The last scene of this documentary about the post-crash (but pre-earthquake) experimental music scene in Tokyo will blow your mind. It happens in an abandoned warehouse. Dead televisions, computer screens, routers, and wireless phones are on the floor, and sitting on a folding chair is cellist Hiromichi Sakamoto, playing a piece of music (part electronic, part classical) that concentrates the deepest feelings of a civilization that no longer grows and whose greatness, whose moment in the sun, is now entirely frozen in the past. Once called the "Empire of Signs" by the French semiotician Roland Barthes, Japan has now been reduced to the sign of an empire that no longer exists.
Indeed, it was recently reported that the number of diapers sold for adults in Japan has surpassed the number sold for babies. The country has become much like the infertile world of Children of Men. Sex is meaningless, the last pleasure is shopping, the population is getting older, and the economy has been flat for 20 years. As one of the musicians interviewed in We Don't Care About Music Anyway points out, people have stopped believing that the recession is going to end. It is here to stay. So what's left? The noise art of decline, the futureless pop of abandoned places, the broken beats of dusty but digital consumer electronics. In one scene, Sakamoto shoots the plastic pellets of a toy gun at his bruised cello. Each hit is echoed by a mixer wired to the instrument's hollow core. Sometimes the toy gun jams. But Sakamoto keeps pulling the trigger until the clog clears, pellets are fired, and the sad dub returns. This is how the world ends. Grand Illusion, Feb 8–14.