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Cinema Japan: A Wreath for Madame Kawakita

November 1, 2008 - December 17, 2008

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Branded to Kill, November 7

For followers of Japanese cinema at PFA, the Kawakita Film Institute is a familiar name. In this centennial year of her birth, PFA is pleased to present a twenty-four-film tribute to Kashiko Kawakita, who made possible so many memorable screenings here and throughout the world. Guided by her vision of cinema as an art form that can inspire understanding between cultures, Madame Kawakita and her husband Nagamasa were a major force in bringing Japanese cinema to international attention and in introducing many Western films to the Japanese public. PFA founding director Sheldon Renan visited Madame Kawakita whenever he went to Japan, and remembers her as “the person who had cared most, done the most, created the most, supported the most.”

Through the Japan Film Library Council, Madame Kawakita provided a unique resource; the Kawakitas also were central to the creation of the renowned Art Theatre Guild. ATG screened foreign art-house films and also produced innovative films, including key works of the Japanese New Wave and its heirs. Through touring series such as Before Rashomon: 1930–1950, Postwar Japanese Society Through Film, and tributes to many directors, PFA was part of a community that benefited immensely from Madame Kawakita’s generosity over the years.

This eclectic showcase, featuring many new prints, offers a journey through Japan’s postwar cinema guided by eight directors whose works have won international respect. While a director retrospective offers the pleasure of immersion in one mind, this is a chance to explore the discoveries arising from difference and the broader picture that results. We invite you to become reacquainted with favorites and to welcome works new to PFA, including documentaries by Sumiko Haneda and the popular cinema of Yoji Yamada. This is also an opportunity to trace the talents of great actors and collaborators—master cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, composers Toru Takemitsu and Hikaru Hayashi—across a variety of work.

The panorama of Japan presented in these richly varied films is a gift not to be missed, one that speaks to the spirit of a visionary who realized great dreams.

Mona Nagai
Film Collection Curator

Saturday, November 1, 2008
6:30 p.m. Stray Dog
Toshiro Mifune is a driven detective in Kurosawa’s bravura Tokyo noir. “A bona fide masterpiece.”—Time Out

Saturday, November 1, 2008
9:00 p.m. Enjo
Kon Ichikawa’s stunning adaptation of Mishima’s best-selling novel about an acolyte who sets fire to Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion. With Raizo Ichikawa, Tatsuya Nakadai.

Sunday, November 2, 2008
3:00 p.m. Rashomon
Visual proof of the relativity of truth, Kurosawa’s legendary film is still a revelation.

Sunday, November 2, 2008
5:00 p.m. A Full-Up Train
Ichikawa’s delightfully black comedy satirizes corporate culture in ’50s Japan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008
7:00 p.m. Ikiru
In Kurosawa’s humanist masterpiece, an ordinary civil servant discovers what it means to live. This Japanese Everyman was perhaps Takashi Shimura’s greatest role.

Friday, November 7, 2008
6:30 p.m. Naked Island
A family struggles against the elements on a windswept island in Kaneto Shindo’s highly visual epic. “One of the most beautiful cinematic poems the Japanese cinema has given us.”—Pariscope

Friday, November 7, 2008
8:30 p.m. Branded to Kill
Seijun Suzuki’s absurdist gangster thriller seems as wildly perverse now as it did in 1967. “One of the most bizarre movies ever made.”—AllMovie Guide

Sunday, November 9, 2008
3:00 p.m. Into the Picture Scroll: The Tale of Yamanaka Tokiwa
The story of a samurai’s revenge depicted on a famous Edo-period Japanese painting is cinematically brought to life.

Friday, November 14, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Yellow Handkerchief of Happiness
Screen icon Ken Takakura is a parolee making his way home to Hokkaido in Yoji Yamada’s 1977 favorite, a fun and sentimental road trip through Japan’s back country.

Friday, November 14, 2008
8:35 p.m. Vengeance Is Mine
Imamura’s portrait of a serial killer is ”through its very plainness and dire clarity, a dark poem of bottomless need.”—N.Y. Times

Sunday, November 16, 2008
3:00 p.m. Akiko—Portrait of a Dancer
Sumiko Haneda turns her expert lens on dancer Akiko Kanda in this portrait of creativity, individuality, and rebellion.

Sunday, November 23, 2008
2:00 p.m. Ode to Mount Hayachine
A mystical mountain provides the setting for Sumiko Haneda’s fascinating documentary look into Japanese folklore and tradition.

Friday, November 28, 2008
8:40 p.m. Her Brother
Kon Ichikawa’s powerful family drama, set in the Taisho era, with virtuoso performances by Kinuyo Tanaka and Keiko Kishi.

Saturday, November 29, 2008
5:00 p.m. Zigeunerweisen
Seijun Suzuki weds surrealism to ghost story to evoke the late 1920s in Japan as a period of changing mores akin to Weimar Germany.

Sunday, November 30, 2008
3:00 p.m. Tora-san’s Sunrise and Sunset
A Japanese populist classic from Yoji Yamada’s Tora-san series. Our bumbling proletarian hero has adventures in the Tokyo suburbs and in the arts.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
7:00 p.m. The Ceremony
Oshima’s audacious family saga is nothing less than the history of the postwar Japanese state. “Makes contemporary cinema look puny by comparison, so dense and complex its achievement.”—Cinematheque Ontario

Friday, December 5, 2008
9:00 p.m. Boy
Nagisa Oshima’s New Wave classic is a furious indictment of the desperation in Japan’s postwar economy. “Weird, beautiful, and terrifying.”—The Observer

Sunday, December 7, 2008
2:00 p.m. Black Rain
Focusing on the psychological toll on one family, Imamura “treats the medical horrors of post-atomic Hiroshima with a tense, sorrowful reserve.”—N.Y. Times

Sunday, December 7, 2008
4:30 p.m. Onibaba
Two women lure samurai to their deaths in one of the key works of the Japanese New Wave and a great influence on the recent “J-Horror” wave.

Friday, December 12, 2008
6:30 p.m. Tokyo Drifter
Suzuki’s free-jazz version of a yakuza tale is a fabulous collection of surrealist set pieces and mind-warping visual gags.

Friday, December 12, 2008
8:20 p.m. Violence at Noon
Oshima weaves the story of a serial killer into a chronicle of the failure of idealism (and Japan’s socialist movement). “Grandly idiosyncratic.”—N.Y. Times

Sunday, December 14, 2008
2:00 p.m. A Last Note
Shindo’s autumnal masterwork about an elderly theater actress vacationing at her mountain villa is a tribute to dignity in the face of aging.

Sunday, December 14, 2008
4:15 p.m. Where Spring Comes Late
A miner takes his family from sunny western Japan to wintry Hokkaido in Yamada’s touching drama.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
7:00 p.m. Intentions of Murder
A neglected housewife is raped by an intruder with whom she develops a bizarre relationship. “Imamura gazes at her in quiet awe.”—N.Y. Times

Cosponsored by the Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) at UC Berkeley, and the Consulate General of Japan, San Francisco.

PFA is honored to have been invited by Kawakita Memorial Film Institute to participate in this series. Our deep appreciation to Mr. Masayo Okada, President; Ms. Yuka Sakano; Ms. Atsuko Fukuda; and Ms. Yukiko Wachi.

Thanks also to Duncan Williams; Alan Tansman; Keiko Hjersman; Matthew McMullen; Consul General Yasumasa Nagamine, Vice Consul Ken Sakaguchi, and Steve Goldman, Consulate General of Japan, San Francisco; and Roland de la Rosa/Movie Image.

Prints courtesy of Kawakita Memorial Film Institute.

Archival and restored prints are presented with support from the Packard Humanities Institute.