Nagisa Oshima

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Nagisa Oshima
Nagisa Oshima © Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek e.V.

Article

The Japanese old master

Born in Kyoto in Japan in 1932, Nagisa Oshima is one of the most eminent Japanese directors from just after the war, but is also one of the most controversial. His films combine a new aesthetic with radical views, as was typical of international art films from 1965 to 75. His career began with the new wave in Japanese film-making at the end of the 50s and start of the 60s and has continued up to the present. At the end of the 60s, a film of his was shown for the first time in Germany, and he became well known through Ai No Corrida (In the Realm of the Senses) in 1976.
Films from the director Nagisa Oshima reflect modern capitalism in Japan and show what it means to be Japanese in a time of swift industrialisation and westernisation. ‘Born mainly between 1930 and 1940, our generation began with great masters. These had the inner certainty of seeing the world as it is, but we had this certainty no longer, were not certain that our view of reality was still right. We began to toy with ways and means. We tried to look at things differently and began to find a new angle,’ said Oshima in explaining the aims of the new wave (cited from Walter Ruggle, Die Zeit der Leidenschaften. Aufbruch im japanischen Kino, Tages-Anzeiger, 8th June, 1996).

Many of the early films from Oshima, who in 1951 was a leader of the student revolt in Japan, show rebellious youths and young academics, who come from a poor background and try in vain to get on. (Ai To Kibo No Machi / A Town full of Love and Hope, 1959; Seishun Zankoku / Naked Youth, 1960; or Taiyo No Hakaba / The Sun’s Burial, 1960). Bluntly, with a hand-held camera, the feature film Furyo Shonen / The Proof (1961) tells the tale of a group of youthful delinquents, one of whom it follows into borstal.

Other important films from Oshima are the following: Koshiker / Death through Hanging (1968), in which the state is taken to task for its handling of a Korean; Shonen / The Lad (1969), about the brutal misuse of a child for blackmail; Tokyo Senso Sengo Hiwa / The Man who left his will on Film" (1970), a critical look at the production conditions in the Japanese film industry; and Gishiki / The Ceremony (1971), showing post-war Japanese society as mirrored in a rich family.

The film which made Oshima known in the west is Ai no corrida / In the Realm of the Senses (1976). Its reputation spread so fast that police rushed eagerly to a showing on 02.07.1976 in the International Forum of Young Films in Berlin and grabbed it for themselves at the behest of the Court of Justice in the borough Tiergarten.

Ai no corrida is about a passionate love-affair leading to death. ‘Truly Oshima uses all the ploys of pornographic art to show the true tale of the affair between Kichizo and Seba, but the power of his images and the steady pace of the film make the sexual scenes subsidiary. The film is sensuous in isolating sexuality and giving it scope to be powerful and disempowering,’ wrote Doro Wiese in the taz (26.07.2001) Even the international critique in Cannes was positive, acknowledging the film to have ‘a high artistic quality as well as important political and aesthetic insights’.

In recent years Oshima has directed films not only in Japan like Realm of the Senses (1976), but also abroad like Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) and Max, Mon Amour (1987). His latest film, Gohatto / Taboo (1999), is about homosexuality between samurai. The film is aesthetic throughout and focuses on his favourite theme – sexuality’s power and destructive potential.

Oshima directs not only feature films but also television and documentary films, though these are less known in the west, and has made a name for himself as a film theoretician.


Events at the HKW:
29th July, 1992
Wednesday Cinema
Outsiders
Shonen / The Lad
Organiser: House of World Cultures
Wednesday, 6th April, 1994
Wednesday Cinema
Love Stories
In the Realm of the Senses
Organiser: House of World Cultures

Sunday, 18th September, 1994
Sunday, 16th October, 1994
Japan - Sacred Spaces
Kyôto, My Mother´s Place
Organiser: House of World Cultures together with the Japanese-German Centre in Berlin and the Forum Guardini


Author: Gabriele Gillner 

Bio

Born on 31st March, 1932 in Kyoto in Japan, Nagisa Oshima studied law, specialising in political history, at Kyoto University before beginning to work at Shochiku Studio as a director’s assistant. After a few years he grew disillusioned about conditions in traditional studio production and founded in 1965 his own independent production firm, Sozosha. Like other Japanese film-makers of the new wave, including Masahiro Shinoda, Shonei Imamura and Yoshishige Yoshida, he objected to focussing on individuals like in the films from Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Akira Kurosawa. His own films are mainly about tensions and paradoxes in Japanese post-war society and many of them have brought him international awards.

Since 1980 he has been the president of the guild of Japanese directors.

Works

Gohatto

Film / TV,
1999

Nagisa Oshima´s 100 Years of Japanese Cinema

Film / TV,
1994
100 Years of Japanese Cinema (TV) Series

Kyoto, My Mother´s Place

Film / TV,
1991

Max, mon amour

Film / TV,
1986

Seishun zankoku monogatari / Naked Youth

Film / TV,
1986
1960 / Nackte Jugend, 1986

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence / Furyo - Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Film / TV,
1983

Ai no borei

Film / TV,
1978

Ai no corrida

Film / TV,
1978

Denki mo-taku-to / The Life of Mao

Film / TV,
1976
(TV)

Natsu no imoto / Dear Summer Sister

Film / TV,
1972

Gishiki

Film / TV,
1971

Tokyo senso sengo hiwa / The Man Who Left His Will on Film

Film / TV,
1970

Mo-taku-to to bunka daikakumei / Mao Tse-Tung and the Cultural Revolution

Film / TV,
1969
(TV)

Shonen

Film / TV,
1969

Kaette kita yopparai

Film / TV,
1968

Koshikei

Film / TV,
1968

Shinjuku dorobo nikki

Film / TV,
1968

Muri shinju: Nihon no natsu / Double Suicide

Film / TV,
1967

Nihon shunka-ko / Sing a Song of Sex

Film / TV,
1967

Ninja bugei-cho / Band of Ninja

Film / TV,
1967

Hakachu no torima / Violence at High Noon

Film / TV,
1966

Etsuraku / The Pleasures of the Flesh

Film / TV,
1965

Yunbogi no nikki / Yunbogi´s Diary

Film / TV,
1965

Aogeba totoshi / Ode to an Old Teacher

Film / TV,
1964
TV

Aru kokutetsu-jomuin / Before and After the Called-Off Strike of April 17th

Film / TV,
1964
TV

Chiisana boken ryoko / A Small Child´s First Adventure

Film / TV,
1964

Chita Niseigo taiheio odan

Film / TV,
1964
(TV)

Watashi wa Bellett / It´s Me Here, Bellett

Film / TV,
1964

Amakusa shiro tokisada / The Rebel

Film / TV,
1962

Taiyo no hakaba / The Sun´s Burial

Film / TV,
1961

Shiiku / The Catch

Film / TV,
1961

Nihon no yoru to kiri

Film / TV,
1960

Ai to kibo no machi

Film / TV,
1959