Ken Watanabe (Inception, Last Of The Samurai) is in Cannes for the premiere of An Artist Of The Floating World. Adapted from the novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro, the one-off drama follows an aging Japanese painter who is asking himself difficult questions about his role in the war.
The 89-minute film is shot in 8K and, when it is viewed at that resolution with 22.2 surround sound, it is astoundingly clear. You see a fire burning, and you can almost smell the smoke.
The film was the first venture into 8K for both Watanabe and director Kazutake Watanabe (no relation). “8K was always seen as great for natural-history programming — the detail, the colour — but no one thought it would be good for drama,” Kazutake Watanabe said. “With natural history, you want to see everything. But in drama, sometimes not everything should be seen.”
But paradoxically, that can work in your favour too. “I played one scene where Ono stands on a bridge reflecting on his life,” said Ken Watanabe. “I thought it went well, but Kazutake wanted another take because there was a very thin spider’s web in the frame. Before 8K, the audience wouldn’t have noticed. But in 8K, they would.”
Yet to Ken Watanabe’s surprise, the original take was the one that the director used. “When I saw the spider’s web, I thought it symbolised the anxiety and dread of Ono, and I thought that was great,” Kazutake Watanabe said.
He added: “In 8K, I discovered there are a hundred gradations of black, so I have to ask myself which black I want to use. Technology evolves, but the essence of what directors do remains the same. I remember when HD arrived. I felt that I can’t do this any longer because it shows everything. But new technology soon becomes normal and just another weapon in the director’s armoury.”
An Artist Of The Floating World is available in 8K, 4K and 2K from NHK Enterprises. This is an extract from the MIPCOM News Issue 2; full version online here!