This is one of Toshio Matsumoto’s most energetic experimental films, relatively tame by today’s standards, but I’m sure it was quite cutting edge three and a half decades ago. Atman is a 13 minute color 16mm film of a seated figure wearing a Japanese demonic ‘Noh’ mask (the demon Hannya, I think). This figure is psychedelically blasted at the viewer in freeze-framed color-reversal the majority of the time. Lots of extreme panning is going on here, so take your Dramamine beforehand. The camera is continually rotating around the subject in some sort of spiral pattern. The freeze-frames are synchronized to the noisy electronic soundtrack to good effect. I’m sure there’s something symbolic about the nature of struggle, pain, and the eternal human spirit here, but honestly, the first 45 seconds are all that you really need to see to understand where this is going. An unbelievable amount of editing must have gone into this, since this was on real film, before the days of video editing suites. Michael Bay has nothing on Matsumoto as far as cuts per minute go.
Also check out White Hole which is another interesting high-energy experiment by Matsumoto.
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