Made in Japan
Shohei lmamura is in Edinburgh this week to introduce a major retrospective of his work. Trevor Johnston hails the career of one of the masters of world cinema.
‘I want to make messy. really human. Japanese. unsettling ﬁlms.‘ reﬂected writer/director Shohei lmamura in a I975 interview. The current retrospective at the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival — the most complete ever to be seen in Britain — offers Scottish viewers the chance to assess just how close the inveterate nay-sayer of the Japanese New Wave has come to achieving his
avowed intentions. An assistant to Yasujiro Ozu on Shohei lmamuia on the sat at Black Rain 50s ﬁlms including Tokyo Story and The Flavour 0f documentary and ﬁction that all too few ﬁlmmakers t ﬁnal sequence that transcends death itself. An Green Tea Over Rice. Imamura‘s own work is as far have explored, Based on an actual ease study, educated man from a comfortably-off family. removed from that great master‘s vision of lmamura follows a missing Tokyo man‘s reaHife ' lmamura's attitude towards the earthy peasants that melancholy serenity as it's possible to get. You‘ll ﬁancee on the search for her lost partner, A people the ﬁlm seems torn between disdain for their also have to look elsewhere for the classical grace accompanied by an actor who plays the pan of an i dumb animalism and a genuine awe at the survival of and moral underpinnings found in the cinema of ever present interviewer. The plot thickens. a i an essentially instinctive approach to life that has Akira Kurosawa. still the best known of all Japanese burgeoning romantic interest between the two off.set escaped the repression of civilisation and as such ﬁlmmakers in the West. by the woman’s suspicion that her own sister may might be viewed as it touchstone of true human have been nefarioust involved in the disappearance. authenticity. ‘ all of it building up to a remarkable confrontation The ﬁlms 0' Shane. lmamura am where lmamura himself bursts in and kicks down the ‘I’d like to destroy this premise that among the greatest 8V8! made.’ walls. revealing the tattered facade ofa studio set and - n t- s Sh h - I Jonathan Demmo exposing events on screen as a mere performance: cinema Is c lon' o 8' mamura ﬁlmic ﬁction and cinematic truth are variations on r the same basic representational deception. No That same tension between the conﬁnes of Instead. lmamura‘s celluloid landscape is one of wonder the Madame in the 1970 documentary socialisation and unfettered, often violent spontaneity bUZZthg nervous energyt Uheonttouett VtOtehee and History of Post- War Japan As Told By A Bar Hostess can also be seen a decade or so later in 1979‘s sexuatttY~ the hTtlttOhat SUPemtitiOhS ahd tittttllS 0t refuses to give any credence at all to the newsreel t Vengeance is Mine. the shocking chronicle of serial Peasant Communities or the urban Uhdetetass. He iSi coverage of events she herself has lived through. ; killer Ken ()gara‘s 80-day trail of death and it must be said. a very Japanese ﬁlmmaker. and Not all Imamura‘s ﬁlms rattle the shackles of the destruction that became one of the director‘s most although hiS bleak rural Chmhiete The Ballad Of movie form in such a direct way. His work from the commercially successful untertakings. and in I98 I ‘s Narlkmmﬂ CtltTiCd Off the Paime D'Ol’ at cahhes in earlier part of the 60s showed an almost l extraordinary Iz‘ejanaika. the ﬁlm which. more than 1983. it‘s the UhaPOIOSetteah)’ indigenous aSPeCtS 0t anthropological interest in the lower echelons of any other. offers a summation of all his themes in one his output which have prevented much of it from rigorously ordered Japanese society. unstinting in 1 place. Appropriately translatable as What The Hell.’. widespread distribution (at least in Britain) The their gaze at the visceral drives of greed and desire. I [z‘ejanaika is set in the 1860s when the lower-class Edinburgh event iS a rare opportunity to get to know Films like Pigs and Battleships (I961). The Insect population of Edo (present day Tokyo) found one of the mOSt invigorating and challenging Woman (1963) and Intentions ofMurder (I964) are themselves caught in a spiral of inflation anti ﬁlmographies to emerge in world cinema over the narratives predicated on their protagonists' brutal violence as the Shogun clans battled the emperor for past three decades. will to survive. whether it’s making a living by control of the country: with nothing left to lose. With lmamura himselfon hand to introduce the ﬁrst raising pigs on the scraps left over at a US Navy base they‘re freed to enjoy life as a camival ofdressing- Week of Screenings and discuss the ﬁlms afterwards. in the ﬁrst instance, a peasant woman grittin up, dancing. looting and general uproariousncss, the Programme thetUdeS 3“ bUt one Of his features plugging her way towards ﬁnancial security by before these unleashed energies ﬁnally manifest and a Couple Of his most famous documehtaries- '1 running her own brothel in the second, or another themselves in a full scale riot threatening the upper Show true things "Sing hetiehal teehhiques but stout-willed lmamura heroine triumphing over both class area of town normally forbidden to them. A maintaining trUthttttheSS- “1 like to deSttoy this her indifferent husband and the rapist who breaks vast. kaleidoscopic whirl of colour and movement. Premise that Cinema is ﬁetion.‘ lmamura has said. into her house and impregnates her in the third. there's enough plot to fill three movies. but the mid the ﬁlms to be seen from now until the end 0fthe The Profound Desire ofthe Gods (I968), on the individualism and fecundity of Imamura‘s vision FeStiVat. from the Wayward genre Pieces Of the late other hand. moves away from a disenchantment with make this an astonishing viewing experience. 505 to the epic htStOheat ehtOhieteS 0t 1981’s Keio naturalistic urban narrative to create an even more Jonathan Demme has enthused that, ‘the ﬁlms of Peried Eeja'iatka and 1989's POSt't‘ht’OShima $388 stylised spectacle on a much broader scale. Three , Shohei lmamura are among the greatest ever made.‘ Blac‘k Rain 21" reVOIVe around the Who" 0t hours long and in dazzling colour, here lmamura t We‘re fortunate indeed to have the man himselfon Penetrating 5* deeper truth than might be aeeeSSibte t0 contrasts the modernising imperative of a visiting hand as our guide through this miraculous terrain. the Conventional Work 0t SOCiai realism Tokyo engineer with the myths and legends that hold Shohei lmamura will discuss his work after the The “Wear-Old Tekyo hatiVe'S ﬁlms are anything sway over life on an isolated southern island. screenings of Pigs And Warships ( Came!) 1. Fri 1 9. hilt middle 0f the toad. inhabiting. in the ease 0t bursting with primitive energy that legitimises incest 3.45pm) and A Man Vanishes (Cameo 1. Sat 20. 1967’s A Man Vanishes. an intriguing area between as a sacred coupling and sets in motion a bravura I 3.45pm). The retrospective continues until Sat 27.
The List 19—25 August I994 71