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In the Realm of Oshima

Saturday, July 18, 2009
6:30 p.m. Double Suicide: Japanese Summer
Nagisa Oshima (Japan, 1967)

New Print

(Muri-shinju: Nihon no natsu). Even in Oshima’s long career of destabilizing genres, nothing can prepare viewers for the criminally unknown Double Suicide: Japanese Summer. Judged by its ending, Oshima’s most pulpy film would resemble a Kinji Fukasaku street-gangster epic, cops versus thugs in a final gundown. But that would ignore the middle section, a Buñuelian satire of individuals stuck in a room they seemingly cannot leave, complete with Theater of the Absurd dialogues and Brechtian acting. And then there’s the beginning, with its visual playfulness: a young girl leans against a just-painted wall, leaving a silhoutte in shadow; a group of men swim under a bridge, their white caps bobbing as they hold a Japanese flag overhead. A man seeking death and a woman seeking sex find refuge (or imprisonment) in a hideaway of either gangsters or revolutionaries, while an American sharpshooter turns the city into a “Japanese Dallas.” Empty roads, looming apartment blocks, sex, death, and the flag: essential Oshima.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Tsutomu Tamura, Mamoru Sasaki, Oshima. Photographed by Yasuhiro Yoshioka. With Keiko Sakurai, Kei Sato, Yoshiyuki Fukada. (98 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Janus/Criterion Collection)