Yokko & Butoh on Film

Review by Lew Antonie

Butoh is a vivid mixture of Japanese dance theatre sautéed in a stew of movement, legit dance, acting, stage (and now film) techniques signifying nothing … or everything … and anything in between. It is one of the most powerful types of art – the theater of the mind. Now, Yokko has committed this style to film.

As well she should as she is an authority.

Her magnificent and totally agonizing journey on NO ONE looks like an ancient version of the famed Hamlet “to be or not to be” speech with a character – obviously in turmoil – endeavoring to shake or or make the best of (you decide) their “mortal coil” as portrayed by a literal coil … a rope.

Amid shades of Beckett, we meet a creature – androgynous in many ways – in a powdered mask, trapped in a claustrophobic space undergoing some form of evolution or metamorphosis involving a rope that encompasses her floor and at time her only reality.

Animal imagery then takes to the screen in what might be a daydream or sad hallucinations by this troubled character where an unbridled version of this non-binary creature frolics through an unusually open field.

The incredible use of overlaying imagery give us a painful portrait of the suffering of this character. Watching her surrealistically interact with herself offers us deep battles within the character’s subconscious.

The second half of the film – with no dialogue other than a few incomprehensible whispers allows us to explore the life of this create from untold angles.

The commitment to the emotion displayed by solo performer Yokko in this short film is stunning. Its complimented by music both creepy and mournful by Cesar Davila-Irizarry and simple yet brilliant cinematography by Krzy Sien.

The companion piece to No One is another film by Yokko called Oblivion. One might imagine entering a forest that serves as some form of purgatory for three tortured souls. Ironically, as it all takes place on a cut-down tree, one might open their mind to a possibility of this being a much more cautionary parable about our own lives. Miles Butler, Annie McCoy, and Yokko, are one solid organism in their movement and meaning. Each fully committed to the energy the piece requires and each feeding off of each other in exciting and subtle ways.

Paul Michael Henry’s driving hard-rock style music offers up an enhancement of the piece’s overall dark quality or – when looked at from another angle – actually a happy ending. Krzy Sien supplies stunning cinematography again.

It easy to shut out such masterful work if you allow your mind to remain closed. If, however, you open your mind to the power of Butoh and Yokko, you will journey to other dimensions and be better for it.


Lew Antonie is a writer/director of films and plays and former artistic producer of the West Coast Visual Arts Institute

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s