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Foreign Films > Oshima's Outlaw Sixties

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message 1: by Phillip (last edited Feb 26, 2011 04:50PM) (new)

Phillip | 10703 comments Hey!

Here is a space to discuss any of the films included in the recent Criterion Collection/Eclipse Series excellent box set, "Oshima's Outlaw Sixties".

This collection includes:
Pleasures of the Flesh (1965)
Violence at Noon (1966)
Sing a Song of Sex (1967)
Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (1967)
Three Resurrected Drunkards (1968)

As you might imagine from the titles, Oshima fixes his gaze on misfits and deviants in these films, capturing an era of moral upheaval in post-reconstruction Japan and packaging it all in his maverick film-making style. It's hard to imagine the work of directors like Tarantino or Lynch without the influence of these groundbreaking films that continue to shock and dazzle audiences today.

Violence at Noon (1966)
From 1966, a bumper-crop year for Oshima, comes this fascinating story of a serial killer and two women who are intrinsically linked to him. Violence at Noon gets its title from a killer that strikes in the light of day, but whose handiwork is never really shown on screen (apart from the opening scene, which establishes tone and theme). Instead, Oshima uses radio broadcasts and TV news flashes, to inform the audience of the killer's deeds.

Other forms of exposition include a series of letters written from one of the surviving victims to the killer's wife. The relationship between these two women constitutes the bulk of the movie - and leads the audience to a conclusion that sheds light on the psyche of the madman at the center of the story.

Far from a treatise on slasher-flick antics and senseless violence, Violence at Noon is a psychological study of several people whose lives are caught up in the social upheaval of the 60's. Oshima represents a fragmented society with an astonishing series of over 4,000 edits and cuts during this 90 minute descent into madness. The cinematography is unparalleled, and the style of storytelling utterly original. Highly recommended!


message 2: by Phillip (last edited Mar 20, 2011 12:35AM) (new)

Phillip | 10703 comments Pleasures of the Flesh (1965)

If this film were made today, it would certainly find itself in the psychological thriller category. The basic plot - a man is blackmailed into watching over 30 million yen that a corrupt industrialist has embezzled until he gets out of prison - doesn't reveal the hallucinatory nature of the film narrative, nor does it hint at the brilliant way Oshima frames every unforgettable image.

Without giving too much away, the main character decides to go on a spending spree and indulge his every fantasy. But as it so often happens, things don't go as planned.

If a Hollywood director was to direct this storyline, you could probably predict the film from beginning to end. But Nagisa Oshima is anything but a predictable director. Expect the unexpected as our hero is buried in an existential avalanche of his own construction, expect dazzling visuals, a brilliant soundtrack, and an unforgettable ride into the abyss of self-loathing and self-destruction.


message 3: by Phillip (last edited Mar 24, 2011 11:11PM) (new)

Phillip | 10703 comments i'm just going to pretend that people are interested in this series ... :)

Sing a Song of Sex (1967)

The package touts this as "Oshima's enigmatic tale", and indeed, enigmatic is a good term to describe this somewhat indescribable film.

Four teenagers who are in the midst of their university exams wander aimlessly only to find their professor at a bar - they join him, along with a few other students, in a drinking spree that goes well into the night. The next morning, the professor is found dead in his apartment, and throughout the remainder of the film, a mystery unfolds as several characters confess that they were responsible...

This film could be considered as the Japanese equivalent to the American classic, Rebel Without a Cause. I also see a parallel with Dostoevsky's great novel, Demons, which portrays an actual event involving a nihilist group and a local murder.

In Sing a Song of Sex, Oshima makes clear that these teens are surrounded by a world of political activism and social change - but they couldn't be less interested. The only thing that does seem to interest these adolescents is sex - and the girls that attend their university. Their pre-occupation with this subject is sophomoric at best - they sing sinister nursery-rhyme songs about seducing girls.

As usual, Oshima frames his subjects with dazzling photography - one shot in particular was unusually stunning: the camera is focused on the boys while they are having a conversation, and as the camera pulls farther and farther away, the boys are dwarfed by the snow-covered football field they are crossing - the camera moves away several hundred yards, and yet there are no dolly tracks left in the snow. I watched that scene numerous times trying to figure out how he shot that!

That shot is somehow indicative of some of the themes of the film - isolation, alienation, and death (as represented in the icy blanket of snow that has subsumed the life beneath it) surround these lads and they don't seem to be aware of it.

There is a dream-like rhythm that pervades this film - there isn't really another film in Oshima's oeuvre that matches it - it may not be everyone's cup of tea. indeed, there are moments while the group is out drinking where the banality of their lives and their apathy wears on the viewer - but just as you start to wonder where this thing is going a major moral problem is introduced and the film takes a strange turn.

Recommended for Oshima fans and those interested in checking out more revolutionary cinema from the 1960's - one of Japan's most fertile periods for groundbreaking films.


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