September 24, 2010 — The East Asia Center and Asia Institute of the University of Virginia's College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences will host a Japan Foundation Film Series, "Japanese Films of the 1960s," in October.
Filmmaking in Japan in the 1960s reflected a time of transformation and change. The commercial film industry and studio system were in decline; independent filmmakers rebelled against the system and cinematic practice. In an atmosphere characterized by the rise of a new political left that challenged the country's inability to come to grips with World War II and post-war modernity, independent filmmakers embraced a new world of filmmaking creativity that was defined by collaboration and exploration across media and genres.
The series includes five films. Screenings will be held Tuesdays in Newcomb Hall Theater and are free and open to the public. The screenings begin at 7 p.m., with the exception of the Oct. 26 double feature, which begins at 6 p.m.
All films are in Japanese with English subtitles.
• Oct. 5, 7 p.m.
"The Face of Another" (Tanin no kao)
1966/black and white
Director: Teshigahara Hiroshi
This existential science fiction film questions the limits of freedom and the notion of the individual. It explores the meaning of identity in American-occupied Japan after World War II. Following an industrial accident that leaves the protagonist Okuyama burned and disfigured, he undergoes a face transplant, which further alienates him from the world, which leads him to despair and dire consequences follow. The film abounds with metaphors of the horrors and consequences of war. Teshigahara was a pivotal figure in Japanese new wave and avant-garde filmmaking.
• Oct. 12, 7 p.m.
Director: Naruse Mikio
1964/black and white
Naruse depicts a society challenged by capitalism and changing social mores in this film that hints at forbidden romance, as war widow Reiko embarks on a journey with her brother-in-law. Naruse created more than 89 films that focus on family drama at the intersection of traditional and modern Japanese culture. A filmmaker, screenwriter and producer, his films were permeated with bleakness and a pessimistic outlook.
• Oct. 19, 7 p.m.
Director: Kobayashi Masaki
In this collection of four ghost stories by Lafcadio Hearn, Kobayashi drew on his training as a student of painting and fine arts to create meticulously crafted scenes reminiscent of classical Japanese painting. He creates a vision of beauty and horror that coexist and complement each other. Kobayashi achieved fame with socially conscious dramas including "Black River," a story of corruption surrounding U.S. military bases in Japan, and "The Human Condition," an exposé of Japanese mistreatment of Chinese in prisoner of war camps. "Kwaidan," a departure from his earlier moviemaking realism, won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival.
• Oct. 26, 6 p.m.
"Age of Assassins" (Satsujinkyo jidal)
1967/blank and white
Director: Okamoto Kihachi
A sinister gangster film, "Age of Assassins" is informed by Okamoto's experience of being a World War II military survivor, which shaped his outlook on conflict and human nature. He worked in various genres, including jidaigeki, or period drama that depicts the lives of the samurai, farmers, craftsmen and merchants of their time. One of Okamoto's most notable works is "Samurai Assassin."
"The Fort of Death" (Gonin no shokin kasegi)
Director: Kudo Eiichi
In this entertaining film, Kudo, a skilled stylist and action director, applies the aesthetic of the spaghetti Western to Japanese samurai drama.