Directed by Travis Klose. US. 2004.

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A porn film? Not quite. A documentary? Almost there. A biography? Possibly. Riveting? Every so often. Exploitative? Depends. Scandalous? Definitely.

Arakimentari is the documentary that doesn’t quite explode onto our screens, although given the subject matter, you’d have thought it would. Documenting the career of prolific Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki – often in more detail than many of us would like – Arakimentari is undoubtedly a must-see for anyone interested in photography, censorship or nudity. Famous for pushing back those ever-impinging boundaries further than they’d ever been pushed before, Araki introduced a degree of eroticism into art that shocked pretty much everyone.

The movie is composed of clips of Araki at work, interviews with fans, including Bjork and ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, and loads and loads of his photos. There’s no denying that Araki is as capable an artist as he is a controversialist, but the doc fails to provide an antagonistic point-of-view to the general gushing of how wonderfully creative and free-thinking Araki is.

What Arakimentari does provide however, is a total insight into an artist at work; his methods, his lifestyle, his ineffable humour and, unusually, Araki’s personal documentation of his marriage and the tragedy of his wife’s death.

Issues of taste are certainly put to the test. Director Travis Klose applies those same issues to the film as a whole, confronting sexual explicitness in the name of art. Arakimentari is a courageous venture which brings to light the career of an extremely important figure in today’s art. Whether or not Araki’s photos are approved of, protested against or loved, the fact that they exist and are being seen is testament to his groundbreaking idealism and his refusal to conform, nay, cover up.

Shari Last
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