Alan Algee‘s “KYOTO” is an impressionistic, immersive exploration of a city that sits at the intersection of ancient and contemporary worlds. While the film examines the unique coexistence of cultural preservation and modernity in the daily life of a city that stood as the imperial capital for over a thousand years, “KYOTO” is also an unabashed celebration of the beloved place the director now calls home as he attempts to document the sublime and elusive nature of the ‘spirit of Japan’.
Drawing inspiration from Chris Marker’s seminal 1983 film “San Soleil”, “KYOTO” functions as a poetic meditation rather than a definitive documentary or a straight-forward travelogue. Over the course of the film, Algee and co-cinematographer Toshiki Hayakawa drift down late-night streets, soar over sun-drenched mountains, glide through expansive temple gardens, encounter ancient ceremonies and rush hour sidewalks and subways: an engrossing arc across the city’s life through daybreak and deep night.
Algee also collaborated with trained movement artist Masumi Saito to film recurring contemporary dance performances that engage with the breadth of “KYOTO”‘s settings and that personify the spirituality and sensuality the director sees in the city, while also conveying the weight of the past and an elegance found in the city’s modern life.
A score by Gifted & Blessed and Man In A Loft connects a cascade of moments in a film composed from hundreds of hours of shooting logged primarily in the spring of 2016.
“These films had to be poetic in order to give the viewer enough room for multiple layers of interpretation.” — Alan Algee
Part two of “KYOTO”, which you can watch below, takes the viewer into various narratives of the city at night. Check it out and let us know your thoughts in the comments!