Posts Tagged ‘Shohei Imamura’

  • Festival Plug: Lincoln Festival of Japanese Culture

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    The Lincoln Festival of Japanese Culture is a celebration of Japanese film, music, art, food and much more. Lincoln (UK) based Blueprint: Film Foundation are putting on the event with additional funding from the Japan Society and Lincoln BIG to celebrate Japanese culture and share it with the Lincolnshire community.

    The main event is being held on the 27th January at ‘The Venue’ in Bishop Grosseteste University College and will centre around the screening of 2 films, anime classic Akira and Shōhei Imamura’s groundbreaking crime-comedy-drama Pigs and Battleships (tickets now available) alongside traditional Japanese live music, martial arts demonstrations, art, food and drink. The screening of Pigs and Battleships, which will be closing the event, will also be accompanied by a talk from acclaimed Japanese cinema expert, Jasper Sharp.

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  • Blu-Ray/DVD Review: Insect Woman & Nishi-Ginza Station

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    Insect Woman (a.k.a. Nippon Konchûki)

    Director: Shôhei Imamura
    Screenplay: Keiji Hasebe, Shôhei Imamura
    Starring: Sachiko Hidari, Kazuo Kitamura, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Masumi Harukawa
    Producers: Kano Otsuka, Jirô Tomoda
    Country: Japan
    Running Time: 123 min
    Year: 1963
    BBFC Certificate: 15

    (4.5/5)

    Masters of Cinema continue to release the early work of the Japanese New Wave pioneer Shôhei Imamura, with a dual format Blu-Ray & DVD edition of Insect Woman, considered one of his earliest masterpieces (alongside Pigs and Battleships from 1961). The film is also packaged with an earlier studio comedy, Nishi-Ginza Station (see below for a full review).

    Insect Woman is a clear step, or rather leap, towards the work Imamura would produce later in his career. As he is famous for stating, he has always been “interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of the social structure… I ask myself what differentiates humans from other animals.” Insect Woman makes this question clear from the outset by opening on a shot of an insect struggling up a hill in some sort of fruitless journey it seems programmed to do. The ensuing film mirrors this fruitless existence with the life story of Tome (Sachiko Hidari), the bastard child of a poor family. Shunned by her ineffectual mother and treated like livestock by most of her family, her only source of love comes from her simple-minded father/step-father Chuji (Kazuo Kitamura), with whom she shares a creepy relationship that veers on the incestuous. After having a bastard child of her own, Tome leaves for Tokyo to earn a living to pay for the child, who lives back home with Chuji. She soon moves from the factories to prostitution though and her downtrodden innocence gradually turns her into a hardened old woman who tries to manipulate others to her advantage but ends up causing her own undoing. In the end the film comes full circle as her daughter Nobuko (Jitsuko Yoshimura) succumbs to some of the same vices as her mother and gets pregnant with possibly another bastard child. In the final shot we see Tome struggling up a dirt path on her way to see her, mimicking the insect’s struggle we opened with.

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  • Movies We Watched

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    Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.


    Stalker

    1979 USSR. Director: Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring: Alisa Freyndlikh, Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, Anatoliy Solonitsyn.

    Stalker asks the big questions by asking why we ask the big questions. A film this dry and humourless (but ultimately, quite hilarious) could only be made in Russia. It bleakly proposes that art, science and religion are all male dodges to responsibilities at home, which I guess questions the very nature of why the film itself exists. I’d say this is ripe for a SCTV or Monty Python parody, but I guess, The Meaning of Life kinda covers some of the bases. Ultimately, it’s doom and gloom (pre-Chernobyl in the same way Fight Club is pre-9/11) premise says to me, “It’s not the end of the world, it’s just the end of the fuckin’ day.” (Apologies to Tony Burgess, and Pontypool for that…)
    -KURT


    Intolerable Cruelty

    (4/5)

    2003 USA. Director: Coen Brothers. Starring: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

    Some would classify Intolerable Cruelty as a minor Coen Brothers work and I suppose that actually would be accurate. But as often stated, lesser Coen Brothers is better than 90% of the shit out there. And this movie is solid solid solid. Even with all the cliche tropes of conventional movie making (slow claps, fingers on the lips, etc.) the Coens somehow manage to make it their own and everything in here is goofy fun with pure magic backing it up. George Clooney recently gave the “performance of a lifetime” in The Descendants, but damn if his turns in Coen films aren’t right on the heels of that performance. He knows exactly how to ham it up for the camera and he is outright hilarious here. All of the side characters are of almost equal charm and hilarity – gotta love Billy-Bob as the paper-eating oil man. The story feels predictable but mysterious at the same time and every moment feels fresh and new – even though you’ve seen it before. The Coens have stuck with the same DP and set decorator since Miller’s Crossing, and even though this one is a bit brighter and glossier than their other works, these attributes of the movie stand tall. In short, fantastic Friday night date movie that everyone should love. If you don’t love it, we’re divorced.
    - ANDREW

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  • Blu-Ray/DVD Review: The Ballad of Narayama

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    Director: Shôhei Imamura
    Screenplay: Shôhei Imamura
    Based on a novel by: Shichirô Fukazawa
    Starring: Ken Ogata, Sumiko Sakamoto, Tonpei Hidari, Aki Takejô
    Producer: Shôhei Imamura
    Country: Japan
    Running Time: 130 min
    Year: 1983
    BBFC Certificate: 15

    (5/5)

    And so we reach the final entry in my triple bill of Shôhei Imamura films and probably my favourite. Winner of the Palme D’Or in 1983, beating films by Robert Bresson, Martin Scorsese and Andrei Tarkovsky, I would describe The Ballad of Narayama as the best entry point to Imamura’s work (from the four of his films that I’ve seen). Although it shares similarities to Profound Desires of the Gods, it’s more accessible in terms of plotting and contains a fair dose of humour that can be quite broad but is balanced effectively enough to not detract from the power of the drama.

    Adapted from the novel of the same name (which had been made into a film previously), with added scenes from The Jinmus of Tôhoku (both written by Fukazawa Shichirô), The Ballad of Narayama is set in a small remote village, high up in a mountain, away from any trace of society. We aren’t told in what period the film is set, my guess would be around 100 years ago, but it’s not clear. The inhabitants live a difficult life, toiling the fields to grow enough food to keep their families alive. They live by a strict code that includes the tradition that once you reach the ripe old age of 70, you should climb the treacherous mountain, giving your life to it’s God that sees over the village. The film centres around grandmother Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) and her family. She has just about reached that magic number and once she accepts her fate she busies herself in tying up all of her children and grandchildren’s loose ends, ensuring the family remains strong and happy after she has gone.

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  • DVD Review: A Man Vanishes

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    Director: Shôhei Imamura
    Starring: Yoshie Hayakawa, Shôhei Imamura, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi
    Producer: Shôhei Imamura
    Country: Japan
    Running Time: 130 min
    Year: 1967

    (4/5)

    My Shôhei Imamura triple bill continues with his experimental semi-documentary A Man Vanishes. Back in February, the Movie Club Podcast did a triple bill discussion of F For Fake, Exit Through The Gift Shop and Catfish, three films that (supposedly in Catfish’s case) toyed with the idea of fact and fiction and what was acceptable as ‘truth’ in terms of documentary filmmaking. Well, they really missed an opportunity there because A Man Vanishes, produced well before any of these films, is a bold, thought-provoking dissection of pretty much the same thing. It certainly lays it’s cards on the table more clearly than Catfish, which I still believe is largely constructed as a fully fledged documentary, but we won’t get into that argument now.

    Back in the mid to late 60′s, Imamura was planning on producing a TV documentary series following 26 original missing persons cases. In Japan at that time, with the economy growing rapidly, a large number of young people were heading for the cities and many, seemingly due to dreams of success and happiness being crushed, were going missing, often never to be found. Around the time in Japan it is thought that around 90,000 people would go missing every year. Of these, between 5,000 and 7,000 would never be found and were declared ‘vanished without a trace’. Imamura found this phenomenon fascinating and wanted to delve into what caused these disappearances. What could drive a man (or woman) to leave their whole life behind them and fade away into the ether.

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  • DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Profound Desires of the Gods

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    Director: Shôhei Imamura
    Screenplay: Keiji Hasebe & Shôhei Imamura
    Starring: Rentarô Mikuni, Chôichirô Kawarazaki, Kazuo Kitamura, Kazuko Okiyama
    Producer: Masanori Yamanoi
    Country: Japan
    Running Time: 173 min
    Year: 1968
    BBFC Certification: 15

    (4.5/5)

    Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series are releasing three films from Shôhei Imamura on October 24th, A Man Vanishes (1967), The Ballad of Narayama (1983) and this, Profound Desires of the Gods (1968). After catching Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine recently then working through most of these (I’m still to watch Narayama), he’s fast moving up my list of favourite directors. His films aren’t instantly gratifying or easy to watch, but they’re fascinating, rich and experimental without being totally unfathomable. Saying that, I’m having trouble expressing my feelings towards Profound Desires of the Gods. I wrote five pages of notes whilst watching the film (a personal record), yet these mostly concern the actions on screen I felt were important rather than thoughts on it’s quality or success. My reviews tend to focus on the nuts and bolts of why a film works (or doesn’t) in my eyes, probably due to my technical filmmaking background, but it’s not as straightforward as that this time, so bear with me as I try to channel my inner film-theorist.

    Profound Desires of the Gods marked the end of an era for Imamura. It was the last film he made for Nikkatsu due to it spiralling over budget (the film took a whole year longer to shoot than expected) and it’s subsequent failure at the box-office. It was also the last cinematic feature film he made for around ten years, instead working on documentaries for television. With it’s epic length (close to three hours), persistent use of real locations and erratic storytelling, it’s not hard to see why it was so difficult a production for those involved and unpopular with a regular cinema-going audience. Nonetheless it makes for fascinating viewing now, for those with a taste for it.

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