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In the Realm of Oshima

Saturday, June 27, 2009
6:30 p.m. A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Song
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1967)

New Print

(Nihon shunka-ko, a.k.a. Sing a Song of Sex). Oshima hits his favorite topics—politics, sexuality, and transgression—in this embittered portrait of a youth culture whose visions of sex and rebellion are nothing more than dreams. Four provincial students (including singer Ichiro Araki, whose blank-slate calm earned him praise from Oshima as “the first New Wave actor”) are in Tokyo for final exams, but they learn more from a drunken professor who quotes “Love is the only form of resistance” to doe-eyed coeds (“I’d like to read Henry Miller,” sighs one). Dreaming of sexual exploits, they wander disillusioned across a politicized, sexually commodified landscape of Founder’s Day marches, lurid red-light-district posters, and, in one hilariously odd sequence, mass rallies of folk singers and Christian revivalists. Constantly questioning, unable to fit in or channel their pent-up energies, it’s no wonder their songs of protest and sex and their fantasies of rape and revolution lead nowhere. Shot in a CinemaScope pop palette similar to that of Three Resurrected Drunkards, this darkly ambiguous film has been compared to Godard’s La Chinoise.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Oshima, Mamoru Sasaki, Toshio Tajima, Tsutomu Tamura. Photographed by Akira Takada. With Ichiro Araki, Koji Iwabuchi, Kazuyoshi Kushida, Hiroshi Sato. (103 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)