The Grand Budapest through a Designer’s Lens. デザイナーのレンズから観たグランド・ブダペスト

★★★★★

Wes Anderson’s new film The French Dispatch’s trailer came out a while back and it was spectacular. It brought me back to 2013 when I watched his film for the first time. The Grand Budapest Hotel. At that time the poster looked cute and I decided to casually give it a watch without much thought, a common tendency of mine.

At the end of the 2+ hours, I found myself quickly searching for the film’s art director on my smartphone. I was floored–I have never seen such visually detailed movie before, every frame was like a painting.

最近ウェス・アンダーソン監督の最新映画「ザ・フレンチ・ディスパッチ」の予告が披露され、抜群としか言うようがない。

2014年に初めてウェス・アンダーソン監督の作品に出会った頃を思い出した。その時上映されていた「ザ・グランド・ブダペスト・ホテル」のポスターをたまたま見かけて、いい感じだと思ったので、気軽くに見に行ったんのだ。
あっという間に2時間が過ぎたが、居ても立っても居られない気持ちで私は携帯で映画のアートディレクターについて検索していた。人生で初めてこんなにビジュアル的に完成度が高い映画を観て、衝撃的だった。

 
(ABOVE) The Trailer of the movie
(上)映画の予告

 

I think it started at around 10 minutes into a film where there was a scene with a shoe shine boy being so compositionally perfect despite being only shown for a second. I was hooked from that point on. In this article, I would like to talk about 3 points on why this film is a masterpiece, even though there are many others.

実は映画が始まった10分後に「靴磨きをしている子供」のシーンから 惹かれていた。1秒しか見えないシーンなのに、構図の完璧さが一瞬で感じられる。これから、この映画の面白いポイントを三つ、より詳しくご紹介したいと思う。

 
 

(TOP) The main characters of the film, Zero (left) and Gustave (right).
(上) 映画の主人公、ゼロ(左)とグスタフ(右)

★ Outline / 概要 ★

It is a story centered around an extravagant hotel in Europe in the 1930s with the main characters, Gustave H, the concierge of the hotel and, Zero, his protégé and lobby boy. Gustave would soon be wrongly framed for a murder, driving him to go on adventures to escape and prove himself with the help of Zero throughout the film.

1930年代のヨーロッパが背景の華やかなホテルを中心としたストーリーである。主人公の二人は、ホテルのコンシェルジュの「グスタフ・H」と新人ロビー・ボーイの「ゼロ」である。グスタフが無実の罪で捕まり、ゼロの助けで逃げることから生じる様々な面白い展開の物語だ。

 

 
 


 
 

#1 The Universe in every Prop • 小道具への工夫 ★

(Clockwise from the left) Passport, stamps and currency notes from the fictional country of Zubrowska
(左から) 虚構の国「ズブロフカ」のパスポート、切手、紙幣

The film is brimming with many beautiful, intricate props that most people would not bat at eye at. However, a point that the audience should know to appreciate the film more is that every little prop is handmade to fit into this fictional world–Every advertisement, every piece of note in the background, every item.

ウェスの映画の世界を作るにはとてつもない工夫が必要だ。特に、すべての小道具に、その特別な世界観が潜んでいる-背景にある目立たない広告から小さいノートに至るまで。虚構の国「ズブロフカ」のため、王様の肖像画、紙幣、切手などもしっかりデザインされている。

 
 

 
(ABOVE) Several newspaper designs shown very briefly in the film
(上) 新聞のデザイン

A great example to highlight this is the Newspaper. Even though the Newspaper only flashes for moments, every word in its articles are written by the director himself and laid out to reflect the world of that time. In fact, it went through over 40 revisions to reach its final state, its almost as if the 2 seconds of the film with the prop is a tale on its own.
一番細かいと思うのは、小道具としての新聞である。その新聞は一瞬だけ映されているが、中の全ての記事の一字一句は文章としてきちんと書かれてレイアウトされている。最終バーションを仕上げるまで、40回も修正されたらしい。

 
 
 
 

(ABOVE) How a Mendl’s packaging opens up
(上)「Mendl’s」というお菓子店のパッケージの開け方

Another prominent prop is the packaging for Mendl’s, a lovely sweet shop in the world of Zubrowka. Of course, it has nice lettering and a lovely shade of pink but the key is in the way it opens up. When you pull the ribbon, the box flips out dramatically on all 4 sides seamlessly to reveal the beloved dessert adorably standing in the middle. The fact that they considered even the movement of the prop reflects how seriously they take their prop-making.Re-creating the fictional universe to such intricacy is often said to be for the actors. It helps them immense in this illusion, it is kind of like how actors/actresses image background stories for the roles beyond the script to mould the character more realistically. A good example is the currency and the stamp used in the Grand Budapest, you have even the portrait of the imagined King of the fictional world and the country’s very own crest.

そして、菓子店の「Mendl’s」のパッケージも素敵なデザインだ。もちろん、細かいレタリングと柔らかいピンク色がいいが、ハイライトしたいのは開け方である。リボンを引っ張ると、箱の四面が同時に開き、真ん中のお菓子が登場する。動きまで配慮するのは称賛すべきところだと思う。そこまで小道具をやるのは、鑑賞者だけでなく、役者のためでもある。現実から離脱し、その映画の世界に完全に没頭する道具として使われている。

 
 

 
(ABOVE) Further beautiful examples of the Mendl’s brand identity seen in various scenes
(上)「Mendl’s」のブランドアイデンティティーが見える様々なシーン

 

 
 

#2 Take your references seriously • 参考の緻密な再現 ★

(1)A comparison with a 1908 image of a Hotel in Cairo with similar inconsistencies in letter spacing.
タイトルの字間の少し不規則ところを1900年代カイロにあったホテルとの比較
(2)A group picture of the Grand Budapest Hotel staff with some employees taking a half-knee and some sitting with their legs slanted.
片膝についたり、斜めに座ったりしたなど職業によって姿勢をするグループ写真
(3)A beautiful painted background
水彩で塗られた背景

Everything seems natural or obvious in Wes’s fictional world but everything is researched, debated and designed.

For example in the masthead of the movie poster, you can see that the kerning (or spacing between alphabets) is off in some areas. You would think that it is a mistake but it is actually the genius of Wes. The team underwent intense research into the European hotels of that bygone era. An old steel hotel sign from the 1930s Cairo was especially picked out as it had many spacing errors blacksmiths often commit in the process of making the letterings with the tools then. They replicated these errors intentionally even if it might seem like a mistake on their part–there is soul in these things.

There are many other occurrences that seem natural initially but unique on a second look–Such as the very intentional half-knee pose when taking the photograph. I also love the painted backgrounds, very much like the hand-painted sets in old films and theatre. Usually they would seem cheesy in this day and age but they merge beautifully with the rest of film’s universe.

映画に表されている要素や世界観は自然に見えるが、隅から隅までのディテールが研究され、討論され、デザインされていた。

例えば、映画ポスターのタイトルの字間は少し不規則で広すぎると思われるかもしれないが、それはウェスがリサーチした結果だ。1930年代カイロにあったホテルの金属性の看板を参考にし、タイトルを作ったので、当時の道具で作るとよく現れるエラーを再現した。

他の当たり前のように見えそうな変わっているところが映画の端々にある。写真を撮る時、片膝をついたり、斜めに座ったりなど職業によって姿勢を取るのもユニークだ。また、映画の中の水彩で塗られた背景が好きだ。古いアメリカ映画のセットのフェイクな背景を思い出させるから、懐かしい雰囲気だった。ちょっとダサくて、違和感があるので、最近滅多に使われていないが、この映画の世界観にピッタリである。

 

 
 
 
 


 
 

#3 The framing and blocking of things, characters and places • 物、人、場所の位置と大きさ ★

 
 

 
(ABOVE) The changes in aspect ratio according to the time period shown
(上) 画面の縦横比は時代によって変わる

The physical design of the places and things are only the tip of the iceberg. Wes has also put in considerable effort in the arrangement and framing of these things.

The aspect ratio of each scene changes according to the time period that it reflects. In the beginning–supposedly the modern age–the standard 16:9 ratio we know of today is used. However, when the author recalls back to the 1968, the aspect ratio changes to the widescreen ratio 2.4:1 of the 50s and 60s. Furthermore, when the main character further recalls back to 1932, the 4:3 squarish ratio used by black and white films of that time is applied.

On a closer look, the positioning of the character is also linked to its development in the story. A disciple and lobby boy at the start, Zero mostly appears in the background while his teacher, Gustave is usually at the front, big and close to the camera. However this changes at the pivotal scene where Zero saves Gustave to which he said “we’re brothers” From that point on, they are equals and they began to be shown on equal levels and equal sizes. This is very similar to how they divide the stage in 9 sections in theatre for different uses.

物質的な物や場所はこの映画のわずかな一部だけだ。物と人物の位置、移動、また画面の枠なども相当な工夫がされていた。
シーンの時代によって、画面の縦横比が変わる。例えば、最初のシーンは現代なので、現代の映画に使われている16:9だが、1968年を回想する時に50ー60年代によく使われたワイド画面2.4:1に変わる。さらに、1932年の回想シーンでは4:3の画面が使われた。普段人が見落とす部分でも工夫するのは素晴らしいと思う。

よく見ると、人物はストーリー中の立場で画面上の位置が計画されている。最初弟子となったゼロは主に背後に小さく見せられ、グスタフはいつも前にいて、大きく映されている。しかし、ゼロがグスタフを救った肝心なシーンでは同じサイズ、「これから我々は兄弟だ」というセリフもあって、その瞬間から平等になったという意味もある。こういう前景と背景をきちんと分ける手法は演劇によく利用されている。

 
 


 
 

 


 
 

★ Ending Words ★ まとめ ★

Today, I only cited one of the many masterpieces of Wes Anderson because there is just too much to talk about. Every of his film has a soul, a time, a place and a feeling of its own. “Rushmore”–has a romance towards prestigious private schools and the plethora of extracurricular activities(even eccentric ones) “Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou”–has the fascination towards the deep sea and nautical culture. “Moonrise Kingdom”–has references to cartography and an adoration for the world of boy scouts. If you haven’t watched them, please do yourself a favour and immense yourself in the spectacular world of Wes Anderson.

今日、ウェス監督の映画の中の一つしか言及していないが、言えることはさらに無数にあるのです。彼の映画ごとに、独特な魂が潜んでいる-自分ならではの場所、時間、雰囲気など。 “Rushmore”– 風変わりな様々な部活動と豪華な私立学校へのロマン。“Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou”-航海のカルチャーと深海への冒険。“Moonrise Kingdom”–地図作成オタクとボーイスカウトのキャンプの世界。これらの映画は絶対に観る価値があります。

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

 


DISCLAIMER☞The writing and content have seem odd during the attempt to draw a parallel between my limited Japanese ability and English expressions. This is for my practice, let me know areas of improvements thanks. Special thanks to my Japanese teacher, Naoko.

Homestay in Ōbama, Japan 2018 小浜市ホムスティー

Homestay in Ōbama, Japan 2018

Previously:  DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Christmas in Tokyo’17

Thanks to participating in the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Japanese Speech Contest, I got a free homestay to Japan. This time we visited an area which just opened up for homestay for the very first time, it is a fishing town called Obama in the Fukui Prefecture. It got some publicity for sharing a name with the former US president but it is much more than that.


They are closeby to Kyoto, the former capital, which is why they were once the emperor’s food supplier. It was also the port where travellers from Korea or China enter to visit japanese nobles. The people here are historically brilliant in their food and entertainment culture. They are experts in fishing, understanding the various species of fishes and their seasons. The local fish market1 has a wide variety of fresh seafood-striped, transparent, you name it. They are just caught nearby so you can eat them at the restaurant right beside without paying much transport cost. It has a kaisen don with 11 types of seafood all in one. They are also great at fermenting or preserving fish5. They were the start point of the Mackerel road or Saba Kaido(鯖街道) where they transport fishes further inland, this takes days thus requiring preservation expertise.
More than seafood, they also have farmlands and mountains for a variety of vegetable stock. People usually buy gifts for the nobles from here which is why they are also the biggest lacquered chopstick provider2 in Japan. This is accompanied with centuries old sake brewery3 and a japanese sweets shop4(they have one of the 3 shops in Japan that holds 2 of the highest accolade in the industry) Working side by side with the food culture to host travellers going to the capital, they also have a geishas6 to entertain people. What they have today are interesting music and point-based games that are rare to find elsewhere. My friend and I managed to experience all of these historic goodness in our short time here.


Besides the traditional food culture, we also saw a side of Obama that is forward-looking and evolving. Due to their pristine location, next to the Japan sea, they could carry out marine studies well. Thus, the Fukui Prefectural University1 has a campus here just for that. They continuously carry out research to better the understanding of marine livestock. A recent result of their study is feeding sake remnants to fish to make them tastier! Next I will like to talk about my host family4 , a young good-looking couple. They built their own house and its almost like its from a magazine. Its modern and has great wood, feels real good. They have a mini library(we call it that haha) with many books, boardgames, projector and even a hammock! I think they are redefining what an attractive lifestyle is for young couples in the countryside.

The husband runs a company3 that revitalizes barren land in the town to make them fertile again. This is a great initiative in a time where many leave the countryside for big city dreams. The countryside should not lose in cool places and Obama has a green cafe2 that is just that. They have vintage vibes and hanging plants, they also occasionally organise hipster sustainable Scandinavian-inspired pop-up markets outside the place. They are a couple of retro cafes around that has chimneys and cool drinks and all but green cafe’s owner is kind of obsess with plants. it shows. We were talking about Isamu Noguchi, nomad culture and other things, real interesting guy. Lastly, building something new on the existing rich food culture of Obama is a italian restaurant called La Verita5. The owner showed us cheese making and we got to eat raw cheese! I really love the texture , slightly chewy haha. We eat wagyu spaghetti as well.


Overall, it has been a great trip. Like many towns in the country across Japan, the population of young people are falling and leaving for saturated cities. It warms my heart however seeing the efforts the young people here make not just in preserving their edge in traditions but also in evolving and redefining their lifestyle to make it exciting for young people again. This ignited my thought about branding local communities and social problems in the flailing countryside.

 
 

 

Model & Sketch #1

Back to the basics again. My first semester in Japan marks my foray into product design. I think I will do alot more model-making from today. I also got back into something I have not touched on for years. Realistic sketching. Something that I am comparably weak in, however I may want to document it and hopefully improve in the future.

#1 The evolution of shape 

Our first product assignment is for having sensitivity to ‘R’ which is the radius of objects. Each block varies 5mm in radius till it becomes a sphere. A similar block-shaped clock would have different functions based on its R, if its more rounded it would be a travel clock and if it had no R, it would be likely for being placed on the table. We are supposed to make these shapes out of giant urethane blocks. It doesn’t look that way but it is incredibly tedious to sandpaper it to the current shapes with accuracy.

 

#2 Planes

Another model-making assignment was making boxes using styrene boards and we were taught a bunch of cutting techniques for it. One box is supposed to be roundish and one squarish, the design is up to the designer. Working with styrene boards is tricky as well, borders might stick out, there are be crinkles, pencil or glue marks or things might just not align. However, I managed to get the radius to match despite the thickness and the boxes are chosen for exhibiting in my school’s open campus. hehe.

The square box I made opens up to two tiers.


Despite having similar measurements in the exterior, it opens up to a simple box as compared to the squarish box.

 

 

 

 

#3 Still life

Arrrhh. I recall getting a ‘C’ for basic drawing classes during Poly. Actually this is an improvement since then but still a far cry from the local students. Probably last place in terms of skill. I have much less texture, less interesting composition and my table’s perspective is all wrong. This is done on grey paper using black and white charcoal. The takeaway for me is that I now understand light better.

 

#4 Campus Scenery 

This is literally my first ever acrylic painting. We had to paint a scenery in the school and I chose a strange thing, I chose an electric or control panel sort of item, where I show the buttons and typography in a flat manner. Miraculously, it was chosen for exhibition, I think mainly on the basis of having an interesting choice of composition. This time I narrowly made it but I will attempt more such renderings that uses traditional mediums rather than the computer. Hopefully next time I can execute it in a cleaner manner.

 

 

DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Christmas in Tokyo’17

Previously:  DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Hong Kong’16

Once again, another long overdue post. I visited Japan in December 2017 when I had my university entrance exam. It was the christmas period and Tokyo was full of beautiful illumination. I won’t talk about the illumination much below but some great places for that were Tokyo Midtown and the area around Tokyo Station. Really classy places. You won’t get that level of illumination in Singapore, Japan really prides itself in its lighting design.

At that time I was really into Lisa Ono and Bossa Nova, hence the music choice, but now when I look back it might be cheesy but oh well. I shot and edited all these back in December 2017 but I missed the time to upload during christmas then. But now I finally decided to make a post on it. I am living in Japan now so I will probably have even cooler places to show in the future. This list of 6 places include some places you will not find in other english media that I really like such as “CHOCOLATIER PALET’DOR”. As mentioned before, it would not just be places of design interests, but anywhere I enjoy. I merely named it “DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE” because it is a list made by a designer, me in this case. 

DISCLAIMER☞All these photos are shot and edited in 2017 so the state of the shops reflect that time.

 

 

#1 

CHOCOLATIER PALET D’OR ショコラティエ パレ ド オール
★★★★★
Address 〒100-6501 Tokyo, Chiyoda City, Marunouchi,
1 Chome−5−1 新丸の内ビルディング

Access  5 minutes walk from Tokyo Station
 

Hours
Mon-Sun: 11:00~21:00
Photos courtesy of CHOCOLATIER PALET D’OR’s
instagram and relevant parties.

I’m used to seeing big global chocolate brands like Godiva or even Japanese ones like Royce. However, ever since I watched a Japanese drama on chocolatiers, I have developed an appreciation and curiosity for chocolatiers. I found a Japanese chocolatier –not in a food guide book– but in a brand identity compilation book. It was chosen as an example of brilliant brand design and I could not agree more. Typographically state-of-the-art. From the chocolates to the store and packaging, this is the kind of experience I was hoping to find in Japan.

I went to the store near Tokyo Station, in the Marunouchi building, overall a beautiful area. The store had seats with certain dine-in menu, the ice-cream looks great but what was really interesting (in 2017) was their transparent cocoa drink. It was fascinating. Their stuff is actually pretty expensive, but I think they make very decent souvenirs for slightly more important people. Especially since it is not a global brand and can only be obtained there.

#2

Creamia
★★★☆☆

Website  http://www.nissei-com.co.jp/cremia/en/
Access  Various locations

Hugely recommended at that time, but these days I find it everywhere. True to what everyone says, its a really great soft serve. I even watched a video that explained that the people behind it used science and years of research to develop the perfect taste, texture and even the perfect cone that complements it.

#3

La Mère Poulard ラ・メール・プラール
★★★★☆

Address 3 Chome-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda City,
Tokyo 100-0005
Website  http://www.la-mere-poulard.jp/
Access 2 minute walk from Tokyo Station

Hours
Mon-Sun: 11:30~22:00

I saw a facebook video about fluffy omelettes and after further probing, found it to be La Mère Poulard. It originated as a french inn in 1888, with their giant omelettes cooked in a wooden hearth being hugely popular. It was also on an island which was the reference for their original logo. As of now, it seems that this restaurant can only be found in Japan besides its home country of France, which makes it worth a visit if you are in Japan. The brand identity design is pretty impressive here as well, they keep the consistent red and the interiors make you feel like you are transported to that french island where this place was first opened on. I had the omelette which is really interesting texture-wise but it was not too spectacular for me personally, but I did notice the Japanese customers finish it well, perhaps it is more fitting for the Japanese tastebuds.

#4

Ghibli Museum 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館
★★★★★

Address 1-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka
Tokyo 181-0013
Website  http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/
Access  Take the cat bus from the JR Mitaka Station

Hours
Mon-Sun: 10:00~18:00;
closed on tuesdays;

“Let’s get lost together” is the museum’s slogan. Photography inside is forbidden so I cannot show much but this is a magical place. There are delicately crafted exhibits in every corner, many layered or have moving mechanisms. This means even the manhole are designed and there are places you have to crouch to go through. It really feels like you are in a Ghibli movie.

The exhibition on that time was about food in their movies and they remade several kitchens into sets that we can explore. It also documents the tedious behind-the-scenes process in creating an animated film. In line with the theme of food, they had a short film called “Mr Dough and the Egg Princess” screened in a delightful mini theatre. From the art deco lamps outside the theatre to the illustrations on the ceiling of the theatre, its a dream come through–I mean having your own themed theatre showing tailor made films and perhaps even have deliberately crafted trailers before the film is super cool. The short film is also a silent film such that tourists from any country can understand it without having a hundred different subtitles. My entire family loved it. The short film they make are specifically made for the museum and they renew them once in a while, along with new exhibitions, giving the museum a lot of revisit value.

This is a must-go, however tickets are hard to come by. Tickets for the month go on sale on like the 10th of the month but they sell out real fast. It was the case for me and I had to ask a friend residing japan to help me get it. Apparently they have separate quotas for buying in Japan and from overseas. You should google it.

#5

niko and … ニコアンド
★★★★☆

Address 6 Chome-12-20 Jingumae, Shibuya City,
Tokyo 150-0001
Website  http://www.nikoand.jp/
Access 4 minute walk from Meiji-Jingumae Station

Hours
Mon-Sun: 10:00~23:00

This is actually a retail franchise but I really like it. I appreciate brands that has a strong concept and art direction that they use throughout consistently in different areas. They can be as diverse as having food, furniture or even clothes in the same brand. A good example is IKEA and MUJI whom also have a strong typographical system throughout their brand, be it in furniture design, price tags, food menu or catalogues. 

Ok so in a nutshell, “niko and …” is most well-known for its clothes but they also sell potted plants, furniture, daily necessities and some stores have a coppe café in it. The idea is that you can attach any other brand name behind [niko and …], so they manufacture original items, carry certain brands and also collaborates with certain brands (from Casio to).

However all of these things are designed or selected in line with “niko and …”s strong and unique visual language. I remember when I first visited, I really love how everything is done originally in its brand universe. They had such wide variety of original goods that you don’t know what you might find, they even have their own gachapon machines that sell tiny potted plant figurines. I remember when I purchased my first item then, I got a beautiful receipt that has an exclusive QR code to a beautiful brand film they made that season. I still store that advertisement in my phone, because they really make some of the best advertisements.

 
(ABOVE) Not my favourite advertisement of theirs, but still a good one.

The soul of the brand can actually be found in their special “niko and … ” dictionary which is a special edition publication designed by award-winning graphic designer Naomi Hirabayashi who also did the brand’s identity design. This dictionary explains every tiny preference and inclinations that guides the brand. An example is that dictionary states their liking in old luggages full of stickers and scratches or their emphasis on the combination of metal and wood. All of these principals and values culminate to guide the diverse brand to have a hard-to-define yet consistent colour or tone.

BTW, you can check out their painter denim, it sells quite well and I have it. Perhaps next time I will write a post just talking about their advertisements. LOL.

I passed the entrance exams!
 

 
 

 

Next stop ☞ Taiwan ’18