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BAM (mark ur calendar)
Mar 2—29 A leading force behind Japan’s New Wave and one of only five directors to win the Cannes Palme d’Or twice, Shohei Imamura (1926—2006) rebelled against the classical themes of his mentor, Ozu, and embraced the darker side of Japan that simmers beneath the manners, order, and ceremony—focusing on the carnality, squalor, and violence within his country’s social periphery. Imamura’s striking Cinemascope images can barely contain the creative anarchy unleashed within them. In fact, Imamura was famously quoted as saying, “I like to make messy films”, but this quote belies the meticulous research, intricate design, and visual precision that went into his work. His films are rarely screened in the West; so don’t miss this chance to discover one of Japan’s great visceral filmmakers. All films directed by Shohei Imamura and in Japanese with English subtitles. All prints (except Vengeance is Mine, Karayuki-San: The Making of a Prostitute, The Eel, Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, and Dr. Akagi) courtesy of Japan Foundation. Vengeance Is Mine (Fukushu Suruwa Waren Ar ) (1979) 140min Fri, Mar 2—Sun, Mar 4 at 1:20, 4, 6:50, 9:40pm Mon, Mar 5 at 4, 8:30pm Tue, Mar 6—Thu, Mar 8 at 4, 6:50, 9:40pm With Ken Ogata, Rentaro Mikuni Considered one of the greatest Japanese films of the last thirty years, Vengeance Is Mine is a chilling portrayal of an unrepentant serial killer. What begins as a seemingly straightforward, documentary-style examination of the crimes of an outwardly mild everyman soon becomes a nightmare of surreal visions and flashbacks. Boasting an unnerving lead performance by Ogata, the film packs a visceral wallop with its startling examinations of violence and unbridled sexuality. In mixing the blood-and-guts drama of Taxi Driver with the structure of a Resnais film, Imamura created his masterpiece. Special week-long run! New 35mm print courtesy of Janus Films! “An eclectically horrifying mosaic.”—The Village Voice Nishi Ginza Station (1958) 56min Mon, Mar 5 at 6:50pm With Frank Nagai Imamura’s second film was this studio assignment featuring hot recording star Frank Nagai as a small drugstore owner having an affair. The studio expected a run-of-the-mill comedy; they got a comedy all right, but one that reveals Imamura’s nascent surrealist influence, while still playing Nagai’s hit title song the required three times. Pigs and Battleships (Buta To Gunkan) (1961) 108min Fri, Mar 9 at 2, 4, 6:50, 9:15pm Sat, Mar 10 at 6:50, 9:15pm With Hiroyuki Nagato, Jitsuko Yoshimura An allegory with clear parallels to today’s international situation, Pigs and Battleships is set within the brothels and teeming alleys of a small port town under US occupation. Amidst the black market, which supplies the American sailors, a young street tough makes his way by selling hogs (Imamura’s equating of animals to human beings has never been more evident), but soon gets caught up with the yakuza. Imamura elevates this simple gangland tale with an astonishing damnation of American imperialism. The Insect Woman (Nippon Konchuki) (1963) 123min Sun, Mar 11 at 6:50, 9:30pm Mon, Mar 12 at 4:30, 7, 9:30pm With Sachiko Hidari, Hiroyuki Nagato The heroine of the title is a woman so beat down by patriarchal society that she resorts to base, insect-like reflexes to survive. Following her through an incestuous relationship, rape, and prostitution, the film explores the few choices available to women during wartime and the post-war depression. A grittier companion piece to Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame. Stolen Desire (Nusumareta Yokujo) (1958) 90min Tue, Mar 13 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm With Osamu Takizawa, Hiroyuki Nagato Imamura’s first feature after working as an assistant director for Yasujiro Ozu shows little of the master’s influence; instead this is a ribald backstage comedy about a group of third-rate actors who alternate kabuki performances with strip teases to appease the locals. Imamura modeled the character of the director after himself—an idealist who gives up college to pursue working in the arts, only to be disappointed by life’s realities. A Man Vanishes (Ningen Johatsu) (1967) 130min Wed, Mar 14 at 6, 9pm With Yoshie Hayakawa, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi Perhaps Imamura’s most definitive statement on the nature of “documentary,” A Man Vanishes begins as a film about the thousands of people who go missing in Japan each year, and follows the case of one man who is presumed murdered. Yet all veneers of objectivity start to crumble as the fiancee of the missing man starts to fall in love with the director himself. This leads to a final sequence that questions the nature of documentary and objectivity. History Of Postwar Japan As Told By A Bar Hostess (Nippon Sengoshi – Madamu) (1970) 105min Thu, Mar 15 at 7:30pm After the box-office failure of his epic Profound Desire of the Gods, Imamura retreated to the style of documentary filmmaking he had begun with A Man Vanishes. Making no attempt to conceal the artifice of the format, ImamuI spotted a bug
"I spotted a spotted bug," said he. "An odd insect, odd as can be." "A spotted bug?" said I, to which he replied, "A spotted bug, aye." So to the spot I did venture, for a neato picture to capture. But, oh me oh my, I did forget, in all the excitement and the fret, to set my camera to 'macro', leading to many a crappy photo. But, lo, in the end, I did spy - A single shot that caught my eye - One photo that was not so blurry, One photo that was not so crappy, One photo to make me happy. ***A cautionary tale to remind everyone to always remember to check camera settings.
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