Today I was lucky enough to attend the Festival Internationale des Films sur l’Art (International Festival of Films on Art) showing of a lovely little documentary, Katsura Rikyu: Imperial Villa of the Moon.
I went with my mother and our friend Leslie. I’d sort of wanted to wear kimono, but my grandmother is currently in the hospital and we stopped by for a visit before the film, and it’s snowing and muddy out right now, so I settled on haori over western clothing. I paired my black haori with red urushi kiku with a red cowl-neck and some dressy jeans, and felt comfortable and not overdressed. It was nice.
The film itself was visually breathtaking, but sadly light on content. It was a short film about the Katsura Imperial Villa, focusing on the architecture and gardens.
Its gardens are a masterpiece of Japanese gardening, and the buildings are even more important, one of the greatest achievements of Japanese architecture. The palace includes a shoin (“drawing room”), tea houses, and a strolling garden. It provides an invaluable window into the villas of princes of the Edo period.
As they are some of the most stunning and well-preserved examples of traditional Japanese imperial architecture, I was hoping for more substance. There were many lovely detail and overhead shots of the beautifully and accurately restored interior of the main building, outbuildings, and meticulously manicured and landscaped gardens. However, the narrator repeatedly left me hanging. Every time he’d get involved in a subject – be it the history of the Prince Toshihito, the type of rare cypress used as support beams, or the way the walls were painted in a manner to take advantage of shifting moonlight – every time, I’d get engaged and interested, and rather abruptly, the subject would change.
The whole documentary feels almost like a summary of a longer series. I enjoyed it immensely, it was a lovely little gem of Japanese aesthetic, and it was stunning to watch, I just wish it had gone into more depth. I would recommend it to anyone interested in traditional architecture and gardens, but not as a source of serious or academic information or resources, simply as a lovely and relaxing bit of eye and brain candy.
*image courtesy of Wikipedia