House Logo

Nagisa Oshima (#110 of 7)

Remediating the Avant-Garde Yuriko Furuhata’s Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics

Comments Comments (...)

Remediating the Avant-Garde: Yuriko Furuhata’s Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics
Remediating the Avant-Garde: Yuriko Furuhata’s Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics

In his 1979 book To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in the Japanese Cinema, film theorist Noël Burch said “the very notion of theory is alien to Japan; it is considered a property of Europe and the West.” With clarity and a multitude of supplementary examples to back her up, Yuriko Furuhata systematically dismantles Burch’s Eurocentric, haphazard claims throughout Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics, a remarkably researched and argued case for Japan’s complex theoretical contributions to the field of cinema studies, often by the filmmakers themselves.

However, this feat is all the more impressive, given Furuhata’s multifaceted approach to myth-busting Japan’s deficiencies in providing thoughtful film theory not just through historical evidence (such as interviews and primary texts), but by re-conceptualizing the very nature of Japanese documentary and avant-garde practices over roughly a two decade span to reveal early examples of converging media cultures. Nagisa Oshima, the book’s primary focus, summarized these tendencies himself, proclaiming in a late-’60s interview that “everything can be made into cinema.” The implication for Furuhata, and it seems the correct one, is that cinema “has the capacity to absorb and subsume other media forms.” In the case of Oshima, Furuhata uses his 1967 film Band of Ninja to explain such capacities—what Furuhata calls “remediation”—in which the film calls attention to medium specificity by “heightening the materiality of the original comic-book medium rather than concealing it.” That lack of concealment, or disinterest in concealment, separates Oshima’s work from other mangas of the time and provides a foundation to define “actuality,” which essentially constitutes the limits between cinema, documentary filmmaking, and journalism. Jacques Derrida calls it “artifactuality,” but whatever name one ascribes, the filmmakers discussed here are dedicated to questioning and, perhaps even, dismantling the political power attained through such neat separations.

Cannes Film Festival 2012: Holy Motors

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Holy Motors</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Holy Motors</em>

Like Michael Haneke’s Amour, Holy Motors, the first feature film in 13 years from erstwhile enfant terrible Leos Carax, leads with a reflexive shot of a theater audience confronting the audience viewing the film. Whereas in Haneke’s film the shot has some naturalistic grounding, Carax ventures into dreamy surrealism right from the start, and doubles down on the meta by making his a film-going audience. (Bursts of silent-film footage riddle Holy Motors like machine-gun fire.) Carax himself plays the sleepwalker who discovers a hitherto unseen door in his bedroom wall that, taking a page from E. T. A. Hoffmann, ushers him into the dream palace’s balcony.

Two by Kōji Wakamatsu United Red Army and Caterpillar

Comments Comments (...)

Two by Kōji Wakamatsu: United Red Army and Caterpillar
Two by Kōji Wakamatsu: United Red Army and Caterpillar

Interest in the work of legendary “pink” film director Kōji Wakamatsu has been resuscitated since his most recent film, the emotionally wrought Caterpillar, was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival. Prior to this, Wakamatsu was probably best known for serving as executive producer on Nagisa Oshima’s controversial art-house sex film In the Realm of the Senses. Long considered one of the best directors working in the Japanese “pink” or soft-core industry, Wakamatsu capitalized on the relative autonomy offered by forming his own production company in the mid ’60s, and by working within extremely miniscule budgets, to produce a body of work that’s sexually explicit as well as explicitly political. For instance, 1972’s Ecstasy of the Angels in many ways rehearses the self-destruction of United Red Army’s revolutionary cell, albeit played out in a far more sexualized fashion. Interestingly, that film’s writer, Masao Adachi, who would go on to write Caterpillar for Wakamatsu, in the interim gave up screenwriting altogether in order to join the Japanese Red Army, training and living with the group for nearly 20 years in Lebanon, until his arrest and deportation to Japan in 2001.

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: Twixt, The Cat Vanishes, & Love and Bruises

Comments Comments (...)

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Twixt</em>, <em>The Cat Vanishes</em>, & <em>Love and Bruises</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>Twixt</em>, <em>The Cat Vanishes</em>, & <em>Love and Bruises</em>

With the quasi-comic horror trifle Twixt, Francis Ford Coppola joins the long list of narrative-conjurers to (mis)appropriate Edgar Allan Poe as a sober maestro of spook. A pallid, somber fictionalization of the author, played by Ben Chaplin, becomes Virgil to the Dante of Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer, looking likeably portly), a bargain-basement witch novelist who gets fittingly embroiled in a small-town murder mystery. Poe counsels Baltimore in the crisp, ghostly digital dream world he plummets into whenever slumbering or getting knocked out, reciting passages from “The Philosophy of Composition” with a syrupy colonial accent, and seeming perpetually ready to stare down an owl. We read this off-kilter avuncular-ness, which is so at odds with Poe’s legacy (would the man who wrote “The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.” be so devoid of humor?) as a nod to Coppola’s own mentor, Roger Corman. And extrapolating on Corman’s own fondness for Poe’s thin macabre, we might understand Twixt as an awkward paean to hackwork, from “The Raven” to Spy Kids 3-D Game Over. (The film’s own 3D segment, to which we’re alerted by a monstrous pair of CGI glasses that non-diagetically enter the frame, is an easily collapsible parody).

New York Film Festival 2010 Elegant Elegies: The Films of Masahiro Shinoda

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2010: Elegant Elegies: The Films of Masahiro Shinoda
New York Film Festival 2010: Elegant Elegies: The Films of Masahiro Shinoda

”[I am] not interested in the future or in utopian ideals. I would like to be able to take hold of the past and examine it from different angles.” —Masahiro Shinoda

“Modernization. Get with it.”—line from Shinoda’s film Killers on Parade

Masahiro Shinoda was born in 1931, the year Japan invaded China. His strongest childhood memory was of Emperor Tojo’s surrender to the Allied forces, and with it the announcement that the Emperor was not a god, but a man. “I felt that all the gods who had lived in Japan had become mortal,” he told a UC Berkeley interviewer, and the feeling of helpless disillusionment stayed with him. This early loss, he claimed, helped him feel for myriad groups. The Americans couldn’t grasp WWII’s impact on the Japanese, he told another interviewer, just as the Japanese couldn’t understand the pain of Chinese women who had been raped at Nanking.

I have only seen eight of Shinoda’s 30-plus features, 12 of which are showing in the New York Film Festival’s Masterworks retrospective, but the common theme running throughout them is sympathy for the oppressed. It doesn’t matter the group, nor the cultural setting, though indeed Shinoda was prone to making period films. He conveyed this open humanism with a precise formal control, masterful use of black-and-white CinemaScope and edits as clean as a paper-cutter’s chops, all of which still prove stunning.

He studied other mediums before film. Unlike past masters such as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Yasujirô Ozu, whose pre-filmmaking backgrounds had been in visual art, Shinoda concentrated on literature and theatre (he was one of only three theater history students at his university). Like peer filmmakers Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima, Shinoda gained a great awareness of European culture, claiming to have learned as much from Shakespeare as he did from kabuki.

HND@Grassroots: Season 2, Episode 5 (23), "Night and Fog in Krakow," or "No Sheep’s Vagina," or "Bring On The Empty Sheep"

Comments Comments (...)

HND@Grassroots: Season 2, Episode 5 (23), “Night and Fog in Krakow,” or “No Sheep’s Vagina,” or “Bring On The Empty Sheep”
HND@Grassroots: Season 2, Episode 5 (23), “Night and Fog in Krakow,” or “No Sheep’s Vagina,” or “Bring On The Empty Sheep”

Hello Faithful Listening Non-Listeners!

Vadim and I rejoin the podcasting group and we have a special treat as writer-director Dan Sallitt (Honeymoon and All the Ships at Sea) joins us to discuss his recent retrospective at Krakow’s First Annual Off-Camera Film Festival.

We blend in other topics as well, ranging from the state of modern film festival-ing, nannys, and other such fun stuff. We even delve a bit into the New York Film Festival (with discussions of Happy-Go-Lucky and the Nagisa Oshima sidebar), but overall we marvel at what Dan has to say on the foreign circuit.

And we hope you do too, as it’s incredibly interesting.

So join us next time as we have a rather hilarious episode sans a special guest. And as always, if you see any of us at the bar, remember to buy us a drink! Or better yet, some infused vodka! John Lichman