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The Clash of ’68

Thursday, April 10, 2008
9:00 p.m. The Man Who Left His Will on Film
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1970)

(Tokyo senso sengo hiwa). Already enraged by the Vietnam War, anti-government demonstrations in Japan were further intensified by the renewal of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States. In 1969, agitated students took to the streets, only to be repelled by implacable force. It’s this clash that informs the original title of Oshima’s deliciously self-consuming work, He Died After the War. This circuitous film begins with the alleged suicide of a young activist who is part of a radical film collective. When his camera is recovered by a friend, Motoki, it is revealed that the footage is nothing but mundane street scenes of Tokyo. Duly obsessed, a despairing Motoki goes about reconstructing his friend’s life as an extension of the found footage. Oshima’s mercurial experiment avoids the fixed fact—identity and happenstance float like wild mercury, forcing the viewer to actively assemble the reenactment. To piece together a single life seems daunting, to engage with history, nearly impossible. This is the will and testament Oshima would have us consider.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Masataka Hara, Mamoru Sasaki, from an idea by Oshima, Tsutomu Tamura. Photographed by Toichiro Narushima. With Kazuo Goto, Emiko Iwasaki, Sugio Fukuoka. (94 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From New Yorker Films)