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Nagisa Oshima, R.I.P.

15 January 2013 | Cinema Masters, Features | by David Zou

nagisa oshima

 

I just heard the shocking news that one of the most prominent Japanese film director Nagisa Oshima passed away several hours ago. I have only seen 8 of his films, and fell in love with his works after watching the Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties Eclipse Set from Criterion Collection.

Most people know Oshima’s name from films like In the Realm of the Senses and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence(both are included in the Criterion Collection). But the films I want to recommend from Oshima are the five films from the Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties Eclipse Set, those are the films that established his name as “the Godard of the East”.

oshima in the realm of senses

Oshima’s most notorious film – In the Realm of the Senses

 

In the early sixties, Oshima left the Shochiku company and found his own film studio. Getting away from the big studio system gave him great creation freedom. Along the course of the sixties, Oshima made some of the most daring, experimenting and free-form films in Japanese cinema history.

Oshima-outlaw-sixties-Eclipse

 

Pleasures of Flesh

Pleasures of Flesh is Oshima’s first attempt on the  genre called “soft porn” or “pink films”. There is nothing innovative in the technique, but Oshima precisely captured the psyche of the Japanese people in the sixties.

Pleasures of the Flesh

 

Violence at Noon

Violence at Noon is my favorite Oshima film in this set.  If there has to be one Oshima film selected as the solid evidence of his brilliance as  “the Godard of the East”, this is the one. Oshima used over two thousands cuts and a wealth of widescreen composition and high contrast lighting in the film, the narrative is quite special too.

violence at noon

 

Sing a Song of Sex

Considered by many as the best film in the set,  Sing a Song of Sex is like the American movie “The Easy Rider”. Both films are about the confusion of its time, to be more precise, the chaotic sixties. Similar to the hippie movement in the US, Japanese young people used song of sex as their weapons to fight against their conservative  older generation. In the film, Oshima blurred the line between fantasy and reality, and left the audiences plenty space for their own imaginations.

oshima sing a song of sex

 

Japanese Summer: Double Suicide

There are a couple of interesting characters in Oshima’s Japanese Summer: Double Suicide: A girl who’d sleep with any men, a ex-military man who seeks suicidal opportunities, and a gun-crazy boy who would kill anyone as long as he gets any weapon is his hands. This bleak, absurd film is a brilliant comment on the Japanese youth culture.

japanese summer double suicide

 

Three Resurrected Drunkards

As the most interesting Oshima film in the set, Three Resurrected Drunkards deals with the topic of the unfair treatment those Korean immigrants received from Japanese in the sixties. The storytelling is so unique that most people couldn’t believe they were watching the same story again in the middle.

three resurrected drunkards

 

It’s Your Turn

What’s your favorite Nagisa Oshima film?

 

 

 


   

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  • My favorite is 1969’s BOY. Criterion owns the rights but sadly haven’t seen fit to put it out yet (though you can watch it on Hulu). I also really love 1968’s DEATH BY HANGING and his swan song, 1999’s TABOO (AKA GOHATTO).

  • I’ve only seen 2 films of his so far in Empire of Passion and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. I would probably say the latter. Notably for David Bowie’s performance.