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Film Series Highlights Five Directors Introduced by Legendary Japanese Cinema Critic Donald Richie

A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013), Part 1
Richie's Fantastic Five: Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu, Yanagimachi & Koreeda

October 18, 2013-February 19, 2014, at Japan Society

『ドナルド・リチー追悼映画シリーズ:パート1 リチーが世界に紹介した5人の監督たち:黒澤、溝口、小津、柳町、是枝』

New York, NY – Before his passing in February, Donald Richie (1924-2013) educated and inspired generations to become interested in Japan through the Japanese art and culture he introduced – especially through film. Noted film scholar Kyoko Hirano calls him one of the single most important film and cultural critics. "Many people in the world beyond North America and Western Europe, beyond the film world, first became acquainted with Japanese culture through Richie's wide range of writings," she says.

In Richie's Fantastic Five: Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Ozu, Yanagimachi & Kore-eda, Japan Society's Film Program honors Richie's legacy, presenting five timeless classics and hard-to-see gems over five months in glorious 35mm presentations. Curated by Hirano, a former Japan Society Film Program Director, the series highlights five seminal Japanese directors, who first became known throughout the world through Richie's work. Co-presented with The Japan Foundation, the series launches with Akira Kurosawa's High and Low (October 18); continuing with Kenji Mizoguchi's The Life of Oharu (November 16); Yasujiro Ozu's Late Autumn (December 12), screening on Ozu's 110th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his death; Mitsuo Yanagimachi's Himatsuri (January 24), unavailable on DVD; and Hirokazu Kore-eda's After Life (February 19), marking the one-year anniversary of Richie's death.

Hirano notes, "Richie tirelessly promoted the cinematic beauty of such giants as Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse; championed the iconoclastic energy of Japanese New Wave directors Nagisa Oshima, Masahiro Shinoda, Susumu Hani and Shohei Imamura; and celebrated the vibrant styles of new and upcoming directors such as Yoshimitsu Morita, Kazuo Hara, Yanagimachi and Kore-eda. Thanks to Richie, the world knows the greatness of Japanese cinema."

The second part of the series, also curated by Hirano, will focus on films that portray various aspects of Japanese society as observed through Richie's eyes, and begins March 2014 as part of the annual spring Globus Film Series.

Tickets to each screening are $12/$9 Japan Society members, seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased in person at Japan Society, by calling the box office at 212-715-1258, or at www.japansociety.org.

Screening Schedule and Film Descriptions:

High and Low - Series Opening Film
Friday, October 18, 7:00 pm
**Introduced by series curator Kyoko Hirano, followed by a reception.
1963, 143 min., 35mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Akira Kurosawa. With Toshiro Mifune, Kyoko Kagawa, Tatsuya Nakadai, Isao Kimura, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Tatsuya Mihashi.

Akira Kurosawa's dynamic yet humanist films became immortal thanks to Richie's definitive book The Films of Akira Kurosawa (University of California Press, 1965; revised in 1984), in which Richie discusses Kurosawa's powerful cinematic styles and his ethical concerns. Repeatedly cited as one of the greatest police procedurals of all time, High and Low, based on Ed McBain's novel King's Ransom, puts Kurosawa’s masterful control of pacing and composition on full display--starting with a claustrophobic first half that slowly boils with increasing pathos and moral complexity until it explodes into an action-packed second half that highlights the tensions brought out by class conflict while delivering a thrilling manhunt. Toshiro Mifune offers a typically remarkable performance as Gondo, a wealthy executive who is unexpectedly caught in the middle of a kidnapping ransom case that stands to ruin him, while a graceful Tatsuya Nakadai, as Chief Detective Tokura, leads a memorable supporting cast of detectives and police who sweat and search for the anonymous kidnapper in the slums below.

Donald Richie on High and Low: "A morality play in the form of an exciting thriller. A self-made man (Mifune) is ruined by a jealous nobody (Yamazaki in his first important screen role) but goes on to do the right thing and in the end the camera observes more similarities than differences between the two. With a memorable mid-film climax on a high-speed bullet-train."

The Life of Oharu
Saturday, November 16, 6:00 pm
**Introduced by scholar Joel Neville Anderson
1952, 136 min., 35mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. With Kinuyo Tanaka, Hisako Yamane, Toshiro Mifune, Yuriko Hamada, Jukichi Uno, Ichiro Sugai.

Richie introduced Kenji Mizoguchi to the world through a retrospective he helped put together at the Cannes International Film Festival in 1961. Set in feudal Japan during the Edo period, The Life of Oharu is one of the most devastating of Mizoguchi's films about exploited, fallen women. Starring the amazing Kinuyo Tanaka as the eponymous Oharu, Mizoguchi chronicles her repeated humiliation and abuse as the victim of a patriarchal system that unequivocally places women as second-class citizens, suffering one disgrace after another until she is left with nothing. Featuring incredible black and white photography that is as beautiful as it is haunting, The Life of Oharu stands among cinema’s greatest achievements for its aesthetic beauty as well as the unflinching, poetic realism of its storytelling. Mizoguchi, whom Jean-Luc Godard called “the greatest of Japanese filmmakers, or quite simply one of the greatest of filmmakers," considered the film his masterpiece.

Donald Richie on The Life of Oharu: "Based on a light and picaresque novel by the 17th-century writer Saikaku, the film takes a more serious view of the decline and fall of the heroine--from court lady to common whore. Yoshikata Yoda's script, Tanaka's performance as Oharu, Hiroshi Mizutani's art direction and Ichiro Saito's score--using Japanese instruments--help make this one of Mizoguchi's most elegantly beautiful films."

Late Autumn
Thursday, December 12, 7:00 pm
**Introduced by filmmaker and Ozu documentarian Atsushi Funahashi
**Followed by a reception
1960, 128 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. With Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa, Mariko Okada, Keiji Sata, Shin Saburi, Sadako Sawamaru, Miyuki Kuwano, Miyuki Kuwano, Masahiko Shimazu, Chishu Ryu

Among the earliest champions of the now-immortal director, Richie first introduced Yasujiro Ozu to the world with a retrospective at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1963, followed by a European tour of his films. Richie's book, Ozu (University of California Press, 1974), illuminated Ozu’s uniquely serene style and went on to bring him international recognition. A thoughtful and elegiac late work by Ozu, Late Autumn revisits the premise of Late Spring (1949), in which a daughter refuses to marry in order to take care of her single parent, and implements some subtle but powerful changes. Having played the part of the daughter in the earlier film, the beautiful Setsuko Hara returns in Late Autumn as the widowed mother, making a poignant connection that movingly speaks to the passing of time and to children growing up to be parents. Screening on the 110th anniversary of Ozu’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his passing, the screening is followed by an Ozu birthday celebration reception. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw called it “a masterpiece of tenderness and serio-comic charm, as tonally ambiguous and morally complex as anything he ever made.” David Sterritt of Cineaste wrote that the film "offers a near-perfect balance between the persuasive pull of tradition and the unstoppable sway of Westernized modernity. Ozu's sociopolitical side surfaces again, subtly but surely, in this portrait of postwar realities rubbing uneasily against their prewar counterparts. And his cinematic skills are as strong as ever, not least in his brilliant casting of Hara, the daughter of Late Spring, as the deeply sympathetic mother here.”

Donald Richie on Late Autumn: "A daughter is reluctant to leave her widowed mother, even though it is time for her to marry. The story could be seen as a ‘remake’ of Late Spring – and though more autumnal, it is just as moving."

Himatsuri
Friday, January 24, 7:00 pm
**Introduction by author Ian Buruma
1985, 126 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi. With Kinya Kitaoji, Ryota Nakamoto, Kiwako Taichi, Norihei Miki, Junko Miyashita.

Following Mitsuo Yanagimachi's debut documentary God Speed You! Black Emperor (1976), Richie promoted the independent director by introducing his films and eventually presenting a retrospective at the 1990 Toronto International Film Festival. The rarely-screened Himatsuri is Yanagimachi’s controversial fourth feature, revolving around a gruff and proud lumberjack who refuses to sell his land, set in the beautiful mountainous area of Kumano, and is eventually driven to commit horrendous, sacrificial acts against himself and his family as his desires merge with the fierce forces of nature surrounding him. Himatsuri is an enormously lush and mysterious film that is certain to leave a lasting impression, however confounding or unsettling. Dave Kehr of the New York Times called it “a work of exquisite sensitivity, corrosive wit, and great technical prowess, [Himatsuri] established Yanagimachi as the leading Japanese filmmaker of his generation.”

Donald Richie on Himatsuri: "A modern macho lumberjack faces vengeful nature--but such a one-line précis cannot begin to communicate the enormous potency of the film. With luminous photography by Masaki Tamura, a ravishing score by Toru Takemitsu, Kitaoji as the lumberjack, and Nakamoto as his shifty sidekick."

After Life
Wednesday, February 19 at 7 pm
1998, 118 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. With Arata, Erika Oda, Susumu Terashima, Tsuyoshi Naito, Kei Tani, Toru Yuri, Hisako Hara, Kazuko Shirakawa.

Richie recognized the remarkable talent of a young Hirokazu Kore-eda from his debut film Maboroshi (1995) and continued to promote the director’s films thereafter. The passing of time has come to justify Richie’s early endorsement yet again, as Kore-eda has since become one of the brightest Japanese talents on the international film scene. After Life, Kore-eda’s second film, features his trademark sensitivity and humanism through a fantastical tale in which the recently deceased arrive at a way station before going onto the next world, having to determine the one memory to take with them. A seasoned TV documentarian, Kore-eda interviewed hundreds of Japanese people, asking them to reflect on their lives, and even used some of the original footage within the film in a seamless hybrid of fact and fiction. After Life remains a reflexive and thoughtful meditation on the fragile power of both memory and cinema as potential vehicles for transcendence. With this film, Roger Ebert said Kore-eda "earned the right to be considered with Kurosawa, Bergman and other great humanists of the cinema. His films embrace the mystery of life, and encourage us to think about why we are here, and what makes us truly happy.”

Donald Richie on After Life: "A thoughtful and moving elegy in which the dead line up to be processed into the next world. Their passport is the single memory they choose to take with them. This is then filmed by a dedicated staff--comprised of those who could not or would not themselves choose a memory. "

Donald Richie (1924-2013) was born in Lima, Ohio. Richie developed his interest in film as a young child and began to make Super 8 films. In 1947, he went to Japan to serve in the U.S. Occupation forces and soon began to write film reviews for The Pacific Stars and Stripes. Richie went back to the United States in 1949, and graduated from Columbia University in 1953 with a degree in English. In 1954, he returned to Japan, and wrote film and book reviews for The Japan Times and Variety. Named by TIME magazine as "the dean of Japan's art critics," Richie was one of the West's most influential experts on Japanese culture. During the 66 years that he lived in Japan, Richie wrote some 40 books on Japanese films, Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Japanese culture, among other subjects. Richie introduced Japanese directors at international film festivals, and served as film curator at The Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1969 to 1972. He taught at Waseda University, the University of Michigan and Temple University, Japan Campus. He authored many books, including The Japanese Film: Art and Industry and A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History and a Selective Guide to Video and DVDs.

Richie received the first Kawakita Award, the most prestigious award in the Japanese film industry, in 1983 for his contribution to disseminate Japanese films abroad. Other awards include the Presidential Citation, New York University in 1989; the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Cultural Award in 1991; the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Award in 1993; The Japan Foundation Award in 1995; the Imperial Decoration (the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette) from the Japanese government in 2004. As a filmmaker, his works include Wargames (1962) in collaboration with butoh dancer Tatsumi Hijikata, and Five Philosophical Fables (1967) in collaboration with the Japan Mime Society. Richie, who served on Japan Society's Film Advisory Committee for many years, received the Japan Society Award in 2001 (awarded to him jointly with Mary Griggs Burke) for his contribution to the arts and to a more enlightened U.S.-Japan relationship. He passed away in Tokyo on February 19, 2013.

Series curator Kyoko Hirano notes, "For decades, Richie was associated with Japan Society through its Film, Lecture and Fellowship programs. Just as he intimately guided foreigners to an appreciation of Japanese culture through his writing, he also enchanted his audiences by his insightful and animated talks, and personally helped many American Japan Society Fellows coming from different fields to get to know and experience Japanese culture and society first hand."

Kyoko Hirano, a film scholar and writer, was Director of Japan Society's Film Program from 1986 to 2004. She completed her PhD in Cinema Studies at New York University on a Fulbright award, after studying at the University of Belgrade on a Yugoslav governmental scholarship. She has taught at NYU, New School University, the University of Tokyo, Keio University and Temple University, Japan Campus, and has lectured globally. She has written books in Japanese and English, including Mr. Smith Goes To Tokyo: Japanese Cinema Under the American Occupation 1945-1952 (Smithsonian Institution Press). Hirano received the Japan Film Pen Club Award and Kawakita Award.

A cross-disciplinary filmmaker and scholar, Joel Neville Anderson produces experimental narrative and documentary cinema while specializing in the study of Japanese film and culture. He is pursuing a PhD degree in the University of Rochester’s Visual and Cultural Studies program.

Atsushi Funahashi was born in Osaka, Japan, and graduated from Tokyo University with a B.A. in cinema studies. He moved to New York in 1997 and studied film directing at the School of Visual Arts. His debut feature Echoes (2001) was well received by critics and film festivals, winning three jury and audience awards at Annonay International Film Festival in France, and has been theatrically distributed in the U.S. and Japan. His second film, Big River (2006), was selected for the Berlinale Co-Production Market and PPP (Pusan Promotion Plan) at its project stage. Funahashi has also directed several HDTV documentaries on social issues and New York ethnic culture for U.S. and Japanese networks. For the Joyful Moment of Life (2005), won a Telly Award. Funahashi moved back to Tokyo in 2007 and has started directing films in Japan. Deep in the Valley (2009), Nuclear Nation (2012), and Cold Bloom (2013) all premiered at Berlin International Film Festival. Funahashi’s recent documentary about Ozu is scheduled to broadcast on NHK in October. Nuclear Nation will have its U.S. Premiere at Film Forum, December 11-17.

Ian Buruma studied Chinese literature at Leiden University and Japanese film at Nihon University in Tokyo. He has held a number of editorial and academic positions, and has contributed numerous articles to the New York Review of Books. He has held fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C and St Antony's College, Oxford. In 2003 he became Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights & Journalism at Bard College, New York, where he now resides.

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 the Japan Society have traveled to other U.S. venues in tours organized by the Film Program. For more, visit http://www.japansociety.org/film.

Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a world-class, multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese-speaking audiences. At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia. An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and V subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155.

A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013) is co-presented with the Japan Foundation. Generous support for this series is provided by Dr. John K. Gillespie. Japan Society's Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Endowment Fund. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, Kenneth A. Cowin, Mr. and Mrs. Omar H. Al-Farisi, David S. Howe, Laurel Gonsalves, Geoff Matters, and Dr. Tatsuji Namba. Acknowledgments: Brian Belovarac, Janus Films; Gary Palmucci, Kino Lorber; Linda Duchin, New Yorker Films.

Media Contacts:

Shannon Jowett, sjowett@japansociety.org, 212-715-1205
Kuniko Shiobara, kshiobara@japansociety.org, 212-715-1249

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