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Double Shinoda

In a brief sidebar to the extensive retrospective of the films of Yasujiro Ozu, we offer the chance to view two key works by a major figure of the generation that succeeded him, Masahiro Shinoda. Sparked by widespread disaffection with the past and an activism born of political protests against Japan’s renewed security pact with the United States, a distinctly Japanese New Wave movement emerged in the early 1960s. A theater student turned filmmaker, Shinoda was already working for one of the major commercial studios when he directed one of the first works of the new movement, the provocatively titled Youth in Fury. After a series of politically engaged youth and yakuza (gangster) films, Shinoda left the studio and found international acclaim for his innovative adaptation of a traditional Bunraku tale that became his masterpiece, Double Suicide. Completing the program is a special preview screening of the director’s most recent and reportedly final feature production.

This program is co-sponsored by the Japan Society of Boston and the Reischauer Institute at Harvard. Special thanks to Adam Kern.


Free Screening
Director Masahiro Shinoda in Person
Yenching Auditorium (2 Divinity Avenue)
May 14 (Friday) 8 pm

Double Suicide (Shinjû ten no Amijima)

Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Japan, 1969, v/w, 142 min.
With Kamatari Fujiwara, Tokie Hidari, Shima Iwashita
Japanese with English subtitles

Considered Shinoda’s most experimental film, Double Suicide is based on an eighteenth-century puppet-theater drama. The director retained the genre’s central clash between giri (social obligation) and ninjô (personal emotion) while synthesizing a number of contemporary cultural and political elements. The story concerns an obsessive love affair between a wealthy businessman and a beautiful courtesan. Married and with two children, Jihei (Fujiwara) flaunts the dictates of bourgeois morality in pursuing Koharu (Iwashita in the double role of courtesan and wife). In a Brechtian gesture, Shinoda retains the kurago, the black-clothed puppet handlers traditional to Bunraku theater, as silent witnesses to the unfolding tale. The couple’s tragic fate, visible at the outset in a wrenching image of two lifeless bodies laid side-by-side, captures the moral dimension of the original while bestowing an erotic inflection to this strikingly modern version.

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Director Masahiro Shinoda in Person
May 16 (Sunday) 7 pm

Spy Sorge

Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Japan, 2003, color, 182 min.
With Iain Glen, Masahiro Motoki, Kippei Shiina
Japanese with English subtitles

Shinoda’s most recent production is a historical thriller that focuses on the intriguing figure of Richard Sorge, the German newspaper correspondent who passed Japanese military secrets to the Russians during the early years of World War II prior to his capture and execution. A hero to the Allied forces, Sorge provided warnings to Moscow that German armies would attack the Soviets. Shinoda casts the Scottish actor Iain Glen as Sorge, in a demanding role that follows this complex figure nearly from cradle to grave. Released this past summer in Japan, Spy Sorge was a box-office hit and received several Japan Academy Prize nominations.

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