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In the Realm of Oshima

Thursday, June 25, 2009
6:30 p.m. Band of Ninja
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1967)

(Ninja bugei-cho). Author/illustrator Sanpei Shirato’s Ninja bugei-cho was a popular graphic novel serialized across Japan in the 1960s, well loved by students and leftist radicals for its tale of a young boy’s alliance with a band of ninja during a peasant uprising. Oshima takes an experimental approach to adaptation; out of deep respect for Shirato’s artistry (and his usual cinematic prankishness), he films Shirato’s images as they appear on the page, like an anime version of Sans soleil, with the camera hovering and darting over each “scene” to provide movement and life. Adding voices, sound effects, and a narration that connects the plot’s myriad strands, Oshima intervenes in yet another unexpected genre to create a fascinating treatise on cinema, narrative, and action.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Oshima, Mamoru Sasaki, based on the manga by Sanpei Shirato. (100 mins, In Japanese with English narration, B&W, 35mm, From Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, permission Oshima Productions)