- Imamura Investigates
From February 3 through 11, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents Imamura Investigates, a series of six films representing the documentary side of the celebrated Japanese director’s career (although one of the films, A MAN VANISHES, is an unclassifiable hybrid of fiction and documentary).
Idiosyncratic and iconoclastic, Shohei Imamura (1926-2006) was the most provocative Japanese director of his era and, in the eyes of many, the most important. Although he is best known for such fictional features as PIGS AND BATTLESHIPS and VENGEANCE IS MINE, Imamura—like Herzog, Wenders, Scorsese, and Spike Lee—pursued an important parallel track as a documentarian.
The six films in this series all come from the period after 1966, when Imamura left the powerful Nikkatsu studio in order to make films for his own independent production company. He worked exclusively in documentaries until his return to feature films with VENGEANCE IS MINE in 1979. More concentrated than his fiction films, Imamura’s documentaries convey a similar fascination with outcasts, outsiders, and outlaws--although his point is that the marginalized, underacknowledged underside of Japan is actually its most essential and revealing side.
Special thanks to Livia Bloom of Icarus Films. Photos courtesy of Icarus Films and Imamura Productions.
SUNDAY DOUBLE-BILL DISCOUNT!
Buy a ticket for the first Imamura film on February 3 or 10, and get a ticket for the second Imamura film that day at this discount rate (tickets must be purchased at the same time): General Admission $7; Students $6; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second film only. Discount rate available only at the Film Center box office.)
- A MAN VANISHES
- (NINGEN JOHATSU)
- 1967, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 130 min.
- With Yoshie Hayakawa, Shigeru Tsuruguchi
“★★★★★ A humdinger from the Japanese New Wave...I can’t recommend this movie enough.”
—David Fear, Time Out New York
“A thrilling discovery...wildly startling in its execution.”
—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
Formerly among Imamura's lesser-known films, A MAN VANISHES has emerged in recent years as one of his most fascinating and widely discussed works. Its blurring of the boundary between fact and fiction anticipates such meta-documentaries as Kiarostami's CLOSE-UP and Zhang's QUITTING. The film begins as a general investigation of the missing-persons phenomenon in Japan, then focuses on Yoshie, a young woman whose fiancé has disappeared. When she falls in love with Tsuruguchi, the actor hired to interview her, all bets are off. In Japanese with English subtitles. HDCAM video. (MR)
- IN SEARCH OF THE UNRETURNED SOLDIERS
- IN MALAYSIA
- (MIKIKAN-HEI O OTTE: MAREI-HEN)
- 1970, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 45 min.
IN SEARCH OF THE UNRETURNED SOLDIERS
(MIKIKAN-HEI O OTTE: TAI-HEN)
1971, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 50 min.
In these two companion-piece documentaries, Imamura journeys to Southeast Asia in search of former Japanese soldiers who abandoned and/or were abandoned by the nation in whose name they fought and, in several cases, committed atrocities. In MALAYSIA, Imamura follows a tangled trail that passes by the site of the 1942 Sook Ching massacre and discovers an exiled ex-soldier named A-Lee who has embraced Islam and renounced his former country for its godless materialism. In THAILAND, Imamura brings together three former soldiers for a boozy encounter session that centers on the confrontation between the Fujita, still willing to die for the emperor, and Toshida, scornful of the excesses of blind loyalty. In Japanese with English subtitles. HDCAM video. (MR)
- THE MAKING OF A PROSTITUTE
- 1973, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 75 min.
“Perhaps the most brilliant and feeling of Imamura’s fine documentaries.”
—Joan Mellen, The Waves at Genji’s Door
Karayuki-san (“Miss Gone-to-China”) is the Japanese term for Japanese women who worked as prostitutes in East Asia and Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, Imamura encounters one these woman, Kikuyo Zendo, at the time 74 years old. Recounting how she was tricked into a life of sexual slavery, her tale is harrowing and heartbreaking, all the more so for the calm stoicism with which it is related. In Japanese with English subtitles. HDCAM video. (MR)
- OUTLAW-MATSU COMES HOME
- (MUHOMATSU KOKYO E KAERU)
- 1973, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 48 min.
THE PIRATES OF BUBUAN
(BUBAN NO KAIZOKU)
1972, Shohei Imamura, Japan, 46 min.
In OUTLAW-MATSU COMES HOME, Imamura arranges for Fujita (nicknamed “Outlaw-Matsu”)--the die-hard imperial loyalist from IN SEARCH OF THE UNRETURNED SOLDIERS IN THAILAND--to return to Japan, where his brother and sister are still alive. The results are you-can’t-go-home-again with a vengeance--at one point, Fujita sets out to kill his brother with a cleaver, and a visit to the Imperial Palace brings bitter disillusionment. Followed by THE PIRATES OF BUBUAN: Exploring remote islands in the Philippines, Imamura has a hazardous encounter with the rival pirate factions who control the idyllic but impoverished region. In Japanese with English subtitles. HDCAM video. (MR)