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Main Articles

FILMED RITUALS: ZERO JIGEN INCARNATES ON SCREEN

By Julian Ross

Gishiki (Oshima, 1971), translated to The Ceremony for its theatrical release in English-speaking countries, framed its narrative around traditional rituals practiced in Japanese culture. In Oshima’s film, these ceremonies marked occasions that brought together members of the central family who witness their family tree collapse as their stories unravel over the span of a lifetime. The word gishiki, the title of the film, was a term often used, by the news media and the artists themselves, for the activities of the Japanese avant-garde in the 1960s. Performance artists, dancers and filmmakers enjoyed ceremonial rituals as a remarkably unrestricted form of artistic expression. Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo’s Ankoku Butoh [Dance of Darkness] were described as rituals in early reviews, and their inaugural performance of Kinjiki [Forbidden Colour] in 1959, a dance interpretation of Mishima Yukio’s novel where a chicken was sacrificed, certainly evokes a liturgy from a bygone era.

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PATRIOTISM BY YUKIO MISHIMA

By Sarah Nichols

I find myself wondering if Yukio Mishima ever read the work of Sylvia Plath, or if she was at all familiar with his. In The Bell Jar, Plath’s suicidal protagonist, Esther Greenwood, believes that the Japanese “disemboweled themselves when anything went wrong…in one quick flash, before they had time to think twice, they would jab the knives in and zip them round…their stomach skin would come loose, like a plate, and their insides would fall out, and they would die…It must take a lot of courage to die like that”

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TOKYO DRIFTER BY SEIJUN SUZUKI

By Sarah Nichols

“Where is he,/that vagabond,/always drifting,/always alone/… The drifter from Tokyo…” Flashback eleven years earlier, and Tetsuya Watari, the Drifter, Tetsu, sings the theme song himself (1). For me, it’s a piece of found poetry, its lines forming an epic of universal Film Noir themes: “And I’m a drifter who walks alone/I know not where my grave will be…” It meanders through Suzuki’s pop yakuza labyrinth in a kind of mournful counterpoint.

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UNDERGROUND JAPANESE CINEMA AND THE ART THEATRE GUILD

By Go Hirasawa

The birth of ATG (Art Theatre Guild of Japan) in 1961 marked an epoch in the distribution of experimental films and art films from all over the world, which had hardly any chance of being shown in commercial theatres. In April 1962, ten Art Theatres were established nationwide to screen the films ATG distributed…

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NANAMI: THE INFERNO OF FIRST LOVE BY SUSUMU HANI

By Jan Philippe V. Carpio

In “Nanami” The Inferno of First Love”, Hani shows an artistic devotion to exploring and communicating the experiences of “small” moments and “insides”. Hani also shows that like his protagonists Shun and Nanami, he himself is very much willing to pay the high price for constant curiosity and closing the distance between life and those who struggle to live it.

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COUP D’ETAT BY KIJU YOSHIDA

by Vassilis Economou

Yoshishige Yoshida was one of the most important figures of the “Japanese New Wave” (Nuberu Bagu). He is lesser known than his colleagues Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda but he played a major role in the creation of the New Wave at the Shochiki studios in early 60s. In 1969 he directed his masterpiece Erosu purasu Gyakusatsu (Eros Plus Massacre), a historical drama that is set in the 20s. This is the first part of a trilogy that is composed by historical political films.

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TOKYO SENSO SENGO HIWA BY NAGISA OSHIMA

By Vassilis Economou

Nagisa Oshima remains one of the best-known representatives of the Japanese New Wave (Nuberu Bagu). During the 60’s he was particularly active cinematically and he expressed his political beliefs through his films. The radical changes that occurred at the Japanese society during the same period could not leave him untouched.

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A GUSHING PRAYER BY MASAO ADACHI

By Lauren Bliss

Masao Adachi’s A Gushing Prayer (1971) figures the possibility for lived contradiction. The film was produced in the wake of the American occupation of Japan and its forced assimilation of Japanese society to Western values, yet it offers a cross-examination of the struggle against the occupation. This structuring is typical of Adachi’s work and thus, despite the historical specificities of this film, A Gushing Prayer is a prayer for us all. It asks: how is it possible to escape the perceived totality of history and of capitalism?

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EXTREME PRIVATE EROS LOVE SONG BY KAZUO HARA

By John A. Riley

This film documents the complex relationship between Kazuo Hara and his ex-wife Takeda Miyuki. He and his current partner (the sound recorder and producer of the documentary) follow Miyuki as she flouts the conventions of Japanese society with a mercurial zeal; a lesbian affair, conceiving a child with an African-American GI, setting up a refuge for women and challenging local gangsters, resulting in her being assaulted.

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BRANDED TO KILL BY SEIJUN SUZUKI

by John A. Riley

At almost exactly the same time that Sean Connery’s crass, bloated 007 was undergoing plastic surgery to look more Japanese, Seijun Sujuki’s Branded to Kill debuted on Japanese screens, featuring Goro Hanada, an assassin whose licence to kill was entirely of his own making and who seemed determined to prove Fritz Lang right and Ian Fleming wrong.

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