Oscillating Visions: From Underworld to Underground in Japanese Cinema
This two-day screening and discussion of art and avant-garde Japanese cinema of the 1960s and 70s complements a retrospective at Doc Films, “From Silence to Pandemonium: Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1962-1974.” Between screenings, Alexander Zahlten (Harvard University) and Tom Gunning will lead discussion on the aesthetics and politics of the films, considering their historical context and their relevance to the present.
Friday, May 31, 7pm
A Manual of Ninja Arts [Ninja Bugeicho]
(Oshima Nagisa, Japan, 35mm, 1967)
Oshima Nagisa created one of his boldest experiments by filming Shirato Sanpei’s legendary manga Manual of Ninja Arts. The result is neither animation, nor anime, nor cinema in any conventional sense. The resistance of the work to easy categorization perfectly matches Shirato’s world of doppelgängers, ghosts, ninja, samurai, and mythical creatures. The tale of a peasants’ rebellion on the eve of a new world order circa 1600, Manual of Ninja Arts is a guidebook to rebellion which quite literally re-draws the lines of art and politics.
Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.
Saturday, June 1, 3pm
(Matsumoto Toshio, Japan, 16mm, 1971)
Noel Burch called Pandemonium the “The most important and beautiful film made in Japan since Kurosawa’s prime.” The film opens with an image of the setting sun that burns bright orange and yellow. However, once night falls the film switches to black and white photography for the remainder of its duration. Nakamura Katsuo (Hoichi the Earless” in Kaidan) stars as Gengobe, the “48th ronin” of the classic story of the 47 loyal retainers. As with that famous tale, Pandemonium is a story of revenge, but with an overwhelming sense of bleakness and despair. The film has a dream-like quality due to director Matsumoto’s use of repetition and the pervasive darkness.
Saturday, June 1, 7pm
Dutch Wife in the Desert [Koyano dacchi waifu]
(Yamatoya Atsushi, Kokuei, 35mm, 1967)
At once a soft-core “pink” film and a hard-boiled mystery, Dutch Wife in the Desert tells the story of real estate agent who hires a private detective to investigate the rape and murder of his wife. Although the crime has been captured on 8mm film, it quickly becomes apparent that the disturbing images may not be true, leading to a chain reaction of uncertainty. While perhaps best known as the writer of Suzuki Seijun’s classic Branded to Kill, Yamatoya Atsushi heads even further out in his own film. A deeply surreal experience in which time, perception, narrative, and genre are scrambled in equal measure until nothing is what it seems.
Discussion will follow each screening with Alexander Zahlten, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, and Tom Gunning, Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Art History, Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and the College.
Sponsored by the Committee on Japanese Studies, Center for East Asian Studies, Japan Foundation and Film Studies Center.