Editor and video essayist Tony Zhou recently uploaded a new installment in his Every Frame a Painting series. This one examines the work of the late, great Satoshi Kon (who Zhou calls "the greatest Japanese animator not named Miyazaki"). The piece is titled "Satoshi Kon - Editing Space & Time" and specifically looks at the way Kon edited his animated films. Editing is rarely the first thing I consider when reviewing animation, but Zhou makes a great case for how important it is in Kon's work and how it influenced live-action directors like Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan.
At only 7 minutes long this also serves as a nice crash course in the art of editing. Techniques such as match cuts and cross-cutting are explored and defined with provided examples. Kon used these specific edits to take viewers from one world/reality into another, seamlessly. When I first saw Paprika (a clear influence on Inception) I was blown away by the fluidity of the transitions. This has always been something I've loved about animation. It gives the filmmaker full control of the visuals and they can morph the visuals at their will. A lot of anime has a living, breathing nature about it ("elastic images/editing"). The hand-drawn style naturally takes on an vibrant life of its own. Just look at this clip from The Wind Rises to see what I mean:
Kon preferred animation because it enabled him to be as swift with visual cues as he wanted to be. Zhou points out some key examples. Towards the end of the video he gets in to how Kon's editing technique mirror his own outlook and philosophy on the world. I found this part to be particularly fascinating and need to seek out Andrew Osmond's book Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist, which is where Zhou admittedly gained a lot of these insights.
Zhou concludes the essay with the last film that Kon made, Ohayo. It's a 1-minute short about a girl getting up in the morning and features some of the techniques we've just discussed. It's sweet and simple and makes me quite sad that we didn't get more from Kon before he passed away in 2010 at just 46 years old.
What do you think of "Satoshi Kon - Editing Space & Time"? Do you have a favorite Kon film or a specific sequence that you feel exemplified his cutting artistry? Feel free to answer these questions or add anything of your own in the comments below.