Akio Jissoji – Mandara (1971)

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An often-overlooked confederate of Oshima Nagisa (1932-) and Yoshida Yoshishige (1933-), Jissoji Akio (1937-) was one of the avant-garde cinema directors of the early 1970s to focus on issues of sexuality and changing cultural values. Although Jissoji is best known for his first feature film Mujo (1970) and his biggest box office success Teito monogatari (1988), his second feature Mandara best portrays his attitude towards sexuality and Japanese culture. Working with the noted script writer Ishido Toshiro (1932-), who wrote the scripts for a number of famous films, including Oshima’s The Sun’s Burial (1960), Night and Fog in Japan (1960) and Yoshida’s A Story Written in Water (a.k.a. Forbidden Love, 1965), Jissoji created a complex portrayal of a utopian cult attempting the union of sexuality and an agrarian way-of-life. Two pairs of alienated unmarried college students from Kyoto visit an isolated hotel on a beach near Tsuruga where they become enmeshed in the devious schemes of the charismatic cult leader who eventually leads his surviving disciples on a fatal ocean voyage. Continue reading

Akio Jissoji – Asaki yumemishi aka Living in a dream (1974)

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Jissoji is known in Japan for his award-winning experimental movies from the 1970s, but is most familiar to worldwide audiences for his work on Tsuburaya Productions’ popular ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman, 1966) and ULTRA SEVEN (Urutora Sebun, 1967). While episodic television generally has a consistent look and tone, Jissoji’s episodes always stood out for their moody lighting, off-beat camera angles and movement, and strong, character-driven stories.
Akio Jissoji was born in Tokyo on March 29, 1937. During World War II, his family briefly relocated to China before returning to Japan and settling in Kawasaki. Jissoji became a fan of French cinema at an early age, telling Japan Times reporter Mark Shilling that, “When I was young I saw all the French films I could from the 1930s through the 1950s.” The style of France’s Nouvelle Vague became a major influence on Jissoji’s own work. Another influence was acclaimed theater art director/production designer Kaoru Kanamori. After meeting Kanamori, the young Jissoji decided to become a director. Continue reading

Akio Jissoji – D SLope Murder Case aka D-Zaka no satsujin jiken (1998)

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A strange murder mystery tale about a lady who asks a forgery artist (Hiroyuki Sanada) to forge a series of rare bondage / torture paintings for her. Upon discovering that the client was actually the original model in those paintings, he murders her.

The first half of the film focuses on all of the main characters, including the buildup to the crime. There is not much mystery here as they clearly show how, when & where the crime was committed. Then the movie goes on with how the investigation takes place – led by Kogoro Akechi (which by the way, happens to be Japan’s most recognized ’super detective’ on par with Sherlock Holmes). This ends up taking away almost all of the plot twists and suspense in the film. Continue reading

Akio Jissoji – Mujo aka This Transient Life (1970)

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Synopsis
This Transient Life tells the story of the siblings Masao and Yuri who live in a huge estate near Lake Biwa north of Kyoto. Masao refuses to go to university and is infatuated with Buddhist sculptures. Iwashita, a student who lodges at the house, and Ogino, a young priest and former classmate of Masao, are both in love with Masao’s beautiful sister Yuri, who rejects all proposals from her parents to marry her off. One day, while being alone in the big house and playing with No-masks, Masao and Yuri end up in a passionate embrace. Thus starts their forbidden relation that soon bears fruit. When Yuri gets pregnant the siblings plot a perfidious plan. Yuri seduces Iwashita only to be discovered by her parents, who then force Iwashita to marry her. Masao leaves for Kyoto to become an apprentice to the famous sculptor of Buddhist statues, Mori Takayasu. He starts a relation with the much younger wife of the impotent sculptor, who secretly enjoys watching them make love. A year later Masao briefly returns to his parents’ house. Continue reading