Ruben Demasure checks in from Ghent to report on GFP Bunny, and finds the Japanese film packed with wild ideas on our world under surveillance, body modification and genetic engineering, reflecting a mutating film culture.
The cliché of yet another movie blending fiction and documentary is too easy for GFP Bunny’s wacky mix of (anti-slow) video diary, live webcasts, Google Street View itineraries, expert and street interviews, … This hybrid film reconstructs the true story of the ‘Thallium girl’, who attempted to poison her mother in one of her experiments with the substance which she is named after. She sets up biology and medical experiments, continuously recording and uploading her surroundings with a camera phone. (The camera phone footage of the fictional girl’s experiments can actually be found on the YouTube channel of her avatar ‘krausecorpuscle’.) Most parts of the girl’s vlog voice over are taken from the Thallium girl’s actual blog diary, that can still be accessed online. But this story is only the center of a film packed with wild ideas on our world under surveillance, body modification and genetic engineering. Through a genetic chain of associations, I want to reflect on how the movie itself is also a laboratory of a mutating film culture.
The film, which marks the return of 2004 Tiger Award winner Tsuchiya Yutaka after seven years of silence, opens with a journey starting from the recording of a scene with a cell phone, immediately followed by the playback of the little movie online and then an extreme zoom out to a spinning globe: the other sides of the world, connected through the changing global online producing and viewing practices. The repeated inserts of the online films-in-the-film getting clicked and played mimicked my own position watching the movie via an online stream on the IFFR platform…
"There’s no such thing as a story. There is no story to tell unless you give me one." (The girl)
The film’s title refers to Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) used to create see-trough animals to study their organs. In 2000, a genetically manipulated rabbit was created that glows green under a certain light. Just like with film, we only see what is illuminated and reflected by the light and get a see-trough illusion on a surface. (Perhaps the illusion becomes complete with the use of green surfaces for green keying.)
I believe that through the girl’s obsessive recordings of her experiments with her camera phone, the film connects the scientific origin of the medium with the moving image’s current practices. Therefore, for me, GFP Bunny reverberated with the Green Fluorescent Plate displaying the title letters of a different movie from the other side of the world, Holy Motors. Leos Carax’s film in turn is another metafiction about another body artist contemplating the mutating medium. It ties Jules-Etienne Marey’s use of film for science purposes to CGI and the future of the moving image. Similar to the spheres of GFP Bunny, Holy Motors also works via a bio-spiritual reference. Mr. Oscar is called "ectoplasm on wheels", referring to the outer layer of cells but also a material by which ghosts can take shape in visible bodies. GFP Bunny’s content (including microscopic footage of cell injections) further penetrates those cells: virtual avatars adopt, cultivate, share and familiarize new image technologies.
The evening after seeing the movie, I went to a projection (this time in an ‘old school’ cinema) of the cult classic Begotten (E. Elias Merhige, 1991). I couldn’t help fusing the images of dissections and the removal of intestines from the two movies in my mind. Each of the two films open with such a scene; in the former there’s a dissection of a frog, in the latter it’s a God character doing it to himself. Begotten is an ultimate grain-fest, as each frame was meticulously re-photographed on 16mm and physically worked on — a celebration of the materiality of film stock. The digital noise and poorer images in GFP Bunny seem the contemporary marker for realness and directness. Two films dissecting (and emptying out) themselves, accidentally intersecting in my viewing and writing process.
So, where do the film’s wide-ranging ideas lead to in the end? The key is to reclaim control through the use of technology. Similar to the aim of Thallium girl, a body artist with a chip implanted in the palm of her hand states that she’s now under her own surveillance and monitors her own life. I believe that the same goes for today’s mutating film culture DNA and cinephilia 2.0 innovations, as filmmaker Tsuchiya Yutaka’s crowdfunded and HDcam ‘jishu eiga’ filmmaking eventually proves itself.
Fast Forward. Down the rabbit hole.