By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – From July 15th through July 27th the Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil Rio de Janeiro (CCBB) will screen the films of Japanese director and screenwriter Nagisa Oshima. Presented by Banco do Brasil with support from the Japan Foundation, the retrospective will include twelve features by the unconventional director.
The films will include his debut full-length feature, “A Town of Love and Hope”; “Realm of the Senses,” a controversial film that gained Oshima international notoriety; and “Empire of Passion,” a film that earned him a Best Director award during the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.
Oshima is known for his films that broke new ground while exploring political tensions, racism, brutality, criminality, eroticism and the areas where those subjects converged. During his career, Oshima, who died in 2013 at the age of 80, crafted films that shocked, provoked, satirized and, at their best, provided insightful social and political commentary.
Inspired by directors including Jean-Luc Godard, Oshima veered away from traditional Japanese cinematic techniques and themes, telling the stories of the outcasts of society, sexual deviants and the politically marginalized while taking a critical look at a quickly changing Japanese society during revolutionary, rebellious and tumultuous times.
Born in Kyoto, Japan in 1932, Oshima attended Kyoto University where he studied law and also became student leader in leftwing activities. After graduation, Oshima worked as a film critic and as editor of a film magazine. In 1954 he joined the Shochiku Film Company.
Oshima made one short film, “Tomorrow’s Sun,” then made his directorial full-length debut at age 27 with “Town of Love and Hope” in 1959. He followed that with “Cruel Story of Youth” and “The Sun’s Burial,” both released in 1960. Following Shochiku Film Company’s cancelation of circulation of his fourth film, the politically-charged “Night and Fog in Japan,” Oshima became an independent director and created his own production company, Sozosha.
“Nagisa Oshima was always a rebel against imposed conventions, both in the real world – where he protested against racism, militarism in Japan after the war and against the war in Vietnam; and in his films – which dealt with violence and sexuality in such radically directly ways, it changed our, the viewers, perspectives on these issues,” Arndt Röskens, curator of the CCBB retrospective, stated in a release.
Oshima is best known for “Realm of the Senses,” a film that when released in 1976, was seen as so sexually-explicit that Oshima was held and prosecuted, but later acquitted, on obscenity charges.
In defense of “In the Realm of the Senses,”Oshima reportedly told the Japanese court that; “Nothing that is expressed is obscene. What is obscene is what is hidden.”
The film was banned in several countries during the years that followed due to it’s explicit scenes but it will show as part of the CCBB series in Rio de Janeiro. Although it brought international attention to Oshima’s work, many critics argue that the film was by no means the best of his more than twenty features.
CCBB film screenings will take place twice daily during the retrospective on Wednesdays through Mondays. The first screening will be at 4:30 PM or 5PM on July 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 26th, and the second at 7PM.
Opening the CCBB retrospective on Wednesday, July 15th, Oshima’s 1966 film “Violence at Noon” is a study of a sex criminal and the film following it at 7PM, 1983’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” is a homoerotic prisoner-of-war drama starring David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto. It is also Oshima’s only English-language film.
Playing at 4:30 PM on Thursday, July 16th, 1967’s “Double Suicide: Japanese Summer,” tells the story of a young nymphomaniac and a delinquent gang obsessed with death, eroticism, violence and self-destruction. Following at 7PM, Oshima’s third film, “Cruel Story of Youth,” tells the story of Kiyoshi and Makoto, and their scheme to blackmail middle-aged men charmed by Makoto.
On Friday, July 17th, Oshima’s debut feature-length film, “A Town of Love and Hope,” about class differences in Japanese society, will screen at 4:30 PM. Oshima’s 1968 film, “Three Resurrected Drunkards,” about racism and a Japanese family fleeing authorities after being mistaken for illegal Korean immigrants, will screen at 7PM.
Also included in the retrospective will be 1965’s “Pleasures of the Flesh” about a corrupt businessman and a suitcase of embezzled money; 1978’s “Empire of Passion” a tale about an older woman’s affair with a younger man that, fueled by jealousy, guilt and a desire for retribution, escalates from eroticism to horror; and “Tabu,” Oshima’s final film, a 1999 feature that depicts homosexuality during Japan’s Bakumatsu era (between 1853 and 1867).
“His films have shown the link between the political and the erotic, between sexuality and death, and their radicalism always led the fight for freedom of the individual and of the body,” said the retrospective curator’s Arndt Rösken, adding; “This radicalism with which he confronted moral and cinematic conventions – what could be shown and what the public could bear to watch on screen – earned him a reputation as a political rebel and an anarchist in the movies”
See the CCBB website, to learn more about the retrospective and to see the complete programming schedule.
What: Nagisa Oshima Retrospective
When: July 15th through July 27th. CCBB is open Wednesdays through Mondays, 9AM to 9PM with film screenings taking place twice daily during the retrospective at 4:30PM or 5PM and 7PM.
Where: Centro Cultural Banco do Brazil Rio de Janeiro (CCBB), Rua Primeiro de Março 66, Centro
Entrance: R$2 – R$4