Japan Society Presents Newly Subtitled Digital Remasters of 3 Music-Inflected Genre Films by Influential Japanese Director
A prolific and versatile filmmaker who worked across a wide range of genres throughout his long career, Umetsugu Inoue(1923-2010) made his mark on Japanese cinema in the 1950s with a series of highly entertaining, genre-blending musical films that captured the explosive energy of Japan's jazz-fueled youth culture.
As part of a touring retrospective of his work, Japan Society presents Umetsugu Inoue: Japan's Music Man, screening three newly-subtitled, full-color Inoue classics starring Yujiro Ishihara, the biggest male singing film star in postwar Japan and "a James Dean and Elvis Presley rolled into one enormously popular package" (The Japan Times). All made at Nikkatsu Studios in 1957, the three films included in this weekend series-The Winner, The Eagle and the Hawk and The Stormy Man-introduce New York audiences to an important yet overlooked period of popular filmmaking and two of its most significant talents. Each film will receive two screenings Saturday and Sunday, December 15 and 16, at Japan Society.
"With their thrilling widescreen color compositions and BREATHLESS mix of genres, tones and influences, these three Umetsugu Inoue musical films capture a fascinating moment in postwar Japanese cinema and popular culture that is largely unexposed in the West," says Kazu Watanabe, Deputy Director of Film at Japan Society. "I hope these screenings provide audiences an opportunity to discover Inoue's talents and spark an interest in this fertile period of major studio filmmaking in Japan."
Born in Kyoto on May 31, 1923, Umetsugu Inoue began his filmmaking career at Shintoho studios, entering as an assistant director in 1947. Eventually rising to director in 1952, he made a name for himself with a series of successful musical films starring singer and actress YukimuraIzumi, including the hit Tokyo Cinderella Girl (1954), credited as the first jazz movie made in Japan. Inoue signed with Nikkatsu Studios in 1955 and directed the studio's first color film, The Green Music Box (1955), among other commercial genre assignments. In 1957, Inoue worked with rising star Yujiro Ishihara, who got his big break with parts in Tarumi Furukawa's Season of the Sun (1956) and Ko Nakahira's Crazed Fruit(1956), two films credited with launching the taiyozoku ("Sun Tribe") genre of films focused on Japan's restless, violent and sex-crazed postwar youth, both penned by Ishihara's brother (and future longtime Tokyo governor) Shintaro Ishihara. After the box office success of Ishihara vehicles The Winner and The Eagle and the Hawk, Inoue struck gold with The Stormy Man, a cultural phenomenon that single-handedly saved the struggling Nikkatsu from financial ruin. With his good looks, bad boy attitude and crooning ability, Ishihara became one of the biggest stars of the 1950s and '60s, owing much to the astronomical success of The Stormy Man, and sustained his popularity as a screen star, singer and cultural icon until his death in 1987. Inoue left Nikkatsu in 1960 and continued to work regularly for various Japanese film studios through the 1960s. From 1966-1970 he took three months of each year to work for the Hong Kong-based Shaw Brothers studio, where several of his hit films were remade. In the last part of his career, Inoue worked between feature films and television, eventually remaking The Stormy Man in 1983.
This film series is part of a larger traveling retrospective organized by Tom Vick, Curator of Film, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Admission: $14/$11 seniors & students/$10 Japan Society members. Special offer: purchase all three Umetsugu Inoue: Japan's Music Manfilms in the same transaction and receive $2 off each ticket. Tickets may be purchased online at japansociety.org, in person at Japan Society, or by calling the box office at 212-715-1258.
SCREENING SCHEDULE & DESCRIPTIONS
All films are shown in Japanese with English subtitles. Film descriptions adapted from Asia Sings! A Survey of Asian Musical Films (Mark Schilling, 2006).
The Winner (Shori-sha)
Sat., Dec. 15 at 2:15 pm & Sun., Dec. 16 at 6:45 pm
1957, 98 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Umetsugu Inoue. With Yujiro Ishihara, Mie Kitahara, Yoko Minamida, Tatsuya Mihashi.
Eikichi, a nightclub owner and former boxer with unrealized dreams of being a prizefighter, picks up a talented but wildly undisciplined amateur fighter (Yujiro Ishihara) and decides to mold him into a champion. When a beautiful, destitute ballerina also comes under Eikichi's tutelage, however, romantic entanglements and jealousies threaten to undo his vicarious triumph in the ring. A box office success upon release, The Winner proved to Inoue's satisfaction that Ishihara could carry a film (though his studio bosses needed more convincing). It also established the action-with-musical-interludes template for dozens of Nikkatsu films to come.
The Eagle and the Hawk (Washi to Taka)
Sat., Dec. 15 at 4:30 pm & Sun., Dec. 16 at 2:00 pm
1957, 115 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Umetsugu Inoue. With Yujiro Ishihara, Rentaro Mikuni, RurikoAsaoka, Yumeji Tsukioka.
A high seas adventure, murder mystery and revenge-driven melodrama all rolled into one, Inoue's follow-up to The Winner casts Ishihara as a cocky, musical seaman who joins the crew of a rusty cargo ship headed to Hong Kong. Amidst fist fights and scuffles along the way, two women on board vie for the ukulele-playing sailor's attention: a sultry stowaway and the captain's high-spirited daughter, who is also pursued by the ship's first mate. Morally ambiguous, Ishihara's character offered something new to Japanese cinema: a dirty hero with his own sense of justice and a way with song.
The Stormy Man (Arashi o Yobu Otoko)
Sat., Dec. 15 at 7:00 pm & Sun., Dec. 16 at 4:30 pm
1957, 101 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Umetsugu Inoue. With Yujiro Ishihara, Kyoji Aoyama, Fukuko Sayo, Mie Kitahara.
In the movie that made him a star, Ishihara plays a rough-hewn drummer out to make it in the seedy Ginza jazz world. An enormous success,The Stormy Man was Japan's third-biggest box office hit of 1957, made the Nikkatsu studio solvent and solidified Inoue's reputation as a maker of hit musicals. For its young audience, who clapped and cheered as Ishihara sang "I'm a drummer, a no-good drummer," the movie was an event and a generational marker. Today it still packs musical excitement-and presents Japan's premier screen idol at his most charismatic.
"It is seldom regarded as such nowadays, but The Stormy Man represents a pivotal work in Japanese cinema, perfectly encapsulating the riotous, go-getting spirit of its age." - Jasper Sharp, Red BULL Music Academy Daily
≥≥ RELATED LANGUAGE WORKSHOP
Friday, December 14 at 6 pm
Songs are powerful storytellers of their times. Participants will have lively discussions about songs from three decades: the 1950s, the 1980s and the 2010s. Changes in music, social values, the Japanese language and more will be examined. This workshop is intended for advanced students (Japanese Levels 11, 12, and 13 or equivalent). The tuition fee includes admission to one film in the Umetsugu Inoue: Japan's Music Man film series. It is recommended that participants see the film The Stormy Man, as some of the song lyrics in the film will be featured in this workshop.
Tuition: $45/$40 Japan Society members. After registering for the workshop, participants should contact the Language Center at 212-715-1269 or firstname.lastname@example.org with their desired film screening selection.
≥≥ ADDITIONAL DECEMBER FILM SCREENING
Monthly Classics: Tokyo Godfathers
Friday, December 7 at 7:00 pm
2003, 92 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Satoshi Kon.
While rummaging through trash heaps on Christmas Eve, three homeless companions - a middle-aged alcoholic, a transgender ex-drag queen and a hot-tempered teen runaway - stumble upon an abandoned newborn. Determined to find the child's mother, the trio search Tokyo's sprawling streets, buildings and back alleys, helped along by a series of coincidental encounters that gradually reveal the truth of their traumatic pasts. Imbued with deep empathy for its down-and-out yet lively characters, this atypical holiday comedy by celebrated animation directorSatoshi Kon (Paprika) highlights the redemptive power of love and family (chosen or otherwise) amidst life on the fringes of society.
Tickets: $14/$11 seniors and students/$5 Japan Society members.
Japan Society Film 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 and culture programs. For more, visit japansociety.org/film.
Founded in 1907, Japan Society in New York City presents sophisticated, topical and accessible experiences of Japanese art and culture, and facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge and innovation between the U.S. and Japan. More than 200 events annually encompass world-class exhibitions, dynamic classical and cutting-edge contemporary performing arts, film premieres and retrospectives, workshops and demonstrations, tastings, family activities, language classes, and a range of high-profile talks and expert panels that present open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.
Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit japansociety.org.
Japan Society's Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, Masu Hiroshi Masuyama, James Read Levy, Geoff Matters, David S. Howe, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Mr. and Mrs. Omar H. Al-Farisi, Laurel Gonsalves, and Akiko Koide and Shohei Koide.