With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A TREATISE ON JAPANESE BAWDY SONGS at Japan Society tonight

Japan Society NY
Presents
A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs (aka Sing a Song of Sex) © 1967 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
 A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs / Nippon Nihon Shunkako
Directed by Nagisa Oshima
With Ichiro Araki, Akiko Koyama, Kazuyoshi Kushida,
Hiroshi Sato, and Kazuko Tajima.
Japan, 1967, 103 minutes, 35mm, color
In Japanese with English subtitles

When: Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 at 7:00 pm
Where: Japan Society
333 East 47th Street, NYC

Synopsis (courtesy Japan Society):
Nagisa Oshima uses pop singer Ichiro Araki to depict the "obscenity" of underclass desire. Four male and three female students from a provincial city accompany their teacher to Tokyo to take university entrance exams. The teacher dies and one of the boys may be the culprit. But the film is less a narrative than a collage of scenes about power imbalance: between city and country, young and old, rich and poor, Japan and Korea. Taking a hint from Twilight Saloon, Oshima uses song to mark out different social positions, from wartime naval trainees and university radicals to ethnic minorities and resentful adolescents. The question is who gets to sing, and what.

AsianCineFest Comments:
A Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs is not so much a musical as a drama that uses songs at times -- one bawdy song in particular is sung repeatedly, like a theme. The film is available on DVD as part of The Criterion Collection's Eclipse Series 21: Oshima's Outlaw's Sixties. There it goes by the alternate title of Sing a Song of Sex. In his comments for the slipcase sheet, contributing writer Michael Koresky states that the film was largely improvised, that Oshima told his cast two weeks before filming commenced that there would be no script. This is evident in the rather rambling, unstructured nature of the film.

There's nothing special to say about the acting; all the leading characters, except for the students' teacher, are played by apparently relatively inexperienced youths. Also the soundtrack is often out of sync. This is noticeable in some of the dialogue, singing and hand clapping.

Still, despite it's flaws, the film is an interesting time capsule and certainly worth seeing.

AsianCineFest Rating:
2.5 out of 4 stars; better than fair but not so much so as to be regarded as a really good film. Recommended viewing; just don't expect a compelling cinematic experience.

Part of the 2016 Globus Film Series Japan Sings! The Japanese Musical Film.

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