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13-Film Series Reveals Radical Women in 60s & 70s Japanese Cinema, Featuring Actresses Meiko Kaji, Mariko Okada and Ayako Wakao


For Immediate Release

Mad, Bad... & Dangerous to Know:
Three Untamed Beauties of Japanese Cinema


March 31-April 18, 2010 at Japan Society


グローバス映画シリーズ『悪徳と狂気:三人の危険な美女』

New York, NY – Japan Society's spring Globus Film Series Mad, Bad... & Dangerous to Know: Three Untamed Beauties of Japanese Cinema celebrates some of the most radical portrayals of Japanese women in film history by three iconic actresses. From March 31 through April 18, the 13-film series unfolds in three parts over three weeks: Ayako Wakao: Passion Made Flesh, Meiko Kaji: A Mad, Bad Unholy Easter Weekend; and Mariko Okada: The Discreet Charm of the Adulteress. General admission to each screening is $11/$7 Japan Society members, students & seniors. Tickets to the March 31 opening screening, Tattoo (Irezumi) are $15/$10 Japan Society members, students & seniors, and include entry to the DRESSED TO KILL! after party.

At the opposite end of the stereotype of docile Japanese women—heroic good mothers, chaste daughters and hardworking faithful wives—actresses Ayako Wakao, Mariko Okada and Meiko Kaji embodied the transgression of limits, breaking rules, flouting norms and generally upsetting everyone in Japanese films of the 60s and 70s. Mad, Bad… & Dangerous to Know explores the idea of unconventional beauty that these spellbinding actresses created through an unparalleled body of films, from rambunctious girl gang bangers and wild women's prison escapees to more subtly chained renegades such as a tattoo-possessed ingénue and a compassionate nurse cum angel of death.

Among such genre favorites as Masumura's Tattoo, two films from Toshiya Fujita's Lady Snowblood series, and Kiju Yoshida's seminal The Affair, highlights include:

A Wife Confesses
, a rare Yasuzo Masumura film, influenced by Antonioni and Resnais, and one of the most original depictions of a femme fatale committed to celluloid.

Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41, arguably the most visually striking (and shocking) film featuring Meiko Kaji, Jailhouse completely blurs the limits between grindhouse and arthouse, to the point that it seems to make both categories irrelevant.

Woman of the Lake, one of the best--but lesser-known--Okada-Yoshida collaborations, for all its intense and refined eroticism. A depiction of desire at its most subtle and complex, the film has drawn comparisons with Bergman’s formal experimentations.

Aside from a niche market in grindhouse and pinku titles, the films of Mad, Bad… & Dangerous to Know address concerns of the Japanese New Wave, post-war discontent, and the influence of international film genres such as the westerns and film noir. "Another unique aspect of this series," notes Japan Society film programmer Samuel Jamier, "is its function as both homage to the actresses and celebration of certain directors as auteurs. Both Wakao and Okada were muses and inspiration for two major film directors, Yasuzo Masumura and Kiju (Yoshishige) Yoshida, respectively, while Kaji navigated between filmmakers, a wild card of Japanese cinema at the time." On one level Mad, Bad… & Dangerous to Know reflects the status of the "movie star" during the Golden Age of Japanese cinema at a time when cross-cultural traffic truly emerged. On a much deeper level, it brings to light new views of gender politics in Japan and examines the interconnections between female agency, gender ideologies, and Japanese models of womanhood.

MAD, BAD… SCREENING SCHEDULE

PART 1 - AYAKO WAKAO: PASSION MADE FLESH

Tattoo A.K.A. The Spider Tattoo (Irezumi)
Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 7:30 pm
**Opening Night

1966, 86 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Yasuzo Masumura. With Ayako Wakao, Akio Hasegawa, Gaku Yamamoto. Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation, with permission from Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.
A dark erotic tale from the director of Blind Beast, Tattoo (Irezumi) follows the descent of a woman whose extreme beauty and ferocious nature bring her to the abyss. Otsuya, the daughter of a wealthy pawnbroker, charms her weak-willed lover into eloping with her. As they escape, she is abducted by unscrupulous ruffians and sold to a geisha house where she catches the eye of a tattoo master who uses her body as a living surface for his unholy art, engraving into her flawless ivory flesh a large and monstrous spider. As if under the invisible influence of its evil force, Otsuya grows more wicked as she excels in the trade she has been forced into, eventually consuming the lives of the unwitting men she holds in her thrall. Adapted by Kaneto Shindo from the acclaimed 1910 short story by Junichiro Tanizaki.

Followed by the DRESSED TO KILL! after party with drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite femme fatale, show off their wicked tattoos, and model the latest in haute couture prison wear. Tickets: $15/$10 Japan Society members, students & seniors.


Red Angel (Akai Tenshi)
Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 7:30 pm

1966, 95 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasuzo Masumura. With Ayako Wakao, Shinsuke Ashida, Yusuke Kawazu. Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation, with permission from Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.
Ayako Wakao gives a performance of extraordinary focus and intensity as Sakura Nishi, a deceptively naive nurse sent to the Manchurian front during the Sino-Japanese War. Tending to the massive number of injured Japanese soldiers, Sakura fights her own desperate battles as she finds herself the prey of her compatriots’ unwelcome assaults. Before long, her selfless attempts at ministering to a soldier who raped her bring her into the service of Dr. Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida), a morphine-addicted surgeon who in turn becomes dependent on her, despite his impotence. A romance fleshed from the grief of his sexual failure, with its foreshadowing of death, blooms between the two, while men continue to fall on the battlefield. Is Sakura fated to doom those she most wishes to save? Is she both an angel of mercy and a dealer of death?

18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age or older.

Seisaku's Wife (Seisaku no tsuma)
Friday, April 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm

1965, 93 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasuzo Masumura. With Ayako Wakao, Takahiro Tamura, Nobuo Chiba. Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation with permission from Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.
On the eve of the Russo-Japanese war at the beginning of the 20th century, small-town girl Okane marries an old wealthy man to escape a life of poverty. Upon her husband’s sudden death, she withdraws to her small farming village where she stoically submits to public opprobrium and lives the silent, sullen life of a pariah. Returning from army duty, Seisaku (Takahiro Tamura) enters the picture; he is the pride of his community to Okane's shame of the village. Nevertheless, the disreputable beauty and the honorable patriot begin an unlikely and tumultuous love affair that will eventually render him as marginal as she. Ayako Wakao delivers one of her best performances, winning both the Kinema Jumpo Awards (the Japanese Oscars) and the Blue Ribbon Awards prize for Best actress.

A Wife Confesses (Tsuma wa kokuhaku suru)
Friday, April 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm

1961, 91 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasuzo Masumura. With Ayako Wakao, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Eitaro Ozawa. Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation with permission from Kadokawa Pictures, Inc .
Young widow Ayako Takigawa (Ayako Wakao) goes on trial for the murder of her abusive professor husband in a mountaineering accident. Did she cut the rope in order to save her life and the life of his young student Koda, or did she do it for the five million yen from the life insurance policy Koda urged the professor to buy? Arguably the most intriguing film directed by Yasuzo Masumura, A Wife Confesses is both a film noir study of the hypocrisies of marriage and a lush psychological thriller featuring a wondrously ambiguous female protagonist played by Wakao, simultaneously a sympathetic victim and one of the most sophisticated femme fatales ever portrayed in cinema.

PART 2 - MEIKO KAJI: A MAD, BAD UNHOLY EASTER WEEKEND


Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (Joshuu 701-go: Sasori)
Saturday, April 3, 3:00 pm

1972, 87 min., digibeta, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shunya Ito. With Meiko Kaji, Rie Yokoyama, Isao Natsuyagi, Fumio Watanabe. Print courtesy of Media Blasters with permission from Toei Co., Ltd.
Shunya Ito’s film set the ultimate template of the women-in-prison movie genre replete with stabbing, shooting, raping, rioting, beating, burning, feral Sapphic sex, and copious nudity. Expertly riding the fine line between arthouse imagery and car crash-like anti-aesthetics, the story follows the quest for vengeance of Matsu, an unjustly imprisoned woman, to whom Meiko Kaji lends her unique star presence. Used, abused and betrayed by her first love, a corrupt cop, Matsu endures a variety of exotic punishments that would make even Cool Hand Luke cry, and eventually becomes "Sasori" (Scorpion), a byname for vengeance. Prepare for lock-down: this is sexploitation cinema at its most ferocious and classiest. Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion spawned three direct sequels, a pair of spin-offs, and a 2008 Hong Kong-Japan co-produced remake.

18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age or older.

Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (Noraneko Rock: Sex Hunter)
Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm

1970, 85 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe. With Meiko Kaji, Rikiya Yasuoka, Tatsuya Fuji, Jiro Okazaki, Mie Hanabusa. Print courtesy of Vitagraph Films with permission from Nikkatsu Corp.
Directed by the late sexploitation master Yasuharu Hasebe, this classic hallucinatory girl gang flick with a politically radical racial subplot stars cult film legend Meiko Kaji as Mako, a gang leader sporting the best hat in film history and wielding Molotov cocktails like a pro. Mako's gang assists The Eagles, an all-male gang of young delinquents speeding around in army jeeps left by the American occupation, hanging out in uber-hip clubs, and generally indulging in testosterone-fuelled ruckus-raising. Life rocks, rolls and swings by nicely until one of the Eagles loses his girl to an African-American/Japanese man and the gang crusades against the local mixed-race Japanese citizens. The trouble is: Mako has a soft spot for dark-skinned hunk Kazuma. Sides are chosen and rampage wrought in this full-on war of the sexes.

18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age or older.

Lady Snowblood: Blizzard From the Netherworld (Shura-yuki-hime)
Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 7:30 pm

1973, 97 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Toshiya Fujita. With Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon. Print courtesy of Toho Co., Ltd.
A baroque blood-fest deftly blending samurai, ninja, yakuza, and manga motifs, Lady Snowblood is a revenge tale with many stupendous turns and a major twist: the ruthless seeker of righteous retribution is a kimono-clad beauty (Meiko Kaji). Born in a dark hellhole of a prison, Yuki "Snowblood" Kashima was raised by an ironhanded priest who trained her in the arcanes of sword fighting. Dressed and hardwired to kill, she seeks vengeance on the four villains who butchered her family. An unequivocal inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1, film fans can experience the original mad mix of shameless grindhouse exploitation and surreal arthouse extravaganza driven by a full-blooded devotion to unstinting gory action.

18+
This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age or older.

Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (Shura-yuki-hime: Urami Renga)
Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

1974, 97 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Toshiya Fujita. With Meiko Kaji, Yoshio Harada, Juzo Itami. Print courtesy of Toho Co., Ltd.
This sequel to Lady Snowblood finds the iconic smooth-skinned beauty killing machine Yuki "Snowblood" Kashima (Meiko Kaji) imprisoned for the ghastly vengeance she waged on her family's behalf. While waiting her turn at the gallows pole, a white-gloved secret agent makes Yuki an offer she cannot refuse: assassinate an enemy of the state (who is also a friend to the common people) in exchange for her pardon. Can the "child of the netherworld" see her sins redeemed at the cost of her life, or will she ignore the plight of the powerless—at the cost of her conscience? A sequel that offers both the savage amusement of foul violence and a razor-sharp political edge.

18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age or older.

Female Convict Scorpion Jailhouse 41 (Joshuu sasori: Dai-41 zakkyo-bo)
Sunday, April 4, 5:00 pm

1972, 90 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shunya Ito. With Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Kayoko Shiraishi. Print courtesy of Toei Co., Ltd.
The deadly Matsu, better known as "Sasori" (Scorpion), is shut off from all hope and goodness in the darkest depths of a maximum-security prison. Taking her first chance at escape, she and six other female prisoners embark on a crazed rampage through a ghost town. The battered past of the women is revealed through a pop-art prism of kabuki theatre influences and frenzied baroque camerawork, as they trade surreal acts of sadistic vengeance with their pursuers and the men who fall in their path. Highly stylized even for the standards of this exceptional franchise, director Shunya Ito gives free reign to his experimental tendencies in this sequel to Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, offering a brutally compelling film, haunting and intoxicating in equal measure.

18+ This film is unrated, but may only be viewed by persons 18 years of age or older.

PART 3 - MARIKO OKADA: THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE ADULTERESS

Impasse A.K.A. Flame and Women and Flame of Feeling (Hono to onna)
Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at 7:30 pm

1967, 101 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kiju Yoshida. With Mariko Okada, Isao Kimura, Mayumi Ogawa. Print courtesy of Shochiku Co., Ltd.
As the title implies, Mariko Okada and Kiju Yoshida's fifth collaboration is a moral furnace of a film, stoked with guilt and vengefulness. A labyrinthine exploration of the decomposition of a middle-class couple, the bewitching, fractured narrative artfully shuffles the time scheme, as the protagonist, Ritsuko (Okada, in a highly nuanced and restrained performance), stumbles out of the sluggish half-life of her sterile marriage and towards a troubled search to restore her emotional self. After giving birth to a son through artificial insemination (presented here as science fiction), she starts nourishing a forbidden but irrepressible desire for the biological father of her child.

The Affair (Joen)
Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

1967, 101 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kiju Yoshida. With Mariko Okada, Yoshie Minami, Tadahiko Sugano. Print courtesy of Shochiku Co., Ltd.
With this radical erotic "anti-melodrama," director Kiju (Yoshishige) Yoshida became not only the cineaste of women but the cineaste of one woman: Mariko Okada, starring here as an unhappily married woman confronting the decadent legacy of her mother, who made no secret of her affairs with younger men. Okada faces this inheritance by initiating sexual relationships herself, forming a strange love triangle between her, a sculptor who had been her mother’s lover, and a rough construction worker to whom she surrenders with the reluctant passion of a Japanese Lady Chatterley. Events unfold—flashes of warmth, wintry blasts of ire—all the while Yoshida’s cautious camera hovers over the quakes of jealousy and tidal surges of desire, filmed like the progress of a haunting.

Woman of the Lake (Onna no mizuumi)
Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm

1966, 94 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Kiju Yoshida. With Mariko Okada, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi, Tamotsu Hayakawa. Print courtesy of Shochiku Co., Ltd.
Based on a novel by Nobel prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata, Kiju Yoshida’s film approaches the topic of sexual encounters in the manner of a fogbound documentary with the nocturnal gravity of a requiem. In this surrealist erotic story, Okada’s trademark character—a woman of quiet intensity and strong will, yet fumbling for undefined sexual fulfillment—takes a lover to escape the somber dissatisfaction of her loveless marriage. One night she allows him to take nude pictures of her, but the negatives are stolen and she faces threats of blackmail from an anonymous stranger. She complies with the blackmailer’s demands and travels to recover the negatives, embarking on a journey that soon aligns her darkest desires with those of her shadowy aggressor.

Two Wives (Tsuma futari)
Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 8:45 pm

1967, 94 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. Directed by Yasuzo Masumura. With Ayako Wakao, Mariko Okada, Koji Takahashi. Print courtesy of Kadokawa Pictures, Inc.
For the first time outside Japan, Masumura’s Two Wives appears on the big screen. After a random encounter at a bar, two couples collide. The two men and the titular wives become embroiled in a love-and-hate drama that threatens to engulf them. In this rare masterpiece by the director of Manji and Blind Beast, the sexual anxiety between the interwoven couples tautens up to the nearly unbearable tenseness of the climax.

~

The Japan Society Film Program offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society's Arts & Culture programs. The Film Program has included retrospectives of great directors, thematic series and many U.S. premieres. Some original film series curated by Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. Since 2007, the Program has presented the annual summer JAPAN CUTS Festival of New Japanese Film in collaboration with the New York Asian Film Festival. The Monthly Classics series The Double Edged Sword: the Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo Ichikawa continues through May 2010.

Established in 1907, Japan Society has evolved into North America's major producer of high-quality content on Japan for an English-speaking audience. Presenting over 100 events annually through well established Corporate, Education, Film, Gallery, Language, Lectures, Performing Arts and Innovators Network programs, the Society is an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that provides access to information on Japan, offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, and fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia.

Mad, Bad... & Dangerous to Know: Three Untamed Beauties of Japanese Cinema runs March 31-April 18. Tickets for regular screenings are $11/$7 members, students & seniors. The March 31 opening screening, Tattoo (Irezumi), followed by the DRESSED TO KILL! after party is $15/$10 Japan Society members, students & seniors. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd St.) For reservations visit www.japansociety.org or call the box office at 212-715-1258. For further information call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

Mad, Bad… & Dangerous to Know: Three Untamed Beauties is made possible through the generous support of The Globus Family. Japan Society’s 2009-2010 Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by The Globus Family, Yoshiko and Tim Schilt, David S. Howe, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Joshua S. Levine and Nozomi Terao, Elaine Sheng and Samuel Jamier, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency.

# # #

Shannon Jowett
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1205
F: 212-715-1262
E: sjowett@japansociety.org

Kuniko Shiobara
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1249
F: 212-715-1262
E: kshiobara@japansociety.org

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