While new wave in cinema was sweeping in Europe in the 1960s, revolutionary passion and anti-establishment were also spreading across Japan among the post-war generation. Young film directors like Oshima Nagisa, Shinoda Masahiro, Shindo Kaneto, Yoshida Yoshishige and Masumura Yasuzo broke away from big studios and expressed themselves in films with a new film language.
Twenty-eight award-winning films and classics from 10 significant Japanese new wave directors Nakahira Ko, Masumura Yasuzo, Oshima Nagisa, Shinoda Masahiro, Shindo Kaneto, Imamura Shohei, Yoshida Yoshishige, Urayama Kirio, Teshigahara Hiroshi and Suzuki Seijun will be showcased in the forthcoming film retrospective “Japanese New Wave Cinema 1960s” from September 5-28 at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive, the Lecture Halls of the Hong Kong Science Museum and Hong Kong Space Museum.
Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the “Japanese New Wave Cinema 1960s” is the second programme of the “Repertory Cinema 2008” series curated by Mr Law Wai-ming. The series featured the works of Soviet film master Sergei Eisenstein earlier this year.
To tie in with the latest event, a seminar entitled “1960s Japanese New Wave Cinema”, to be conducted in Cantonese, is scheduled for September 14 at 4pm at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum.
The Japanese film industry was run by big studios in the early 1960s on the system of master and protégés. With the change of time, young protégés began to rebel against traditional values and aesthetics. They criticised the then film masters like Ozu Yasujiro and Mizoguchi Kenji for being conservative. They used their own vocabulary to express the anger and sorrow of a new generation.
Japanese film historian Yomota Inuhiko remarked on the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s: “… they were different from those new independent filmmakers in the 1950s. They held no hopes for socialism, realism or collective enlightenment… with a critical tone proclaiming that they have seen beyond the falsity of the post-war society… they had run into all kinds of obstacles, but they had brought about a totally new theme, narrative and film language for the Japanese cinema.”
Before the new wave rose to its crest, pioneers like Nakahira Ko had managed to stay one step ahead. His “Crazed Fruit” (1956) is a complete revolt against the moral standards of its time. François Truffaut was so impressed that he strongly recommended it to the Cinémathèque Française.
Master filmmaker Oshima Nagisa’s first feature film, “A Street of Love and Hope” (1959), was the prelude to the “Shochiku New Wave”. In a sombre tone, Oshima portrayed the young man’s loathing of the wide gap between the rich and the poor in post-war Japan. His “Sing a Song of Sex” (1967) was one of his important works after he left Shochiku Company to set up his own production company.
Studying at the prestigious Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia under Italian film masters Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, and working as the assistant director to Mizoguchi Kenji and Ichikawa Kon, Masumura Yasuzo ventured into a variety of genres. Films to be screened include his debut feature film, the youthful romance “Kisses” (1957), gangster genre makeover “Afraid to Die” (1960) with Mishima Yukio as the leading actor, “A Wife Confesses” (1961) and “Seisaku’s Wife” (1965) which won him acclaim, the controversial “Red Angel” (1966), his signature style of extreme eroticism “Blind Beast” (1969) and a satire on the commercial world “Giants and Toys” (1958).
Shindo Kaneto, 96, is the oldest Japanese director still working today. His “The Naked Island” (1960) is a 95-minute tour de force with minimal dialogue but filled with the sounds of wind, chimes and water. The film and “Live Today, Die Tomorrow!” won him international acclaim. His other masterpiece “Devil Woman” (1964) portrays a chaotic world without order.
Imamura Shohei is one of the most important directors in Japan. His early film “Hogs and Warships” (1961) is a melancholic satire on the darkness of human nature. “The Insect Woman” (1963) which touched the hearts of audiences, won numerous awards including the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1964. His first independent film “The Pornographers” (1966) is a daring exposure on lust and wealth of post-war Japan.
Teshigahara Hiroshi's classic “Woman in the Dunes” (1964), which won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964 and nominated for the Academy Awards in 1965, is regarded as one of the most important films of the 1960s. His first film “Pitfall” (1962) in collaboration with novelist Abe Kobo, won the NHK New Director Award. “The Face of Another” (1966) is another classic which blended surrealist thrill with the ever-present issue of identity.
The tattoo has long been a culture of the yakuza. Suzuki Seijun, who is renowned for his jarring visual and surreal style, has masterfully given gang warfare in guns and swords a romantic varnish in “Tattooed Life” (1965); whereas the elegy to violence in “Fighting Elegy” (1966) came three decades ahead of “Fight Club”.
Adapted from a famous puppet show by the playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon in the Edo period, Shinoda Masahiro’s “Double Suicide” (1969) is full of independent spirit and stage technique. With bold and innovative music, costume and art direction, it won the Best Film, Best Director and the Best Actress at the Kinema Junpo Awards in Japan in 1970. His work “The Dry Lake” (1960) shows the extreme sentiments and roaring anger of the young generation.
Not to be missed are Yoshida Yoshishige’s “Akitsu Springs” (1962), “Eros Plus Massacre” (1969) and “Coup d’Etat” (1973); Urayama Kirio’s debut and classic film “Foundry Town” (1962) which won him wide acclaim and “The Girl I Abandoned” (1969).
“Blind Beast” and “Eros Plus Massacre” have been classified as Category III. Only ticket holders who are aged 18 and above will be admitted. All films are in Japanese with English subtitles.
Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients.
Ends/Friday, August 15, 2008
The film still of Oshima Nagisa's "A Street of Love and Hope" (1959).
The film still of Suzuki Seijun's "Fighting Elegy" (1966).