IN THE REALM OF OSHIMA
March 8 - April 26
"Oshima...is the subject of a richly rewarding six-week festival, spread among the National Gallery, the Freer and Sackler galleries and the AFI Silver Theatre. The series, which began yesterday, is a reliable bet for audiences: Oshima's craftsmanship, his eye, his narrative sense and the relentless seriousness of his work make any one of these films worth a look." -The Washington Post
Read the full review
The filmmaker who ushered in the Japanese New Wave in the late 1950s, Nagisa Oshima (b. 1932, Kyoto), rejected the genteel tenor of Japanese filmmaking and chose as his métier the turmoil of contemporary politics and culture. Imperfect characters from society's fringes were his vehicles for complex and often controversial ideas, while his formal brilliance won accolades around the world. This series, organized by James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario, and The Japan Foundation, Tokyo, is presented in Washington at the Freer Gallery of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and AFI Silver.
The following individuals and organizations made the retrospective possible: Nagisa
Oshima, Tokyo; Marie Suzuki, The Japan Foundation, Tokyo; Masayo Okada, Yuka Sukano, Atsuko Fukuda, Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, Tokyo; Eiko Oshima, Oshima Productions, Tokyo; Peter Becker, Kim Hendrickson, Fumiko Takagi, Sarah Finklea, Janus Films, New York.
All films in Japanese with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.
All film notes courtesy of Harvard Film Archive.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all films in The Realm of Oshima series.
THE PLEASURES OF THE FLESH
In the mid-1960s, Japan witnessed a rush of artistically ambitious soft-core pink films inspired by the gradual liberalization of Japan's censorship regulations and the audacity of rebellious young auteurs who found a creative haven within the popular genre such as Kôji Wakamatsu, Tetsuji Takechi and, briefly, Oshima, with this film. Centered around a man's decision to dedicate the last year of his life and a cache of embezzled money to the unbridled pursuit of his sexual fantasies, Oshima's sole foray into pink films clearly anticipates IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES' exploration of relationships bonded by sexual intensity. This film also marks a more controlled and restrained visual and narrative style, hereby restricting his signature sequence shots to the extended erotic scenes.
DIR/SCR Nagisa Oshima, based on a story by Futaro Yamada; PROD Masayuki Nakajima. Japan, 1965, color, 104 min. NOT RATED (Intended for mature audiences)
Sunday, March 8, 7:45; Tuesday, March 10, 7:00
BAND OF NINJA
Oshima adopted a decidedly unorthodox approach for his one and only anime feature, a spirited adaptation of Sanpei Shirato's popular manga epic about the struggle of a young samurai warrior to avenge his father's death. Out of respect for the unique artistic and textual qualities of Shirato's celebrated graphic novel, Oshima restricted his production to filming the drawn pages themselves and matching the images to the film's layered music, sound and voice tracks. BAND OF NINJA offers a fascinating meditation on the relationship between comic books and cinema.
DIR/SCR/PROD Nagisa Oshima; SCR Mamoru Sasaki. Japan, 1967, b&w, 135 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, March 21, 3:00; Tuesday, March 24, 9:00
VIOLENCE AT NOON
Based on the notorious nationwide killing spree of the "Daylight Demon," a brutal murderer who took the lives of over 30 victims during the late 1950s--all women and all killed in the middle of the day. In Oshima's version, the killer is also part of a failed cooperative farm in rural Japan whose members include two idealistic women who become involved with the future killer. This film embraces a radically fragmented montage style that mirrors the women's attempts to understand their traumatic memories. The film is a disturbing study of the criminal mind and a moving elegy to failed dreams.
DIR Nagisa Oshima; SCR Taijun Takeda, based on the novel by Tsutomu Tamura. Japan, 1966, b&w, 99 min. NOT RATED
Sunday, March 22, 1:00; Wednesday, March 25, 6:30
JAPANESE SUMMER: DOUBLE SUICIDE
Among Oshima's least-known films, JAPANESE SUMMER: DOUBLE SUICIDE is a darkly comic romance about a couple on the run--a sex-crazed young woman and her suicidal boyfriend who are drawn into a band of violent gangsters. Declared by Oshima to personify the "death drive" in Japanese culture, the irrationally violent and unsympathetic gangsters in the film suggest a more pessimistic and absurd dimension of the outlaw antiheroes so central to Oshima's films.
DIR/SCR Nagisa Oshima; SCR Mamoru Sasaki, Takeshi Tamura. Japan, 1967, b&w, 98 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, March 28, 5:00; Sunday, March 29, 3:00
DIARY OF A SHINJUKU THIEF
Oshima launched a guerrilla assault on narrative continuity and political neutrality in this playfully experimental fable about a sexually confused book thief loose in Tokyo's boisterous Shinjuku neighborhood. Set against the vivid background of massive student-led riots against the US-Japanese security pact and the Vietnam War, the film adapts an energetic mode of cinema verite to capture the violent protests and the radical street theater enacted by Oshima's cast and, at times, crew.
DIR/SCR Nagisa Oshima; SCR Masao Adachi, Mamoru Sasaki, Takeshi Tamura. Japan, 1968, b&w/color, 96 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, April 4, 5:00; Sunday, April 5, 3:40
DEATH BY HANGING
DEATH BY HANGING is one of Oshima's most potent, stylistically daring, and intensely debated works. His first film to draw the attention of international critics, it was inspired by the highly publicized death sentence received by a Korean youth for the strangling of two young female schoolmates. The film opens with a gripping documentary-style reenactment of the execution that is suddenly derailed by an uncanny and inexplicable mishap, plunging the film into a dizzying mode of political theater where the authority of the executioners and truth claims of cinema are brilliantly put on trial.
DIR/SCR Nagisa Oshima; SCR Michinori Fukao, Mamoru Sasaki, Takeshi Tamura. Japan, 1968, b&w, 117 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, April 11, 3:00; Sunday, April 12, 3:30
IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES
Oshima's abiding fascination with the most dangerous extremes of sexual desire gave way to his pornographic masterpiece, one of the most intensely debated films of the 1970s and one of the first to artistically depict explicit sex. Marking a triumph for
Oshima's visionary melding of eroticism and politics, the release of his first French- financed project resulted in a major international scandal and a trial on obscenity charges. Based on the true story of a tempestuous affair between a dangerous prostitute and a gambler in the 1930s,IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES is both a sumptuous period piece and a fascinating study of the intermingling of sex and death.
DIR/SCR Nagisa Oshima; PROD Anatole Dauman. Japan/France, 1976, color, 101 min. RATED NC-17
Wednesday, April 15, 6:30; Friday, April 17, 7:00; Saturday, April 18, 8:00
MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE
Oshima's unconventional adaptation of Laurens van der Post's celebrated memoir of imprisonment in a Japanese war camp adds a lush and at times almost operatic dimension to the book, combining its moving tale of camaraderie and cultural difference with an unusual critique of masculine authority and the homoeroticism of the bushido code. Starring a mesmerizing David Bowie in one of his great film roles, Oshima's late masterpiece also features memorable performances by Ryuichi Sakamoto--who composed the film's incredible score--and Takeshi Kitano in his first important film screen appearance.
DIR/SCR Nagisa Oshima; SCR Paul Mayersberg, based on a novel by Laurens van der Post; PROD Jeremy Thomas. UK/Japan, 1983, color, 124 min. In English and Japanese with English subtitles. RATED R
Saturday, April 25, 12:30; Sunday, April 26, 6:40
MAX MON AMOUR
Oshima's long admiration for Luis Buñuel finds its full flowering in this provocative tale of amour fou written in collaboration with Buñuel's frequent screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière. Charlotte Rampling stars as a diplomat's wife whose amorous attention to an affectionate gorilla infuriates her husband and sparks a wonderfully deadpan and deliciously unpredictable farce. Oshima's unexpected comic talents shine in this inspired and subversive cross-breeding of KING KONG and BELLE DE JOUR.
DIR/SCR Nagisa Oshima; SCR Jean-Claude Carrière; PROD Serge Silberman. France/US/Japan, 1986, color, 98 min. In French and English with English subtitles. RATED R
Saturday, April 25, 5:45; Sunday, April 26, 9:10