Japan Society Presents SHADOWS OF THE RISING SUN, 12/10-12
War is honor, glory, and the wisdom of the nations swept away by the wind of fear and the fires of bloodshed. This winter Japan Society's tells the multifaceted story of Japan's quest for Empire and its tragic downfall, as seen through the eyes of filmmakers from Japan and China.
From December 10-12, Shadows of the Rising Sun: Cinema and Empire encompasses four epoch-making titles, poised between past and present, exploring the conflagration and its dreadful consequences. Featured films range from Kon Ichikawa's 1959 arch-classic Fires on the Plain to the New York Premiere of Koji Wakamatsu's recent and controversial shocker Caterpillar (which earned main actress Shinobu Terajima the 2010 Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival). With additional titles Devils on the Doorstep and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, the series blast the confines of history and truth, beyond the bright madness of battle and heroism, into the metaphysical realm of death, evil, sacrifice and the sublime. Tickets are $12/$9 members, students & seniors.
Fires on the Plain
Friday, December 10, 7:30 pm
1959, 104 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kon Ichikawa. With Eiji Funakoshi, Osamu Takizawa, Mickey Curtis. 1960 Blue Ribbon Awards for Best Director and Cinematography.
50 years before Clint Eastwood tackled the subject in Letters from Iwo Jima, Kon Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain was denouncing war with bone-hard forthrightness and barbaric grandeur in the haunting and timeless tale of private Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi), a sunken-eyed, tubercular straggler who staggers through the hell-like lands of the Japanese-occupied Philippine island of Leyte in February of 1945.
A free adaptation of the critically acclaimed 1952 novel by Shohei Ooka, Fires on the Plain ventures light years away from flag-waving patriotism and saccharine sentimentality. Focusing on the raw desperate drama of starving, barely surviving soldiers of the Imperial Army during the last days of World War II, the film shows war behind the cannons, when the guns stop blazing and the battlefield leaves no triumphs or defeats. The closest film equivalent of Goya's Disasters of War, Kon Ichikawa's masterpiece won the Blue Ribbon Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography, the Kinema Junpo Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Eiji Funakoshi) and the Mainichi Film Concours for Best Actor (Eiji Funakoshi). Variety calls it "one of the most searing comments on war yet made", and Dave Kehr writing for the Chicago Reader noted "No other film on the horrors of war has gone anywhere near as far".
Caterpillar - New York Premiere
Saturday, December 11, 6:00 pm
2010, 85 min., DigiBeta, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Shima Ohnishi, Shinobu Terajima, Keigo Kasuya. Directed by Koji Wakamatsu.
Adapted from a 1929 Edogawa Rampo short story, Caterpillar is an explosive anti-war missile and the grueling account of a co-dependent relationship between lieutenant Kyuzo Kurokawa (Shima Ohnishi, United Red Army), who returns from the second Sino-Japanese war as a hero but without his arms and legs, and his wife Shigeko (Shinobu Terajima), who dutifully cares for him in the name of the Emperor and the Greater Good. Reduced to a lump of physical needs and drives, the diminutive "living God-soldier" sleeps, eats, and requires regular sex while she derives grim contentment from wheeling her spouse around the village in his uniform and medals under the mindful eyes of everyone in his village.
Director Koji Wakamatsu is a former yakuza, convict and pink film director who came to prominence with his 1965 Golden Bear-nominated film Secrets Behind the Wall. Using his camera as a political weapon, Wakamatsu has continued to make virulent, provocative and powerful films, infuriating Japanese authorities and getting him banned from American, Russian and Chinese territories.
Devils on the Doorstep
Sunday, December 12, at 4:00 pm
2000, 140 min., 35 mm, color and B&W, in Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Jiang Wen. With Guizi Laile, Jiang Wen, Jiang Hongbo, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yuan Ding. 2000 Cannes Grand Prize winner
Jiang Wen's savagely hilarious study of a small Chinese village located near the Great Wall during the closing days of World War II was a tremendous hit with international critics: two prisoners tied up in sacks are abruptly dumped in a peasant's home, interrupting his clandestine late-night tryst with a young widow (Jiang Hongbo). The villager (Jiang Wen) is then hectored by a menacing stranger who only identifies himself as 'me' into keeping the prisoners until the next New Year, at which time they are to be collected. One is a bellicose Japanese soldier (Teruyuki Kagawa), hardly the ideal docile guest, and the other a reluctant, nervous translator-collaborator who improvises creative interpretation of his companion's colorful rants. Will the townspeople manage to keep the prisoners and their sanity until the New Year?
Awards: 2001 Hawaii International Film Festival Netpac Award; 2003 Kinema Junpo Award for Best Supporting Actor (Teruyuki Kagawa) and Best Foreign Language Film Director; 2003 Mainichi Film Award for Best Foreign Language Film
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 7:00 PM
1983, 123 min., color,in English and Japanese with English subtitles.Directed by Nagisa Oshima. With David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tom Conti, and Takeshi Kitano
Nagisa Oshima's riveting World War II classic drama Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, the first English-language project of the Japanese director (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses), tells the feverish tale of a war of wills between four men in a Japanese POW camp in Java: Lieutenant Colonel John Lawrence (Tom Conti), whose fluent Japanese designates as the natural mediator and liaison officer between captors and captives; a newly captured guerilla fighter, Major Jack Celliers (David Bowie), defiant and magnetic; the fastidiously severe camp commander, Captain Yonoi (Oscar-winning musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also composed the film's score), who soon develops a swooning obsession for the blond major; and Sergeant Hara (actor-director Takeshi Kitano in his first dramatic role), an apparently mindless brute who nonetheless shows occasional, cheerful bits of humanity towards Lawrence.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence is a violent homoerotic story of thwarted psycho-sexual passions behind barbed-wired fences, crippling nationalism, and two empires at the twilight. Winner of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Film Award for Best Score.
The Japan Society Film Program offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society's Arts & Culture programs. The Film Program has included retrospectives of great directors, thematic series and many U.S. premieres. Some original film series curated by Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. More info: http://www.japansociety.org/film.
Established in 1907, Japan Society has evolved into North America's major producer of high-quality content on Japan for an English-speaking audience. Presenting over 100 events annually through well established Corporate, Education, Film, Gallery, Language, Lectures, Performing Arts and Innovators Network programs, the Society is an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that provides access to information on Japan, offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, and fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia.
Shadows of the Rising Sun: Cinema and Empire takes place December 10-12. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd St.) Tickets are $12/$9 members, students & seniors. For reservations visit www.japansociety.org or call the box office at 212-715-1258. For further information call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.
Japan Society's 2010-2011 Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by The Globus Family, Yoshiko and Tim Schilt, David S. Howe, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Elaine Sheng and Samuel Jamier, and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State's 62 counties.