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May 6 - 18, 2005

Toru Takemitsu and the Japanese New Wave

Generally regarded as Japan's foremost contemporary composer, Toru Takemitsu produced over one hundred film scores during his career, working primarily with the masters of the Japanese New Wave. Directors such as Nagisa Oshima, Hiroshi Teshigahara, and Masaki Kobayashi were able to achieve more poetic means of expression thanks in large part to Takemitsu's searching, unconventional accompaniments. The HFA celebrates the maestro who passed away in 1996 with a brief overview of his brilliant work as film composer

Takemitsu Tribute Concert

This program is co-presented with the Japan Society of Boston and The Boston Modern Orchestra Project. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project will present a premiere concert in tribute to Toru Takemitsu on May 27 at Jordan Hall. For more information and tickets, please visit www.bmop.org or call 617.363.0396.


Introduced by Peter Grilli, Japan Society of Boston
May 6 (Friday) 7 pm

Music for the Movies: Toru Takemitsu

Directed by Charlotte Zwerin
US, 1994, color, 58 min.

Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu wrote the music for ninety Japanese films and became closely associated with the directors of the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s. Among his most celebrated works are his scores for such Japanese classics as Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes, Shinoda's Double Suicide, and Kurosawa's Ran. As Zwerin reveals, Takemitsu brought a genuine passion for the movies to his work and often began his collaboration with a director while the film was in pre-production. Zwerin's portrait of this celebrated composer includes interviews with director Nagisa Oshima and historian Donald Richie.

May 6 (Friday) 9:15 pm
May 8 (Sunday) 7 pm

Ran (aka Chaos)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
France/Japan, 1985, color, 160 min.
With Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Mieko Harada
Japanese with English subtitles

Kurosawa established himself as the preeminent cinematic interpreter of Shakespeare with his recasting of Macbeth as a samurai warlord in Throne of Blood (1957). Ran is an equally successful interpretation of King Lear which retains many of the main themes of Shakespeare’s play as it transforms the daughters into sons and transposes the action to sixteenth-century Japan. The shift and sway of a nation divided is vast, the chaos terrible, the battle scenes visually stunning—some of the most ghastly ever filmed—and the outcome even bleaker than Shakespeare’s. The only note of optimism resides in the nobility of the film itself: a huge, tormented canvas from which the powerful performances by Nakadai, Terao, and Harada explode.

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May 7 (Saturday) 6:30 pm
May 10 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Woman in the Dunes

Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Japan, 1964, b/w, 123 min.
With Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Ito
Japanese with English subtitles

Based on the acclaimed novel by Kobo Abe and made for the relatively small sum of $100,000, this film had a great impact on Western audiences upon its release in 1964. An entomologist finds an attractive young widow living at the bottom of an enormous sandpit on a deserted beach. He becomes her prisoner, endlessly shoveling sand to avoid being engulfed. Teshigahara’s best-known film is a heavily symbolic erotic drama which effectively uses extreme close-ups until the characters become part of the landscape.

May 7 (Saturday) 9:15 pm
May 9 (Monday) 9 pm

The Man Who Left His Will On Film (aka The Battle of Tokyo)

Directed by Nagisa Oshima
Japan, 1970, color, 94 min.
Japanese with English subtitles

In this haunting, politically intriguing film set in 1960s Tokyo, a young leftist finds the camera of a radical who has leapt to his death while fleeing the police. The “will and testament” he discovers on film seems meaningless, but begins to obsess him as he retraces the filmmaker's political and erotic past. The revolutionary acts within the film are incredibly powerful given the historical context. Tamkemitsu provides a stirring and hypnotic musical accompaniment to Oshima’s radicalized imagery.

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May 15 (Sunday) 7 pm
May 16 (Monday) 9:15 pm

Dodes'ka-den

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Japan, 1970, color, 140 min.
With Kin Sugai, Yoshitaka Zushi, Kiyoko Tange
Japanese with English subtitles

Shanty dwellers in a Tokyo rubbish dump serve as a microcosm for Kurosawa’s Gorky-style celebration of the human condition, an inspired vision that underscores the triumph of loyalty and the imagination. The film’s characters live among their fantasies: an old man and a boy build an imaginary dream house, a silent man is obsessed by the idea of his wife’s infidelity, and a mentally retarded adolescent thinks he is a tram, repeating the sound "dodes’ka-den, dodes’ka-den." Kurosawa’s first film in color is an interesting mix of realism, social comment, melodrama, and fantasy. In his inimitable way, Kurosawa knits the characters together into a cyclical narrative that encompasses moments of quiet poignancy.

May 16 (Monday) 7 pm
May 18 (Wednesday) 9: 15 pm

Hymn to a Tired Man (aka Youth of Japan) (Nihon no Seishun)

Directed by Masaki Kobayashi.
Japan, 1968, b/w, 130 min.
With Makoto Fujita, Michiyo Aratama, Toshio Kurosawa
Japanese with English subtitles

One of Kobayashi’s personal favorites, Hymn to a Tired Man uses a flashback narrative to reflect on war and its aftermath. A mild-mannered office worker is driven to recall his past when his son falls in love with the daughter of the commanding officer under whom he served during World War II. Memories of abusive discipline resurface throwing the former soldier’s relatively quiet postwar life into turmoil. Kobayashi offers an unsparing indictment of the lack of accountability for the scars of battle.

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May 17 (Tuesday) 9:15 pm

Double Suicide (Shinjû ten no Amijima)

Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Japan, 1969, b/w, 105 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.

May 17 (Tuesday) 7 pm
May 18 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Himatsuri (Fire Festival)

Directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi
Japan, 1985, color, 120 min.
With Kinya Kitaoji, Kiwako Taichi, Ryota Nakamoto

When developers arrive in a rural, seaside village with plans to construct a marine park, the divide grows between the village fishermen and the woodmen, led by a solitary boorish lumberjack, Tatsuo, who engages in bizarre rituals to appease the mountain goddess that he worships. When the waters become polluted with oil, the villagers consider it an act of sabotage on the planned urban development and Tatsuo takes the blame for the incident. He is only able to redeem himself through a shocking act which is revealed at the “fire festival.” Based on a real-life incident, Himatsuri is a spare, disturbing reflection on the loss of humanity amidst the drive to modernization.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700