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Second Film Series Honoring Japanese Cinema Critic Highlights Japan's Independent Spirit with 8 Rare and Classic Films

A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013), Part 2
Richie's Electric Eight: The Bold & the Daring

March 13-29, 2014, at Japan Society

「ドナルド・リチー追悼映画シリーズ:パート2 大胆不敵な8人の監督たち」

New York, NY -- This spring Japan Society continues to honor the late Donald Richie, whose criticism, commentary and advocacy contributed incomparably toward making Japanese art and culture, especially its cinema, revered throughout the world. As the second and final leg of the ongoing series, again curated by noted film scholar Kyoko Hirano, A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013), Part 2: Richie's Electric Eight: The Bold & the Daring encompasses eight films that reflect the complexity, nuance, and brilliance of Japanese society, as seen through Richie's unflinching and insatiable eye.

Hirano says, “Looking far beyond the stereotypical Japan of Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms or subservient geisha and salarymen, Donald Richie recognized the unconventional beauty in the everyday lives of ordinary people, celebrating the spirit of those who resist authority, the resilience of women who survive and outsmart a male-centered world, and the battles of those discriminated against by society."

The line-up reflects the diversity in Japanese cinema mirrored by diversity of Richie’s vast interests. While Part 1 was more of a "101" introduction to Japanese cinema showcasing five well-known masters, Richie's Eclectic Eight: The Bold & the Daring showcases legends such as Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima, but also newer and some lesser known but important and films critically-acclaimed and filmmakers.

Co-presented with The Japan Foundation, and presented as the Society's annual spring Globus Film Series, Richie's Electric Eight: The Bold & the Daring launches March 13 with Shusuke Kaneko’s Summer Vacation 1999. One of Richie’s favorite films, this rarely screened gem is remarkable for its gender-blind casting (actresses play young men), as well as its unique dream-like quality. The screening will be introduced by MoMA's emeritus senior film curator Laurence Kardish, and will be followed by the YAOI Party, a lively and colorful affair in which gender-bending outfits are encouraged, with refreshments and a live performance by the high-energy glam jazz pop band Ideal Orkestra.

Other rare features in the series unavailable on DVD are Kohei Oguri's Muddy River, screening March 21, and Makoto Shinozaki's Okaeri, screening March 28. With several films being presented in glorious 35mm, the March 29 closing night screening of Nagisa Oshima's The Ceremony features a new 35mm print, and will be introduced by New York Film Festival director emeritus Richard Peña.

Rounding out the lineup are Yoshitaro Nomura's Chase on March 14; the documentary Campaign on March 15, introduced by its director Kazuhiro Soda; Shohei Imamura's Profound Desire of the Gods, commemorating actor Rentaro Mikuni (1923-2013); and The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On on March 29, introduced by Wendy Keys, former Executive Producer at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

"Richie supported the Japanese New Wave movement of Imamura and Oshima, highlighted young and emerging talents such as Oguri, Hara, Shunsuke Kaneko, Shinozaki and Soda, and also championed the important classic films of Yoshitaro Nomura," says Hirano. "For Richie, the independent spirit shown by these directors in portraying taboo subjects and their artistic endeavors exploring new forms of cinematic expression are reasons for us to see their films, from which we discover something new about the world we live in.”

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. 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. "Thanks to Richie, the world knows the greatness of Japanese cinema."

Tickets to each screening are $12/$9 Japan Society members, seniors and students, except $15/$12 for the Summer Vacation 1999 screening and opening party. 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

Summer Vacation 1999
Thursday, March 13 at 7:00 pm
**Introduction by Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, Film, Emeritus, The Museum of Modern Art **Followed by the YAOI Party

1988, 90 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. With Eri Miyajima, Tomoko Ohtakara, Miyuki Nakano, Rie Mizuhara (currently Eri Fukatsu). Voiceovers by Minami Takayama, Nozomu Sasaki, Hiromi Murata.

A student’s recent suicide at a rural boys’ boarding school hangs heavily over three students who are left behind during summer vacation with no family to return to. They each struggle to process the death, blaming each other and lashing out with adolescent cruelty, until one day when a student arrives who looks exactly like their deceased classmate. Inspired by Thomas' Heart (Toma no shinzo), a legendary popular manga by Moto Hagio, Shusuke Kaneko (1955-) depicts teenage yearning, mystery and dark passion, with a screenplay by Rio Kishida, a long-time collaborator with poet-filmmaker-theater director Shuji Terayama, and mesmerizing cinematography is by Kenji Takama.

"This profoundly romantic, beautifully realized independent production is one of the most original Japanese films of the year," wrote Donald Richie in a new Japanese cinema report he submitted to Japan Society in 1998. "It is a muted, intense, romantic fusing of love and death. To this an entirely new dimension has been added by casting young girls (14 to 15) in the roles of the four young boys. The result is astonishing and extremely moving. One watches these young people, so young that a degree of androgyny is expected, and it is as though one is watching adolescence for the first time." 

Chase
Friday, March 14 at 7:00 pm

1957, 116 min., b&w, 16mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Yoshitaro Nomura. With Hideko Takamine, Takahiro Tamura, Minoru Ohki, Hizuru Takachiho, Seiji Miyaguchi.

Yoshitaro Nomura (1919-2005), known for his popular "detective film" genre, partnered with screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto and social theme-oriented mystery writer Seicho Matsumoto on Chase. A young detective teams up with a veteran officer to travel south, where a suspected murderer is expected to show up to see his ex-lover, now a housewife. Their surveillance shows detailed, tedious police work, as well as revealing the watched woman's passion, causing the young detective to reflect on his own feelings for his girlfriend.

"When we were preparing for Dark Visions: Japanese Film Noir & Neo-Noir, Japan Society's 2002 film series, I consulted with Mr. Richie as usual," says series curator Kyoko Hirano. “He immediately suggested Chase. I was rather skeptical about showing such an understated film. I was pleasantly surprised at how popular it was--over 200 people came and were totally enchanted by the skillful storytelling and the theme, sympathetic to the hidden passion of the woman who leads a loveless, married life. I was once again impressed by Mr. Richie's insight."

Campaign
Saturday, March 15 at 5:00 pm
**Introduction by director Kazuhiro Soda.

2007, 120 min., blu-ray, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuhiro Soda.

Donald Richie was always interested in new films and young, emerging directors. He valued Kazuhiro Soda (1970- ) highly for his observational cinéma verité style illuminating fundamental problems of Japanese society and the Japanese way of thinking. In the mid-2000s, Soda follows his college classmate Kazuhiko "Yama-san" Yamuchi, a self-employed, inexperienced, uncharismatic, ordinary man running for a seat on the Kawasaki City Council in the suburbs of Tokyo. Yama is fully supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which faithfully adheres to the idiosyncratic Japanese style and method of running electoral campaigns.

"Yesterday [5/21/07], a special preview of Campaign was held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo," wrote Soda on his blog. "Donald Richie introduced the movie. Mr. Richie is famous as the person who introduced Japanese cinema to the West. I don't know how many times I have read his book, Ozu. I couldn't believe it when I heard that he loved Campaign and that he was going to give an introduction at the screening. But in fact, he began his introduction by saying, 'Today, we are going to show you a very important documentary.' It was perfect. I am very lucky that there's someone who fundamentally understands my work this well."

Muddy River
Friday, March 21 at 7:00 pm

1981, 105 min., 35mm, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kohei Oguri. With Takahiro Tamura, Yumiko Fujita, Mariko Kaga.

Kohei Oguri (1945- ) affectionately portrays the friendship of children facing the harsh reality of social discrimination. The nine-year-old protagonist grows up in a warm and loving working-class family, but his perception of life changes when he befriends a boy and his sister living on a houseboat with their prostitute mother. Takako Shigemori's screenplay is based on Teru Miyamoto's novel and the details of the children's everyday lives are superbly captured by Shohei Ando's cinematography.

Donald Richie on Muddy River: "Whether this unsentimental, black-and-white movie about the friendship of two little boys in post-World War II Japan is a harbinger of a renaissance of the once-eminent Japanese film remains to be seen. But without doubt, the success of Muddy River, financed by the film-struck president of an iron-working plant and at first unable to find a distributor, serves to expose the prolonged decline of an industry whose achievements once stirred international praise." (Excerpted from an article by Richie in The New York Times published on January 23, 1983.)

Profound Desire of the Gods
Saturday, March 22 at 5:00 pm
**A special screening commemorating actor Rentaro Mikuni (1923-2013)

1968, 175 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Shohei Imamura. With Rentaro Mikuni, Choichiro Kawarazaki, Kazuo Kitamura, Hideko Okiyama, Yasuko Matsui, Yoshi Kato.

Shohei Imamura's (1926-2006) first color film is a powerful testament to people caught between modernity and the primitive, the rational and mythology, and technology and nature. In an isolated village on a southern island, Tokyo's capitalist development plan encroaches on traditional ways of life while the family in charge of local rituals fights against discrimination for their practice of incest. Rentaro Mikuni's incomparable acting illuminates Imamura's ultimate quest--to examine what being Japanese means.

In his book A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, Donald Richie writes: "In Profound Desire of the Gods, filmed entirely on location on the southern island of Ishigakijima, much of the footage of its original three-hour length is devoted to the topography of the place, its flora and fauna, including the islanders whose ways are as primitive as they are natural. But two-thirds through, the story suddenly breaks off and a title tells us that several years have passed. The spot has been discovered by the tourist industry--planes, taxis, French fries. The final sequence--the shaman menaced by the new train--is affecting because we have come to understand the primitive and to long for it. Now all is gone. The cry of the Coca-Cola seller is the voice of doom. It is the early Japanese, the 'primitive' ones, who are real--not our rationalizing contemporaries."

Okaeri
Friday, March 28 at 7:00 pm

1995, 97 min., 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Makoto Shinozaki. With Susumu Terajima, Miho Uemura, Shoichi Komatsu, Tomio Aoki.

Makoto Shinozaki's first feature subtly but poignantly portrays the emotional and psychological landscape of a young couple, as one partner gradually slips into schizophrenia. Okaeri (which means "welcome home" in Japanese) is a stunning debut that treats the subject of mental illness with delicate insight, free of unearned sentimentality or heavy-handedness.

"Makoto Shinozaki in his debut film tells the arresting story of a typical young couple who are brought to sanity thorough the wife's madness," writes Donald Richie in A Hundred Years of Japanese Film. "Beautiful, laconic filmmaking with an unforgettable performance of Miho Ueshima as the wife... Many films celebrate the status quo, just as many directors are only concerned with saying what everyone already knows. Shinozaki, an essayist, knows how to think for himself. And as a projectionist (this is how he supports himself), he also knows film history including--the largest influence on his work--Robert Bresson."

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On
Saturday, March 29 at 3:00 pm
**Introduced by Wendy Keys, former Executive Producer at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

1987, 122 min., 16mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Kazuo Hara.

Kazuo Hara (1945- ), known for his iconoclastic documentaries, presents a controversial film revealing deeply disturbing aspects of Japanese history and society. The director accompanies WWII veteran Kenzo Okuzaki on his single-minded crusade to reveal secrets that have been hidden for decades. Okuzaki's target is the complacent attitude of the postwar Japanese and, ultimately, Emperor Hirohito's responsibilities for war crimes.

"The film is fascinating because the man is a champion for right and he is, at the same time, so given to violence that our own moral position is questioned, as viewers. Most shocking to modern sensibilities is the revelation for the reasons for execution. Starving higher officers were executing privates and other low ranks on trumped up charges in order that they could be served at table. The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On is extremely moving and in the end deeply upsetting. The picture is beautifully made, a truly controlled example of honest documentary at its best." (Excerpted from Richie's notes for the San Francisco International Film Festival, 1988)

The Ceremony
Saturday, March 29 at 6:00 pm
**Special screening commemorating Nagisa Oshima (1932-2013)
**Introduced by Richard Peña, Director Emeritus, New York Film Festival, and Professor of Film Studies, Columbia University

1971, 123 min., color, new 35mm print, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Nagisa Oshima. With Kenzo Kawarazaki, Atsuko Kaku, Kei Sato, Nobuko Otowa, Akiko Koyama, Hosei Komatsu, Fumio Watanabe, Atsuo Nakamura.

Nagisa Oshima audaciously views the important events of postwar Japanese history through the lens of one family's ceremonial and social gatherings. The doomed family itself is a symbol of Japanese military aggression in Manchuria, and complicated intra-family relationships illustrate the effects of corrupt and patriarchal abuse.

From Donald Richie's A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: "One of Oshima's most startling films--whole generations of a single family seen only during such ceremonies as funerals and weddings. With a big cast, luminous photography by Toichiro Narushima, music by Toru Takemitsu... The 25-year period of postwar history, which somewhat resembles Oshima's own early years, is seen as both personal and as an allegory of postwar Japan. Each ceremony is carefully timed to coincide with a year significant in the postwar history of Japan. Each marks a stage of a downward spiral, for it is the 'spiritual death' of Japan that Oshima is chronicling."

~

Kyoko Hirano, an independent film scholar and writer, was Curator 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. Hirano helped Japan Society’s Film Program for 18 years. She was also a longtime friend of Richie and wrote this tribute after his passing: http://www.japansociety.org/page/about/news.

Laurence Kardish is the Senior Curator, Film, Emeritus, The Museum of Modern Art. Some of the more notable exhibitions he has organized for MoMA are: The Films of Shirley Clarke(1972), Raoul Walsh (1974), John Cassavetes: Filmmaker and Actor (1980), Satyajit Ray (1981), Cannes 45 Years: Festival international of Film (1992), Jean-Luc Godard: Son+Image (1992), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1997), Alfred Hitchcock (1999), Luis Buñuel (2000), Critical Favorites: The New York Film Critics Circle at 75 (2009), and Gaumont Thrillers: From Fantomas to A Gang Story, 1912 -2011 (August 2012). Throughout his career Kardish has championed auteur filmmakers from around the globe and developed an expertise in German cinema of the Weimar era, American avant-garde cinema of the 1960s and '70s and French cinema from Louis Feuillade to Agnès Varda. He also served since on the selection committee of the annual New Directors/New Films festival, co-organized with the Film Society of Lincoln Center from 1972-2012. (From The Hollywood Reporter.)

Kazuhiro Soda is a filmmaker born and raised in Japan and has lived in new York since 1993. He has directed numerous fiction films and TV documentaries but Campaign (Senkyo) was his first feature documentary. It was invited to many film festivals around the world including Berlin Film Festival and won the prestigious Peabody Award in 2009. He has since then made numerous films including Campaign 2 (Senkyo 2) which recently screened as part of MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight in February of 2014.

Wendy Keys was the Executive Producer / Programming for the Film Society of Lincoln Center and a member of the selection committees of the New York Film Festival and New Directors/New Films until 1999. She currently sits on the Film Society' Board of Directors and is on the Executive Committee as well as two other board committees. From 1972- 2008 she directed and co-produced the Film Society's annual Gala Tribute to a major film artist. She also produced and directed the 2008 documentary film Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight.

Richard Peña was the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival 1988 through 2012. At the Film Society, Richard Peña organized retrospectives of Michelangelo Antonioni, Robert Aldrich, Gabriel Figueroa, Kira Muratova, and Amitabh Bachchan, as well as major film series devoted to African, Chinese, Cuban, Polish, Arab, Korean, Turkish and Argentine cinema. Since 1992, he has organized with the Spanish Ministry of Culture the annual “Spanish Cinema Now” series at Lincoln Center, as well as “Rendez-vous with French Cinema” with UniFrance since 1996. A frequent lecturer on a wide variety of film topics, he is a Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, where he specializes in film theory and international cinema, and from 2006 to 2009 was a Visiting Professor in Spanish at Princeton University. He is also currently the co-host of Channel 13’s weekly Reel 13.

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 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 or visit www.japansociety.org.

A Tribute to Donald Richie (1924-2013), Part 2 is made possible through the generous support of The Globus Family. Additional 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, Laurel Gonsalves, David S. Howe, James Read Levy, Geoff Matters, and Dr. Tatsuji Namba.

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Media Contacts:
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