The culmination of Shôhei Imamura’s extraordinary examinations of the fringes of Japanese society throughout the 1960s, Profound Desires of the Gods (Kamigami no fukaki yokubô) was an 18-month super-production which failed to make an impression at the time of its release, but has since risen in stature to become one of the most legendary — albeit least seen — Japanese films of recent decades.
Presenting a vast chronicle of life on the remote Kurage Island, the film centres on the disgraced, superstitious, interbred Futori family and the Tokyo engineer sent to supervise the creation of a new well — an encounter which leads to both conflict and complicity in strange and powerful ways.
A tragic view of a passing epoch that teeters on the edge of grotesque farce, Imamura’s merciless gaze combines with spectacular colour ‘Scope photography to create a mythic saga convulsing with earthly impulses. —Eureka Entertainment
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
A very heady brew and one which I cannot really explain while just now under its intoxicating effects. It's got a lot going on - it's like a Japanese Faulkner novel, with a very sophisticated political analysis of desire, myth and history. And the entire middle is richly comedic, while the last hour is tragic and disturbing. I was enthralled.
The typical Japanese concerns - loss of tradition, dishonour, the influence of the west - but all rendered as a grand tapestry; a collage of melodrama, allegory and adventure story, rich in feeling. Imamura contrasts a documentary-like focus on the everyday running of the island with a more colourful phantasmagoria; a fable-like theatricality, where the story grows out of the legends of the legless minstrel, vivid but vague; creating a parallel between the mythic story of these gods and their downfall and the more intimate social drama taking place.
imamura is at his very best here, with a perfect invocation of his theme of an isolated community which survives on older traditions which are compromised by modernity. the actress playing toriko is outstanding, one of the best imamura performances. the framing is perfection, as always with the visuals outstanding. the script is incisive and contemplative. imamura really is the japanese master.
A mid-August Wednesday sees fresh rounds of reviews in Midnight Eye and Cineaste and a screening of Ermanno Olmi's Palme d'or-winning The
Let's get this out of the way right away, just so we can bounce back from the vulgar and move forward into a more refined realm of cinephilic