Nagisa Oshima

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6.8 Cruel Story of Youth (1960)
6.5 The Sun's Burial (1960)
6.0 Night and Fog in Japan (1960)
6.5 The Catch (1961)
6.2 The Pleasures of the Flesh (1965)
7.3 Violence at Noon (1966)
7.2 Double Suicide (1967)
6.2 Sing a Song of Sex (1967)
7.7 Death by Hanging (1968)
5.0 Boy (1969)
5.5 Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (1969)
7.5 The Man who Left his Will on Film (1970)
7.0 The Ceremony (1971)
6.0 In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
5.0 Empire of Passion (1978)
6.4 Furyo (1983)
6.0 Max Mon Amour (1986)

Nagisa Oshima's first full-length film was Seishun Zanoku Monogatari/ Cruel Story of Youth (1960), a typical "seishun eiga/ youth film" of the era about the generational gap. During the age of student riots, a young man, Kiyoshi saves a girl, Makoto, from a middle-aged man who is trying to rape her. The boy and the girl become friends and one day, knowing that she is still a virgin, Kiyoshi forces her to have sex with him. Despite the fact that she didn't want to, Makoto accepts him as a boyfriend. Makoto is still in high school, Kiyoshi is already in college. He confesses that he is angry at everything.
Makoto doesn't hear from his for a week. Disappointed, she calls him. He tells her that he doesn't want her anymore, but she begs him to meet one more time. She doesn't know that he has an older lover. When they meet, he tells her it's over. But then he defends her from two thugs who force her to drink and dance. He beats them up, then, again, makes love to her, right there in a corner of the square. He seems to feel the sexual urge only when he is very angry. This time he tells her that he loves her. She moves in with her, despite her elder sister's warnings. They are both students with no income, but he comes up with a scheme to make money. She hitches rides from older men, then excites them, and, when they come on to her, he beats them up and forces them to pay. Makoto's older sister Yuki is a frustrated woman, who was raised with a different moral standard. Now she resents her parents' stern discipline. Their mother is dead, but her father is still alive, and he lets Makoto sleep with another men, something that would have been impossible for Yuki at the same age. One day Yuki decides to visit an old flame of hers, a doctor. They were idealists, they wanted to change the world. She chose and older man for stability.
Makoto gets pregnant. Kiyoshi does not want the child. She cries. They don't even have the money for an abortion. Kiyoshi suggests using the same scam again to raise some cash, but the first man who gives her a ride is too kind to rip him off. Then Kiyoshi sleeps with her previous lover, the older woman, and makes her pay for the "service rendered". In the meantime Makoto sleeps with the kind older man, who is a rich business man, to find some kindness in a man. When she confesses to Kiyoshi, he approaches the business man and makes him pay for having sex with his girlfriend. Basically he has behaved as both prostitute and pimp.
Yuki visits her friend the doctor, hoping to rekindle his love, at the same time that Makoto is having and abortion next door. As she sleeps, Yuki and her former boyfriend discuss their generation's fate and Kiyoshi can overhear them. The doctor thinks that reality will derail Makoto and Kiyoshi like it did to him and Yuki, but Kiyoshi swears that they will be different. When Makoto wakes up, Kiyoshi is a changed man: he is finally the kind, loving boyfriend she always wanted. But their happiness lasts only a few days: tipped by the business man, the police arrest them for extortion. Makoto is released after showing remorse. Kiyoshi is released thanks to his older lover, who then follows him. He is annoyed by her attention and help. But then he also breaks up with Makoto, who is left alone to walk in the streets. Kiyoshi is beaten to death by gangsters who are angry at him for not letting them pimp Makoto, while Makoto is picked up by a middle-aged man just like in their usual scam but then dies trying to jump out of the car.

Oshima focused for a while on a crowd of rapists, murderers, perverts and anarchists. Taiyo no Hakaba/ The Sun's Burial (1960) is a hellish portrait of the Japanese lumperproletariat, possibly Oshima's most nihilistic film, set in slums that are populated by thugs, prostitutes and scammers, one more cynical and selfish than the other.

Oshima was keen to represent the ideological debate that was rocking the left-wing political movements of Japan, and was personally torn between orthodox Marxism and a utopian view of national revival The preeminent theme of these early films was the contrast between institutional violence and revolutionary impotence. The experimental, subversive, insurgent techniques that he adopted were the visual equivalent of the literary stream of consciousness. A lucid provocateur, Oshima infused his satires with social commentary. His anti-heroes were the humiliated and the alienated, hungry for both food and sex, outsiders constantly fighting some kind of institutional power.

Nihon No Yoru To Kiri/ Night and Fog in Japan (1960) is a political historical drama about the left-wing Zengakuren movement formed in 1948 by student activists inspired by communism to protest against the treaties between the USA and Japan that de facto limited Japan's independence. It's a fictional reconstruction of real events of the time, inevitably theatrical and verbose. The film was withdrawn a few days after being released due to the assassination of the socialist leader Inejiro Asanuma by a right-wing fanatic.

A professor explains to the guests of a wedding that he and the groom, Nozawa, used to argue about politics during the student protests against the US-Japan security treaty, but now they have reached agreement: the gulf between professors and students has been bridged. The bride, Reiko, is also an activist. Among the most excited guests are Nakayama and his girl Misako. But among the guests are also two disgruntled former students and co-conspirators, Toura and Sakamaki. A flashback shows them discussing political theory and arguing with students who want to party, including Nakayama and Misako. During the wedding an unshaved student who is wanted by the police, Uta, surprises the wedding couple. He is disappointed that now very few people show up at rallies.
He tells the story of how the couple met during the student protests of 1960. A flashback shows the students mourning those who have been killed in the riots organized to block the treaty with the USA, and Uta visiting the wounded at the hospital, which include Reiko and her friend Kitami. One day the latter mysteriously disappeared from the hospital, and Nozawa tried in vain to find him.
Now at the wedding Uta accuses the couple of having betrayed their ideals, and Reiko of having abandoned Kitami, who is still missing. Another uninvited and angry guest, Takumi, shows up to yell at the newlyweds.
A drunk Toura now narrates another episode dating from 1950 when they were all young students. Toura disliked Nakayama's authoritarian manners. One day they caught a worker stealing their documents and locked him in a closet suspecting him of being a police spy. The worker however claimed to be acting on his own to sabotage the student movement. Takumi stood up against Nakayama against rush to judgment. Takao was a student in love with Misako who was in love with Nozawa. One day the worker ran away and Takao was suspected of being himself a spy who let the worker run away. This flashback ends at the party of the first flashback. Toura and Sakamaki did not join the party. Takao was found dead that day: he had committed suicide.
Back to the present, Toura at the wedding accuses Misako and Nazawa of letting the spy flee, and then letting Takao take the blame. Toura despises Misako. Now Misako narrates the episode from her viewpoint: she and Nazawa were making love when the worker escaped, so it wasn't them who let him escape. In fact that was probably the reason that Takao did what he did: Takao was jealous of Nazawa and her.
Now (in the present, at the wedding) both Reiko and Nakayama, who didn't know of Nazawa and Misako being lovers, are shocked and demand the truth from Nazawa. Nazawa confirms that he and Misako were in love, and narrates in another flashback what happened after the party of the previous flashbacks. At the end of the party Nazawa had an argument with Takumi who was so worried about Takao's suicide to neglect the movement. Then Nazawa and Misako visited Nakayama at his apartment. Nazawa was poor and had to sleep in the dormitory, Nakayama was rich and had his own apartment. Nakayama explained that the Communist Party had decided that students must return to school, following the cease-fire in Korea. Nakayama was a member of the Communist Party and considered Nazawa inferior because he was just a sympathyzer. After that visit, Misako broke up with the poor Nazawa. Nazawa graduated and found a job at a newspaper, and years later joined the 1960 protests against the treaty which led him to meet the wounded Reiko at the hospital when Kitami disappeared.
Uta interrupts Nazawa's narration and accuses him of never caring for Kitami's disappearance. But now there's a new revelation at the wedding: Kitami is alive. A flashback shows Kitami leaving his hospital bed, determined to rejoin the protests against the treaty. We now see that Reiko told Kitami that it was all in vain, that she foresaw defeat. She tried in vain to stop Kitami. Kitami went to the protest but then became disillusioned and decided to quit. Uta, the leader of this 1960 movement, feels betrayed by his comrades. We now realize that the wedding has brought together two generations of activists: those from 1950 who were Nazawa's comrades guided by Nakayama and those from 1960 who are Reiko's comrades and are guided by Uta. Both have failed to achieve their goals. Nakayama tries to bridge the two movements, but Takumi interrupts him and accuses him to be responsible for Takao's suicide: a new flashback reveals that Takao committed suicide because he was disappointed in Nakayama's leadership and that there was also Takao's suicide note... And so a new flashback within the flashback shows us Takao watching the presumed spy, the poor worker, and letting him escape, and then Nakayama reproaching Takao for failing to do his duty and demanding that Takao offers a Stalinist-style public confession that he became an imperialist spy. The humiliation inflicted upon him by Nakayama brought Takao to kill himself. Takumi squarely accuses Nakayama. Nazawa now rises and accuses Takumi of never believing in the cause. Toura accuses Nazawa of being overbearing. Misako reveals that she despises her husband Nakayama because he withdrew to his home and only wanted to have sex while students were dying in the new riots. Nakayama is exposed as a hypocrite. Uta states that he wants to destroy Nakayama, who is now silent. Reiko is about to walk out of the wedding after declaring that she now wants to join Kitami, but just then the police break in and arrest Uta. The younger ones rush out to protest the arrest but Nakayama gives a speech calling them reckless clowns who hurt the movement, and accusing Toura, Sakamaki and Takumi of helping the enemy of their cause by creating a rift within the movement. The film ends with his delirious Stalinist speech demanding unity.

Shiiku/ The Catch (1961), an adaptation of a novel by Kenzaburo Oe, is an allegory of humanity's fundamental stupidity, selfishness, greed and cruelty.

The film is set during World War II. A column of villagers takes a wounded US prisoner to their poor village: he's a black aviator who jumped off his plane. It took them three days of walking in the mountains to find where he had crashed and bring him back. They tie him to a pole and the whole village gathers to stare and gossip. Eventually they decide to lock him in a bar while they wait for instructions from the authorities. The man cannot escape anyway because his foot is trapped in a bear trap. The villagers are not cruel but they are clearly racist and haven't seen many foreigners before. Katsu, wife of the village chief Kazumasa, tells the teenage niece Mikiko, that Kazumasa is having an affair with Hisako, their daughter-in-law, while Hisako's husband (their son) is serving in the war. Katsu's servant Aki has been ordered to guard the black man and granma warns him not to touch the black man. The families of the village don't have enough food, but the men are certain that the authorities will reward them. Kazumasa, the village chief, reads the norms on how to treat prisoners of war and reads that the prisoner has to be treated politely. The children point out that the man may die of his wound as his foot is beginning to rot, and so finally the village chief orders the trap to be removed. The children keep teasing the prisoner and even send him the madwoman of the village who shows him her vagina. When the children of a Tokyo refugee, Hiroko Ishii, who lives a villager named Kadoya, are caught stealing, the villagers suspect that the refugees are responsible for a wave of thefts. However, Kadoya points out that three refugees cannot possibly eat so much food and so there must be thieves among the villagers themselves. Kazumasa decides to blame it on the black and ask the authorities to refund the villagers. The villagers are racist but not evil: they invite him to watch how they grow rice and one paints his face black with mud to make the black man laugh. At night the villagers can see that Tokyo is on fire. Nonetheless the villagers drink, dance and sing as usual. Now they are worried that the authorities are dead and won't compensate the village for the expenses of feeding the prisoner. One of them, young Jiro, is about to join the army. Jiro rapes Mikiko, Kazumasa's niece, and is disappointed to find out that she's not a virgin after all, and then he disappears. His brother Hachiro knows that Jiro slept with Mikiko. They are also superstitious and blame the black for the disgrace that Jiro disappeared, although it's obvious that Jiro simply deserted. They have to tie Hachiro to a pole to keep him from killing the black man. His own father forces the black prisoner to slap Hachiro repeatedly. Mikiko, fed up, cuts the rope that ties Hachiro and Hachiro grabs a knife and tries to kill the black man. As the black man tries to avoid his blows, he accidentally pushes one of Hiroko's children in a ravine and the child dies. Hiroko demands that the black man be killed and several villagers agree blaming the prisoner bringing instability in the village. Just then a letter for Denmatsu arrives informing him of the death of his son Matsuo on the battlefield. Masu, the soldier's mother, Denmatsu's wife, too blames the black prisoner: while the village was taking care of the prisoner, her son was being killed by the black's army, and calls him an "animal". A big argument ensues among the villagers. The chief finally agrees to kill the prisoner. However, now Hachiro joins with Denmatsu's nephew Osamu to save the prisoner. Sensing the danger, the prisoner takes little Osamu hostage. And now Denmatsu's wife Masu reveals that Osamu is Kazumasa's son from an affair with her sister when she was working as the maid at Kazumasa's home. Denmatsu doesn't believe her but the madwoman comes forward to testify that she saw Kazumasa rape the maid in the barn. The argument that follows between Kazumasa and Masu temporarily saves the life of the prisoner but soon they return to him. He is still holding little Osamu hostage but lets them kill him without hurting Osamu. The villagers bury the black man just when the news arrives of Japan's surrender. They decide to forget that the prisoner ever existed. Hiroko thanks them but she is immediately told to return to Tokyo now that the war is over. Jiro resurfaces and is welcome back by the men. However, they realize that Jiro will be a convenient scapegoat if there ever is an investigation on the prisoner's fate. Jiro realizes that he's cornered, he tries to rebel and is killed. before burning the body, the villagers agree to claim that Jiro never returned and his parents are offered a rice paddy.

Amakusa Shiro Tokisada/ The Rebel (1962)

After devoting himself to TV documentaries, Oshima founded his own independent production company, Sozo-sha, which debuted with Etsuraku/ The Pleasures of the Flesh (1965), a satire of Japan's economic boom (and not erotic at all). Oshima twists the noir genre to explore his favorite themes of sex, death, suicide and postwar alienation. Oshima's protagonist is the ultimate loser, the destitute proletarian who has a chance to climb out of his condition but instead invests everything in his obsession for the woman who betrayed him and who betrays him again at the end, causing his final downfall. However, it's a minor film, with an implausible ending, despite the interesting plot and message.

The film opens with Shoko's wedding. One of the people sitting at a table is her former tutor, Atsushi, who is thinking of his story with Shoko. Six years earlier he had been her tutor when she was just starting high-school and had fallen in love with her. Her family wanted to kill the man who had raped her ten years earlier when she was just a child and he gladly killed him. Her parents asked Atsushi not to tell Shoko about the murder. A few days later a corrupt politician showed up, revealing that he had witnessed the murder, confessing that he had embezzled a large sum of government money, and offering Atsushi a strange deal: Atsushi had to keep the money safe while the official went to jail for the crime, so that after five years (the sentence for embezzlement) the official could regain the money and retire for the rest of his life. Atsushi, who is poor, had accepted the deal and for four years kept the secret from Shoko. But now that Shoko is marrying another man, Atsushi decides to spend all the money in the year that is left before the official is released from prison. Obsessed with Shoko, Atsushi offers money to a prostitute, Hitomi, who looks like Shoko telling her the truth: that she looks like his girlfriend. He offers her a large sum to come and live with him like a wife for a year. After two months of living with her, her old pimp shows up threatening to disfigure her face with acid if she doesn't return to him. Atsushi confronts him and the pimp leaves. But later three thugs show up demanding the girl who used to be the girl of the gang's boss. They tell Atsushi that the price to get the girl's freedom is one of his fingers and some money. Hitomi tells Atsushi not to pay anything, grabs the knife, cuts one of her own fingers, and then leaves him. Atsushi offers the same arrangement to Shizuko, a woman who is married and has a child. She accepts because they don't have money to cure their child and she even has to pay the debts of a friend who committed suicide. He is particularly cruel to Shizuko and one confesses that he's doing it to take revenge on the girlfriend who betrayed him by marrying another man and even confesses how he got the money. Shizuko's desperate husband comes to beg Atsushi to release her. Atsushi leaves her the house and money, and curses her. He then offers the same deal to a girl, Keiko, who is quitting her job as a nurse because the doctor molested her. She accepts to spend one month with him but without any sex. She's even sick for three weeks and threatens to kill herself in the sea when he tries to rape her at the beach. She accepts to sleep with him only when he marries her with the understanding that they will divorce after two months. Frustrated that Keiko still doesn't let him take her virginity, Atsushi sleeps with a mute prostitute, Mari, who is the opposite of the virgin Keiko. After having sex with Mari, Atsushi suffers a nightmare in which the politician returns and demands his money. On the way home, he is hit by a motorcycle and falls in the water and again imagines the politician. He wakes up at the hospital, and Keiko divorces him right away. Atsushi returns to Mari and offers her violent pimp Kudo a huge sum to let him live with the mute Mari for a month. He is convinced that he only has a month to live: the politician will certainly turn him in to the police and he will be sentenced to death. The pimp sells Mari to Atsushi but Mari returns to the pimp because she's happy only when she prostitutes. It turns out that Mari's pimp Kudo was in jail with the politician, the politician died of pneumonia in prison and before dying he told Kudo of the money. Kudo has been looking for Atsushi to rob him of the money. Kudo, not knowing who Atsushi is, offers Atsushi money to help him rob... Atsushi. Atsushi laughs like a madman and then tells Kudo that he just gave the remaining of that money to him, to Kudo himself. Kudo, furious that all the money is gone, pulls out a gun and threatens to kill Atsushi, but Mari grabs the gun from Kudo's hand and shoots Kudo. In the last scene (real or imaginary?) Shoko returns to Atsushi, having heard that he has become rich while her husband is bankrupt. Shoko is desperate and begs him to lend her money, but he confesses that he spent all his money; and even tells her that he killed a man; and Shoko leaves him again. Worse: Shoko goes to the police and tells them that Atsushi is a killer. The police arrest him for the murder of five years earlier.

Yunbogi no Nikki/ Yunbogi's Diary (1965) is a documentary.

Hakuchu no Torima/ Violence at Noon (1966), based on a story by Taijun Takeda, is a film noir that has two women for protagonists and whose deep meaning is that it's impossible to understand the motives of a soul, especially a female soul. Love and hate are mixed together, and that confusion leads to the desire to die or to kill. One of the two women is cursed: she is cursed to cause the death of her friends and she is cursed not to be able to die herself.

We see the silhouette of a man approaching a woman who is washing the floor. He is salivating and checks that nobody is watching them. Shino recognizes him as Eisuke, a man who hasn't been around for one year. He is drunk. We understand he is a former lover. She reminds him that he has a wife. He pulls out a knife, ties her hands behind her back, gags her and knocks her unconscious while we see the flashback of a man hanged on a tree. The film jumps ahead to a scene where the police and her employer are discussing the crime: Eisuke raped and killer her employer's wife and stole some clothes. The police recognizes the method as belonging to the "high-noon attacker" who has raped and killed before. Shino doesn't tell the police that she knows the identity of the killer but writes a letter to his wife Matsuko, who lives in a village, telling her the truth. Matsuko prays on the tomb of a man who died young. We understand that she was in love with him but then fell in love with Eisuke while he fell in love with Shino. A fashback shows us the protagonists when they were young, working together in the village. Genji was the leader and one day got into a big argument with Eisuke, accusing him of being a thief. That ended their friendship. Back to the present, Eisuke shows up while Matsuko is still praying at Genji's tomb. Matsuko tell Eisuke that she knows he is the serial killer. Meanwhile, Shino protects Eisuke by refusing to recognize him when the police shows her pictures of suspects. When the police tells her that the serial killer has killed again, she writes a letter to Matsuko explaining that he started killing because of her, Shino. A flashback shows what happened. Shino's family lost their rice paddies and considered killing themselves rather than starving to death, but Genji was so in love with Shino that he gave her money to save the family. Eisuke caught them making love and spread the rumor that they had sex, in particular telling Matsuko, who was the village teacher and was secretly in love with Genji. Eisuke was clearly jealous of the successful Genji. Back to the present, Shino is taken by the cop to the scene of another brutal rape and talks to the victim who survived. The cop sees a note in her hand with the name Eisuke and guesses that it is the name of the killer. She still refuses to cooperate and instead writes to Matsuko more details about her past. One year earlier, suddenly, despite having won a political election, Genji asked Shino to commit suicide with him, with no explanation. We hear from Matsuko's voiceover that in reality Genji first went to propose to her, to Matsuko, and Matsuko rejected him. Ganji told her that he was going to kill himself, and Matsuko begged Eisuke to stop Genji, but Eisuke saw that Shino was following Genji to kill herself with him (without knowing the reason). Genji still lied to Shino telling her that he loved her and asking her to die with him. Not love but pure evil. Then he tied two ropes to a branch of the tree. Eisuke watched the scene unseen. Genji hanged himself (he's the man we saw hanged on a tree) and prepared the rope for Shino to hang herself. Back in the present, Shino has decided to travel back home to talk to Matsuko. The cop stops Shino and pressures her to confess that Eisuke is the killer. Shino starts telling the cop what happened one year earlier and so the scene of the double suicide continues. We see Genji hanging himself and then Shino following him, but Eisuke promptly saves Shino. While she is unconscious from the fall, Eisuke rapes Shino, right under the corpse of Genji dancing in the air. Shino's tale ends. The cop demands that she confesses that Eisuke is the serial killer but she still refuses, admitting only that he raped her that time. Shino meets Matsuko at the Osaka castle (where Matsuko is on a school visit) Matsuko initially pretends that Eisuke has been home all the time and therefore can't be the killer. We see a flashback that shows how the two girls parted after Genji's funeral: Shino left the village because of the rape and didn't want to tell Matsuko. The meeting between the two girls ends with Matsuko telling Shino how much she hates her (but Shino has done nothing wrong to her, it's Eisuke who is obsessed with Shino). Shino confronts Matsuko again on the train. Matsuko reveals that after Shino left the village Eisuke confessed candidly to her that he had raped Shino and even went into all the sordid details. And then Eisuke raped Matsuko too and almost strangled her. Nonetheless Eisuke asked Eisuke to marry her. Finally Matsuko agrees to turn Eisuke in to the police and stop his crimes. Eisuke can't decide whether she loves or hates Eisuke. Eisuke is arrested and sentenced to death. At the trial Eisuke blames Shino and Matsuko: he was obsessed with Shino and he hated Matsuko. After the trail, a guilt-stricken Matsuko (who somehow wasn't punished for protecting Eisuke) convinces Shino to commit suicide together. They return to their village and swallow poison in the forest but Shino survives again. Shino carries Matsuko's body on her shoulder all the way back to the village.

Ninja Bugei-Cho/ Tales of the Ninja (1967) is an animated movie based on Sanpei Shirato's manga.

Nihon Shunkako/ Sing a Song of Sex (1967) narrates the erotic fantasies of a group of teenagers in a style reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard.

Muri Shinju - Nihon no Natsu/ Double Suicide - Japanese Summer (1967) is an absurdist tragicomedy set in a cavern-like room that borrows the superficial external envelop from the gangster movies but ultimately is an intricate, giant metaphor of post-war Japan : the gangsters are perhaps the nationalist Japanese war criminals who don't know what to fight for after their government has been captured by the USA; the erotic fantasies of the girl represent perhaps the westernizing desires of the Japanese society, that repulse the nationalists; the suicidal soldier is perhaps the conscience of the Japanese repulsed by the tragedy caused by the nationalists; The gangster called Television represents the average citizen torn between nationalism and modernity; and there is also a samurai, an old wise man who belongs to an era of honor, and a young idiot who simply wants to become a killer like the older generation (perhaps a veiled criticism of the students who are rioting against the establishment but displaying the same propensity to violence). Society is represented as an ugly and grotesque mess of sex and death instincts, of unbridled eros and thanatos.

A girl, Nejiko, watches as men dressed in white silently paint over graffiti in a public bathroom. She walks on a bridge, removes her underwear and throws it from the bridge. She shouts at passing swimmers that she just broke up with her boyfriend. Then a military band passes by and she asks in vain what the occasion is. The band is followed by young people carrying Japanese flags. Then she encounters a group of Buddhist monks walking in a circle. A man dressed in a military uniform is staring at two human figures chalk-painted on the bridge. The monks disappear and the girl and the soldier are left alone. There is no traffic. They lie down on the two figures which presumably represent dead people. She asks him questions in vain: he doesn't remember. They walk to the beach where he digs a giant human form in the dry mud and then lies down in it. She lies next to her, lifting her skirt so she's mostly naked. Four men appear with a shovel and start digging where the human form is. She whispers to the soldier that they are gangsters. The gangsters dig up a casket full of guns. The gangsters take the girl and the soldier prisoners. She's excited to be imprisoned in a place with many men. They are taken to the hideout of the gangsters, a vast dark cave-like building. The soldier tests their resolve: he is convinced that they cannot kill anyone. One gangster threatens to kill him but, as the soldier predicted, can't kill him; but it looks like the soldier was actually provoking the gangster because he wanted to get killed. The girl, who has advertised in vain that she is not wearing panties, helps a teenage boy enter the compound. He claims to be a member of a smaller gang and his mission is to steal a gun. She is disappointed that he doesn't want to sleep with her, just like the soldier and the other gangsters. Captured by the real gangsters, the high-schooler begs their boss to take him in their gang because he wants to kill humans, but the boss doesn't want him. The three prisoners are told that they will be released the following morning. There is a sense that some major gang battle is about to take place. She is so obsessed with having sex that she even unties a man despite being told that he's a serial killer as long as promises to have sex with her. The soldier asks the serial killer if he really kills for fun and is ready to had him a knife: the soldier can't wait to be killed just like the girl can't wait to be "raped" and the high-schooler can't wait to kill. The soldier explains to an older man that he wants to be killed by someone else (not commit suicide) because he wants to see himself reflected in the eyes of the killer. Two mysterious men deliver a TV set. The girl dances and sings around the men who are standing silently, indifferent to her sexy dance. They hear on TV that a white foreigner on the loose is suspected of having killed three people and that everybody is advised to stay home. The girl still tries in vain to seduce the soldier. The boy is still trying to get a gun. And the soldier is still trying to get killed. The boy actually tries to kill the soldier with a pistol that he grabs from a ganster but the pistol doesn't work and the oldest gangster has to fix it. The soldier finally accepts to have sex with the girl but they are interrupted when the TV announces that the mysterious white foreigner has killed another person and is heading towards their location. The girl is simply disappointed that again she couldn't have sex. The soldier hopes that he will be killed by the white foreigner. The girl walks outside and realizes that everybody else has left the compound: only the handful of gangsters in her cave-like building are left. They learn that the fight between gangs has been postponed because the bosses have been arrested. A gangster walks in to explain that they have to let the police arrest them, which will give time to all the other gangsters to flee; but the old gangster who has fixed the pistol shoots him dead and then distributes the weapons contained in the casket. The highschooler picks a rifle, the serial killer chooses a samurai sword. But now they don't know whom to fight because there are no bosses to give them orders. Someone on TV mentions that the town has become a refuge for armed gangs. The girl keeps trying to seduce them one by one. The boy runs out in the street with his rifle, eager to kill someone, but the streets are deserted because the authorities have asked citizens to stay home. Finally he encounters two cops who shout at him to go home and he kills them both. Meanwhile the girl finally has sex with three men. But the boy returns saying that the killing was not exciting, and the girl says the sex was not exciting either. The TV announces more victims of the white foreigner, and describes the town as the "Japanese Dallas" (Dallas is where the president of the USA has been assassinated). The reaction in the room is mixed: three gangsters want to go home and the boy shoots them dead, the old one wants to go and fight the white foreigner, the soldier wants to be killed by the foreigner, the serial killer kills one with the sword because they are too many to fit in a car but then is killed himself by another gangster, and the girl wants to have sex with the white foreigner. The four remaining men leave the building (the soldier, the old gangster, the highschooler and the one nicknamed "Television" because he brought the TV set) and the girl follows them. Now that there are only dead people in the building, we see that the walls are covered with chalk drawings representing the events of the evening. The TV meanwhile is describing how a car has broken through a police checkpoint and the occupants are chasing the white foreigner. Now we see the four men and a girl behind a car with broken glasses laying siege to the white foreigner, while the police have surrounded the whole area. The suicidal soldier, unarmed, walks towards the white foreigner hoping to get killed, but the old gangster takes advantage of the situation to make friend with the white man. (The white man looks like Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's assassin). The old gangster wants to fight alongside the white man. The immediately tries to seduce the white man. The soldier is disappointed that he didn't get killed. The highschooler is fascinated by the white man's irrational violence. Television, instead, wants to kill the foreigner and kills the old gangster who tries to stop him. The soldier, the girl and the highschooler follow the white man, and Television follows them at a distance. The final shootout takes place at an ancient domed circular tomb. The highschooler is excited to fight the police alongside the white man, but Television kills the white man and then shouts to the police that he killed him and walks towards the police waving a Japanese flag. The highschooler tries in vain to continue the shootout but is killed on top of the domed circular tomb. When Television is almost safe in the hands of the many cops that are arriving, the suicidal soldier grabs the highschooler's rifle and kills Television. Only the soldier and the girl are left and finally he has sex with her while the cops are shooting at them.

Koshikei/ Death by Hanging (1968) is a ferocious Brecht-ian" apologue against the criminal nature of a society that pretends of judging individual crimes. There is a bit of Kafka and a bit of Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men in the story, but the film is fundamentally a grotesque allegory.
The film begins and ends as a pamphlet against the death penalty, but in between it's a macabre farce. By reenacting the rapist's life after he loses his memory, the officials who are supposed to execute him "become" him and commit his same crime. Only then does he recover his memory and can be legally executed, but he is now a scapegoat for all mankind, having indirectly proved that all men are guilty of the same violent instinct. The officials in charge of killing the rapist are worse than him. The film is at the same time a grotesque Brecht-ian apologie and a complex psychological and historical drama that even evokes Theodoros Angelopulos. The metaphorical aspect, however, is more political than existential. The film has a strong antimilitaristic message. The ghost girl represents Korea, the victim of Japanese aggression.
The story and the way it is filmed (sometimes a pantomime, sometimes a circus skit) conflates elements of Kafka's "The Trial", a meditation on criminal justice along the lines of Michel Foucault's "Discipline and Punish", a satire of bigotry and hypocrisy, absurdist storytelling like in Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel and Godard's Weekend, a meditation on guilt, and a caricature of Japan's xenophobic tradition. As the film transitions from documentary to satire to surrealism, the central story becomes that a de-humanized criminal becomes a humanized victim.
At the same time there is a parody of art: the hapless buffoon in charge of the ceremonies (the "education chief"), the one who masterminds the entire farce, identifies with his character and becomes obsessed but only to lose control of his creature (the film), which in fact spins out of control.

A voiceover describes the prison facility that carries out executions while the camera flies over the prison. Then the camera moves inside and describes the rooms and the process leading to the execution (Buddhist prayer, last meal, last cigarette). And finally we see the death chamber with the noose in the ceiling, we meet the officials (an expressionless puppet-like prosecutor who simply watches silently, his robotic secretary, the warden, an "education chief", and so on) and we witness the hanging and the formal procedure that follows. This is where the film begins because the doctor determines that the condemned is not dead: his heart is still beating normally. The authorities discuss whether it would be legal to execute him again but he is unconscious and a technicality prevents it (he is mentally incapacitated). They order the doctors to revive the condemned so he can be execute again legally. The Buddhist priest argues that the soul of the condemned has already departed the body and therefore the body is no longer the body of a criminal. Furthermore, the condemned has lost his memory. He doesn't even remember his own name (which we are told is R). THe officials try to restore his memory by telling him where he is, what has been done to him, and why he was condemned. So we learn that he strangled a girl to death. To help him recover his memory, one official and the doctor reenact the murder scene. And we learn that he also raped the girl. The officials even reenact the sexual intercourse, but the condemned doesn't show any emotion. The Buddhist priest insists that this is not R because his soul has departed, and therefore doesn't even know that he is R, but then they all start doubting that R is only pretending to have lost his memory and in fact knows of being R. However, they eventually resume the experiment, and all contribute (priest, doctor and prison officials): they farcically reenact a previous rape committed by R. We also learn that R is a 22-year-old Korean who has been incarcerated for four years. R doesn't even seem to remember what a Korean is, what rape is, and so on. They have to explain to him that rape is the perverse instinct of animals. Then they go further back in time, reenacting his poor childhood in a dysfunctional family: one plays his drunk father, another one (also a man) plays his mute mother, and one plays R as a child. The way they reenact his life becomes more and more farcical. R still cannot identify with the person they depict to him, the pre-amnesiac R. They try to have him in person reenact his childhood. The officials become more and more immersed in the story to the point of fighting for real, and the representation becomes more elaborate, like a theatrical play, except that one official (the "education chief") directs the actions of the various "actors" while walking among them (the one who knows the details of his childhood). Four officials watch from a window: the spectators. They take him to the Korean slum and then to the fields outside town and then downtown, always trying to restore his memory by reenacting episodes of his life. They take him to his old high school, where he committed the first rape, The "education chief" continues to narrate the way he killed the girl and directs him to attack a girl with a knife. As he hesitates, the education chief (the "director" of the reenactment who knows the details of his crimes and has been guiding everybody) personally strangles the girl. All the other officials help him hide the corpse. At this point the film resumes from the death chamber: all the other officials cannot see the dead girl, only R can, and they state that the education chief is imagining her being real. The camera shows us that the girl is indeed her, inside a coffin, which means that the other officials are pretending not to see her. Only when the warden finally admits of seeing her does everybody admits that she's there. But, just when the education chief panics that he will get executed for the murder, the girl rises from the coffin and walks towards R, who calls her "elder sister". The education chief screams that R didn't have an elder sister, but she confirms that R is R. Some of the officials see her and hear her, others don. The priest describes to the doctor what R and the girl are doing, and then the doctor sees her too. Meanwhile she's describing the persecturion of Koreans over the centuries, all the way to Japanese imperialism. She retells the story of R. The education chief tries in vain to stop her because they already reenacted those episodes, but her version of the story justifies R's crimes as revenge for Japanese crimes against Korea. The prosecutor's secretary translates what she is saying in political jargon to the expressionless prosecutor, i.e. in the words that a politicians would use. The prosecutor is one of the officials who cannot see/hear her. She demands the release of R so he can join her to fight for Korean reunification. R however has no patriotic feelings, and the girl, disappointed, now states that he is not the real R. The girl vents her anger on the officials, accusing them of having destroyed the real R. One of the last officials to see her is the security chief, who panics when he finally sees and hears her. The prosecutor cannot see her but orders that the introduder be killed. The security chief quickly hangs her. the group then parties around the couple of R and his dead sister who lie on the floor in the middle of the room. They all get drunk. However, they soon start arguing, haunted, in particular, by their own war crimes. They reveal their racism against Koreans, even wishing to exterminate the 600,000 Koreans who live in Japan. Meanwhile R asks the girl whether this is a dream and she replies, alive. She accuses him of always confusing dream and reality. She starts psychoanalyzing him (yet another reconstruction of his youth) and we see a sequence of photos of life in the Korean slum. He confesses that the crimes he has committed are only a fraction of the crimes that he imagined in his mind. Finally, R accepts being R. The officials cheer, ready finally to execute him again. But R now feels that he is not guilty. The prosecutor accepts R's argument and tells him to leave. R walks towards the door but, as he opens it, a strong light stops him. The prosecutor interprets this fact as an admission that he has to be executed for the sake of society. Despite continuing to claim his innocence, R accepts to be executed in the name of every R, including his own executioners. The camera shows the noose and no body, and we hear the prosecutor congratulating the officials on an impeccable hanging, as if the first hanging went as planned and the whole story of the film was imagined.

Kaette Kita Yopparai/ Three Resurrected Drunkards (1968) is another film that shows Oshima's sympathy for the fate of Koreans in Japan.

Shonen/ Boy (1969) is a melodrama of the lumperproletariat viewed from the eyes of a child who dreams of being an extraterrestrial superhero while being forced to carry out dangerous scams. It's a very minor film.

A child plays "hide and seek" by himself. His father and his stepmother are poor and cannot pay rent. While the family is walking along a busy street, the boy's stepmother suddenly throws herself under a car but the car avoids her and she remarks "no luck". She does it again and this time the driver stops and assumes that he hit her. She fakes a broken hip and threatens to go to the police. The driver settles for a little money with the husband. The family then has dinner at a restaurant. The father wants his wife to continue the farce, but she is getting tired of risking her life that way. The father and the stepmother talk the child into doing it. The boy tells his little brother than he is an alien from Andromeda. While on a ferry, we hear his stream of consciousness, informing us that he already succeeded seven times in extorting money from drivers with his falls. They reach a new town and succeed again in extorting money from a driver. The stepmother is pregnant and wants the father to find a decent job so they can move to a proper house, but the father opts for an abortion. The boy wanders in town and witnesses two bullies extorting money from a smaller child. The boy approaches the victim but the victim immediately turns into a bully himself and slaps the boy in the face. The parents decide to visit an abortion in her hometown and so the family moves again. One day the boy runs away. He walks to the train station and catches the first train that he can afford. He arrives at a seaside town and wanders alone at night until he starts crying. Next, we see him back with his parents (we are not shown how he got back home). They need money for the abortion. They instruct the child throw himself under an expensive car, driven by a chaffeur. The day the stepmother goes to the clinic, the boy accompanies her, but then he sees that she does something else. She is not pregnant after all, and the invented pregnancy was just an excuse to get money from his father. She buys the boy's silence by buying him an expensive watch. The boy then narrates for us all the places where they moved and where he threw himself under cars. The injuries start hurting for real. Finally, a doctor realizes that the boy has several previous injuries, and the driver who hit him calls the police because he senses a scam. The police investigate the accident. The driver nonetheless accepts to settle for good money. Afraid of the police, they immediately take a train and make sure the police cannot follow them. The police took pictures of them and both have a criminal past. They decide to lie low for a while. The father buys the boy glasses that the child doesn't need and forces him to wear them outdoors, so he won't be recognized. The father takes a separate hotel. The stepmother needs money and so she starts throwing herself under cars and the boy acts as the blackmailer, the role that was his father's. When the father finds out, he gets angry, but the stepmother tells him that she's saving money for the baby that she's carrying. So she is pregnant after all. They travel to Japan's northermost point, where it's already winter. Now the stepmother is the one who wants to make as much money as possible, and doesn't listen to the father who warns her that she's taking too many risks. The boy is on her side and would like to split from his father and follow her. Just when they are arguing and not watching him, the little brother walks away and causes a real car accident in which the driver is killed. The parents flee the scene while the boy remains there, staring at the dead driver, a woman, until the police and the ambulance arrive. Nobody pays attention to the boy. Reunited with the parents, he and his stepmother argue and fight with the father who wants to reassert his authority. The boy walks away, determined to leave, and his little brother starts following him and crying. It starts snowing heavily. The boy builds a snowman and tells his brother that it is an alien, a cosmic messenger from Andromeda. It is Christmas and the child's voiceover narrates that the family stopped "working" and settled down in a real house. We then see real newspapers that talk about the police hunt for them (this was a real criminal case). The cops finally find them and arrest the parents. A narrating voice tells us, documentary-style, the real story of the father and the stepmother.

Shinjuku Dorobo Nikki/ Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (1969) is another portrait of asocial youth and his most Godard-ian film, chaotic and incoherent. Oshima adopts Godard's subversive montage techniques and discontinuous storytelling, but the result feels artificial and inconclusive.

The film begins with a surreal overture in which a thief is running away chased by a group of people and is made to strip naked. When he reveals his big penis, everybody kneels to him. Meanwhile a young man in suit and tie has been circling around the scene. The thief then intones a song. After a documentarian sequence of three men singing and dancing in front of a large crowd, the film finally begins in earnest in a crowded bookstore where the young man wearing a suit and tie is browsing through the shelves. The hand-held camera follows him (again, documentary-style) and shows us a panoramic of the busy store. The young man walks out with some books without paying and is promptly stopped and taken to the office of the owner, an old affable man. He is released and a young cute employee informs him that they will call the police if they catch him three times. Later he tries to seduce her. They seem to know each other well and he knows that she's still a virgin. He complains that she keeps postponing the day when she'll have sex with him. She catches him a third time stealing and reports him to the old owner. The old owner is a writer himself, Moichi Tanabe, and instead of sending the boy to jail he gifts him one of his own books. The old owner detects that the girl, Umeko Suzuki, is fascinated by the shoplifter, who doesn't seem to mind the consequences of his actions. The boy, Torio Okanoue, confesses to Umeko that he gets erotically excited by shoplifting. She accuses him of being wealthy while she is a poor store clerk. He encourages her to shoplift and she steals a red dress from a fashion shop. Finally, they have sex together. At a party Umeko starts throwing objects until she's detained by the police. Torio and Umeko are taken by Tanabe to see a psychologist, a lengthy scene in which the psychologists shows them erotic prints and concludes that the girl desires group sex and has lesbian tendencies. He asked them to get naked but the boy refuses. We hear his stream of consciousness. Then we see a lengthy documentarian interview in which kids discuss sex. Then the girl reads from a book an erotic story which turns into a scene of the film that she and Torio watch from outside the window of the house while men, dressed in traditional costumes, simulate rain by spraying water in the sky with a hose. The camera then indulges in the sex act being performed inside the house. The two men who operated the "rain" and Torio chase the girl through the deserted streets of the night. The two men knock Torio unconscious and rape Umeko. We then see a scene in strong blue-ish color: Torio and Umeko walk alone in the deserted street. And she asks him to have sex in the street. We then see the first scene again from far away: the thief being beaten up and then showing his penis to subjugate them. Back in the bookstore, Umeko hides in the restroom till past closing time. Then she comes out and browses the books, starting the a Genet novel. We hear the voice of Jean Genet and then the voices of all the authors that she browses reciting lines from their books, one after the other. After a while all the voices speak at the same time. Tanabe confronts Torio and Umeko after hours. Umeko tries in vain to seduce the old man, claiming that she's now a prostitute after being raped, and Torio too begs the old man to "buy" her. Tanabe gives her money on the way out and she gives it to Torio.
Every now and then the story is interrupted by songs, sung by the thief of the first scene. Finally this thread joins the main narrative: Torio and Umeko meet with the thief of the first scene, now a Kabuki actor, who drafts them for a kabuki play about Yui Shosetsu (a 17th century rebel) and Marubashi Chuya (a ronin who joined him). After a while, the kabuki scene shifts from black and white to color, and then back to black and white. Umeko gets raped also in the kabuki play. The play ends and Torio undresses Umeko finding a scar on her breast. She tells him that years earlier she was stabbed by a Western maniac while we see them having sex. The film ends showing a student riot in front of a police station.

Tokio Senso Sengo Hiwa/ Secret Story of the Period after the Tokyo War/ The Man who Left his Will on Film (1970) is a psychological puzzle whose plot is similar to Moebius strip. The main story of the film is very simple: there was a political demonstration and a camera was taken by the cops from one of the demonstrator, who got slightly injured. But the film is mainly about the long hallucination that takes place in the protagonist's mind, in which that demonstrator dies and his girlfriend becomes the protagonist's girlfriend, and eventually the protagonist becomes the dead demonstrator. Motoki lives in an alternate reality: in videos made by his group he only sees either a boring city landscape (with no trace of the group's militant struggle) or an erotic scene of the girl he's obsessed with. His alternate reality reveals his real reality, one in which he is bored by his intellectual friends and he lusts after the girl of one of them. The mysterious video of the supposed martyr is not an ideological testament but a tribute to "bourgeois" life.
The hallucination, however, is not what it seems to be, it is not just the effect of some kind of schizophrenia: by the end the hallucination has become the real reality, except that he, the protagonist, is the demonstrator who died. By reproducing the last video made by the demonstrator, the protagonist has become that demonstrator. Or viceversa: the protagonist, while dying, has twisted the real story to become not the thief of the camera but the victim of the theft. Underlying all this confusion of identity is his sexual fixation with the girl.

The first minute is an argument between two men about what to do with a camera. We see not the scene but what the hand-held camera is filming, which is just the street. Then one of the men (Motoki) screams at the other one to return the camera and starts chasing him. The other man, the thief, runs up to the roof of a building and jumps to his death. The first man (Motoki) is so obsessed with this camera that he grabs it from the cops who are gathering around the dead man and then, when caught, runs after the police car that confiscates it. Motoki is beated by the police and remains in a confusional state. Later Motoki reports the incident to a group of friends. They are worried whether the camera survived the fall from the roof, but not about the suicide. They get into an ideological discussion about private property: they are leftist students who in theory are disgusted by bourgeois materialism. They plan to retrieve the camera from the police, by violence if necessary, but want to wait until Motoki recovers from the wounds inflicted by the police. The girl Yasuko stays with him when the others leave. She claims that she witnessed the episode, but she is surprised to hear that Motoki thinks Endo committed suicide. She tells him (and us) her version of what happened: they met to film a student protest in a square of the city, and we see documentary-like images of the protest, and when the riot police attacked the demonstrators Endo fell and sprained his ankle while Motoki ran after the cops who had grabbed Endo's camera. According to her, Endo never jumped from a building: he only has a sprained ankle. She witnessed all of this but doesn't know what happened after Motoki started running after the police car. Motoki still repeats that Endo jumped off the top of the building and died. Motoki calls Endo her lover, but then wants to make love to her and rapes her in the street. We hear cars passing by as she struggles. Some time later Motoki shows up with the film shot by Endo before dying and tells the others that the cops surrendered it after determining that it was a case of suicide. They watch the tape and what we see is only the tape, not them watching it. It looks like he was filming random scenes of ordinary life, and the group begins to complain that it's a waste of their time. One of them, Yazawa, remarks that Endo was bankrupt both artistically and politically. We keep seeing this tape of pointless images of the city made by Endo: streets, buildings, rooftops. Then finally we see the first scene and hear Motoki yelling at Endo. Now Endo's camera shows us the sidewalk as he's running away from Motoki and then the film ends. But now the group thinks that they saw the video made by Takagi, and wonder how to retrieve Endo's video. As Motoki insists that they just watched Endo's video they conclude that Motoki feels responsible for losing Endo's tape and is coming up with these strange ideas that he already got the video back from the cops. There is no sign that Yasuko is angry about the rape. Yasuko follows Motoki when he starts walking around town, looking for the places that are on Endo's film. Then suddenly Motoki starts saying that Endo never existed and tries to make love to her again. He now claims that the tape is just something he found in a garbage can. But at the same time he keeps calling her Endo's lover, and she has fond memories of Endo. She plays a videotape which shows her stripping naked and making love to someone, but he stops her and shouts that Endo never existed. Yasuko leaves him and Motoki starts watching again the sexy video of the naked Yasuko. He then shouts at the video that Endo never existed. Another day Motoki shows up and his friends complain that he hasn't been seen in a while. Motoki casually asks about Endo's ankle, and the others reply that it's getting better. Motoki apologizes that he's been wasting time with someone who didn't even exist, implying that everything we've seen about him and Yasuko was only in his imagination. The group is working hard at a plan to recover the film seized by the cops. They care because they consider films as weapons for their Marxist cause. But then we see Motoki and Yasuko alone rolling in a field after she admits that Endo died and she begs Motoki to make her his girl: presumably this just happens in Motoki's psyche. And again he talks to Yasuko about the film that Endo made before committing suicide. Yasuko replies that it's Endo's testament. Motoki again projects the video while Yasuko describes what Endo did before the incident. Motoki and Yasuko start stripping in front of the projection and hugging tenderly while Motoki keeps asking her hysterically what Endo did with her before the incident. They caress each other and kiss gently. Eventually Yasuko says that she hates Endo and they fall to the floor in a strange embrace, part copulation and part strangling each other. Then they set out on foot through the streets of the city, looking for the neighborhood that features in Endo's video. Their search takes them to... Motoki's house. This new hallucination ends and Motoki is again with his group discussing how to make a militant film about the film that was seized by the cops. Motoki visits his mother. Then he takes a camera and tells Yasuko (hallucination) that he has decided to make the exact same video that Endo made, that Endo will disappear when he (Motoki) becomes Endo. But Yasuko walks into the various scenes of the video, causing various incidents: she gets arrested for blocking a mailmen, she is slapped by a man while using a public phone that doesn't work, she causes a car to hit a truck and then she is raped in the back seat of the car (and we see the road upside down). Yasuko and Motoki meet again in a field. He tears up the map that he created from watching the video and states that Endo "is in every landscape and missing from every landscape". Yasuko runs away. Motoki films random scenes in the street and is eventually surrounded by kids who demand that he returns the camera (the first scene of the film, but this time with a completely different meaning: Motoki is the thief). Motoki runs away from them and runs on top of a building. We now expect him to jump from the rooftop but instead he walks back to the stairs. Yasuko is standing there, silent. Motoki walks to the edge of the rooftop and jumps to his death. While he is lying on the asphalt and passers-by are gathering around his dead body, someone grabs the camera and runs away.

Gishiki/ The Ceremony (1971) is a family saga of weddings and funerals, but also of national war and peace, which traditional ceremonies are supposed to invest with profound meaning but instead becomes increasingly meaningless. Nonetheless, even the disintegration of a clan is accomplished through a ceremony, the ultimate ceremony. It is a trasfiguration of Ozu's cinema in which the serene equilibrium guaranteed by tradition is turned upside down. The real themes are freedom, solitude and failure, both individual and national ones.
The film can be read simply as a family saga and a coming-of-age drama, but it is mainly a film of terrible and disgusting family secrets that make it impossible for any family member to be happy. That horror is mirrored by Japan's horror: the wartime secrets make it impossible for Japanese citizens to find closure. It's a film of funerals, weddings and family gatherings but also a film that mixes fascism, communism, prison, incest, murder and suicide. It's Sophocles and Shakespeare on stereoid. It's also an allegorical history of Japan through five flashbacks (1947, 1952, 1956, 1961, 1971) that reflect on the political upheavals and social transformations of post-war Japan: the US occupation, the return to independence, the economic boom, westernization, Mishima's failed coup and terrorism). Family ceremonies are orgies like Japanese imperialism itself was an orgy. The perverted and incestuous patriarch is Japan itself. The madness of this family's story is the madness of Japan's history. Overall, the film is a powerful concentrate of love and hate. The intricate plot is full of twists and turns but too much is left unexplained in the story.

The film opens in 1971. Masuo Sakurada, a middle-age man, receives a telegram announcing the death of his cousin Terumichi. He decides to travel to the island where Terumichi's funeral will take place. The woman who is with him, Ritsuko, can't decide if she should follow him because the telegram, addressed only to Masuo, could be a prank. Masuo looks very attached to Ritsuko, but she feels that they are strangers who only see each other at funerals and weddings. Masuo begins narrating his childhood. He has known Ritsuko ever since and has loved her ever since. He curses Terumichi without him Ritsuko could have become his wife. Masuo was born in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. The first flashback begins in 1947 when he was a child. Two years after the end of the war, Masuo and his mother were returned to their home village, to his father's family, the Sakurada clan. They had been fleeing Russians, Chinese and Koreans. His father had died one year earlier. Masuo's granpa Kazuomi welcomes them in an austere, rude, emotionless manner. He is presented as a tyrannical patriarch. He asks Masuo's mother if she has been used as a prostitute, which she denies. We learn that Masuo is the only legitimate Sakurada descendant of Kazuomi, and therefore important to Kazuomi. Granpa Kazuomi asks Masuo what happened to his brother and we learn that his younger brother died. Masuo narrates that this was the first anniversary of his father's death and that his father had committed suicide while in Japan after the Japanese surrender, leaving his family stranded in Manchuria. The boy Masuo is introduced to his pretty and affectionate aunt Setsuko, whom he hasn't seen since the beginning of the war, for seven or eight years, and is raised with with his three cousins: Setsuko's daughter Ritsuko, seven-year-old Tadashi (whose father Susumu is held in China as a war criminal) and Terumichi. The family also includes a communist uncle, Isamu, a half-brother of Masuo's father. Granpa Kazuomi disregards Masuo's mother and announces that he wants to raise Masuo personally. The communist uncle Isamu reminds granpa in front of the whole family that Masuo is actually his own son, just like Terumichi and possibly seven-year-old Tadashi (born when his "father" was in China), and the uncle mentions that they don't know anything about Ritsuko's father. Isamu also mentions that he himself and Susumu were both born to mistresses. We therefore realize that granpa not only had two children from two mistresses (Susumu the war criminal and Isamu the communist) but even slept with the mothers of all the grandchildren except Ritsuko. Granpa simply laughs loud and the rest of the family seems to be fully aware of the situation because nobody is shocked. Masuo's narration tells us that granpa was proud of having been a prisoner of war but probably committed worse crimes than Susumu. Granpa interrogates the boy Masuo who admits that he was separated from his mother in the prison camp, leaving the suspicion that she was used as a sex slave by the Russians. While playing with his cousins, Masuo puts his ear to the ground and listens to a sound that the other children can't hear: he tells them that someone buried his younger brother alive, who was still breathing and crying (we are not told who buried him: the Russians? the Japanese? his own mother?) Masuo's narration reveals more family secrets: Terumichi's mother was engaged to Masuo's father, chosen by grandmother for her only son (granpa's only legitimate son), but she died after giving birth. Back then Masuo didn't know who Terumichi's mother married in the end.
The second flashback is from 1952. During high-school Masuo was a promising baseball player. When his mother died, Masuo stopped playing baseball: he was blamed by everybody for being away from home at a baseball game. His mother died just when he made a fatal mistake in the baseball final of the high-school tournament. Terumichi is now 20, Masuo 19 and Ritsuko 16. The family is pressuring Ritsuko to choose one of the two boys as her future husband. When Masuo turns 20, Setsuko delivers to him the will of his father Kanichiro, which she has kept secret for six years. Granpa is angry that he was bypassed, and accuses Setsuko of sleeping with Kanichiro before he committed suicide. Setsuko retorts that he, granpa Kazuomi, destroyed their love story when she was 19, officially because she was an illegitimate daughter, not worthy of Kanichiro, but in reality to make her his own lover. We learn that Setsuko is the illegitimate daughter of an unknown father and of granpa's sister. After making her his own lover, granpa Kazuomi adopted her as a daughter and married her off to an important official in Japanese-occupied China. Masuo knows that his aunt Setsuko is being abused by granpa, and Setsuko is Masuo's first secret love, but Masuo is powerless to defend her. One night Setsuko teaches Terumichi about sex. Masuo now suspects that his father was also Ritsuko's father: both children of a Japanese colonialist who possibly raped two Manchurian lovers. Masuo tells Ritsuko and she's excited at the idea that they could be siblings. Masuo tells us that his father committed suicide because he thought that Japan was going to become a communist country.
(Every now and then the flashback is interrupted and we see Masuo and Ritsuko in the present, on the train, at the train station, waiting for the ferry to Terumichi's island).
The third flashback is from 1956 and begins with the wedding of Isamu, the communist uncle. Everybody gets drunk and they sing both Russian communist songs and traditional Japanese songs. Tadashi's father Susumu, the war criminal, is back from captivity. Humiliated, he doesn't tell Tadashi what he did in the war. The four cousins, now in their 20s, are back together and Ritsuko is still innocent and jovial. sword Ritsuko tells them that her mother Setsuko wants to die. Ritsuko, Masuo and Terumichi lie on the floor and Terumichi confesses his sex with Ritsuko's mother Setsuko. Ritsuko reminds Masuo that they are supposed to behave like siblings. Masuo confronts Setsuko and Setsuko confesses that she slept with Terumichi. Later, Masuo finds Ritsuko and Terumuchi in bed, and cries: Terumichi has now slept with both mother and daughter, and Masuo knows it. The following day they find Setsuko killed by a sword against a tree and granpa decides that she killed herself, but Masuo suspects that granpa killed her. Masuo goes to university and Terumichi becomes granpa's personal secretary, living permanently with him.
(Back to the present, Masuo and Ritsuko are now on the boat to the island, and he tries to kiss her, as he feels that he is losing her forever; he even asks her to marry him if Terumichi is indeed dead).
The flashback resumes from 1961 when Tadashi has become a police officer and Masuo, 28 years old, has accepted to marry a woman because granpa said so. But the woman deserts him the day of the wedding. Since the two families are present and the banquet is already planned, granpa decides to carry on with the wedding anyway and considers the marriage valid. Masuo meekly goes along with this farcical wedding, following the cues of the master of ceremony as if the bride was indeed there. Tadashi wakes him up from his torpor and asks him to rise up while inveying against the corporations that have taken over Japan. Tadashi even tries to read a fascist proclamation in front of the large crowd of guests. Outside the hotel, Tadashi is run over by a car and killed. The fascist manifesto is then read at his funeral by his father, who accuses the communists of having killed Tadashi. Masuo is heartbroken and cries, both because of Tadashi's death and because of the humiliation of that farcical ceremony. Ritsuko instead is silent all the time. Masuo simulates having sex with his missing bride by using a pillow as the bride in front of his family in the room where they are mourning Tadashi, another farce that makes everybody laugh until granpa enters. Masuo finally attacks granpa while Ritsuko breaks her silence to read from Tadashi's fascist manifesto that calls for all politicians to be either sentenced to death or sent to forced labor. Later Masuo pulls out Tadashi's corpse from the coffin and lies down into it. When Ritsuko asks him to stop it, Masuo pulls her into the coffin with him and asks her to marry him. Ritsuko asks Terumichi for help, but Terumichi decides to leave granpa's house and, unbeknownst to Masuo and Ritsuko, even asks granpa to allow them (Masuo and Ritsuko) to get married. Masuo finds granpa crying alone and later learns that Terumichi was his son from the woman who had been promised to his own father. (It is not explained why Ritsuko and Masuo didn't get married and instead didn't even see each other for ten years).
In the present, Masuo and Ritsuko are approaching Terumichi's island.
Ten years went by and now we are to 1971, a few days before the events of the present. Masuo has not seen Terumichi and Ritsuko in ten years. The last flashback shows the funeral of granpa. Masuo's uncles asks him to succeed granpa as the patriarch, get married and give a new heir to the clan. Ritsuko feels sorry for Masuo, who is exhausted and delirious. She kisses him and masturbates him.
We now see the telegram that announced Terumichi's death: it is signed by Terumichi himself, implying that he killed himself. We are back to the present. Masuo and Ritsuko left the funeral of granpa to travel to Terumichi's island. It is night when Masuo and Ritsuko finally reach Terumichi's island. They find Terumichi dead and naked on the floor. His will lies on the newspaper that announces granpa's death: Terumichi killed himself to terminate the clan. (It is not clear why the clan terminates with his death: isn't Masuo the only legitimate grandson?) Ritsuko tells Masuo to go back. She has decided to kill herself next to Terumichi, considering him her husband. Masuo leaves them. Masuo collapses on the beach and remembers when they were all children and were playing baseball together. He finds a baseball on the beach and lies down to listen to it the way he was listening to his dead brother breathing.

Natsu no Imoto/ Dear Summer Sister (1972)

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Ai No Korida/ In the Realm of the Senses (1976) aggredisce i tradizionali tabù sessuali dei giapponesi. È la storia dell'incontenibile passione scoppiata fra il proprietario di una locanda e di una serva prostituta. I due insaziabili amanti passano tutto il tempo nel letto a ripetere l'atto sessuale con contorno di geishe e musicanti che partecipano saltuariamente al godimento; la lascivia, la voluttà e la lussuria si sbizzarriscono in giochi pornografici che tendono inevitabilmente all'autodistruzione: la donna comincia infatti le tendenze sadiche che culminano nello strangolamento (avvenuto nel momento di massima eccitazione) e nell'evirazione. Estremo rituale macabro ed erotico di una disperata tensione verso l'assoluto mistico che nel soddisfacimento di ogni desiderio del corpo viola tutto il codice delle tradizionali cerimonie private. Ogni orgasmo è una trasgressione alla cerimonia più sacra e, ancora una volta, la tensione dell'assoluto, che si sublima nell'ultima macabra trasgressione, ha come conseguenza la solitudine. Inesauribilmente vorace fino ad appropriarsi del sesso dell'amante, pura forza della natura nel godere all'infinito il piacere, invasata idealistica adolatrice dell'orgasmo, la donna si spinge oltre e oltre fino a distruggere il suo padrone, senza più barriere che si frappongono fra lei e l'infinito. A young servant, Sada, who just joined a new wealthy house cannot fall asleep and an older lesbian servant tries to seduce her. The older one takes the younger one to spy on the masters, who have sex every morning. Later, as they walk in the street with other girls, they run into a group of children molesting with an old tramp who has fallen asleep in the street. They send the children away but then the old tramp, waking up, starts cursing the young servant, recognizing her as a former prostitute. Later he begs her to masturbate him but he can't get an erection even when she shows him her cunt. A brawl breaks out among the servants who learned that Sada was a prostitute, and Sada threatens one with a knife until the master walks in and stops them. Later the master approaches Sada when she's alone and directly touches her private parts until his wife shows up. He knows that her husband's business failed and she had to prostitute herself. Soon Sada becomes his lover and she enjoys having sex with him. In fact, she enthusiastically becomes the sex slave of this insatiable man. (We see a very detailed close-up of her performing oral sex on him). His wife tolerates the affair. On the other hand, Sada gets jealous when she sees the master and his wife having wild sex and dreams of killing the wife with a razor blade.
The master, Kichi, decides to leave his wife and takes Sada to a country house, hires four geishas and performs a mock wedding with Sada. He has sex with Sada in front of the geishas. Excited, the three older geishas undress and masturbate the youngest one. While an old musician sings and dances, they all engage in group sex. (We see a close-up of Sada caressing and kissing Kichi's penis). Sada is addicted to sex with Kichi. She even begs him to pee inside her. She tells Kichi that she once saw a doctor to explain her passion for sex and the doctor told him that she's hyper-sensitive. At the same time Kichi seems to have constant erections and never get tired. The old fat servant of the house (a sort of veteran geisha) is surprised when they are not having sex: they do it in front of her. Sada turns to prostitution again in order to pay their bills. Kichi is jealous that other men sleep with Sada but then, when the old fat geisha warns him that Sada will kill him with so much sex, he rapes her. At that time Sada is sleeping with an old spectabled high-school teacher. To get excited, Sada begs the old man to slap her and pinch her. Back home, Sada engages in all sorts of sexual games with Kichi. Sada wants to make sure he'll never sleep with his wife and threatens to cut his penis off. He swears that he never will. In fact when he visits his wife Kichi tries to ignore her, but then she masturbates him and he cannot resist. Sada guesses that he had sex with his wife and threatens to kill him, but then she too can't resist and has sex with him again. Kichi suggests that they choke each other a bit to enhance the sexual experience. It works exceptionally well for her when she strangles him a bit because his penis gets a harder erection which feels delirious inside her. The old decrepit owner of the inn tells them that people consider them perverts. Sada, increasingly violent, hits the old woman until Kichi stops her. They hire an old decrepit geisha to play while they are having sex and Sada asks Kichi to have sex with the old woman. Kichi does not hesitate, and almost kills the old woman, while Sada watches hypnotized. An ever more unbound Sada ends up strangling Kichi for real in order to maximize her own pleasure during sex (with Kichi's approval): nothing can stop her, not even the death of her lover. As he dies, she has the vision of lying naked in the sun in an empty amphitheater while Kichi and a child run around her. The vision ends and she realizes that he is dead. She grabs a knife and cuts his penis. The voiceover informs us that she then wandered around the inns of the city for four days until she was arrested. She became a sort of celebrity. And this happened in 1936.

The jidaigeki movie Ai no Bore/ Empire of Passion (1978), based on Itoko Nakamura's novel, is both a ghost story and an erotic drama; but it is a very amateurish film, with poor acting and poor direction.

The film is set in 1895 in a small rural village. Gisaburo, a rickshaw driver, enters the village and passes in front of a younger attractive single man, Toyoji. The two don't speak. He reaches his home where he is welcomed by his wife Seki. She admits that Toyoji has been hanging around a lot after being released from the army. After a wedding dinner that they all attended, and where Seki served drinks, a drunk Toyoji enters the house and finds a tired Seki sleeping on the floor next to her little baby. Toyoji rapes her in front of her crying baby, and she opposes minimal resistance. He returns when Gisaburo is out and she lets him do as he pleases again. He is 26 years younger than her. Toyoji tells her that he can't stand the thought of her sleeping with her husband. When Gisaburo returns home, we learn that they also have a teenager daughter, Shin, who is a nanny and would like to go to school but Gisaburo thinks it would be a waste of time. Toyoji becomes increasingly obsessed with Seki and convinces Seki to get Gisaburo drunk so that Toyoji can kill him and then throw the corpse into an abandoned well where nobody will find it. They carry out the plan on a snowy night and then dump the body in the well. Seki tells the villagers that Gisaburo has travelled to Tokyo for work. Three years later the villagers finally begin to wonder what happened to Gisaburo. Seki's daughter Shin dreams that her father Gisaburo is dead. And the wheels of Gisaburo's old rickshaw starts to magically turn, and one night Seki sees Gisaburo alive in the house. She begs Toyoji to move in with her to protect her from the ghost but he refuses because it would expose their secret affair. In another dream Shin sees that her father has been killed and dumped in a well. However, Toyoji, who still lives with his mentally disabled brother Denzo, does not believe in ghosts, and the ghost never appears to him. One day a cop shows up, Hotta, to investigate the disappearance of the rickshaw driver after several people claim to have seen his ghost. Seki has to admit that she has not heard from Gisaburo in a long time. The cop makes her even more afraid but her anxiety annoys Toyoji. Meanwhile, Denzo shows up with a trumpet. Villagers begin to gossip that Seki has a secret lover. One night Gisaburo offers Seki a ride in his old rickshaw and then takes her far away from the village until she hit him on the head with a bottle, killing him again... When she wakes up on the floor, it looks like it was just a nightmare, but instead she has a broken bottle in her hands. Her daughter Shin decides to leave and suspects that Seki knows what happened to her father. Villagers begin to gossip that Seki killed her husband. They also gossip about the fact that Toyoji keeps raking leaves in the forest and throwing them in the old well. Gisaburo appears again to Seki but doesn't say a word when she begs for forgiveness. When he leaves, a fire engulfs the room. Seki is paralyzed. She doesn't even open the door to Toyoji and is ready to die in the fire. Finally the ghost confronts Toyoji, who is desperately trying to save Seki. Toyoji succeeds but afterwards the whole village sees the two lovers hugging. The cop does too. Only one person has seen Toyoji throw leaves in the well and Toyoji kills him too, but he has already told the cop. The cop spies on Toyoji and Seki, clearly suspecting them. Denzo is the one who finds the body of the witness: it is hanging from a tree, in an apparent suicide. Toyoji confesses to Seki that he killed the witness. She begs him to pull up Gisaburo's body from the well. They both sink in the well while the ghost throws leaves on them. They somehow reemerge but she is blind. They have delirious sex. The police arrive and arrest them. They are hanged from the tallest tree and tortured until they confessed. The villagers can now pull up Gisaburo's body from the well.

Senjo no Meri Kurisumasu/ Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence/ Furyo (1983) è un film di prigionia (nella tradizione di La Grande Illusion e The Bridge on the River Kwai) che mette in luce la problematica convivenza fra la civiltà del samurai Giapponese e quella del cavaliere Europeo, incompatibilità di pregiudizi, superstizioni e cerimonie. La "grande illusione" si compie a Java, dove si confrontano un ferreo comandante Giapponese e un orgoglioso ufficiale Inglese, entrambi obbligati psicologicamente a far onore alle proprie tradizioni.
A Japanese officer who lives in the past of the "bushido" code and is at the same time a homosexual who falls in love with a British officer who lives in the past of the British honor code. The protagonist is in theory the witness, a British officer who is fluent in Japanese and in Japanese traditions, and who will be the only survivor at the end. The film is overlong, and hurt by poor acting.

The film takes place during World War II in Java, which the Japanese have occupied. In a prison camp a Japanese sergeant, Gengo Hara (Kitano), wakes up a prisoner, US official John Lawrence who speaks fluent Japanese. On the way out other prisoners make comments in English that Hara cannot understand and he brutally whips one in the face. Hara wants Lawrence to witness a scandal. A Korean guard, Kanemoto, has sodomized a Dutch prisoner and Hara is now offering him a chance to commit suicide. Lawrence, disgusted by the whole affair, wants to stop the charade, but the guard himself grabs a dagger and stabs himself, but not mortally. The prison's captain, Yonoi (Sakamoto), shows up in traditional attire and demands what is going on. Hara tells him that he is trying to save the honor of the guard: if the guard's death is reported as an accident, his family will receive a pension. Yonoi is summoned by his superior to attend a trial, that will be presided by colonel Fujimura and his young lieutenant. The defendant is a British major, Jack Celliers (Bowie), accused of ambushing a Japanese convoy. Jack was on his own, one soldier against the Japanese army. Yonoi speaks fluent English and interrogates Jack personally, fascinated by his heroism, and then intercedes to save his life and have him declared prisoner of war and interned in his prison camp (but after a cruel fake execution by firing squad). Lawrence asks Hara the favor to transfer the Dutch soldier because the other soldiers heard of his sodomization and it makes him a desirable victim of more sodomizations. Just then Jack arrives at the camp. Lawrence recognizes him: they fought together in Libya against the Germans. Meanwhile, Yonoi wants to find out which prisoners are experts in weapons but the captain of the British prisoners, Hicksley, refuses to cooperate. Hara, who has vowed to die rather than surrender to the enemy, asks Lawrence why he doesn't commit suicide instead of accepting to be a prisoner: Hara likes Lawrence but doesn't like his "cowardice". At night the prisoners hear Yonoi screaming as he practices traditional sword fighting with another Japanese. Lawrence tells Yonoi that the screaming upsets the prisoners. Yonoi confides that he regrets that he didn't participate in the "February 26 Incident" after which some of his comrades were executed. Yonoi then invites the prisoners of wars to witness Kanemoto's ritual suicide and then orders everybody (including himself) to stay without water and food for 48 hours. The Dutch soldier collapses dead when Hara finishes the agonizing Kanemoto. Lawrence hears that Yonoi intends to replace Hicksley with Jack as captain of the prisoners. Jack breaks the fast eating flowers and is arrested. He keeps eating the flowers even when facing Yonoi. The Japanese also find a radio and blame Lawrence: Jack is locked in a cell and Lawrence is tortured in another one. That night a young Japanese tries to assassinate Jack in his cell but Jack overpowers him. Jack then escapes and frees Lawrence. As Jack is carrying Lawrence in his arms, Yonoi stops him. Jack refuses to fight him and surrenders. Yonoi is upset that Jack would not fight for his freedom. The young would-be assassin confesses that he wanted to kill Jack because he feels that Jack is an evil spirit, and then commits suicide himself. Yonoi informs Lawrence that he will be executed for the radio, even though there is no evidence that Lawrence was the one who brought it in. Locked in neighboring cells, Lawrence and Jack exchange stories of their past. A lengthy flashback of Jack's childhood shows us an act of betrayal towards his younger brother that still weighs on Jack's conscience. It's Christmas time. The Japanese guards drag both Jack and Lawrence to see Hara, who is drunk and pretending to be Santa Claus. He announces that another prisoner has confessed about the radio and says: "Merry Christmas, Lawrence". Hara delivers both Lawrence and Jack to Hicksley so they can rejoin the other prisoners. But Hara didn't have Yonoi's authorization to release Lawrence. Yonoi summons him. Hara shows up with Lawrence and confesses that he was drunk. Hicksley takes the occasion to protest the decision to replace him with Jack. Yonoi demands again that Hicksley reveal the weapon experts among the prisoners. Hicksley refuses again. Yonoi tells Hara that half the prisoners will be sent to Haruka to build an airstrip, and Hara will be in charge. As punishment for his drunkedness, Hara is also confined to his room with no sake for one night, a rather light punishment. Yonoi then asks all prisoners to assemble and forces even the sick to walk out of the hospital. Yonoi accuses them of lying about being sick but one of them dies. Yonoi then asks Hicksley again the names of the weapon experts. Hicksley refuses again to speak and Yonoi prepares to behead him in front of all the prisoners. Jack calmly walks towards Yonoi and kisses Yonoi on each cheek. The Japanese soldiers attack Jack while Yonoi faints. Yonoi is relieved of his command and the new commandant has Jack buried in the sand up to his neck. Jack saved Hicksley's life but at the cost of his own life. Half of the prisoners depart for Haruka while Jack is slowly dying. Jack dies with a vision of visiting his younger brother, still a child. At night Yonoi visits the already unconscious Jack, cuts a lock from his hair, and salutes him. The film then forwards to four years later, when the war has ended and the USA is occupying Japan. Lawrence visits Hara on the eve of his execution for war crimes. Hara reveals that Yonoi has already been executed. Hara again says: "Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence!"
If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Makkusu Mon Amuru/ Max Mon Amour (1986) è una commedia centrata su una donna affascinante, moglie di un rispettabile diplomatico, che viene sorpresa a letto con uno scimpanzè; il marito accetta di tenerlo in casa; la curiosità morbosa per i loro amplessi; quando lei si allontana lui deperisce e si riprende solo quando lo portano da lei: in breve, viene accettato da tutti. Grottesco alla Ferreri: è la fine della civiltà dei sentimenti, è il trionfo degli esseri oggetto.

Gohatto/ Taboo (1999) is a jidaigeki movie, except that Oshima's samurais are homosexual.

Oshima died in 2013.

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