I know that there are several periods that can lay claim to that title. In particular, I’m interested in the period from the early 60s to the 80s. The generation that included Teshigahara, Immamura, Oshima (I’m familiar with them). It’s the other directors that I’m unsure about. I’ve recently seen Shinoda’s Gonza the Spearman (which I disliked) and Suzuki’s Branded to Kill (which I enjoyed a great deal).
So, did I go wrong starting Shinoda with Gonza? Is there a better film to start with for him?
What Suzuki film should I check out next? I’ve heard good things about Elegy to Violence.
And I’m intrigued by Yasuzo Masamura. Blind Beast is usually the first one that I read about. Is it the best or is it just the most controversial?
Is Wakamatsu’s United Red Army, the only thing available in the U.S.?
I’m not too familiar with Shinoda’s work right now, but if I were exploring his stuff, I’d start with his earlier work. I’d try Pale Flower, Assassin, or Double Suicide.
For Shinoda, definitely check out Pale Flower, it is my favorite of his. I really think you will like that better. Double Suicide is also a good one.
Branded to Kill is my favorite Suzuki and if you like that, Tokyo Drifter is the weirder, more psychedelic cousin of that film. Gate of Flesh is also very much worth watching.
I’m still new to Shinoda, but I’ll echo the Pale Flower praise. It’s incredible!
Anyway, good topic… I’m interested in Japanese New Wave, but am still in the process of getting into it…
Thanks guys. I wanted to check this out in full since Immamura’s one of my favorites. Tokyo Drifter is already in my que and I’ll try Pale Flower next week. That’s more of a yakuza type of subject, right?
Yes, in fact I think both revolve around the Yakuza.
The 80’s is not a particulary strong point in many of the new wave directors careers (though I’d argue Imamuras greatest film is The Ballad of Narayama), and Shinoda, to me, seems to be director whose later work is the weakest of all the new wave directors (I have, however, not seen Gonza yet, but I recently saw Childhood Days and Owls’ Castle – I was not impressed).
I’d say Shinodas greatest films are Double Suicide, Himiko, Punishment Island, Pale Flower and The Assassination, but all of his films of the 60’s are good (at least the ones available with english subtitles).
When it comes to Suzuki I’d recommend Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Youth of the Beast and Yumeji, but more or less all of his films are good and enjoyable (the only exception of the 15 I’ve seen would be A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness).
Blind beast is great, but I much prefer Giant and Toys. Manji and Kisses (which is a film of great importance to the movement) are also very good.
Oshima, Imamura, Shinoda, Teshigahara, Suzuki, who else belong to the new wave?
I suppose it depends on how broadly you define the term. I think it originally started out as a way of labeling a few young directors at Shochiku. In that sense the only directors who would belong to the “movement” would be Oshima, Imamura, Shinoda and Yoshida.
In a broader sense one could perhaps also add, not mentioning the ones you’ve already named, Shuji Terayama, Kazuo Kuroki, Toshio Matsumoto, Akkio Jissoji, Kôji Wakamatsu and Masao Adachi. Certain films by Masumura, Kurahara and Nakahira (his debut film Crazed Fruit is sometimes considered to be the first new wave film) could perhaps also be said to belong to the “movement”.
Does Nakahira do any better than Crazed Fruit with his other movies? Because I did not like that movie at all, but it certainly had a sensibility which felt like he could make better things.
“…though I’d argue Imamuras greatest film is The Ballad of Narayama…”
It’s also his least “New Wave”-esque film. I personally believe Kinoshita’s original a better film, but Imamura’s handling of the final trek up the mountain is, I think, better.
“In that sense the only directors who would belong to the ‘movement’ would be Oshima, Imamura, Shinoda and Yoshida.”
That’s correct, except Imamura worked for Nikkatsu.
So, when we discuss this topic we have to find differentiations. There was Shochiku, there was Nikkatsu, there was ATG, there were independent documentary filmmakers, and there was Toei. All of the filmmakers in those molds offer extremely different types of films. I mean, a large majority of these filmmakers (even some within the same studio) didn’t even know each other.
Oshima, Yoshida, Shinoda.
These filmmakers were generally given somewhat more control over their works, at least early in their careers. Their early films are extremely experimental, especially considering they were made with large budgets, little interference and outside of any formula that had previously been developed in any world studio system. Eventually, however, they were all constricted by the studio’s ‘conservatism’ at the top (Shinoda’s screenwriter on Pale Flower, for example, accused him of Anarchism to Shiro Kido and Shinoda was essentially made a hired hand for the next years), Oshima and Yoshida eventually left the studio (Oshima joined ATG).
These filmmakers were not particularly close. Oshima and Yoshida were known for their disavowal of older filmmakers, but Shinoda was known for the overt influence filmmakers like Mizoguchi (especially) and Ozu had on his mature-period work.
Suzuki, Kurahara, Imamura.
Nikkatsu, in its early years was the “conservative” studio. Fostering filmmakers like Mizoguchi and Uchida, who perfected the long-take style. In the sixties Nikkatsu became a studio of extreme outward openness and inward oppression (leading to Suzuki’s ten year absence from filmmaking his first feature back was for Shochiku). They were a genre-oriented studio, and became extremely popular among youths. B-filmmakers like Kurahara, and Masuda flourished. But Suzuki felt increasingly more constrained as he was given less and less creativity and more and more uninteresting scripts (that he was not allowed to turn down).
The filmmakers were not close, either. Suzuki’s biggest complaint was giving a filmmaker like Imamura, one he saw as almost completely untalented, total freedom, while he was mired in mediocrity.
Imamura, however, was given almost total creativity, having left Shochiku’s assistant-director program to work for them. Even with this, however, Imamura also burned himself out by the end of the sixties. And Nikkatsu itself had burned out by the end of the sixties, moving almost solely into softcore porn “pink” cinema.
Ito, Fujita, Fukasaku.
This is one of the least well-known studios in the west. They are often most recognized as a “pink film” studio, however this is erroneous. Actresses like Meiko Kaji chose Toei specifically because it did not make pink films, but focused on action and Yakuza genre works. These films were also very popular with youths and actors and actresses (as well as filmmakers like Shunya Ito) became some of the largest in the country.
Kinji Fukasaku flourished with his self-referential yakuza revisionist works, but most filmmakers never moved beyond simple genre.
Art Theatre Guild began as an experimental theatre group (obviously) and moved into cinema, both production and distribution. An opportunity to move away from the confines of studio work. Eventually Oshima joined them, however the larger members would be filmmakers like Shuji Terayama (a true Renaissance man, as it were) and Susumu Hani. Both of whom achieved some international acclaim, and local recognition, despite the obscure, experimental nature of their works.
These were maybe the most tight-knit group, though independent and documentary labels could be seen as anachronisms as many of their early films were commissioned, and if they did not move to fiction cinema, they were not necessarily opposed to staging events in documentaries.
Filmmakers like Teshigahara (the most well-known), Matsumoto, Shinsuke Ogawa, Noriaki Tsuchimoto and Kazuo Hara all experienced bouts of extreme creativity and stretches of sterility. But their masterworks could be argued to be the greatest works ever produced in Japan, of any period.
Also, there are numerous “wild-card” filmmakers like Yasuzo Masumura, Ko Nakahira, Akio Jissoji (also a member of ATG), Wakamatsu and Adachi, et. al. that do not easily fit within any stringent category, but all can be placed in the same realm as the New Wave filmmakers.
Also, I would like to name check Yuzo Kawashima. The filmmaker Imamura identified the most with and a connection to the previous generation, particularly in the character-driven works of Mikio Naruse (and Kawashima co-directed Evening Stream with Kawashima in 1960).
^ Nice! I was waiting for you to show up, Wu!
The more I get into cinema the less I know about it…… Now I need to check out Kinji Fukasaku and all the ATG directors!
But I think I’m gonna do a double feature of Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill tonight!
“The more I get into cinema the less I know about it……”
…and the more you feel satisfied with your knowledge, the higher likelihood someone will appear out of nowhere with a full filmography of works you’ve never heard of and all the historical, aesthetic, and intellectual details behind them.
This is one of those threads that makes me feel awkward because I watch so many Japanese movies and haven’t seen a whole lot of what’s talked about here!
I know nothing of Shinoda and Masamura…..
I’ve seen a couple of Oshima films. Shonen is my favourite. Death By Hanging did not impress me. Empire of Passion was decent.
I highly recommend Shonen (1969).
Which Yoshida’s films are the most experimental?
I’ve only seen “Akitsu Springs”, but I found it to be pretty straightforward melodrama and I’m not interested in seeing such films.
Off hand and somewhat rambling statement, I have to admit my biggest struggle with Suzuki’s filmography is that I get mixed up over which of his I’ve actually seen. It’s really not a function of the movies themselves, but their titles (I make the same confusions with Ozu films and that one I’m a little less apologetic about. “Gee uh, was it Late Spring, Early Autumn, Late Autumn, or that other one where the daughter is about to move out and the father is about to die and the relatives come to visit? Oh wait…”) I know I’ve seen Youth of the Beast but I cannot remember whether I’ve seen Branded to Kill or Tokyo Drifter. I know it’s one of the two and that I need to see the other one.
And of course I acknowledge I could do so much as just rent both and if I end up with the one I’ve already seen, hey, rewatch, awesome! But that’s just one example of his quite rich filmography, of where I have various confusions speckled without. And I’ve never really liked Suzuki as much as others, which is why my brain didn’t codex his films correctly and why I’m not exactly getting around to rewatching them all that quickly.
“Does Nakahira do any better than Crazed Fruit with his other movies?”
I’ve only seen Crazed Fruit and Only on Mondays, enoying both (the latter slightly more). His second half of the 60s and onward doesn’t seem very interesting to me though, with James Bond ripoffs for Shaw Brothers and stuff.
“It’s also his least ‘New Wave’-esque film. I personally believe Kinoshita’s original a better film, but Imamura’s handling of the final trek up the mountain is, I think, better.”
Oh, I don’t know. None of his later films feels particulary “New Wave”-esque, but I think Black Rains feels less so than Narayama. Kinoshita’s film is, of course, great as well. They complement each other nicely with their very different styles, I think.
“Which Yoshida’s films are the most experimental?”
The ones he did after he departed with Shochiku. His most experimental is probably Eros Plus Massacre, but you can’t go wrong with any of his films made between 1965 and 1973 (I have yet to see his later films).
“I’ve only seen ‘Akitsu Springs’, but I found it to be pretty straightforward melodrama…”
Well, there requires some context… These aren’t independent productions like the French New Wave (despite being as formally experimental as those films), they were films made in studios. If you compare something like Bitter End to a Sweet Night or Night and Fog in Japan to what was being made in Hollywood at the same time, for example, they’re incredibly experimental works. Even if you compare them to films of the American New Cinema, not only did they come 10 years earlier, but they’re still more experimental.
But yes, both Oshima and Yoshida’s most experimental works happened after they left the studio and joined ATG.
“Oh, I don’t know. None of his later films feels particulary “New Wave”-esque, but I think Black Rains feels less so than Narayama.”
If we say his transition back to fiction cinema were post-wave films like Vengeance is Mine and Eijanaika, then what do we say about Ballad of Narayama?
Vengeance is Mine is about the societal role in the creation of a serial killer.Eijanaika is about proletarian exploitation and sociopolitical protest.
Both of those are new wave concerns.
But feudal village life and explorations of nature and death-cycles… That’s decidedly anti-new wave. Especially considering the final 45 minutes of the film are a silent acceptance of one’s own death. That happens nowhere else in his cinema, even in the more classically melodramatic Black Rain.
“I know it’s one of the two and that I need to see the other one.”
P.S. – Polaris, this might help… Branded to Kill is in stark black & white and Tokyo Drifter is in candy-coated technicolor. But I’m not a huge fan of either. I personally believe Suzuki’s peak in his genre work are Youth of the Beast, Gate of Hell and Fighting Elegy.