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In the Realm of Oshima

Thursday, June 4, 2009
6:30 p.m. A Town of Love and Hope
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1959)

Introduced by James Quandt

James Quandt curated the touring series In the Realm of Oshima. As senior programmer at Cinematheque Ontario, he has been responsible for many acclaimed touring programs, including retrospectives of Robert Bresson, Kon Ichikawa, and Shohei Imamura, all of which were accompanied by major monographs. He recently edited a publication on Apichatpong Weerasethakul for the Vienna Filmmuseum.

(Ai to kibo no machi, a.k.a. A Street of Love and Hope). Impressed by a script Oshima wrote for a contest among assistant directors (who included such future luminaries as Shohei Imamura, Masahiro Shinoda, and Yoshishige Yoshida), the Shochiku studio allowed him a chance to direct. After seeing the finished product, with its slum settings and radical political stance, they promptly banned him for six months. “This film is saying the rich and poor can never join hands,” raged a studio executive. A bright but poor teenage boy works a carrier pigeon scam to earn money for his sick mother, but things start looking up when he befriends a young girl with a wealthy industrialist father. By the film’s astonishing end, though, this “town of love and hope” (a title shoved onto the film by a panicked Shochiku) has neither love nor hope, and old-fashioned, feel-good, slumdog-millionaire narratives have been shot dead—literally.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Oshima. Photographed by Hiroyuki Kusuda. With Hiroshi Fujikawa, Yuki Tominaga, Yuko Mochizuki, Michio Ito. (62 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)

Preceded by short:
Diary of Yunbogi (Yunbogi no nikki) (Nagisa Oshima, Japan, 1965). New Print. A poor Korean orphan takes center stage in Oshima’s controversial documentary condemning Japanese prejudice against Koreans, drawn from still images and the boy’s heart-rending diary and powered by Oshima’s dialectic fury. (30 mins, B&W, 16mm, From New Yorker Films)

• (Total running time: 92 mins)