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In the Realm of Oshima

Thursday, July 9, 2009
8:30 p.m. Dear Summer Sister
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1972)

(Natsu no imoto). In 1972, Okinawa was returned to Japan after years under American administration; Oshima captured the period in what is ironically his most lighthearted, ephemeral film, an affectingly breezy summertime idyll about the island, its history, and its conflicted identities. A Tokyo girl arrives to look for an Okinawan boy who may be her half-brother; she’s accompanied by her mixed-race friend and a white-suited elderly man more interested in brothels and war tales. Seemingly liberated by the setting, Oshima allows the film to take as many detours as the characters do, inserting documentary footage of the island’s many war memorials, red-light districts, and oceanside vistas. Lingering in the breezes, though, are pointed reminders of the scars of occupation, and the dangers of nationalism. Few films have been made on or about Okinawa; the deceptively effortless Dear Summer Sister has arguably the most to show, and say. Toru Takemitsu provides the score.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Oshima. Photographed by Yasuhiro Yoshioka. With Hosei Komatsu, Hiromi Kurita, Akiko Koyama, Shoji Ishibashi. (95 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From New Yorker Films)