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In the Realm of Oshima

Thursday, July 16, 2009
6:30 p.m. 100 Years of Japanese Cinema
Nagisa Oshima (U.K., 1994)

Oshima’s contribution to the British Film Institute’s Centenary of Cinema series, which commissioned filmmakers to summarize their own national cinemas, is as ornery and opinionated as one would expect from someone quoted as saying “My hatred for Japanese cinema includes all of it.” Rather than present an already agreed-upon canon of films and filmmakers, Oshima treats the project like his own personal history, willfully ignoring many major directors (the “big three” of Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, and Ozu are given one or two mentions each) to highlight filmmakers and movements less known in the West (especially in 1994), such as Daisuke Ito, Takechi Tetsuji, Shuji Terayama, and Joji Matsuoka. This being Oshima, he also perversely refuses to identify most of these directors’ clips, but is far less obtuse with his own work, choosing several scenes from his own films and properly identifying each one. Scored by Toru Takemitsu, 100 Years of Japanese Cinema is 100 percent Oshima: exasperating, illuminating, and fascinating.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Oshima. (52 mins, English narration, BetaSP, Color/B&W, From BFI Distribution)

Preceded by:
Kyoto, My Mother’s Place (Nagisa Oshima, Scotland/Japan, 1991). A surprisingly private portrait of Oshima’s mother and the Kyoto in which she lived. (50 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta PAL, From BBC)

• (Total running time: 102 mins)