A film about another kind of “unreturned soldier” than Shohei Imamura has profiled elsewhere, KARAYUKI-SAN finds the filmmaker traveling to Malaysia to interview Kikuyo Zendo, one of the countless Japanese women who were kidnapped or otherwise sold into sexual slavery in order to service the Japanese military in Southeast Asia.
74 years old at the time of filming, she offers a frank and harrowing testimony into her horrific wartime experiences, and the factors that have led her to choose exile over repatriation. Continue reading Shôhei Imamura – Karayuki-san AKA The Making of a Prostitute (1975)
The star of this documentary is a quintessential Imamura heroine: a hard-nosed, ruthless survivor, with a sense of loyalty and an earthy sense of humor. In this movie, she sits in a Tokyo bar, which she used to own, and tells the story of the various means she used to survive, beginning with the day the atom bomb fell. It is a history of compromises and hard deeds, though there are few outright betrayals. Continue reading Shôhei Imamura – Nippon Sengoshi – Madamu onboro no Seikatsu AKA Postwar History of Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess (1970)
…Shohei Imamura presents an unsentimental, provocative, and compassionate examination of resilience, pragmatism, and the essence of human behavior in The Insect Woman. Using informal, cinéma vérité-styled camerawork, freeze-framed scene changes (accompanied by melancholic folksong verses), and historical context (Japanese isolationism, World War II, postwar occupation, Korean War) Imamura achieves a clinically objective, yet sympathetic portrait of his archetypally sensual, primal, and strong-willed heroine as she perseveres through the turbulence and uncertainty of her economic and societal confines: Tomé’s job at the mill during wartime Japan, her attempts at an honest living by working as a cleaning woman during postwar occupation, her resort to prostitution during the economic depression, her rise to the role of madame during the 1950s social reforms (similarly explored in Kenji Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame). By correlating episodic fragments of Tomé’s life with the dynamic events and profound changes of everyday existence in early twentieth century Japan (and Asia in general), Imamura illustrates the instinctuality, mysticism, and idiosyncrasies embedded in the native culture that is often suppressed and aestheticized (especially evident in the films of Yasujiro Ozu) in the country’s postwar, westernized, “official view” of Japan, and in the process, celebrates the resilient soul of a marginalized national identity.
Acquarello, Strictly Film School Continue reading Shôhei Imamura – Nippon konchûki AKA The Insect Woman (1963) (HD)
In a small village in a valley everyone who reaches the age of 70 must leave the village and go to a certain mountain top to die. If anyone should refuse he/she would disgrace their family. Old Orin is 69. This winter it is her turn to go to the mountain. But first she must make sure that her eldest son Tatsuhei finds a wife. Continue reading Shôhei Imamura – Narayama-bushi kô AKA Ballad of Narayama [+Extras] (1983)
Iamura’s episodic Insect Woman is justly one of his most famous works, and one his finest meditations on the means of survival in an often brutal, unforgiving world. Sachiko Hidari plays Tome, whose life is examined with an unjudging eye throughout her beginnings as a poor country girl through an arc which brings her to the city, relative success and a cyclical spiral back again. Refraining from the use of any melodramatic or other genre devices, Imamura’s film is almost reportedly in its stance, yet without the cold detachment such a gambit would yield in the hands of a lesser filmmaker. Tome is both heroine and villain, not fixed to a trajectory of narrative cinema’s needs, but reflecting the shading and improbability of the never ending struggle between survival and living. Continue reading Shohei Imamura – Nippon konchuki aka The Insect Woman [+Extras] (1963)
The star of this documentary is a quintessential Imamura heroine: a hard-nosed, ruthless survivor, with a sense of loyalty and an earthy sense of humor. In this movie, she sits in a Tokyo bar, which she used to own, and tells the story of the various means she used to survive, beginning with the day the atom bomb fell. It is a history of compromises and hard deeds, though there are few outright betrayals. Continue reading Shôhei Imamura – Nippon Sengoshi – Madamu onboro no Seikatsu AKA Postwar History of Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess (1970) (DVD)
From the BFI website:
Television documentary featuring interviews with Japanese soldiers after the Second World War.
“In Search of Unreturned Soldiers was about former soldiers of the Japanese army who chose not to return to Japan after the war. I found several of them who had remained in Thailand. Two years later, I invited one of them to make his first return visit to Japan and documented it in Muhomatsu Returns Home. During the filming, my subject Fujita asked me to buy him a cleaver so that he could kill his ‘vicious brother.’ I was shocked, and asked him to wait a day so that I could plan how to film the scene. By the next morning, to my relief, Fujita had calmed down and changed his mind about killing his brother. But I couldn’t have had a sharper insight into the ethical questions provoked by this kind of documentary filmmaking.” —Shôhei Imamura Continue reading Shôhei Imamura – Muhomatsu kokyo e kaeru AKA Muhomatsu Returns Home (1973)