Friday, December 24, 2010

Nagisa Ôshima - Nihon eiga no hyaku nen AKA 100 Years of Japanese Cinema [Century of Cinema: Japan] (1995)

Nagisa Oshima's informative and moving account of Japan's film history is probably the most purely cinematic film in the entire series The Century of Cinema. From start to finish, Oshima shows us nothing but clips and stills from Japanese films. No interviews or testimonies, no filler, no distractions. On the soundtrack, supported by haunting music from Toru Takemitsu, Oshima gives his analysis of the forces and themes that have shaped Japan's cinema. For a time, his voiceover becomes subjective as he describes his own career as a Japanese filmmaker... a career that finally led him to make films away from Japan.
His starting point is the recent rediscovery of part of Daisuke Ito's Chuji's Travel Diary -- a 1927 movie long believed to be lost. The fortuitous survival of one of the country's first indubitably personal films throws into sharp relief two problems of Japanese film history: the reliance of most early films on stories and actors from the stage and the fact that so much of Japan's film heritage has been lost to natural disasters, war, and neglect.

-- Pacific Film Archive's CineFiles (link)

If Godard's history of French cinema for the British Film Institute's Century of Cinema series was predictably polemical, Oshima's goes it one better by producing a history of Japanese film that is outright perverse in its seeming disdain for many of its giants.

-- James Quandt, Cinémathèque Ontario

Apart from Akira Kurosawa, Nagisa Oshima is plainly the greatest living Japanese filmmaker, but given that he despises the work of virtually all other Japanese directors, he seems quite unsuited to recount the history of his country’s cinema. In 100 Years of Japanese Cinema he basically turns himself into an academician, and not a very good one at that, giving us a pocket social history of 20th-century Japan in relation to film, in which aesthetic issues play almost no role at all.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum (link)

no pass