Libmonster ID: JP-1215
Author(s) of the publication: E. L. KATASONOVA


Doctor of Historical Sciences

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

japanese cinema Keywords:film director Nagisa Oshima"pink" cinema"new wave" films of the 1960s

March 2012 marked the 80th anniversary of the leader of the "new wave"* of Japanese cinema in the 1960s, one of the most striking and at the same time quite controversial classics of Japanese cinema, Nagisa Oshima (b.1932), whose work causes both exorbitant enthusiasm and angry condemnation among viewers around the world. So unusual, bright, and mostly defiantly frank, but at the same time aesthetically beautiful are many and especially his latest films. This anniversary was marked by a retrospective screening of the director's early paintings, organized by the Japanese Embassy in Russia at the Moscow House of Artists under the symbolic title "Unknown Oshima".

We know much less about the early period of the famous Japanese director's work than about the mature years of his life and work. In the view of most of the audience, and especially the Russian one, the name of Nagisa Oshima is associated primarily with his later works: the well-known erotic dilogy " Bullfight of Love "(in the world box office - "Empire of Feelings") and "Ghosts of Love" ("Empire of Passion"), surprisingly colorful, but in many ways an unconventional historical thriller "Taboo" and other shocking films in which he boldly encroaches on generally accepted moral norms.

The director himself has repeatedly stated that he never repeated in his works the filming style and artistic style previously found and used in other films, and insisted that all his paintings are different.1 Nevertheless, it is impossible to understand the late Oshima or even make any progress towards understanding the rather complex artistic world of his work without his first films. They allow us to better understand the origins of his directorial skills, the aesthetic and ideological foundations of his work and their evolution at each stage of his long professional career.


By his origin, Oshima comes from an old samurai family. He was born on March 31, 1932 in Kyoto. His father worked as an engineer. The boy was briefly under his father's care. The family lost its breadwinner early, and young Oshima was forced to earn a living on his own. But, nevertheless, he finds the strength and means to realize his dream of higher education. In April 1950, he entered the Faculty of Law of the prestigious Kyoto University, and here, from the first year, he was assigned the nickname "red student". During these years, he first gets acquainted with left-wing theories, which so fascinated the future director that for many years to come-

* The "New Wave" originated in French cinema in the late 1950s. Its representatives abandoned the then exhausted shooting style and the predictability of the narrative. This direction has had a huge impact on the world cinema, especially in the United States, Japan and Western European countries.

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For the rest of his life, he will live, think, and work under their influence. Trying to put them into practice, the young man plunges headlong into the student movement, joining the ranks of a youth organization closely associated with the leftist national student structure "Zengakuren", which regularly clashed with the police during violent demonstrations in the 50s and 60s.

But not only politics determined the ideological positions and social temperament of the future director. During these years, he is fond of avant-garde theater and takes an active part in an amateur student circle, acting both as an actor and as an author of plays. All these circumstances influenced the choice of his future profession. After graduating from university, after learning about the recruitment of creative young people in the largest film company Sethiku, Oshima, along with fellow students of amateur performances, goes to Tokyo. And in April 1954, having passed a difficult selection competition, he entered the department of assistant directors at the Ofuna studio of the Setiku Film Company.

One of Japan's six "dream factories", the famous Shotiku was probably experiencing the most successful times in its history. The filming of Hideo Oba's melodrama "Your Name", shot according to the classic canons of this popular genre, has just ended there. The film was a resounding success in Japan, became almost the highest-grossing film in the history of Japanese cinema and, of course, a model for constant circulation, first of all, in the walls of the film studio itself. In terms of plot, the new masterpiece of Setiku largely resembled the famous film "Waterloo Bridge" by Mervyn Le Roy, and in its ideological content it embodied the moralizing spirit of the Ofuna studio, which was actively instilled in those years by the president of the film company Shiro Kido, starting with the paintings of the classic Japanese film Yasujiro Ozu and ending with the work of the equally famous director Keisuke Kinoshita. "The power of these films' impact consisted in a successful depiction of human experiences, the directors sympathized with the weak and helpless, but also showed the small joys of life. Although they sighed about the social contradictions, they mostly avoided these problems. " 2

But the young Oshima, with his active social position and rebellious rebellious nature, these naive stories with a happy ending caused outright rejection. He persevered in learning the secrets of the profession from such famous masters as Hideo Obata, Yoshitaro Nomura, Masaki Kobayashi and others. Under their guidance, he went through a good film school: from a boy with a firecracker to an editor and screenwriter. During five years of working as an assistant director, he took part in the creation of 15 films, wrote several scripts, and in 1956 took up film criticism, founding the magazine "Film Criticism"together with the famous film critic Tadao Sato.


Oshima followed the path of the French directors of the "new wave": Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and others, who began their work with theoretical works on the new art of cinema. They published their revolutionary artistic views in the pages of the magazine Cahier du Cinema, published by the famous film critic Andre Bazin. Young Frenchmen criticized the current system of film production in France, commercial films that were far from reality, and called for bold experiments in cinema. Their films were characterized by a negative attitude to traditional morality, rejection of the established and already exhausted style of filming and predictability of content. But the main thing in their work is the search for a new style and new characters-young, bold in their judgments and actions, personifying the beginning of the era of the youth revolution.

Such thoughts and moods were in tune with the creative search and aspirations of many aspiring Japanese directors, who already in the late 1950s issued numerous manifestos and program statements about the new tasks and goals of cinema. These urgent changes were largely dictated by the crisis phenomena that swept the world of Japanese cinema, which had recently experienced its "golden age". Not an exception was the recently thriving film company Sethiku, which for many years specialized in such popular Japanese female melodramas Josei eta and films for ordinary people semingeki, but this previously almost the highest-grossing production began to rapidly lose its mass audience.

In the movie with the light hand of the young writer Shintaro Ishihara, who debuted the novel "Sunny Season", the theme of young rebels and playboys dissatisfied with the surrounding reality came. The book of Ishihara, a newcomer to literature, awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, and the acclaimed film of the same name directed by Takumi Furukawa, which appeared almost simultaneously in the summer of 1956, brought not only huge popularity to the writer himself and his brother Yujiro, who played one of the roles in the film, but also gave rise to a whole subculture of the post-war generation of Japanese, called " sunny the tribe "(taiyozoku).

These "golden youth" are carefree young people who refused to carry the heavy burden of memories of the war on their shoulders, trying to forget the harsh trials of the post - war years. Above all, they put pleasure: listening to American music, dancing rock ' n ' roll and calling friends.

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each other with big names like "Brando from Kobe" or "Elvis from Osaka", imitating their Western idols in everything-in clothes, hairstyles, morals. They spent their days sunning themselves on ocean beaches, hanging out with beautiful girls in bars, or riding their own motorboat with friends, all the while dreaming of a cloudless and easy career.

The problem of youth revolt through sexual and moral emancipation, raised by Ishihara in "Sunny Season", instantly stirred up the whole of Japan. And young Oshima, then still an assistant director, immediately reacted very emotionally to these events. In his famous essay, published in July 1958 in the magazine "Film Criticism" and entitled quite symbolically: "Will we find a way out? Modernists in the cinema of Japan", he wrote, in particular: "... then I felt that in the sound of a torn skirt and in the noise of a motor boat making its way among larger vessels, sensitive people could hear the cries of a seagull, heralding a new era in Japanese cinema " 3.

Indeed, in the early 1960s, a new era of Japanese cinema was ushered in by representatives of the so-called new wave. If for many years the Japanese screen was dominated by films imbued with quiet sadness and sentimentality about people who are submissive to fate, now they are completely replaced by pictures with a new hero - rebellious, cynical, who has lost faith in the ideology of conformity and the moral values of the older generation. And the most common themes of Japanese cinema are sex and violence. However, these tendencies are just as clearly represented in the works of prominent Western film masters - Godard, Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Pasolini, etc.

But for Japanese directors, the 1960s are also a special page in the history of national cinema, closely connected with the emergence of a very popular film genre, the so-called "pink cinema" (pinku eiga). This genre is often referred to as "soft" pornography, but mostly it was "independent erotic tapes, often politicized and characterized by both generous doses of violence and experiments in the field of form. French critics equated Pink eig with the films of Pasolini and Fassbinder, and Oshima loudly declared:: "Koji Wakamatsu will save Japanese cinema" 4.

Koji Wakamatsu, a friend and associate of Oshima, was also close to New Wave and became one of the key figures in the field of low-budget independent "pink cinema". Left-wing in his ideological views, he preached sexual violence as a mechanism for combating the state. His most famous works were such films as: "Angels and Violence "(1967)," Secret Hunt of the Embryo " (1966), etc., considered classics of the genre. However, the" godfather "of the Japanese" pink cinema " is still considered to be the famous director Takeshi Tetsuji. And its first example, or rather, the first Japanese film of the "new wave", which took an erotic theme as the main storyline, was the film "Dream", released by Shochiku studio in 1964 and is a surreal mixture of torture, violence, etc.

The success of this film, and after it the sensational film "Market of Flesh" by Masaki Kobayashi, the future creator of the movie masterpiece "Kaidan" (known here under the names "Secret Ghost" or "Ghost Stories"), which received a special award at the Cannes Film Festival, clearly demonstrated that in Japan there was a real market for meat. quite a large market for erotic movies. By the way, it was with the filming of "pink" films that many outstanding Japanese cinematographers began their entry into the big cinema, from Sehei Imamura to the winner of the 2009 Oscar for the film "Seeing Off"Yojiro Takita. Many other major masters of Japanese cinema, especially those who were actively engaged in various kinds of artistic experimentation associated with the Japanese "new wave" of the 1960s, such as Yoshishige Yoshida, Masahiro Sonoda, Seijun Suzuki, Susumu Hani and others, have also expressed a clear attraction to the aesthetics and artistic freedom of "pink films". etc.

Living through an era of such dramatic changes in the spiritual and moral climate of the country, and in the film world itself, too, the president of the film company Shetiku Kido Shiro decides to keep up with the times and "rejuvenate" the face of his studio, and not only at the expense of modern themes, but also, mainly, at the expense of new creative names. Being a conservative man, but with a fine professional sense, he relies first on Oshima, and then on his other colleagues-

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They are former Ofuna studio assistants-Yoshishige Yoshida, Masahiro Shinoda, and others, who are assigned to shoot their first independent films about the problems and heroes of their generation. These budding filmmakers formed the core of the "new Japanese wave of Ofuna".

Unlike the humanistic dramas of famous Japanese film masters such as Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Yasujiro Ozu, the new Wave films were aimed at destroying traditions. The Japanese "new wave" challenged humanism, overthrew romantic love, reducing it to sensual desire, conducting it through perversion, crime and acts of violence, etc. And perhaps the most violent and flamboyant of them all was Nagisa Oshima. His informal leadership was suggested by the very nature of this young man: irrepressible energy, an outstanding temperament, a paradoxical mindset, a constant desire to irritate and shock the public, combined with an undoubted talent. Suffice it to say that Oshima frankly disliked the famous Kurosawa for his "excessive" humanism. But, by the way, the great master of Japanese cinema himself, in turn, also sharply criticized his brothers in the shop, such as Oshima and others, for excessive eroticism and violence in their films. But the aspiring director highly revered the work of the famous Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and sincerely valued his friendship with him, the same rebel and subtle aesthete as Oshima, but unlike him-a supporter of other-extreme right-wing nationalist views. It is possible that the influence of this writer was reflected in the later works of Oshima.


In the history of Japanese cinema, where assistants usually waited decades for their directorial debut, especially in the post-war period, Shochiku's new policy seemed close to revolutionary. But that was the time. It was during this period in France that twenty-seven-year-old Francois Truffaut came to the cinema with the film "Four Hundred Blows", twenty - eight - year-old Claude Chabrol - with the film "Pretty Serge", twenty-five-year-old Louis Mal-with "Elevator to the Scaffold", and twenty-five-year-old Jean-Luc Godard-with the picture "Last Breath".

Of course, Japanese debutant directors, unlike the French, did not have to rely on full creative freedom, especially in choosing the themes and ideology of future films. But the new tasks were outlined quite clearly for them: they needed a thorough detailed development of drama, a bright personality and variety of characters, their typicality and recognition, etc. And for this, new scenarios and new plots were needed.

One of these scenarios, called "The Boy selling Pigeons", written by Oshima, accidentally caught the eye of the president of the film company, and he almost immediately agreed to shoot. And the story is extremely simple: it tells about a poor boy who, in search of a livelihood, came up with a fairly simple, but almost win-win method of fraud: he sold tame pigeons, which, having risen into the sky, returned to their owner again. And he, without wasting time, once again put up for sale his winged friends. This vicious "business" continued until the bird was bought by a girl from a rich family. Having befriended her, the pigeon seller tries to get a job through her father, but the world of moneybags did not accept him. And he continues his simple trade in protest. Angry at his stubbornness and not understanding the extent of his poverty, his girlfriend buys a pigeon from him, releases it into the wild and forces her brother to shoot the bird.

It is significant that the film was released under the title "Street of Love and Hope" (1959). The studio management, contrary to the director's plan, had its own reasons for this. And Oshima was forced to rename the film several times-first to "Street of Anger", and then to get away from too dark a sound - to "Street of Love and Sadness". However, at the last stage, "sadness "gave way to" hope", and if not for the sharp ending in its protest mood, the tape might well have fit into the plot scheme typical of Sethika. After all, according to the original scenario, the quarrel of friends ended in reconciliation, and the picture, logically, should have carried a kind of happy ending.

However, Oshima went against the established canons of the studio and gave the film a sharp social sound, inventing a scene of killing a pigeon, which symbolized the impossibility of friendship between a rich girl and a poor man.-

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th boy. And this harsh and uncompromising ending of the film carried a bitter thought about social inequality in society, about the trampled ideal that gives rise to destructive energy in people, etc. Naturally, this kind of morality and the sad revealing subtext of the film caused dissatisfaction with the leadership of Ofun. But the critical reviews were so laudatory that Oshima was soon given another chance to make a name for himself.

In 1960, the aspiring director finished work on the second picture - "A Tale of Cruel Youth", which immediately received wide public recognition and was even awarded the prize as the best film debut of the year. This is a film about two young criminals who, going to all sorts of dirty tricks, resorting to cruelty, violence and deception, are engaged in extorting money from adults around them. Moreover, Oshima does not seek to show them as victims of society or brave rebels in the style of paintings about the "sun tribe". The author's idea is different: "in a vicious society, their rebellion takes the form of a senseless violation of the law, and this is precisely the" cruelty " of their history."5. These moods determined not only the ideological content of the film, but also its coloristic tone, colored by the color of the red glow of the sunset, clearly associated with red flowing blood. All this was new and very original against the background of what was staged in those years by recognized classics of Japanese cinema.

From the point of view of artistic skill, the film "A Tale of Cruel Youth" is one of the best early works of Oshima, and from the point of view of its ideological content, it marked the arrival of "evil cinema" in the director's work. The display of cruelty, violence and sex reflected new trends in the master's work and, above all, in the interpretation of the youth theme. In the third film in his filmography - "Burial of the Sun", also released in 1960, Oshima already deliberately goes against the edifying morality of Ofuna studio. Here he finally formulates his philosophical credo, confidently carrying out a rather cynical idea that only the strong and insensitive are able to survive in this world. This painting with the symbolic title "Burial of the Sun" marks the end of the era of films about the "sun tribe".


After a series of films with a pronounced social theme, devoted mainly to the life and problems of young people, in the creative biography of the director, there comes a period when he decides to declare his political and social position at the top of his voice, both as a person and as an artist. These are probably the most fruitful years in terms of the number and variety of films he has created. In these films, Oshima's sincere concern for the fate of the youth movement is particularly vivid and emotional, but most importantly, they clearly read the artist's own belonging to his left - wing nonconformist wing. "Director Nagisa Oshima occupies the same position in Japanese cinema as Jean-Luc Godard in France," writes the famous researcher of Japanese cinema Donald Ritchie. "A complete intellectual, he is more interested in ideas than in people; he builds his films more in the form of essays than in dramatic form, and respects the written and spoken word more than the actual cinematic image." 6

This statement quite accurately reflects the mood of the director, most fully captured by him in one of the first films of this period - "Night and Fog of Japan" (1960), which became a kind of manifesto of his political views. This is also evidenced by the director's chosen journalistic rather than cinematic style. This is actually a one-and-a-half-hour argument between students and teachers about topical political issues and, above all, the current problem of the Japanese-American security treaty. But at the same time as political debates, Oshima reveals his own vision of many modern phenomena. And his reflections on what the student movement of the 1960s should be like turn into a story about his own youth.

Of course, the main focus and content of this picture did not fit into the framework of commercial cinema. But Seticu's management, in an effort to improve its financial situation, took a certain risk, trying to play on the name of the already famous young director and the public's interest in his orthodox films. However, this time the film, which was largely innovative not only in content, but also in form, was waiting for a box office failure. And three days after the premiere of it

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hastily withdrawn from rental, perhaps even not without political pressure from outside. And Oshima left the studio in protest and, together with his wife Akiko Koyama, founded his own company, Sojosha.

Paradoxically, this emotional and largely hard-won breakup helped the director significantly expand the range of his work. Together with Oe Kenzaburo, a future Nobel laureate in literature, he is enthusiastically working on the painting "Keeping Cattle" (1961). And next year, he is already invited by the largest Toei studio to shoot the film "Shiro Tokisada from Amakusa". For three years, he reestablishes contacts with Sethiku and finishes work on the film "Joy"with the money of the film company. But these works went almost unnoticed on the screens of the country.

The director is much more successful in these years in other film genres. In 1967, in the wake of the growing popularity of Japanese animation, he created a two-hour hand-drawn film " The Art of Ninja War. Album". It is based on 36 volumes of comics by the famous artist and writer Simpei Shiratoro about the turbulent events of the internecine wars of the XIV century. Moreover, the director here goes on a purely formal experiment, for the first time using in this tape an original animation technique for reviving famous pictures - a moving montage, which, combined with expressive music and a tense rhythm, created the impression of rapid action.

However, the main achievements in this period of Oshima's work were noted primarily in the field of documentary films. He creates several brilliant documentaries, such as:" The Forgotten Army of the Empire " (1963) -a thirty-minute TV movie about Korean war invalids deprived of social support in Japan. This film is recognized as one of the best documentaries of Japanese cinema. And the second is"The Grave of Youth "(1964), which tells about the fate of a girl living in South Korea. The "Korean theme" deeply affects the director, and he addresses it again in many of his works of this period, starting with the thirty-minute film "Yunbogi's Diary" (1965) about the life of a ten-year-old Korean boy and ending with "Death by Hanging" (1968). And the last of them tells about discrimination against the Korean minority, where the director in the form of grotesque, black humor and complex symbols touches on the problem of the death penalty.

Almost all of Oshima's films of this decade: The Demon Appearing in Broad Daylight (1966), A Study in Obscene Japanese Songs (1967), The Return of the Three Drunks (1968), Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (1969), A Story Told After the Tokyo War (1970), and others, in the vivid words of D. Ritchie, "like Godarovsky, turned into political exercises"7. However, now the famous master is interested not so much in social or political events as in the reaction of people themselves to them.

One of the most striking examples of this new approach was the film "Ceremony", by the way, one of the most favorite films of the director. This is a story about the breakup of a large traditional family in modern conditions, whose members come together only on special occasions-weddings, funerals, etc., losing the last threads of human kinship. In fact, this film reflects all the most acute problems of post-war Japan, and the director, again referring to them, draws a certain line under the early stage of his work. "The Ceremony" was named the best film of 1971. But further for the director

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there comes a kind of creative impasse.


Feeling that he could not find a relevant topic for himself, Oshima worked in television for four years. In 1973, he even became the host of a popular television program about women facing difficult family problems. But soon he liquidated his company Sozosha and began working with foreign producers: the name of the budding Japanese director was already known in the West thanks to the good responses to his film "Death Penalty by Hanging", shown at one of the film festivals in Cannes. This helped Oshima advance to the U.S. and Western European markets ahead of many other Japanese filmmakers.

It was in the West that Oshima finally managed to realize his long-standing dream - to go beyond the purely Japanese theme in his work. Here, in collaboration with European filmmakers, his most famous works appear: the famous dilogy about feelings and passion - " Bullfight of Love "(1976), " Ghosts of Love "(1978), the cult war drama " Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence! "(1983), the historical thriller "Taboo" (1999), etc. that brought the director worldwide fame. In all these films, the social tension of the director's early works is no longer present, and the political themes and many social conflicts that have defined Oshima's work for so long have disappeared from them.

Now, from the problems of real reality, the director plunges headlong into the world of human passions, which is even more closed, unknown, intense, in which our whole life and its problems appear in a different - more vivid and emotional expression. At the same time, the master, as before, shows interest, first of all, in possessed heroes. He is always inclined to fetishize in them a wide variety of emotional breaks, weaknesses and even vices, again and again asking his favorite question about how these people will behave in an extreme situation. All his plots are extremely complex and multifaceted in their philosophical idea, the meaning of which can be interpreted in different ways. But the director still insists that the main thing in all his films was and remains the problem of the inevitable collision of the individual with society in its various manifestations.

Apparently, the last major film in the professional career of the director was the film "Taboo". And this is very symbolic, since Oshima himself has always been and remains the rebel who constantly went and continues to go against all taboos - social, political, moral. This is the main meaning of all his work. Due to his advanced age and serious illness, Oshima has not been shooting anything in recent years, resting on the honorary laurels of the president of the Japanese Cinematographers ' Association. But his name still continues to excite the minds and hearts of viewers around the world who want to understand the mysterious soul of the Japanese artist.

Gens I. Yu 1 The defiant ones, Moscow, 1988, p. 28.

Sato Tadao. 2 Kino Yapanii [Cinema of Japan], Moscow, 1988, p. 154.



Sato Tadao. 5 Kino Yapanii.., p. 156.

Richie D. 6 Nagisa Oshima // Japan Times. 21.01.1968.

Richie D. 7 The Japanese Cinema. Film Style and National Character. London. 1971, p. 137.


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