A dreamlike new film for Gucci stars an AI-equipped humanoid robot

Reimagining the ancient Japanese folktale of a bamboo cutter, director Makoto Nagahisa weaves diverse creative threads into an awe-inducing whole. We speak to composer Keiichiro Shibuya about the project.

Date
12 August 2022

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Kaguya by Gucci could easily be a descendant of a Michel Gondry or Leos Carax number – it even features its own operatic humanoid star, just like the latter’s child puppet in last year’s Annette. But, the new five-minute film, made to celebrate the ​​75th anniversary of Gucci’s bamboo bags using a Heian period folktale about a besotted bamboo cutter, is in fact directed by filmmaker Makoto Nagahisa. And rather than relying on puppetry to bring a sense of the brilliantly bizarre, Nagahisa’s film features the humanoid robot Alter4.

Alter4 is the long-time creative partner of Keiichiro Shibuya, the Tokyo-based composer who soundtracks and stars in the film. In the short, Alter4 is seen dancing with its human co-stars in a rose-walled bar, singing along to Shibuya’s playing – by blending machine learning with classical music, the robot is able to sing along to the composer’s piano improvisations without scores in real-time. Keiichiro explains: “Collaborating on projects with the android allows for new discoveries every time. In this film, Alter4 acts as a ‘kyogen-mawashi’, or storyteller. In traditional forms of Japanese performance art such as noh and kabuki, this role appears on stage minimally but plays a vital role. I think the inclusion of an android kyogen-mawashi who narrates by singing elevates the film’s distinct take on this ancient folklore to the level of a contemporary opera.”

With Toshihiko Tanabe behind the film’s creative concept, Kaguya by Gucci reimagines Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter) in modern-day Tokyo. The film, just as in the original story, follows a celestial princess named Kaguya who is found on Earth by a bamboo cutter inside a glowing plant.

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Kaguya by Gucci, directed by Makoto Nagahisa, music by Keiichiro Shibuya, concept by Toshihiko Tanabe. Stills taken from the film (Copyright © Gucci, 2022)

Featuring Hikari Mitsushima as Princess Kaguya, Aoi Yamada as the bamboo cutter, and Eita Nagayama as the emperor who falls in love with the princess, Kaguya by Gucci traverses multiple landscapes and visions. We are taken behind the wheel of furry rose-covered vehicles, inside bars and to the moon and back, with Nagahisa using CGI and animation at multiple points to turn our protagonists into porcelain flying puppets and plastic bauble figurines.

Keiichiro tells It’s Nice That: “CGI and animation were crucial to lending an air of fantasy to quintessential fixtures of modern Tokyo, such as the Tokyo Tower and telephone booths. This is perhaps most evident in the scene where the princess returns to the moon – here you see the thousand-year-old story expressed with an essence of modern ‘Tokyo-ness’.”

The film, now available to watch at gucci.com and on YouTube, offers an impressively ambitious take on a creative campaign. Watch how Nagahisa, Tanabe and Shibuya bring eclectic concepts to the commercial saga above.

GalleryKaguya by Gucci, directed by Makoto Nagahisa, music by Keiichiro Shibuya, concept by Toshihiko Tanabe. Stills taken from the film (Copyright © Gucci, 2022)

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Kaguya by Gucci, directed by Makoto Nagahisa, music by Keiichiro Shibuya, concept by Toshihiko Tanabe. Stills taken from the film (Copyright © Gucci, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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