|Blood is Dry © 1960 Shochiku Co., Ltd.
With its inception in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Japanese New Wave ushered in a postwar generation of politically engaged and artistically adventurous filmmakers that radically transformed the country's cinema in theory and practice. Looking beyond internationally lauded figures such as Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda, The Other Japanese New Wave: Radical Films from 1958-61 aims to reexamine this dynamic moment in Japanese film history with the introduction of work by lesser-known studio directors, auteurs, documentarists and student filmmakers, including newly subtitled rarities imported from Japan never-before-seen in the U.S.
The series launches on April 5th with Kiju Yoshida’s debut feature Good-for-Nothing, introduced by series curator Go Hirasawa. A key figure in the birth of the New Wave at Shochiku, Yoshida is representative of the major studio’s attempt to attract Japan’s declining movie audiences by giving fledgling assistant directors a chance to make youth-oriented feature films. Also included in the series are rarely discussed Shochiku directors Eitaro Morikawa (The Tragedy of Bushido), Osamu Takahashi (Only She Knows) and Tsutomu Tamura, who simultaneously made their first films as part of the New Wave alongside Yoshida. A highlight of the series, Tamura’s exceedingly unavailable The Samurai Vagabonds will screen on an archival 35mm print with new English subtitles prepared by Japan Society. Rounding out the selection of studio films in the series are Yoshida’s overlooked second feature for Shochiku (Blood is Dry), a stark critique of capitalist consumerism, and two bold Nikkatsu titles directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara (The Age of Our Own and The Warped Ones) that build upon the themes and formal experiments of the studio’s youth-in-revolt “Sun Tribe” (taiyozoku) films.
Other series highlights include a selection of films made outside of the studio system by filmmakers, theorists and writers invested in uniting film theory with praxis. Following a free curator’s talk on April 6, Hirasawa introduces the shorts program “New Wave Rarities,” which includes a self-produced student film from Nihon University Film Study Club (Conversation Between Nail and Socks), a documentary by Shinkichi Noda (Forgotten Land), and an experimental portrait of political unrest (Anpo Joyaku) by Toshio Matsumoto (Funeral Parade of Roses). Later in the same day, Hirasawa introduces a 35mm screening of Eizo Yamagiwa’s virtually unknown independent feature The End of Love. Long thought lost until a negative was discovered only a couple of years ago, The End of Love will screen in the U.S. for the first time, presented with new English subtitles by Japan Society.
“The history of the Japanese New Wave remains largely unwritten, especially for English-speaking audiences,” says Kazu Watanabe, Deputy Director of Film at Japan Society. “While major films by canonical filmmakers are widely screened and analyzed, they only scratch the surface of this fascinating yet elusive period of Japanese filmmaking. I’m grateful to Go Hirasawa for coming up with such a deep and wide-ranging selection of titles—full of discoveries that offer new insight into the genesis and contexts of the New Wave in Japan—and I greatly look forward to sharing them with New York audiences.”
The Other Japanese New Wave: Radical Films from 1968-61 is curated by Go Hirasawa, researcher at Meiji-Gakuin University, and organized by Japan Society. In coordination with Japan Society, Harvard Film Archive will host the series concurrently (April 1-27) in Cambridge.
For further information about the full schedule, descriptions of each film and to buy tickets, click here.