One of the most recognized filmmakers in the history of Japanese cinema, Shohei Imamura (1926-2006) enjoyed a career that spanned over four decades and is one of only seven filmmakers ever to have been awarded the Palme d’Or twice (for The Ballad of Narayama, 1983 and The Eel, 1997). Displaying a particular interest in the lower strata of society — what Imamura considers the consciousness of Japan — the director populates the screen with impoverished women and social outcasts such as crooks, prostitutes, and pimps. Dark, messy, and bawdy, Imamura’s films observe the primal elements of human behavior and are quasi-anthropological studies of postwar Japan. This mini-series samples works made during the first three decades of the auteur’s career. While the selection highlights some of Imamura’s trademarks, it also presents the range of work that the director has accomplished.
Imamura was born to an upper-middle-class family in 1926. But after Japan’s surrender at the end of WWII, he made a living in the black market selling illegal cigarettes and liquor. It was then when Imamura became acquainted with the world of the underclass. After graduating from university in 1951, he joined the Shochiku film studio. There Imamura assisted the venerable Yasujiro Ozu on three films — Early Summer (1951), The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952) and Tokyo Story (1953) — but was underwhelmed by the master’s measured aesthetic. He later worked under director Yuzo Kawashima (Bakumatsu taiyô-den, 1957). Although not as well-known as Ozu, Kawashima’s eccentric comedies made an impression on the aspiring director. Imamura made his directorial debut in 1958 with Stolen Desire. Imamura is considered a key member of the Japanese New Wave from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, along with filmmakers such as Nagisa Oshima, Hiroshi Teshigahara, and Seijun Suzuki.
The five films to be screened are Endless Desire (1958), A Man Vanishes (1967), Vengeance Is Mine (1979), The Ballad of Narayama (1983), and Black Rain (1989). All films will be shown with English subtitles.
While admission is free, you must register for each film you wish to see. It's a simple, quick and easy process. Click here for complete information about the series (including descriptions of each film and the dates & times for each screening) and to register. I suggest you act quickly, as I expect that there will be a huge response for all the films in this series.
Co-presented with Japan Foundation.
Part of Citi Series on Asian Arts and Culture.