monthly classics

“If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.”

Linji Yixuan, Ch'an Master (? – 866)

“I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs.”
Alexandro Jodorowsky (1929- )

The 2010-2011 Monthly Classics series peers into the dark side of the classical repertoire of the late 1950s and 1960s: from Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1965), Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain (1959), Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) to Nobuo Nakagawa’s Hell (1960) and Kihachi Okamoto’s Sword of Doom (1966). Like Antonin Artaud’s proposed “theater of cruelty”, these five master filmmakers offer the bloody and all-too-human spectacle of sin, folly and frailty, in unforgettable tales of crime and punishment, vengeful ghosts and delirious soldiers, mad samurai and deranged marauders (or the other way around), fire and brimstone, and spiritual darkness for good measure… tales of our world, which will give a good (or bad) idea of what comes next.

Thus, the films selected show the little-understood, paradoxical unity of zen and violence: in his book, Zen at War (1997), Brian Daizen Victoria, an ordained Soto Zen priest, documented Japanese Buddhist support for violence and warfare, from 1868 until the end of World War II. He tracked down this surprising embracing of war-making to the intimate relation between Zen and Samurai warrior culture.

This selection will satisfy the courteous viewer with an appetite for dark eroticism and macabre poetry: one who will does not recoil from the exquisite monstrosity of the human heart—which will not fail to haunt him/her long after the screening(s).

Each film illustrates one or several of the “Six Planes of Existence“—a Buddhist concept commonly referred to as “Six Paths” (Rokudō 六道 or Rokudō-rinne 六道輪廻) in Japan—within “the realm of Birth and Death” (Samsara).


Friday, October 15, 2010
7:30 PM


Friday, November 12, 2010
7:30 PM

Fires on the Plain

Friday, December 10, 2010
7:30 PM


Friday, January 21, 2011
7:30 PM


Sword of Doom

Friday, February 18, 2011
7:30 PM

Japan Society’s 2010-2011 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, Elaine Sheng and Samuel Jamier, and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State’s 62 counties.

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