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March 24 – April 27, 2019

The Other New Wave.
Alternate Histories of Post-WWII Japanese Cinema

When discussing the birth of the Japanese New Wave, it is typical to begin with the major Shochiku Nouvelle Vague (nuberu bagu) directors: Nagisa Oshima, Masahiro Shinoda and Kiju Yoshida. However, this approach is somewhat limiting. Not only were these directors critical of the term "New Wave" itself—which inaccurately compared them to French New Wave filmmakers who made films outside the studio system—but they are also only three of the many key figures, known and unknown, who gave rise to this sea change in Japanese cinema.

Within Shochiku, rarely discussed filmmakers such as Tsutomu Tamura, Osamu Takahashi and Eitaro Morikawa also made their first films alongside Oshima and Shinoda as part of the studio's New Wave initiative. Outside of Shochiku, other major studios concurrently invested in new talent: at Toho, young directors like Eizo Sugawa and Hideo Onchi made films associated with the New Wave; at Nikkatsu, Koreyoshi Kurahara built upon the cutting-edge work carved out by Ko Nakahira; and, at Daiei, scriptwriter Yoshio Shirasaka wrote for exciting new filmmakers after collaborating with Yasuzo Masumura.

Beyond the studios, an abundance of innovative activity was found in university film clubs, avant-garde circles and among independent filmmakers and documentarists: the Nihon University Film Club broke away from the conventions of the student film to embark on new experiments; Hiroshi Teshigahara established a space for arts activities and film screenings at the Sougetsu Art Center; and pioneering filmmakers Nobuhiko Obayashi and Yoichi Takabayashi made 8mm films with unrestrained energy and productivity.

Moreover, a number of filmmakers sought to unite avant-garde film theory with praxis in their respective fields: Eizo Yamagiwa launched the seminal film journal Eiga Hihyo (Film Criticism) and made films at Taiho studios, newly formed from the ashes of Shin-Toho; Toshio Matsumoto and Shinkichi Noda edited and wrote for Kiroku Eiga (Documentary Film) while engaging in radically experimental forms of documentary practice.

In the background of all this film activity, postwar Japanese society was dealing with its war responsibility—an issue that splintered the preexisting left wing establishment (primarily made up of the Japanese Communist Party) and gave rise to the student-led New Left. Among the most volatile issues for these young political activists was the proposed 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty, or Anpo, around which many demonstrations and fights erupted. The filmmakers who birthed the New Wave in the late 1950s and early ‘60s directly and indirectly responded to these emerging ideologies and movements through their work, which they imbued with newfound subjectivity and self-awareness as auteurs.

Taking all of this into account, discussions of the New Wave should move beyond analyzing major representative films and filmmakers in and of themselves in order to also consider the surrounding production systems, genres, theories and sociopolitical contexts from which they emerged—only then can we approach a deeper understanding of this dynamic moment in film history. By excluding repeatedly cited and heralded figures like Oshima and Shinoda in order to focus on overlooked films and filmmakers that emerged from a wide range of practices and backgrounds, I hope this film series can offer another face of Japanese New Wave cinema.

Go Hirasawa is a researcher at Meiji-Gakuin University working on underground films and avant-garde art movements in 1960s and '70s Japan. His publications include Underground Film Archives (Japan, 2001) and Masao Adachi: Le bus de la révolution passera bientot près de chez toi (France, 2012). Film series he organized include Koji Wakamatsu and Masao Adachi (Cinematheque Française, 2010), Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1960–1986 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012) and Throwing Shadows: Japanese Expanded Cinema in the Time of Pop (Tate Modern, 2016).

Curated by Go Hirasawa with the Japan Society. Text by Go Hirasawa and the Japan Society (Kazu Watanabe and Amber Noe).

Special Thanks: Kazu Watanabe and Amber Noe—the Japan Society; Luis Carlos Alvarez, John Mhiripiri—Anthology Film Archives; Stephanie Diaz, Katsumi Hirano, Brian Belovarac, Ben Crossley-Mara, Emily Woodburne—Janus Films; Koji Nozaki, Sanae Tani—Japan Foundation, New York; Hiroo Ko; Mamoru Fujinoro—Kyodo Eiga; Masaki Daibo, Alo Joekalda, Makiko Kamiya, Aki Nishikawa, Hisashi Okajima—National Film Archive of Japan; Mami Furukawa—Nikkatsu Corporation; The Noda Family; Hitomi Hosoda, Yuhka Matoi—Shochiku Co., Ltd; Eizo Yamagiwa; Mary C. Brinton, Stacie Matsumoto—Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard.

Photo Credits: Forgotten Land and Anpo Joyaku stills courtesy of National Film Archive of Japan; The End of Love © 1961 Eizo Yamagiwa; The Age of Our Own and The Warped Ones © Nikkatsu Corporation; Blood is Dry, Good-for-Nothing, Only She Knows, The Samurai Vagabonds and The Tragedy of Bushido ©1960 Shochiku Co., Ltd.

 

 

 

 


Sunday March 24 at 5pm

As a complement to The Other New Wave program, we will screen three films by the influential yet still underappreciated filmmaker Susumu Hani (b. 1928), one of the key figures of the postwar reinvigoration of Japanese cinema, showcasing Hani’s radical documentary approach to filmmaking as well as his deep fascination with children and the emergent and increasingly radicalized youth seeking to transform their society.

Bad Boys (Furyo shonen)

Directed by Susumu Hani. With Yukio Yamada, Hirokazu Yoshitake, Koichiro Yamazaki
Japan 1961, 35mm, b/w, 89 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Inspired by Children Who Draw (1955), Hani turned once again to the subject of the Japanese school for his break-through feature, a radical fusion of documentary and narrative cinema that created nothing less than a sensation when it was released in Japan. Working closely with a group of ex-reform school students, Hani directly channeled their own life experiences and voices into Bad Boys, only loosely adhering to his screenplay (adapted from an anthology of writings by "reformed" youth), with much of the dialogue and action improvised by the boys on set. More than simply an indictment of the Japanese reform school system, the cruelty and harsh violence of the boys revealed, in Hani's words, a "totalitarian spirit" still lingering in the postwar era. Although Bad Boys was originally produced by Daei, the studio dropped the film during post-production, fearing that it was too "revolutionary" in style and subject.

While Toru Takemitsu composed the film's haunting and melancholy score, the almost entirely hand-held cinema verité camerawork was by Noriaki Tsuchimoto, who would later become a celebrated documentarian, best known for his series of films about the tragic mass mercury poisoning in Japan's Minamata Bay region.

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Sunday March 24 at 7pm

A Full Life (Mitasareta seikatsu)

Directed by Susumu Hani. With Ineko Arima, Koshiro Harada, I. George
Japan 1962, 16mm, color, 102 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Hani's stylish and understated second feature has been frequently compared to Antonioni for its subtle telling of a young woman's growing awareness of her environment, and herself. Dissatisfied with her failing marriage, the woman abruptly joins a political theater troupe and is pulled into the feverish activist scene ignited by the massive and unprecedented anti-US Security Pact protests. While Hani's dazzling use of Tokyo locations and documentary style camerawork clearly link A Full Life to his earlier work, Hani’s compelling and feminist fable of political awakening introduced a new sophistication into his cinema.

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Monday March 25 at 7pm

Nanami: The Inferno of First Love (Hatsukoi: Jigoku-hen)

Directed by Susumu Hani. With Akio Takahashi, Kuniko Ishii, Koji Mitsui
Japan 1968, 35mm, b/w, 83 min. Japanese with English subtitles

One of the signature masterworks of the Japanese New Wave, Hani's intense and brilliantly unpredictable portrait of youth engulfed in amorous flames is a showcase for Hani's innovative documentary approach to cinema and his rare sensitivity to the fluttering dream of adolescence. The story of a shy young man drawn into the spell of an attractive, outgoing model with a secret life, Nanami: The Inferno of First Love grows increasingly darker and stranger as the girl leads him deeper in the Tokyo underworld and into the troubled recesses of his repressed traumas and fears. While the film's crypto-sexual dreamscape must be partially credited to its co-writer, the legendary enfant terrible of the Japanese avant-garde, Shuji Terayama, Nanami's intimacy with its young actors and postwar youth culture clearly draws from Hani's earlier work. Shot in grainy 16mm black-and-white, Nanami is also a fascinating document of Sixties Tokyo, pulling back the seedy folds of the same urban underbelly being discovered by photographers such as Daido Moriyama and by Hani's contemporary, the avant-garde documentarian Toshio Matsumoto.

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Introduction by Go Hirasawa
Monday April 1 at 7pm

Shorts Program:
New Wave Rarities

Japan 1958–1960, digital/16mm, b/w, TRT 78 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Three rare short films by artists who played a leading role in the birth of the New Wave: Conversation Between Nail and Socks (1958), the first self-produced work by the Nihon University Film Study Club, directed by Katsumi Hirano and Hiroo Ko; Forgotten Land (1958), a documentary portraying the poverty-stricken area of Honshu's northernmost region, directed by Shinkichi Noda, who led the Association of Documentary Filmmakers (Kiroku Eiga Sakka Kyokai); and Anpo Joyaku (1959) by Toshio Matsumoto, which captures the context of the 1960 Anpo Treaty and the whirlwind of debate surrounding it. 16mm prints courtesy the National Film Archive of Japan.

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Sunday April 14 at 4:30pm

Good-for-Nothing (Rokudenashi)

Directed by Kiju Yoshida. With Masahiko Tsugawa, Yusuke Kawazu, Hizuru Takachiho
Japan 1960, 35mm, b/w, 88 min. Japanese with English subtitles

In this directorial debut by Kiju Yoshida—a key figure of postwar Japanese cinema and the Shochiku New Wave along with Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda—four bored college students decide to steal money from a company run by one of their fathers. In the process, the company secretary takes an interest in one of the aimless young men, in whom she senses some potential, and tries to change him. A representative work of the New Wave in its aesthetics and political overtones by one of its major filmmakers, Good-for-Nothing offers a complex perspective on class with cutting-edge direction and visual style. Print courtesy The Japan Foundation.

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Sunday April 14 at 7pm

The Tragedy of Bushido
(Bushido Muzan)

Directed by Eitaro Morikawa. With Miki Mori, Hizuru Takachiho, Junichiro Yamashitag
Japan 1960, DCP, b/w, 74 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Written and directed by newcomer Eitaro Morikawa for Shochiku's Kyoto studio, The Tragedy of Bushido is the first jidaigeki period drama produced by the New Wave. After a clan lord dies, a young samurai in 17th century Japan is forced to follow him in death through ritual suicide in accordance with an archaic bushido custom. Drawing a connection between the oppressive values of absolute fealty within the samurai moral code and the bureaucratic political systems of postwar Japan that continued to place priority on obedience and obligation over individual freedoms, Morikawa gave birth to a new kind of post-Anpo jidaigeki.

Only She Knows
(Kanojo dake ga shitteiru)

Directed by Osamu Takahashi. With Chishu Ryu, Mitsuko Mito, Akiko Koyama
Japan 1960, DCP, b/w, 63 min. Japanese with English subtitles

The debut film by Osamu Takahashi, assistant director on Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) and a Shochiku New Wave leading figure who launched the film journal Shichinin (The Seven) with his circle of fellow assistant directors (including Nagisa Oshima and Kiju Yoshida). A young woman is attacked by a serial rapist and murderer whom her detective father (played by Ozu regular Chishu Ryu) is investigating. Though she survives, the impact of the event creates increasing discord and agony for her and her loved ones. After this auspicious debut, Takahashi went on to make a couple more films for Shochiku before going independent and eventually becoming well-known as a novelist.

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Monday April 15 at 7pm

Blood is Dry (Chi wa kawaiteru)

Directed by Kiju Yoshida. With Keiji Sada, Kaneko Iwasaki, Shinichiro Mikami
Japan 1960, 35mm, b/w, 87 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Kiju Yoshida's second film for Shochiku is a fierce critique of mass media, advertising and capitalist consumerism. When his employers announce massive layoffs, a salaryman takes a gun to his head in a plea for mercy on behalf of his colleagues only to unwittingly become the center of an insurance company's advertising campaign that exploits his desperate gesture for profit and markets him as a hero. Paired with Nagisa Oshima's Night and Fog in Japan (1960) as a double bill, both films were pulled from theaters days after opening due to the politically motivated censorship of Oshima's allegedly inflammatory film. Print courtesy The Japan Foundation.

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Saturday April 20 at 7pm

The Samurai Vagabonds
(Akunin shigan)

Directed by Tsutomu Tamura. With Kayoko Hono, Fumio Watanabe, Masahiko Tsugawa
Japan 1960, 35mm, b/w, 83 min. Japanese with live English subtitles

Virtually unknown outside of (and even within) Japan, this Shochiku New Wave gem is set in a mining bunkhouse wherein a woman who survives a double suicide becomes entwined in a peculiar relationship with her dead lover's brother, a killer on the run. Another significant yet overlooked progenitor of the New Wave's theoretical and formal ideals, Tsutomu Tamura only made this one film as a director before leaving Shochiku to create an independent production company with Nagisa Oshima and write scripts for many of the renowned director's films, including The Catch (1961), Violence at Noon (1966) and Boy (1969). Print courtesy the National Film Archive of Japan.

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Saturday April 20 at 9pm
Sunday April 21 at 5pm

The End of Love
(Kyonetsu no Hate)

Directed by Eizo Yamagiwa. With Terumi Hoshi, Koji Matsubara, Namiji Matsuura
Japan 1961, 35mm, b/w, 78 min. Japanese with English subtitles

A leading postwar Japanese film critic and theorist who co-founded the seminal film magazine Eiga Hihyo (Film Criticism) in 1957, Eizo Yamagiwa made his directorial debut with this independent feature—long thought lost until a negative was recently discovered—about a group of idle bourgeois students known as the "Roppongi Tribe" (Roppongi zoku). Depicting the resignation and nihilism of the postwar generation in the years following Anpo Treaty conflicts through a coming-of-age narrative, Yamagiwa offers sharp criticism of the prevalent characterizations of Japan's new youth offered by Nikkatsu's taiyozoku ("Sun Tribe") films and the New Wave at large. Print courtesy the National Film Archive of Japan.

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Saturday April 27 at 7pm

The Warped Ones
(Kyonetsu no kisetsu)

Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara. With Tamio Kawachi, Eiji Go, Hiroyuki Nagato
Japan 1960, 35mm, b/w, 75 min.  Japanese with English subtitles

The game-changing experimentation of Nikkatsu taiyozoku ("Sun Tribe") films like Ko Nakahira's Crazed Fruit (1956) and Toshio Masuda's Perfect Game (1958) paved the way for this representative work of the studio's New Wave by Koreyoshi Kurahara. A jazz-obsessed delinquent and a reckless sex worker are released from juvenile detention and wreak havoc on everyone in their paths, including the newspaper reporter who got them arrested and his bourgeois artist fiancée. Kurahara's indelible portrait of amoral youth features striking high-contrast black-and-white compositions, bold camera movements and a propulsive jazz score, anchored by Tamio Kawachi's mesmerizingly feral performance. Print courtesy the National Film Archive of Japan.

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Saturday April 27 at 8:30pm

The Age of Our Own
(Warera no jidai)

Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara. With Shizuo Koizumi, Hiroyuki Nagato, Katsu Yamamoto
Japan 1959, 35mm, b/w, 98 min. Japanese with English subtitles

This controversial film by director Koreyoshi Kurahara is based on a story by Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe, adapted by Yoshio Shirasaka, a prolific writer who scripted masterpieces under every major Japanese production company (including Yasuzo Masumura's 1958 film Giants and Toys at Daiei studios). A Japanese college student attempting to study abroad in France to escape his daily troubles is met with endless frustration and ultimately forced to live an aimless life of disillusionment. Among Nikkatsu's most political films, The Age of Our Own implicitly reveals a complex reaction to the anti-Anpo struggle and its contexts. Print courtesy the National Film Archive of Japan.

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