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In the Realm of Oshima

Friday, May 29, 2009
8:30 p.m. Diary of a Shinjuku Thief
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1968)

New Print

(Shinjuku dorobo nikki). Tokyo’s teeming Shinjuku district is a center for artistic experimentation, intellectual radicalism, and, for the likes of Oshima, adventure. Diary of a Shinjuku Thief is itself a teeming mixture of fantasy and reality, on one level a kind of documentary of the social unrest and counterculture life of Shinjuku, featuring several well-known underground figures. On the level of narrative it is the story of “a boy and a girl in search of their rightful moment of sexual ecstasy,” in Oshima’s words. The film begins brilliantly in a bookstore where a boy who calls himself Birdy Hilltop is caught stealing a book and leaves with the shop clerk. What follows is their labyrinthine search for sexual satisfaction, which takes them to a Freudian sexologist who just doesn’t get it, and to the neo-Kabuki Situation Players led by Kara Juro. Ritual and riot, thievery and fantasy, and ancient forms of role-playing: parts of a complicated analysis of sex, and perhaps of cinema.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Masao Adachi, Oshima. Photographed by Yasuhiro Yoshioka, Seizo Sengen. With Tadanori Yokoo, Rie Yokoyama, Moichi Tanabe, Tetsu Takahashi. (94 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W/Color, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Oshima Productions)