Nagisa Oshima

Nagisa Ôshima – Etsuraku AKA Pleasure of the Flesh (1965)

After killing a man that raped one of his students, teacher Wakizaka finds himself embroiled in a plot being blackmailed into looking after a huge amount of cash. With tensions mounting and anxiety setting in, Wakizaka decides to spend the money, knowing the consequences of his actions will be of the most dire kind. Read More »

Nagisa Ôshima – Watashi-wa beretto AKA It’s Me Here, Bellett (1964)

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Watashi-wa beretto is a promotional film for the automobile manufacturer Isuzu Jidosha directed by Nagisa Ôshima. Yasujirô Ozu assisted as executive creative consultant. Read More »

Nagisa Ôshima – Kôshikei AKA Death by Hanging (1968)

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A clinically presented series of stark white, unembellished placards illustrates the sobering statistical data for the overwhelming public sentiment against the abolition of the death penalty as an off-screen narrator (Nagisa Oshima) provides a snide, but impassioned rebuttal to popular opinion by presenting a objective documentary of the austere and impersonal milieu associated with the methodical process of carrying out a state execution through the specific example of the appointed hanging of a convicted rapist and murderer known only as ‘R’ (Do-yun Yu): an empty, minimalist sitting room that provides an illusive, parting glimpse of a semblance of home for the condemned prisoner as he makes his way into the execution room, an assembly of unnamed official guests waiting in a segregated viewing room to witness the macabre ceremony, a procedural rehearsal of the chamber’s fail-safe sequence as the prisoner is blindfold and fitted with a noose, the actuation of trap door, the median measured time of 18 minutes before the heart completely stops and a staff physician (Rokko Toura) is able to record the official time of death. Read More »

Nagisa Oshima – Seishun Zankoku Monogatari AKA Cruel Story of Youth (1960)

Nagisa Oshima’s groundbreaking film opens with young, attractive Mako and her friend hitching a ride from an old man. After her friend leaves, the man tries to rape her, and she is saved only by the handsome Kiyoshi. Later, against the background of the tumultuous 1960 U.S./Japan Security Treaty demonstrations, Kiyoshi and Mako walk along a grungy seaside lumberyard while talking about sex. He attempts to kiss her, she slaps him, and he throws her in the water. She cries out that she can’t swim. When she continues to refuse his advances, he steps on her fingers as she clings to a log. Read More »

Nagisa Oshima – Max Mon Amour (1986)

“Just tell me one thing frankly. Is this monkey really your lover?”

It is and it isn’t unlikely material for Nagisa Ôshima. The element of transgressive love is here, but this time, it’s in a dry comedy whose centerpiece is a diplomat’s wife’s extramarital affair with a sensitive, somewhat unstable chimpanzee (aren’t they all?). Charlotte Rampling is the woman, Anthony Higgins is the diplomat, and Victoria Abril is the housekeeper who develops a mysterious allergy, probably but not necessarily to the titular Max. Read More »

Nagisa Ôshima – Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence aka Furyo (1983)

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Here’s a movie that is even stranger than it was intended to be. “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” is about a clash between two cultures (British and Japanese) and two styles of military service (patriotic and pragmatic). That would be enough for any movie, and there are scenes when it is enough, and the movie works pretty well.

But then the movie makes another contrast that doesn’t work so well, a contrast between basic views of theatrical acting styles. British tradition suggests that, everything else being equal, actors should behave as if they were real people in a real situation. The Japanese tend toward a more overwrought acting style, made of screams and grimaces, histrionics and dramatizations. Read More »

Nagisa Ôshima – Taiyô no hakaba AKA The Sun’s Burial (1960)

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In Osaka’s slum, youth without futures engage in pilfering, assault and robbery, prostitution, and the buying and selling of identity cards and of blood. Alliances constantly shift. Tatsu and Takeshi, friends since boyhood, reluctantly join Shin’s gang. Shin’s an upstart and moves his gang often to avoid the local kingpin. Hanoko is a young woman with ambitions: first she’s in the blood business with her father, then she joins forces with Shin. She soon breaks off that partnership, even though she’s taken the sensitive Takeshi under her wing. Double crosses multiply. Those with the closest bonds become each others’ murderers… Read More »