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Kenji Lui
Director , Producer , Screenwriter
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Nagisa Oshima retrospective at PFA

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Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley is having a Nagisa Oshima retrospective, I strongly recommend anyone in the Bay Area who is interested in Japanese cinema to go take a look. Actually the first part of the program is almost over, but the second part will continue until mid July.

For those who have no idea, Nagisa Oshima is one of the most influential and controversial Japanese directors from the 60s to 80s. He is known for his radical view and outspoken criticism of his own country. Some of his most well known films include "The Ceremony", "In the Realm of the Senses", "Night and Fog in Japan", "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence"... He last made Gohatto in 2000, before he suffered from a stroke that prevented him from working on any new project.

 

I have seen quite some Oshima's films before the retrospective. The most unforgettable one is probably "Death by Hanging", which I saw in my Japanese cinema class at Cal. It was really an eye opening experience and I still remember I was so startled by his sharp criticism of the system as well as his concern for the plight of Korean residents in Japan.

Another important film is probably "Night and Fog in Japan". The title is derived from Alain Resnais's "Night and Fog". Despite the highly political content, the technique itself already makes it a must see. The film is composed of 45~47 sequence/tracking shots and the narrative structure consists of series of flashback and contemporary moments. Anyone who wants to learn about storytelling, this is certainly a good reference.

 

"In the Realm of the Senses", his most controversial film, is actually my least favorite. In terms of visual, it is perhaps the most stunning one, with real sex scenes of the lead female performing fellatio and also being put an egg into her vagina, but somehow I just feel it is more an attitude that shows how far an artist can go, than something concrete and meaningful.

 

Since I have seen quite some of his films before, and also because I have been busy with some other projects, I didn't spend too much time at PFA this time, but then I certainly didn't miss "The Ceremony" last week, a film that is said to be the summation of his early career, and also one that represents his philosophy and style the best. While many of his films are already on DVD, "The Ceremony" is one that is hard to find, and since PFA is also showing a new print, it just gave me no excuse to skip it.

 

"The Ceremony" is an epic scale family drama that chronicles the life of a big family from 1946 to the 70s when the film was made. Through the story of this family, which consists of series of ceremonies, Oshima harshly criticizes his country, from the patriarchal family structure to the government, and from tradition to the postwar mindset of the people. One of the most remarkable scenes is probably the wedding ceremony without the bride. Due to saving the face for the family and also to preserve the tradition, the protagonist is forced to carry on his wedding ceremony even though his bride has already run away. It reflects the absurdity of traditional practice at times and how it is so difficult for one to get away from social and traditional codes.

about 13 years ago 0 likes  2 comments  0 shares
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i saw In The Realm of the Senses while i was living in Japan... not my favorite either. (I swear i only watched it because my gf at the time wanted to see it, i had no idea what it was).
almost 13 years ago

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english, cantonese, mandarin
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San francisco, United States
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May 14, 2007