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In the Realm of Oshima

Thursday, June 11, 2009
7:30 p.m. Night and Fog in Japan
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1960)

New Print

(Nihon no yoru to kiri). Investigating the factions and nuances of left-wing politics in Japan, in a strident subversion of both ritual and romance, Oshima turns a wedding into the occasion for an all-out, angry debate among comrades in the communist-youth struggle that culminated in the protest against the Japanese-American security treaty. In an audacious exploration of widescreen space, Oshima virtually destroys depth of field in order to travel through time on a horizontal plane. Flashbacks-within-flashbacks unfold out of a fog that obscures any illusion of real time or space. The film’s title is an evident homage to Alain Resnais, but it is also a specifically Japanese reference to the darkness after “the sun’s burial” (the title of Oshima’s previous film). Dizzying pans about the room convey the violent conflicts between otherwise static characters; at moments, music drowns out their impassioned speeches. It is a still Noh drama intercut with sporadic bursts of hyperactivity: it is radical politics in Japan.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Oshima, Toshiro Ishido. Photographed by Takashi Kawamata. With Miyuki Kuwano, Fumio Watanabe, Masahiko Tsugawa, Hiroshi Akutagawa. (107 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, ’Scope, 35mm, From Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)