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Chronicles of Inferno: Japan’s Art Theater Guild

Friday, February 15, 2013
7:00 p.m. Double Suicide
Masahiro Shinoda (Japan, 1969)

(Shinju ten no Amijima). Shinoda’s first film for ATG, Double Suicide strikingly reinterprets a famed 1720 Chikamatsu bunraku puppet play involving the doomed love between a married paper-shop owner and a courtesan; here, however, it’s not just the play that is presented, but the entire presentation of the play. We begin with the kurogo (men dressed in black who traditionally maneuver the puppets) assembling the stage; soon, though, live actors replace the puppets, though they too are controlled by the kurogo. Toru Takemitsu’s jarring score heightens the film’s Brechtian, abstract distancing of “story” and “telling,” as does the minimal set design by Kiyoshi Awazu; by the end, only the kurogo’s anguish remains. “Double Suicide extends Chikamatsu's concerns to include ethics versus eroticism,” wrote Albert Johnson, “a thralldom timelessly enacted behind the mystery of empty streets and houses, beyond the anonymity of human crowds."

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Taeko Tomioka, Shinoda, Toru Takemitsu, based on a puppet play by Monzaemon Chikamatsu. Photographed by Toichiro Narushima. With Kichiemon Nakamura, Shima Iwashita, Hosei Komatsu, Yusuke Takita. (100 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Janus/Criterion Collection)