“Based on the best-selling diary of a ten-year-old girl of Korean descent, My Second Brother, although a project assigned to Imamura by Nikkatsu Studios, still bears recognizable foreshadowing of his later works. In the midst of a violent coal-mining strike in the Saga region of Kyushu, a father dies, leaving his four children to fend for themselves. Imamura’s approach to childhood, as seen in the relationship of the two youngest family members, is refreshingly unsentimental. Filmed entirely on location, My Second Brother focuses on the vitality and resilience of Japan’s poor, and on their ability to make it through even the most difficult of times. Imamura himself claimed that the factual nature of his source material made it difficult for him to portray any villains; to his embarrassment, the film was awarded the prestigious Education Minister’s Prize for its sensitive depiction of the problems of education and social work in this remote area.” —Richard Pena, Film Center
Shohei Imamura’s ribald, darkly comic films about messy human relationships and coarse, indomitable women repelled early European critics who had grown to cherish the graceful, exotic image of Japan typified by Kenji Mizoguchi films. Yet Imamura remains a critically important director, both as one of the seminal Japanese New Wave directors (along with Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda) and as a chronicler of a side of Japan rarely seen in Mizoguchi movies or tourist brochures.
Born in 1926, in Tokyo, Imamura attended the elite elementary and middle schools that normally would have aimed him toward a prestigious university degree and a comfortable career in business or government. His love of theater and loathing of bourgeois presumptions, however, steered him away from a conventional lifestyle. When he failed the entrance exam for the agriculture program at the national university in Hokkaido, he enrolled in a technical school to evade the draft. The day the Pacific War ended… read more