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The insistently brash Kazuo Hara's first film Goodbye CP (sometimes called Sayonara CP) is a relentlessly honest documentary that's more than a little difficult to watch. For 82 minutes, without outside narration or comment, Kazuo's camera studies Yokota Hiroshi, a Japanese cerebral palsy victim. Hiroshi's limbs are twisted and his constant twitching breaks up his speech; he must pick up his glasses every few seconds because his spasms keep knocking them from his face.
Filmed in rough 16mm, Goodbye CP follows Yokota around Tokyo, sometimes accompanied by a friend from a creative group of other CP sufferers. Yokota refuses to use a wheelchair and states that it is much easier to get around without it. He lurches fitfully across an intersection on his folded knees, presumably hoping that drivers will see his small figure and not run him over. Yokota expresses relief that he 'made it on the green,' although we don't see how that is possible. We also don't understand how his pants aren't reduced to rags by getting around in this fashion.
Filmmaker Hara's first photo exhibition was a study of handicapped people entitled "Don't Make Fun of Them." Goodbye CP looks at the same issue, forcing us to watch the kind of unfortunate individual that is often ignored or shunned when encountered on the street. Children stare while others turn away. In 1972 Japan, many consider Yokota's presence in public to be embarrassing and tasteless. Speaking his mind in a running voiceover commentary, Yokota states his desire to force his presence in public, to make people deal with the fact that he is a human being.
Hara's intentions are the much the same. On a busy public square Yokota chalks a message on the sidewalk: "Poetry reading by Yokota Hiroshi." His recital is a declaration of existence and a cry at normal people and their preconceptions. Yokota draws a crowd but the coverage is cut off when we hear a passerby interrupt the cameraman (presumably Hara). This unseen person protests that Hara shouldn't be filming the exhibition, which he calls a freak show.
Although Yokota does not beg or pass a hat, people offer him money or send their children to give him coins. Hara records some of their sympathetic expressions of concern, often laced with gratitude that they or their children are not similarly afflicted. Another voiceover, apparently belonging to the mother of a CP sufferer expresses her determination to help her child live as normal a life as possible.
Formed in the rebel culture of 60s Japan, Kazuo built his reputation with controversial subject matter. His The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On follows a determined political gadfly who disrupts traffic with signs and bullhorns to confront the government with its mistreatment of its own soldiers in WW2. In Goodbye CP Hara goes to Yokota Hiroshi's home, and rudely forces his camera on Yokota's wife. Yokota's friends sit at the dinette saying that he should be the master of his home and his wife must cooperate. The wife, apparently another CP victim, protests from off camera that Hara's intrusion is unwelcome. Ignoring her demands that he leave, Hara pursues her from room to room. The couple's healthy young boy runs through the shouting and chaos having a fine time. Even if it does cut right to the heart of Yokota's domestic situation, it's a fairly ugly scene. We can't help thinking that Hara feels he has the right to force his presence on his subjects -- because of their condition.
Yokota talks about his personal desire to be creative while discussing his best friend, who constantly snaps photos. Hara arranges a posed bit of confrontational theater when Yokota squats naked in the middle of an empty city roadway, offering his misshapen body as a defiant performance piece. The scene exemplifies Kazuo Hara's in-your-face approach to cinema.
Facets Video's DVD of Goodbye CP is an excellent B&W transfer in fine condition. Although the filming is rough and the entire prologue was overexposed in the camera, the film transfer betrays no scratches or defects. The only audio is sync street noise and dialogue, and the ongoing voiceover narrations. Facets' clear subtitles are removable.
For an extra Facets includes an informative insert booklet with a short essay on Hara by cinema teacher Susan Doll, and notes on Goodbye CPby Jeffrey and Kenneth Ruoff, published experts on the filmmaker. Facets is releasing a number of Kazuo Hara's documentaries. His best known film The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On is already available.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Goodbye CP rates:
Movie: Very Good
Supplements: Insert booklet
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 22, 2007
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