"My hatred for Japanese cinema includes absolutely all of it."
January 25, 2013 1:14 PM   Subscribe

"Japanese cinema’s preeminent taboo buster, Nagisa Oshima directed, between 1959 and 1999, more than twenty groundbreaking features. For Oshima, film was a form of activism, a way of shaking up the status quo. Uninterested in the traditional Japanese cinema of such popular filmmakers as Kurosawa, Ozu, and Naruse, Oshima focused not on classical themes of good and evil or domesticity but on outcasts, gangsters, murderers, rapists, sexual deviants, and the politically marginalized." The great Japanese director Nagisa Oshima passed away at the age of 80 last week. Appreciations from the Guardian, Slate, Fandor, Telegraph, NY Times, AV Club, and a few in-depth articles over at Senses of Cinema and Film Comment.
posted by HumanComplex (11 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't seen any of Mr. Oshima's movies, but his forthrightness appeals to me. May he rest easy.

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2013

The title quote is made even more awesome by the fact that he was president of the the Directors Guild of Japan.

Thanks for the introduction; can anyone recommend one of his more accessible films?
posted by el io at 1:36 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Merry Xmas Mr Lawrence was probably his most accessible. Ai No Corrida (In the Realm of the Senses) his most notorious. But personally, I like the earlier stuff (Cruel Story of Youth and Pleasures of the Flesh) and his more radical things from the late sixties -- Diary of a Shinjuku Thief -- though these are much less accessible and harder to find.

I'd also recommend one of his latest films Gatto/Taboo, which is about gay samurai. They're pretty well all worth watching though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:47 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't know how anyone could ever hate the humanism of Shohei Imamura, who typically made movies about the downtrodden, the forgotten and the weak. Even has sex! With animals!
posted by KokuRyu at 1:58 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, he's the guy that did "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence?"

Yeah, he's a neat guy.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:20 PM on January 25, 2013

OMG, he did "Max, mon Amour!" I saw this one night uncut on German television without having the slightest clue what it was going to be about -- unbelievably lucky. If you can pull it off, seeing this movie unspoiled is a hell of an experience. Get somebody else to start the film, don't look at the box, or call me over and I'll set it up for you. A strange, affecting film. Whose plot I am not going to begin to describe.

posted by ariel_caliban at 3:36 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know how anyone could ever hate the humanism of Shohei Imamura, who typically made movies about the downtrodden, the forgotten and the weak.

I've been trying to get hold of a copy of The History of Postwar Japan as told by a Bar Hostess for years, and never even got close to a sniff of it.

For some reason, I always associate that movie with Oshima, even though it was directed by Imamura. Not because I've ever seen it -- simply because it sounds like an Oshima project.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:27 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's been a bad few months for Japanese film directors: also RIP Wakamatsu Koji.
posted by Bektashi at 4:34 PM on January 25, 2013

Been waiting forever for this FPP, would've tried myself but I couldn't find much besides that great Lincoln Center write up from before his death with the great Donald Richie anecdote about Oshima never referring to Japan with the default "our country", even when drunk. Thanks for doing this. I didn't always see eye to eye with him (love Ozu, dislike Godard, meh about Bunuel) but In The Realm Of The Senses changed my life as much as any film ever has, and his lifelong political thesis remains close to my heart (not to mention his ever-present disdain for treatment of Koreans in Japan). Here's to a helluva guy.
posted by ifjuly at 5:34 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

The best one was when Mothra, Mechagodzilla, and Gamera bukkaked Godzilla [Gojira]. It totally captured the avant-garde zeitgeist of early 1980's Japan
posted by Renoroc at 6:06 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A few years ago, I attended a special screening of a 35mm print of Oshima's "Nihon no yoru to kiri" in the Film Studies department of my school. It was perhaps the most remarkable cinematic experience I ever had. You think Tarkovsky's 167 minutes of Solaris were ponderous? It felt like nothing compared to the 107 minutes of Oshima's film. It is a classic example of the kishotenketsu literary style. Perhaps you would be acquainted with the format, first known in film studies circles as the format of Kurosawa's film Rashomon. The topic is introduced (ki) then takes a major left turn in a direction completely away from the topic (sho) then the story takes 3 long, broad laps around the topic while never coming anywhere close to it, and then a final twist (ten) to get off the oblique and back onto the straight line, where the viewer is supposed to collect his wits and learn what the REAL topic of the story is, and last, an unexpected ending (ketsu) that is usually ambiguous so the viewer is left to decide which of the two incompatible conclusions he prefers.

Anyway, my friends and I went out for a few drinks just before the film, but declined to watch it with me. I entered the nearly empty auditorium, and sloshed into a seat. The film started, oh the exotic excitement of this strange film, and then BAM I am a fly trapped in amber, even the air itself seemed to become solid as I was entombed in a time bubble that I could not escape. And unfortunately, I was sharing the bubble with a strident Japanese socialist cadre, endlessly haranguing each other (and the audience) with polemics about their own worthlessness and inability to live up to the ideals of socialism. My Japanese language skill was just enough to comprehend the conversation to the level of understanding how deliberately tedious it was. The plot dragged on endlessly, endlessly, the socialists droned on and on, and then it seemed to head towards a vague conclusion, and then BAM the time loop starts over again. I am forced to witness the same plot line, from the beginning again, from a different viewpoint, and this time it is even more tedious, not just because I already heard all this dialogue, but because it really IS more tedious, Oshima deliberately made it that way. I could feel myself melting, my flesh separating from my bones, rendering me unable to move. It seemed as if I sat there for several hundred years, and then BAM the whole thing starts over again. I had thought it impossible to repeat the story again, from another angle that would make the previous loops seem lighthearted and breezy in comparison. But this was Oshima's genius. He took the story and used it to grind me under his boot heel for what seemed like an infinity. The plot line about a murder became my own death of a thousand cuts. Just as it seemed like my soul would leave my body, suddenly the twist ending and BAM the film is over. The house lights go up and I stumble out of the screening. I have a hangover but I cannot tell if it is the drinks or the film.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:40 PM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

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