The Diary of Tortov Roddle

Whether they be underground career-starters like Makoto Shinkai’s brilliant She and Her Cat (1999) or confident masterworks such as Koji Yamamura’s Oscar-nominated Mt. Head (2002), Japan’s experimental animated short films get little publicity in the US. Yet this “genre”—taken in the loosest possible sense—has produced some of the most interesting art house animation of the past decade and a half. 

Kunio Kato is among its very best contributors. His work is painterly. He has an eye for detail and composition such that still frames from his films would not look out of place on gallery walls. Often, his output is painterly in a second sense: it quotes directly from surrealist works. Magritte’s influence, for example, permeates The Apple Incident (2001), which opens with a reproduction of The Listening Room.

This brings us to the work named in the header. Kato’s The Diary of Tortov Roddle (2003) is a surrealistic short film made up of brief vignettes, the contents of which are by turns sad, touching, disturbing and awe-inspiring. Visually, Kato takes clear inspiration from Dalí, whose The Temptation of St. Anthony is referenced via Tortov’s pig-like pet. This writer will leave the rest for the reader to discover in the embedded video below.

Still Eating Oranges