Shohei Imamura

  • Shôhei Imamura – Kuroi Ame AKA Black Rain (1989)

    Arthouse1981-1990Hiroshima at 75JapanShohei ImamuraWar


    A somber, visually distilled, and deeply affecting portrait of the human toll and uncalculated tragedy of nuclear holocaust. In contrast to Shohei Imamura’s characteristically unrefined, primitivistic, and subversively bawdy cinema, the film is shot in high contrast black and white, creating a spare and tonally muted chronicle of dignity, survival, community, and human resilience. Through recurring literal and figurative images of regression, Imamura conveys a dual meaning, not only in the community’s noble attempt to rebuild Hiroshima and return to a semblance of normal life after the annihilating bombing but also in their collective gradual and systematic erasure from Japanese society through long-term effects of radiation sickness, infertility, cultural (and geographic) isolation, and social stigmatization.Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Narayama-bushi kô AKA The Ballad of Narayama (1983)

    Drama1981-1990ComedyJapanShohei Imamura

    Still strong at the age of 69, Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) prepares herself for an inevitable yet frightening ritual. In her village, where food is scarce, life is harsh and people are desperate and cruel. Anyone who lives for 70 years is hauled to the mountaintop by their children and left to die in the dead of winter. Orin is prepared to accept her fate, but she also has one last, all-important task — she must find a suitable wife for her son, Tatsuhei (Ken Ogata).Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Kanzô sensei AKA Dr. Akagi (1998)

    1991-2000ArthouseDramaJapanShohei Imamura

    The film concerns Dr. Akagi, a doctor on an island in the Seto Inland Sea area during World War II. He runs into conflict with the military while trying to combat a hepatitis epidemic. Akagi earns the nickname “Dr. Liver” (カンゾー先生 Kanzō-sensei) because of his work, though the townsfolk use it as a humorous dig at his persistent diagnosis. Though the broad circumstance of Japan slowly losing the war is the setting, many of the interactions and situations tilt into humor, for instance; the very music used for the doctor running from patient to patient has an upbeat and light-hearted tone.Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Nusumareta yokujô AKA Stolen Desire (1958)

    1951-1960ClassicsComedyJapanShohei Imamura

    Shohei Imamaura’s debut film follows a man who joins a troupe of traveling actors, and becomes involved with one of the married actresses and her younger sister.Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Hateshinaki yokubô AKA Endless Desire (1958) (HD)

    1951-1960AsianJapanShohei Imamura

    Ten years after World War II, five people set out dig up a stash of morphine buried under a butcher shop in this black comedy by Shohei Imamura.Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Mikikan-hei o otte: Marei-hen AKA In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers in Malaysia (1970)

    1961-1970DocumentaryJapanShohei ImamuraTV


    In Malaysia, Imamura follows one false lead after another as he tries to locate unreturned Japanese who had given up the culture of their birth to integrate with Malaysian society. These wrong turns take the filmmaker on a tour through the complexities of post-war Malaysia, and allow him the time to air his outrage with the Japanese military’s conduct in Southeast Asia, focusing particularly on the 1942 Sook Ching massacre.Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Zegen (1987)

    1981-1990ArthouseComedyJapanShohei Imamura

    This movie is black satire of Japanese imperial ambitions in the 20th century. In Meiji era Japan (1868-1910), the Japanese state sought to establish itself as an empire as a way to both catch up to and remain free from the West. These activities also lay the foundation for the disasters to come mid-century. This movie satirizes those efforts from a mid-1980s perspective, giving it an obvious subtext of being a commentary on the efforts of late 20th century Japanese businessmen abroad as well. The “hero” is a businessman who, realizing that the Japanese armed forces will likely soon be advancing across Asia, decides that they will require brothels wherever they go as well and so sets up shop in Southeast Asia. A very black comedy from one of Japan’s finest film satirists (cf. “Pigs and Battleships,” “The Pornographers”) best known abroad ca. 1999 for “The Eel” and “Black Rain” (the film based on the novel about Hiroshima, not the Michael Douglas flick).Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Eijanaika AKA Why Not? (1981)

    1981-1990ComedyDramaJapanShohei Imamura

    This 1981 nihilist epic by Shohei Imamura is witty, grotesque, relentless, and beautifully engineered. The setting is the Edo era, when local warlords battle the emperor for control of the country, and all of Japan is under cultural pressure from its long delayed opening to the West. Political loyalties and personal loves disintegrate; the only certainty is money, and even that is crumbling. Imamura follows eight major characters through a bright, bursting, impossibly dynamic mise-en-scene, leading up to the Eijanaika (“What the hell?”) riots—a frightening, exhilarating explosion of empty freedom, the freedom of those who have lost everything. A very important film, and possibly a great one.Read More »

  • Shôhei Imamura – Kamigami no fukaki yokubô AKA Profound Desire of the Gods (1968)

    Drama1961-1970ArthouseJapanShohei Imamura

    The culmination of Shôhei Imamura’s extraordinary examinations of the fringes of Japanese society throughout the 1960s, Profound Desires of the Gods [Kamigami no fukaki yokubô] was an 18-month super-production which failed to make an impression at the time of its release, but has since risen in stature to become one of the most legendary — albeit least seen — Japanese films of recent decades.Read More »

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