For this Short Movie Time, we explore another short film by Kenjo McCurtain, who is currently putting the final touches on his first feature film, Make Believers (2021). This time, we review McCurtain’s award-winning drama short Yamome (2018).
Tomoko Tanai (Tokio Oohara), a widower, recounts her experience of dating with Satoshi Higuchi (Hiroyuki Saito), a men 15 years younger than her. Alas, he is not what he seems.
Yamome opens (and ends) with the Japanese statement the widowers grow maggots, widows grow flowers. While this statement is used, within the narrative, to underline that a widow is unable to live without a man, we feel that to understand the McCurtain’s message better we need to reformulate this statement.
In our view, this statement expresses that a woman cannot live without being loved (by a man) – that women are driven by a desire to be loved. Tomoko needs to be an attractive flower – e.g. by dressing her attractively and so on – to attract/ensnare the desire of the male subject. In other words, she must manipulate the imaginary in her attempt to attract the male Other’s desire.
Nevertheless, Yamome vividly shows that the game of attracting the Other’s desire via the image/via the ego is not a one-way dynamic: it is a two-way dynamic. Tomoko falls, first and foremost, for Satoshi’s looks. In other words, Satoshi succeeds in ensnaring the widow’s desire via his visual presence. But this is not enough. What the male subject needs to accomplish is not only catching the desire of the other, but also make this female other believe she is desired. This is not only function of the image or one’s presence, but also of one’s speech. The male subject needs to satisfy – as is revealed via Satoshi’s narrating voice – the desire to be desired/to be loved via the signifier.
The ultimate point that McCurtain makes with his short narrative is that deception in romance – a deception fundamental in any courtship dance – finds its prime support in this burning desire to be loved. Does Yamome not show that what makes one blind in the game of romance is not love as such, but the desire to be loved? Is not this desire that propels the subject (i.e. Tomoko) to ignore the warning signs and deceive himself, deceive himself in believing he is desired (Psycho-note 1)?
What stands out in Yamome’s composition is not something at the level of the visuals – the composition offers a simple mix between fluid spatial moving shots and static shots, but something at the level of the sound: the way the narrating voice is used (Cine-note 1, Cine-note 2, Cine-note 3). The narrating voice, i.e. the voice of the widow who narrates her own sad story as well as, in three instances, the voice of her lover, guides the meaning of the visual concatenation. While the visual shots have meaning as such, because the image always functions within a signifying system, the interaction between the narrating voice and the image allows the spectator to contextualize and interpret the visual shot more deeply – we meet, to put it somewhat evocatively, the implications of the signifier in our interpretation of the visuals.
The musical accompaniment is subtle, but effective in underlining that something is not entirely right. One could even contend that what the music vaguely underlines is exactly what the female eye, the eye who is looking to be loved, does not want to see. What does she refuse to see? Nothing other than the fact that the male Other is not desiring her.
Yamome is a pleasant short film by Kenjo McCurtain. With great precision, he highlights that deception in romance, a deception function of the manipulation of the imaginary via the image or the word, finds its ultimate support in the subject’s desire to be loved. Kenjo McCurtain, we look forward to your next work.
Psycho-note 1: Let us note that the film exploits a desire that is at work in both sexes. While one could contend that the movie implies that this desire is feminine in nature, the evocative end implies otherwise.
Cine-note 1: In some rare instances, tracking shots are applied as well.
Cine-note 2: While most cuts feel natural, there is nevertheless some cuts in the narrative, by virtue of being jump-cuts, that feels a bit unnatural. Some of these jump-cuts really stand out, hereby disturbing the pleasant flow of the composition.
Cine-note 3: McCurtain did add one cinematographical decoration in is compositions: slow-motion. Slow-motion is used in a very thoughtful way and succeeds in subtle indicating the emotional state of the widow.