dog after Tora, to being made to feel he will never be good enough to win a wife’s hand at the film’s conclusion. That any figurative ring will forever stay in its box, gathering dust… As yet another suitor is forever picked over him. All the while Tora has to pin a smile on his face out of polite civility. A mental torture of an exercise seemingly drawn up in the depths of an imagined Hades. Tora, the perennial vagabond has to eternally watch others enjoy dinner and courtship together through a window.

Tora-san Meets His Lordship’s strategic ploy to game the audience

Tora-san Meets His Lordship (1977) – Kyōko Maya as Mariko Tsutsumi – Screenshot/Photo Credit: © Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Mariko Tsutsumi [Kyôko Maya], a widow, is at the heart of Tora’s affections in Tora-san Meets His Lordship. Initially, Tora is asked by a local daimyō (Feudal style Lord) named Tonosama [Kanjûrô Arashi] to help him located his recently deceased son’s widow. At first, Tora takes the search in stride, deciding on a youthful plan to literally visit every residence, house, or store until a ‘Mariko’ is discovered. Just when Tora’s resolve begins to waver after hours of searching the first night, Mariko happens to show up on her own. Tonosama is called upon to meet Mariko while Tora is slowly but surely falling love with her.

Tonosama sheds tears, commenting that Mariko must have taken great care of his son before his passing. In a letter penned later in the film, he invites Mariko to live with him at his mansion-like residency. Even requesting she marry a new husband, with an exceptional specific recommendation. At first Tora’s rage is brewing inside of him, worrying at who this ‘chosen one’ would be… Until a sparkling revelation that the Lord’s recommendation for Mariko’s new husband is Tora himself!

Tora-san Meets His Lordship (1977) – Kanjûrô Arashi as Tonosama – Screenshot/Photo Credit: © Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Tora’s sister Sakura [Chieko Baishô] decides to personally deliver the request to Mariko’s work place, sans mention of marriage but with a hint of an additional request. Mariko arrives to Tora’s household to politely decline the request to move to the Lord’s house as she’s recently fallen in love with another worker. Shattering Tora’s heart into a million pieces to be swept off the floor casually, broom in tow, out of civility. Tora and his sister Sakura never mention the Lord’s request of Tora as her new husband. He simply sits smiling out of necessity, nothing left inside.

Tora-san Meets His Lordship (1977) – From left to right: Kyōko Maya as Mariko Tsutsumi and Kiyoshi Atsumi as Torajirō Kuruma – Screenshot/Photo Credit: © Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Tora-san Meets His Lordship ends on a comedic high-note of the Lord Tonosama wanting Tora to live with him anyway even without Mariko… And Tora wanting to leave as soon as possible as he’s chased by Tonosama’s assistant to stay. The real meat and potatoes of Tora’s struggle however, somebody to love him back, remains unresolved. A distant hope, that becomes more dream than reality everyday.

Be sure to read The Natural Aristocrat’s impressions of Tora-san’s Runaway 4K Film Restoration at Japan Society!

NYC locals! Follow along Japan Society’s busy Film Schedule and attend a future film screening.

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Film

Tora-san’s Runaway 4K Film Restoration at Japan Society Impressions

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Tora-san's Runaway - Pictured from left to right: Aiko Nagayama as Setsuko, Kiyoshi Atsumi as Torajiro Kuruma, and Chieko Baishô as Sakura Suwa - Photo Credit: © 1970 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Photo Credit: © 1970 Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Tora-san’s Runaway returned to the silver screen 49 years later after its 1970’s debut in crisp 4K at New York City’s Japan Society last Friday. The dark overtone message of the comedy film? Hard work doesn’t necessarily pay off at all. Romantic, fairy tale style endings are for the imagination. Tora-san’s imagination that is…

This article contains spoilers for Tora-san’s Runaway.

Tora-san’s Runaway is an exhibit of fallacy in the promise of hard work always paying off. Throughout the film, lead character Torajirō Kuruma is pushed by his sister Sakura Suwa to make an honest living. That a man is meant to toil under the sweat of his brow. She urges Tora-San to stop living day-to-day, lackadaisically wandering through life, with no true planning for the future. 

Tora-san takes his sister’s words to heart, knowing she wants the best for him… In fact, Tora-san takes the words so literally, he desires a job where he ‘can sweat and become oily’ over the course of the work day. Thus, Tora-san played by star Kiyoshi Atsumi, decides to reform his street life ways, first superficially through wearing a sharp suit and hat. Then eventually by taking a job selling fried Tofu. More on that later!

Initially, he consults with his uncle Tatsuzō, aunt Tsune, and sister Sakura on the most fitting job for him over dinner. His uncle suggests tempura if he wants to get “oily working” but Tora-san waves the idea off. Making it clear he dislikes tempura. Tora-san’s uncle is already skeptical of Tora-san’s grand, seemingly overnight promise to change… 

Lack of uncle Tatsuzō’s blessings for Tora-san

Tatsuzō, played by Shin Morikawa, is not exactly the biggest supporter of Torajirō, outside of getting him out of the house. At the onset of the film, Tora-san’s aunt plays a relatively cruel practical joke on him… Informing Tora his uncle was about to pass on over a phone call.

Tora-san wants to do right by his uncle, and actually sets up all funeral arrangements… Only to discover his uncle is completely fine and well, just sleeping. As a result, his uncle is embarrassed by local town residents arriving to grieve and pay their respects.Though Tora-san’s uncle is mad at his wife for leading the practical joke in the first place, he is furious at Tora-san. Stating he’d rather be dead that have to see him. Even getting a full blown makeshift rope noose around his neck to make a statement. A vulnerable, weakened Tora-san decides to leave but more than hints he’d like someone to stop him, and sister Sakura [Chieko Baisho] obliges.

Why Tora-san really decides to change his life

Tatsuzō later goes to see his old boss, who’s actually dying… And has a railroad conductor son who refuses to see him. At first, Torajiro pushes and pushes for the railroad conductor to go with him and his vagabond street pal to see his dying boss. However, after the railroad conductor speaks of how he went to see his father once in his youth, only to see his dark side, beating on someone… Tora-san gives up silently. This moment changes Tora-san’s life. His boss passes on and never sees his flesh and blood to apologize, which his son called a selfish demand.

Tora-san tells his fellow vagabond street pal to leave, go back home to his father. In fact, hitting him when he wants to stay with Tora-san. From this point forward, Tora-san returns to his sister’s words and wants to be the type of person she spoke of. Instead of drifting through life and ending up like his boss.

Reality Hits for Torajirō Kuruma

After being rejected for several local jobs post-reform, Tora-san leaves in shame to the next town over. There the people don’t know of his reputation, and he gets a job as a bicycle-riding fried tofu salesman. The true apple of his eye, however? His new boss’ peer-aged daughter, Setsuko [Aiko Nagayama] who seems to take a liking to Tora-san. She laughs at all his jokes and visits him each night. Tora-san works harder than ever, and proudly tells his sister he might settle there over the phone.

Tora-san’s Runaway – Pictured from left to right: Aiko Nagayama as Setsuko and Kiyoshi Atsumi as Torajiro Kuruma – Photo Credit: © 1970 Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Everything seems to be going in storybook fashion for Tora-san, his sister was right all along… Or was she?

A local tofu costumer arrives for dinner one night when Torajirō is at his most happiest… Torajirō had been asked the prior night if he’d be willing to stay on with the family’s Tofu business on permanent basis instead of as a replacement. When he said yes, Setsuko was grinning from ear to ear, telling Tora-san how happy he’d made her. 

Tora-san comments at his most confident that the tofu costumer reminds him a lot of his sister Sakura’s husband Hiroshi [Gin Maeda]. A smiling Setsuko then explains how she and the ‘customer’ (a railroad conductor) had actually been meaning to get married for a while now. However, they needed a replacement at her mother’s tofu shop. Setsuko’s mother Tomiko [Tokuko Sugiyama] tells Torajirō they need to find a nice girl for him too, what type does he like? He replies, “someone like you” joking but crushed.

Moonlight Devastation and a Broken Heart

Tora-san’s Runaway – Pictured from left to right: Aiko Nagayama as Setsuko and Tokuko Sugiyama as Tomiko – Photo Credit: © 1970 Shochiku Co., Ltd.

The next day, a devastated Tora-san heads back home. His sister chases him down as he leaves his uncle’s residence for a moonlight aimless walk. Tora-san earnestly tells her how he tried so hard but the honest life is not for him, holding back tears. He reunites with his younger vagabond pal the next day on the beach. 

The more Tora-san attempted to escape his fate, the more life pulled him right back on track to his destiny. No happy ending to be found. In fact, Setsuko seems partially oblivious why Tora-san left in the middle of the night. Only starting to comprehend the feelings Torajirō held for her… But she does not go searching for him in some kind of audience warming epiphany. Rather, the credits roll just as Tora returns to the comfort of his old life. Hard work failing him.  



The 4K Restoration Film Screening of Tora-San’s Runaway occurred on November 1, 2019 in New York City’s Japan Society. A new 4k screening of film, Tora-san Meets His Lordship, will be playing at Japan Society on December 6, 2019 at 7 p.m. EST. Purchase tickets to the event at this link.

Follow along Japan Society’s busy Film Schedule as part of their Tokyo Stories: Japan in the Global Imagination series.

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